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Every country has a unique culture, food and its own way of doing things. Tipping policies, currency and payment methods, change from one place to the other and are part of the most frequent questions of any traveler. We hope this post is useful for your next visit to our country.

Tipping Policy

Costa Rica has Law No. 4946 that rules the right of a tip for restaurant staff in the country. This law, updated in 2012, states that every waiter that works in a restaurant, bar or any other business that provides table service, in addition to a salary paid by the employer has the right to be remunerated by the customer as follows:

  1. In all cases, regardless of the service, a 10% service tax will be added to the paycheck, excluding sales tax. The total of the check will always have the breakdown, specifying the 10% service tax and the 13% sales tax. The service tax belongs exclusively to the waiter or person who provided the service, and the employer is not able to take any portions of it. Sometimes, the staff of a restaurant agrees in splitting some of this tax with the kitchen, however the owner of the business or any other administrative staff cant get any of it.
  2. A voluntary gratuity, which will consist of an additional amount discretionally calculated by the consumer and delivered directly to the waiter as a sign of satisfaction. The payment of this gratuity will never be obligatory nor will be contemplated in the bill.

Even though this is what the law states, the reality is that Costa Ricans do not have a tipping culture. This does not mean that service staff will not expect a well-deserved tip if they do a good job. As you may know, Costa Rica’s main industry is tourism, so the big majority of service staff interacts more with foreigners than with Ticos, opening a window for a tip expectation. This said, we will recommend taking in consideration the following Voluntary Gratuity Cheat Sheet:

Restaurants & Bars:

  • Waiters:
    • Bad service: ₡0 / $0
    • Regular service: ₡2,000 / $4
    • Good service: ₡5,000 / $10 or a 20% of the check
  • Bartenders:
    • Bad service: ₡0 / $0
    • Regular service: ₡1,000 / $2
    • Good service: ₡3,000 / $6 or a 20% of the check

Transportation:

  • Red Cabs: No tip is expected but if you feel that the driver deserves it, ₡1000 to ₡2000 will be well received.
  • Private Transportation: As they work exclusively with tourism a tip is expected
    • Bad service: ₡0
    • Regular service: ₡1,000 / $2
    • Good service: ₡5,000 / $10
    • Extraordinary service: from ₡10,000 / $20

Other services:

  • Maids: As maids usually serve you during your stay would be nice to leave a thankful note at the end of your stay and a tip starting from ₡5,000 / $10 for a good job.
  • Bellboys: From ₡1,000 / $2 to ₡5,000 / $10

 

Currency

Currency of Costa Rica

Photo by El Financiero

The national currency is the Coln or Colones in plural, its symbol is ₡ (Capital C crossed by two diagonal strokes) and its code CRC.

The US Dollar is widely accepted throughout the country, especially in touristic places. However, we will recommend always have some Colones with you as the currency exchange in the street is not always fair.

In 2015, Costa Rica moved to a free-floating currency regime, this means that every day the exchange rate is adjusted. During the last month, the exchange rate has fluctuated for the purchase between ₡571.05 to ₡576.17, and for sale between ₡577.14 to ₡580.87. We advise to always check the exchange rate at the Banco Central de Costa Rica.

 

Payment Methods

Cash is always a good idea, however like in any other part of the world we don’t recommend taking with you large amounts of money. Try to always have some cash in Colones for Tips and small transactions.

Credit Cards are generally accepted, especially VISA and Mastercard. American Express is accepted in hotels, quality restaurants, car rentals and large business but not in small establishments.

Costa Rica has a good network of ATMs to withdraw money when you need, but be aware that your bank may charge you a fee for foreign transactions.

Mobile payment options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay are not widely accepted in Costa Rica, so we will not advise you to trust on using it during your next visit.