If you are wondering why your bag is so heavy after a week of traveling around Costa Rica, you probably have a pound of change gathered at the bottom. In the states, you pretty much want to throw your pennies away. They are worthless unless you’ve gathered together at least 100. Then, if you can exchange them for four quarters anywhere, you can park for 40 minutes in downtown Key West. That’s pretty much the only thing $1 will buy you these days.

In Costa Rica, the coins are even more ridiculous. For starters, they are all quite different in weight and material from each other, no consistency. The shiny ones feel like poorly made token coins. And are probably as valuable. If you took a colon [ko-LOAN] coin to the central bank of Costa Rica and demanded the Actual Money, what would you get? Probably the same coin handed back to you. This is their Actual Money. There is no gold or silver store in Costa Rica backing their currency. You know. Like there is in the U.S.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! And I have a bridge in Florida for sale.

Actually, colones [ko-LOAN-ace], like U.S. coins, aren’t worth the metal from whence they come. The only coins worth carrying are the 500 (it’s worth $1 and can actually buy stuff), and the 100s (worth 20 cents) and 50s (10 cents). These last two are excellent for tipping parking guards and grocery carriers. The seven other coins you see in the picture just take up space and weigh you down.

And confuse the hell out of you. Note that there are 3 different 10s (worth 2 cents) and 2 different 5s (worth a penny). Not only is getting change a bummer, but trying to pay with exact change is a test for old eyes and tired snyapses. I do keep a bag of coins in the car for the peajes [pay-AH-hays, tolls]. I love the challenge of getting 75 colones exactly out of all those different coins. I am easily amused.

Remember the good old days when we just carried around gold coins? If you wanted to pay for something that cost less than your whole coin, you just bit off a piece and paid with that. We should go back to that system. Simple and worth the effort.

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