Many expats are intimidated about opening a bank account in Costa Rica. While it is possible to do so, the rules seem to change daily and be different at every bank. And sometimes different even between branches of the same bank.
The best advice I can give is to be patient, either know Spanish or take someone with you who is fluent, and have every single piece of documentation you could possibly need with you. Many expats assume bankers will speak English, but in my experience, most of them do not.
BCR, the main bank in Costa Rica, allows non-residents to open accounts, but with limits of $1,000 deposited per month. So, if you just need an account for small amounts going in and out, this could be an option for you. However, this bank tends to be crowded and busy with long waits, so if you are a legal resident of Costa Rica, I would suggest banking elsewhere.
When I first moved to Costa Rica, I didn't have residency, as it was pending. I tried to go to Scotiabank to open an account. I asked the bank what documents I needed to open an account, then left to obtain all of the documents. When I returned several hours later, I was told that I needed more documentation. The next day, they had changed the rules and only residents could open an account. This has since changed and non-residents can have accounts, but I wanted to show you how rules change in an instant here.
I decided to wait until I had residency to open an account. Once I had my cedula, I went into a local bank and easily opened a dollar and colones account. All I had to show was my cedula and give them all my personal information.
Another option if you have an attorney or accounts in Costa Rica is to hire them to go with you to open an account. This would make the process easier and less stressful.
For those looking for investments, there are very good rates at many local credit unions in the country.
I know this article has most likely not cleared up all your questions about banking in Costa Rica. No article will, since things are constantly changing with rules at banks in this country. But with patience, you can open an account and it makes life much easier as an expat.
Pura Vida! 🌺