Monday, June 21, 2010

Plata Makes the World Go Round

One of the many great parts of traveling abroad is checking out new currency, and Costa Rican money is no disappointment.  With volcanoes, sharks, and jaguars and vibrant colors, the bills are full of Costa Rica´s natural wonders.

(Read below for our Costa Rica Outward Bound recommendations and rules for bringing money on course.*)

Costa Rican currency is the colón (plural is colónes), with the symbol .  This is named after Christopher Colombus (Cristoból Colón in Spanish).  The exchange rate is currently 534= $1.  Therefore, it is not unusual to have a few 10,000 bills in your wallet (10,000 =$19).  In addition to the four bills, there are also six coins, which range from ₡5 to ₡500. 

(FUN FACT: The peso was the currency of Costa Rica between 1850 and 1896 during which silver coins were used.  Silver in Spanish is plata, a word still used today as a term for "money.")

Here´s a guide to some of the money:

The 1,000 bill is called ¨un rojo¨ due to its red color.  It showcases Tomas Soley Guell, Costa Rica´s President from 1932-1982.  Also on the bill is the National Insurance Institute, a state run insurance company founded by Guell.


 The 2,000 bill shows Clorito Picado, a scientist who was a pioneer in researching snake venom, and also conducted research that led to the discovery of penicillin.  On the other side of the bill is the hammerhead shark and the bottlenose dolphin, two animals that are found on Costa Rica´s Isla del Coco.

The 5,000 bill is often known as a ¨túcan¨,  based   on the the 3 toucans hidden among images of a rainforest with a jaguar, bromeliad flowers, and precolumbian sculptures.

The 10,000 bill features Emma Gamboa, a teacher who helped to found the University of Costa Rica´s School of Education.  There are also four volcanoes on the front (Arenal, Poás, Irazú, and Rincón de la Vieja).  The back has a puma, along with a face of a jaguar.

Other fun facts:
  • Under ultraviolet light, different parts of bills turn red and green, and blue and yellow dots appear.
  • The blind can recognize some bills by the raised geometric figure on the bottom right of the bills.  New currency should be coming out this year, and bills will all be different lengths so that the blind can easily differentiate bills.
  • New currency will also include a 20,000 and 50,000 bill.

*Money on course? Students can bring money with them, but it will be kept in the Valuables Lockers while the students are on course.  The only access to the money they will have is on their City Tour day when they will go to an Artisan Market and grocery store for local souvenirs.  
*Exchange money? Exchanging US dollars to local Costa Rica colones is not necessary - larger stores and souvenir markets accept USD.  Major credit cards are also accepted (although the outdoor artisan markets charge a small fee to use a credit card). 
*How much to bring? Bring enough money for the $26 Exit Fee at the airport.  Most sizeable souvenirs cost between $10 and $20, and our sweatshirts cost $20.  

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