There are two forms of Currency in Cuba, the CUP and the CUC
The CUP is the Cuban Peso Nacional and is the currency that locals use and the CUC is what tourists use known as the Cuban Convertible Peso.
Cuban CUC (Tourist money)
Cuban currency is not available legally in anywhere but Cuba meaning you can’t change currency like you normally would pre-travel.
Cuban CUP (Local money)
Tourists can get their hands on the local Cuban currency of CUP and it does come in handy for purchasing from shops that predominately locals use. Also, street food stalls, drinks stalls, fruit and Ice-cream vendors and shared taxis known as collectivos.
It can also be handy for tipping, but most Cubans will be happy with the tourist money of CUC. You will find the wealthier Cuban nationals using CUC.
Credit and Debit Cards
Credit and debit cards are not very well used in Cuba so forget contactless or apple pay. Cash is King (you will hear this a lot). You will find some hotels, restaurants, tour operators or large shopping outlets using card payments, but it is not a guarantee.
You can use your debit cards to withdraw cash, but cash often runs out at machines, there are large ques and the banks close at odd times. Sometimes you can only get 5 CUC notes.
Please remember you can’t use a card that is affiliated to an American bank, often people think their bank is not affiliated, but you could get an unwanted surprise.
When using a cash machine outside or inside a bank normally you can only take out $150 per day which is not much if you are a family of 4 paying for accommodation, restaurants, transport, tours and activities so make sure you do take extra cash.
Top Tip – notify your bank to let them know you are travelling to Cuba to save an expensive call.
Currency rates fluctuate for an uptodate listing, use xe.com
The Cuban CUC (as of April 2019)
- $1.00 (us dollar) = 1 CUC
- £1.00 = 1.3 CUC
- E 1.00 = 1.12 CUC
- $1.00 (Canadian Dollar) = 0.75 CUC
Cuban CUP (as of April 2019)
- $1.00 (us dollar) = 26.5 CUP
- £1.00 = 34.43 CUP
- E 1.00 = 29.8 CUP
- $1.00 (Canadian Dollar) = 19.78 CUP
Top TIP – Something you should definitely keep an eye out for is, paying in CUC and then being given change in CUP as they look quite similar when you’re not paying attention. CUP is worth 20-30 times less than CUC depending on your home currency.
Exchanging Money into Cuban Currency
The most common places are as follows.
Major Hotels – Although watch for poor conversion rates. Some hotels will also have cash machines located inside the buildings.
Cadecas (currency exchange bureaus) ask your hotel, casa particular owner or driver for the locations of the Cadecas.
Airports (there will be very long queues in Havana, in Holguin they were not open last time we arrived).
Local Banks – BFI and Banco Metropolitano are a couple of well-known ones.
TOP TIP – Make sure the bills you take are clean, un-torn, unmarked and with no writing on them.
Look at the conversion rates and work out the amount you will receive minus the transaction fee. Always count the amount of money you receive by matching it to the receipt. Currency exchanges have a 3% transaction fee.
US dollars have an additional 10% tax on currency exchanged.
Do not exchange money on the street. Like anywhere in the world fake bank notes are rife.
You can use traveller’s cheques such as Thomas cook but they are not recommended as it can be difficult to exchange them.
Check out a post on How to get Wi-Fi and Internet in Cuba 2019