Things To Know About Money When Traveling To Cuba
Although Cuba has been off-limits to Americans for over five decades, Cuba’s improving relations with the U.S. makes it an easier destination to visit now. With affordable flights departing from the U.S., Cuba is one of the hottest travel destinations in the world and you can easily fill a 10 day Cuba itinerary. In fact, in 2016, Cuba was the top trending destination to search for on Kayak. And although many of my friends are rushing to visit before it “changes forever”, I’ve only started thinking about visiting Cuba recently. But as I plan my trip, I’ve realized that I have a lot of Cuban currency questions.
What currency should I use in Cuba? Can I use the US Dollar in Cuba? And more importantly, what’s the exchange rate?
I’ll be the first to admit that the Cuba money situation is complex. So for starters, here are the important financial things that you should know about Cuba before you go.
Krity’s Cuba guide is also extremely insightful. It shares tips on the best times to travel, where to go and how much things cost. Also if you rather book a casa particular, an accommodation similar to a homestay or bed and breakfast, this in-depth booking guide walks you through how to book a casa particular in Cuba.
Your Cuba Money Questions Answered
Currency used in Cuba
1. What money is used in Cuba?
Cuba has two official currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP).
Although Cubans refer to both currencies as “pesos”, they are different.
Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
Tourists and foreign visitors use the CUC.
Nicknamed “chavito”, the CUC is on par with the US Dollar. As the ratio suggests, a stronger US Dollar implies a stronger CUC. Although in theory, this is a 1:1 ratio, you’ll have to read on to find out how the embargo makes this inaccurate.
$1 USD = 1 CUC$
Where to use CUC?
- Hotels and resorts
- Bus fares
Money Tip: When quoted a price, always confirm if it is in Cuban pesos or Cuban convertible. Also, if you pay in Cuban convertible, check your change. You should always get back CUC, not CUP.
Okay…still with me? Great, time for the second currency.
Cuban Peso (CUP)
Referred to as “moneda nacional”, locals use the Cuban peso (CUP). The Cuban peso is worth a lot less than the Cuban convertible peso.
1 CUC$ = 25 CUP$
25 CUP$ = $1 USD
Money Tip: The Cuban peso is not exclusive to locals. Visitors can also use the national peso.
Where to use CUP?
- Food stalls and food markets
- Ice cream shops and cafes
- Communal taxis
- Local shops
- Inter-city buses
2. Can you exchange Cuban currency at home?
Since Cuban currency is not available in foreign markets, you cannot buy Cuban currency before you arrive.
You can only purchase Cuban currency on the island.
3. Where to exchange currency in Cuba?
Exchange your currency for Cuba money at the airport. You can also go to CADECAs (change bureaus or casa de cambios). The Cuban BFI Bank is another reliable alternative.
Exchange rates at government operated change bureaus and banks are generally the same. The exchange fee is 3%.
Remember, you will need your passport to exchange money in Cuba.
Expect less favorable rates at the hotel and resort front desks. These rates are not regulated by the government.
Read More: How Much Does A Trip To Bermuda Cost?
4. What is the best currency to bring to Cuba?
Euros, British Pounds, and Canadian Dollars are the most common currencies to exchange in Cuba. Rates for Mexican Pesos, the Danish Krone, and Japanese Yen are also favorable.
Avoid using the US Dollar.
For more Cuba travel tips press play to listen to this podcast episode where we chat about tips for saving money in Cuba, how much things cost and where to stay in Havana!
Effects of the U.S. Embargo
When converting US Dollars to pesos, there is a 10% special additional tax/commission – this is the embargo at work here. This tax only applies to US currency. It does not apply to other currency.
If you are exchanging US Dollars, the exchange rate fee will be 13% (10% special additional tax + 3% exchange fee).
So for example, if you walk into a change bureau with $100 USD, you will walk out with 87 CUC$.
Money Tip: Avoid this unnecessary loss in value by changing your US Dollars into another currency at your local bank. Once you get to Cuba, exchange your Euros or Canadian Dollars for Cuban cash.
Credit cards in Cuba
Cash is king in Cuba.
Major hotels and restaurants may accept credit cards. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pay for goods and services with a credit card.
In summary, do not rely on credit or debit cards.
