Cuba is one of the few places left on earth still not accepting American plastic, so cash is king here! This guide will help you understand Cuban money; detailing the best ways to convert your money and simplifying how to understand the two currencies.

Cuban Currency

  • There are two currencies in Cuba, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) for tourists and the Cuban peso (CUP) for locals. The CUC is 25 times more than the CUP.
  • Most places you go list two different prices; the locals and the tourists. And yes, usually the tourists is more expensive.
  • If you are staying in primary tourist areas, you may never encounter situations using the CUP. Some of the rare instances you may have to use it is if you’re taking the local buses, venturing outside of Havana, or getting street food.
  • The super convenient thing about converting money in Cuba is, the American dollar is 1:1 with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
  • One scam is to give tourists their change back in CUP instead of CUC (therefore giving you 25 times less). The easiest way to avoid this? Read the bill! It just needs to say “Cuban Convertible Peso” across it. Our sweet taxi driver warned us of this and came into a locals market with us to make sure we received our change back in the correct currency.

Cash Only

  • Cuba doesn’t accept American credit or debit cards anywhere, even places that advertised they took credit cards still said cash only.
  • While you may be able to find a bank and withdraw cash there, depending on your bank, it may just be best to travel with your allotted amount of money for the duration of the trip.
  • I called both of my banks to let them know I was traveling to Cuba; Wells Fargo made a note of it. However, Bank of America said it couldn’t even put a travel notice for Cuba on my card because it wasn’t a viable option.
  • You can ONLY get Cuban Peso’s in Cuba, so you must exchange once you arrive.
  • Since you can’t convert your Cuban pesos once you get back to America, it’s best to either spend all your money or convert it back before you leave!

Converting Your Money

  • There is a huge conversion fee (between 10-13%) for exchanging American dollars to Cuban Pesos.
  • Converting your dollars beforehand to a different currency will save you from being dinged by the conversion fee for the U.S. dollar in Cuba.
  • We exchanged our money at the airport in Mexico City from U.S. dollars to Euros,  the rate the airport charged us to convert to Euros was still less than being docked the 13% in Cuba for having American dollars.
  • I would recommend ordering the other currency (i.g. Euros) through your bank in advance, saving you time and hassle.
  • In Cuba, you can exchange at either the airport, the bank, or your hotel.
  • I’ve heard mixed reviews about exchanging at your hotel. Not all hotels have an ample supply of cash. And while the line may not be as long as at the airport, the process can end up taking longer because you are dealing with a concierge or front desk person, not a designated banker.
  • The taxi drivers at the airport will try to rush you and tell you to just convert at your hotel, but believe me, they will wait for you because they’d rather have the business.
  • We opted to just wait in the line at the airport to exchange our money. We waited about 20 minutes and then didn’t have to think about it again the whole trip.
  • We were concerned about carrying around large amounts of money on us, regardless of how safe Cuba is. Fortunately, most modern hotels have a safe in them.
  • Make sure you get your CUC’s in small bills, preferably nothing over a $20. You don’t want to flaunt large bills around or take the chance of places not having enough change.

 

Now that you know how to spend your money in Cuba 😉 , let’s discuss where to stay!

 

 

 

Jenny Habdas
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