New tourism group points out exchange rate pitfall

A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Putting the squeeze on the dollar

The new tourism chamber has characterized the currency exchange rate at Juan Santamaría airport as a government-sponsored robbery mainly directed at tourists.

The group, the Asociation para las Protección  del Turismo in Costa Rica, posted a receipt from a U.S. visitor to its Facebook page.

The receipt shows that the visitor received 444.00 colons to the U.S. dollar in a transaction Saturday. That’s 48.50 colons per dollar lower than the bank rate on the same day in San José.

The visitor, identified as Joe Allan Stokes, exchanged $600 at the airport currency broker. He received 266.402 colons in return. At the bank rate of 492.5 colons per dollar, he would have received 295,500 colons.

That’s 29,098 fewer colons or about $59.

Reactions to the posting were mixed. One person wrote that everyone knows that currency deals at airports are heavily discounted.

Ironically, some hotels also exchange currency at rates that are very favorable to the business.

The business at Juan Santamaría is Global Exchange, which has airport currency windows at many airports. The firm says on its Web site“we are the leading company in Foreign Exchange Services at main International Airports of Latin America and the Caribbean, and we are growing exponentially in Europe, North of Africa and the Middle East.”

The tourist probably did not realize that the taxi firm at the airport accepted dollars. In fact, supermarkets downtown accept dollars as do a number of other businesses. So there really is not a pressing reason for a person arriving by air to change money at the airport.

Global Exchange makes no secret about its business, and it is listed with other currency outlets on the Banco Central Web page. The most recent quote was that it would sell colons for 438.87 per U.S. dollar and that it would sell a dollar for 512.02 colons. The difference was 73.15 colons, by far the greatest among the Costa Rican money outlets. However, the numbers have not been updated since late July.

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