5. Are ATMs accessible?
Although ATMs are gradually popping up in Cuba, most ATMs do not accept foreign debit or credit cards. So bring all of your cash with you to Cuba. And don’t forget your emergency stash too!
Since you won’t have access to U.S. banks, carefully plan your Cuba budget.
Tipping and taxes in Cuba
6. How much to tip in Cuba?
Tipping can go a long way in Cuba. On a global scale, the hourly rate for service industry workers in Cuba is considered low income.
Rule of thumb, at restaurants, tip at least 5-10%. But check your bill carefully, some establishments may include a 10% gratuity. For outstanding service, feel free to add another 5%.
Who to tip to Cuba?
- Resorts and hotel staff
- Tour guides
- Toilet assistants
In regards to taxes, the Cuban government requires departing travelers to pay a tax of 25 CUC$. As for sales tax, the standard sales tax rate is 20%.
Have you been to Cuba? Share a Cuba money tip!
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.
Such a convienent and useful guide! I usually end up having to look up this information in multiple locations.
Yay! It’s so much more helpful to have all the practical info in one place.
I am thankful for reading this. I am heading to Cuba end of the year for New years. This is simple and descriptive enough. Love it !
Great post! I am dreaming to go to Cuba soon so this is very helpful! Ive heard that cash is a king but I had no idea there are two different currencies! Its definitely worth to plan the budget before you go in that case!
A very useful post! I know I had the same questions when I visited Cuba some 2 years ago and I found the situation with the two different curriencies very interesting and intriguing. This is for sure a good read if considering visiting the island :)
Practicalities when travelling to unpopular countries such as Cuba can be complicated, so I’m glad you’ve written such a detailed guide about money in Cuba! This post is so useful especially for first-time visitors to Cuba.
Glad to come across this post. This is such a practical one. I am bookmarking this post and from now on I will be your latest follower.
This is all very helpful to know since I am, admittedly, very reliant on my travel credit cards working in most places. Will be saving this for future travels!
Cuba is on my bucket list so I found this guide really helpful and interesting! When I go, I’ll be sure to follow your tips!!
Great post! Very helpful to know about carrying enough cash!
This is a great post! I read up before going to Cuba and was crazy about making sure we had enough cash to last us the trip – but I was surprised to find out how many people are NOT prepared – everyone should be reading this!!
Thank you! I’m thinking about making my 1st trip to Cuba early next year so this will definitely come in handy!
Very helpful information. I haven’t been to Cuba, but I’d love to go. Good to know about the ATMs.
We live in New Zealand, where the NZ dollar isn’t that common, so we almost always have to change when we visit a new country. We’re planning on visiting South America later in the year and hopefully Cuba will be on the list.
Incredibly helpful information! I really want to go to Cuba and hope I will get there before this administration shuts it down again. I hope they won’t.
I hope they don’t – fingers crossed!
Thanks for this update on Cuban money. I am Canadian and have been there three times, but not recently. It is definitely time to go back.
I went to Cuba in April and the money situation was definitely interesting. It was the first time I went somewhere that had two currencies. So glad you mentioned about tipping. We didn’t know if it was customary to tip and actually had to ask a local about it. This post is super informative and a must for those traveling to Cuba for the first time.
Cuba has been at the top of my list for quite some time, although I really fear bringing ALL my money with me. I think this guide is super guide is super helpful for those headed there soon as the logistics of it all seem to be confusing. You’ve done a great job clarifying!
Thanks so much for your kind words Laura, I’m happy this post brought some clarity especially when it comes to money!
This is really helpful! I had no idea about that extra fee for USD. That could get expensive if you are changing enough money over. Good to know about the credit cards, too. While I sort of assumed that was the case, it’s good to have it confirmed. We have been talking visiting Cuba, but so much seems to be changing every day, it almost seems more of a risk now than it did a year ago. Still, it’s on the wish list!
Whoa, I could easily see how that could be confusing! Thanks for putting this all together! We have been intrigued with Cuba but haven’t done much research since we don’t have any plans on going yet. This is valuable information!
Oh wow I wouldn’t have known there were two different currencies if I didn’t read this! Making sure to get back the same currency is a great tip. I wonder if this is confusing for locals more than tourists.
The locals have it down to a science, but as a visitor if you aren’t prepared or in the know it can really be to your disadvantage.