PASSPORTS and TRAVEL DOCUMENTS: Make a few copies of page 1…just in case. Keep one copy with you and leave the rest in your hotel safe or if you are renting a house, villa, condo, leave the original in a safe place.
NEVER, EVER leave your passport or anything of value or importance in your car. Do not leave anything in the trunk and especially if you go out to Chileno or Santa Maria beaches. Take your ‘stuff’ out of the car and haul it with you to the beach!
MONEY, DINERO, MOOLAH: I always exchange my dollars for pesos as soon as I can. If you need to do this at your hotel check the exchange rate that they are offering against the exchange rate online. I use this online exchange rate site: www.x-rates.com The exchange rates shown on this site will probably be a little better than you will get at a local money exchange or hotel. Banks will NOT exchange your dollars unless you have an account, deposit the dollars and then withdraw money in pesos. If you don’t have an account then don’t go to the bank to exchange dollars….it won’t happen. If the hotel exchange rate is not favorable then just exchange a minimum amount until you can get to a money exchange. Intercam in the mall also exchanges dollars into pesos. I try never to pay for restaurant bills, gas, or, actually, anything in dollars. All of the local businesses can set their own exchange rate. I have seen restaurants give 9 to 1 when the exchange rate is about 12 to 1. Never pay for gas with dollars..not only will you not get a good exchange rate but you will most likely get ripped on the change you receive.
Sometimes the hotels will surprise you and offer an acceptable rate. If you make a Costco run you can use dollars to pay for your “stuff” and you will get change in pesos. Costco usually gives a good exchange rate.
ATM MACHINES: I always use an atm inside of a bank or outside right near the door. There have been several instances of scanners being attached to steal your information at the atm’s inside of grocery stores…most notably the Mega store in San Jose. Keep in mind that you want to select “national currency” and also keep in mind that if you enter $300 you will get that amount in pesos which is equivalent to about $30 USD. To withdraw around $300 USD you would have to enter 3000 pesos. One of my clients told me that he used an atm down near the marina and was charged $50 for the transaction…I don’t know if this was dollars or pesos since I was not there and he couldn’t figure it out at the time. For more information on atm scams please check out these website articles: http://www.snopes.com/fraud/atm/atmcamera.asp
WANT TO USE YOUR CREDIT CARD FOR EVERYTHING…YOU MIGHT WANT TO RETHINK THIS!
My personal choice is never to use a credit card for small purchases or entertainment purposes (yes that means restaurants, bars, etc.). I’m the same way in the United States. The more you use your credit card the greater the chance for someone to steal your information…especially in restaurants and bars where your card is out of your sight. You don’t have to worry about gas stations because they only take cash! I have no problem using my card at Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and any of your larger, well known establishments. Here’s a third person story: I sold a condo to a gentleman from New York. I took him shopping. We were all over the place. We also stopped at pharmacies for meds, taco stands for lunch, and mini marts for snacks. He had a pocketful of cash but only wanted to use his card o he could get his mileage points. C’mon, is getting a few points is worth going through all the trauma when your credit card info has been compromised? The next day he called me to say that his bank had called and there were several charges from places that we had never visited. End of story.