Banking & Budgeting

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Participants will not be able to open bank accounts in Costa Rica. We recommend that participants use their ATM cards to withdraw money. There are plenty of ATMs throughout San José that accept a variety of debit/ATM cards. These ATMs charge a minimal fee of around $1-$2, but this does not include the fee that the student´s bank might charge. In addition to the Costa Rican banks in the area, there are also several branches of Scotiabank and HSBC in San José.   

Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards in Costa Rica. Participants should notify their bank and creditors that they will be studying in San José prior to their arrival to ensure that the bank does not enact fraud procedures and deactivate or lock the student's bank cards. Credit cards should be used wisely though, as the foreign transaction fees can add up quickly. We recommend that students conduct research prior to departure to better understand how their bank cards will work abroad. 

Budgeting While Abroad

The cost of the Program includes tuition, housing, meals (breakfast and dinner on weekdays, three meals on weekends), some excursions, and program-related travel expenses. Obtaining a student visa, mandatory cell phone, additional food, and all other personal expenses will be additional. While every participant has different requirements for personal monthly budgets, participants should plan to have $400-$600 each month for personal expenses, such as food and travel. The Costa Rican currency is the colón.  $1 is equal to around 500 colónes. Below are a few examples of everyday items and activities and their approximate cost in US dollars, as well as a budget comparison:

Loaf of Bread $1.00 - $2.00
1 Liter of Milk $1.00 - $2.00
Large Pizza $10.00 - $12.00
Take-out Meal $3.00 - $7.00
Movie Ticket $4.00 - $5.00
Average Monthly Budget Abroad $400 - $600
Average Monthly Budget Boston $200 - $300

For current conversion rates please click here.

Tips for Spending & Budgeting:

  • Plan a budget ahead of time and stick to it!
  • Take advantage of low-cost or free activities. staff plans activities every week!
  • Monitor your bank accounts closely to ensure that they reflect your records.
  • Make copies of your credit and debit cards and give them to your parents to keep in a safe place.
  • Do not carry any more cash than what is necessary for that day.
  • Shop for groceries at local farmers markets.