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Emily's list: Reflections on money in Costa Rica
I am back from my trip to Costa Rica, and I had a great time despite the fact that I returned to a week of intense jury duty. As I always do when I travel, I enjoyed observing how money is handled differently.
As usual, I brought my Capital One credit card and used it for large purchases so I wouldn't have to pay foreign transaction fees. I did bring some cash with me as well. I was going to convert some of it into Costa Rican colones upon arrival, but I heard that nearly all businesses accepted American dollars as well, so I didn't.
I was glad I brought as much cash with me as I did; my taxi driver from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo charged $96 and didn't accept credit cards! I also went to both a restaurant and a coffee shop that didn't accept credit cards. I was told by some locals that credit card transaction fees for businesses could be outrageous there, so it discouraged universal credit card acceptance.
Interestingly, the businesses that took dollars accepted only paper bills -- no coins. I also received my change in colones, so they all pulled out a calculator to do the conversion. The exchange rate was around 500 colones to the dollar, so the total amount for meals owed always sounded enormous until you realized how extreme the exchange rate is.
Like Europeans and Canadians, Costa Ricans love their coins. Their colones coins are enormous and heavy -- easily double the size of a quarter -- and quickly weigh your wallet down.
Also, when you arrive at the airport to leave Costa Rica, you have to pay a $26 exit tax. They accept credit cards, but I have read horror stories online that they draft it as a cash advance rather than a regular charge, incurring major fees upon cardholders. I made sure to have enough cash on hand. I paid in U.S. dollars, and surprisingly, they gave me my change in dollars. That turned out to be handy, because the airport's tiny snack booth only accepted cash.
I'm done with my big trips for the year, and I hope that at some point next year, I will be able to go to another country and learn more.
You can also learn tons of great information by reading my roundup below of my 10 favorite personal finance blog posts from the past week.
1. Are you waiting until the very last minute to pick out your Halloween costume? This late in the game, the only things left are really ugly or very expensive. Money Crashers lists eight easy, cheap and quick DIY Halloween costumes that could work for either kids or adults.
2. Thousandaire discusses several financial lessons he will be sure to pass down to his kids, including spending less than they earn and paying off debt.
3. Little House in the Valley shares several helpful tips on how to avoid incurring bank fees.
4. Wisebread explains how you can begin preventing getting into holiday debt now instead of after you've done damage with your credit card.
5. Generation X Finance discusses how you can tell if something is affordable for you; essentially, if you have to think too hard about it, you probably shouldn't buy it!
6. It's easy to feel intimidated by creditors trying to collect a debt from you. Financially Consumed lists three reasons you can use to keep your debt repayment plan in place.
7. A guest post on Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance shows readers how it is possible to have a more meaningful holiday season by spending less.
8. Debt Free by Thirty reflects on how different life would be if she and her husband hadn't yet made positive financial changes and worked toward being debt-free.
9. PT Money shares several tips on how to fix your credit, a necessary step if you are interested in buying a home soon.
10. Mr. & Mrs. Not Made of Money helps someone decide whether it's a good idea to borrow from their 401k to pay off their debt.
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