A few years ago I had a client visiting Havana and know what? He had to go back to London the very next day! Why? He brought almost no CASH and his credit cards, AMERICAN EXPRESS and MASTER CARD, end of the tour!
We all know when planning a trip to any destination a key element to carefully consider is money. How much can we spend, what is the cost of food, transport and accommodation? Every destination has its own characteristics and Cuba is no different, in fact it probably needs more consideration than most destinations. Because of its history, and the resulting two currency system.
Today is your lucky day, I’m here to give you these useful tips about money in Cuba.
You should really forget about using credit cards! Bring CASH with you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying don’t bring credit cards at all. You can use them to withdraw money from ATMs and Banks but you will need CASH to PAY for virtually everything.
How much CASH I should bring to Cuba? Well, that depends on you. Cuba is not cheap. A daily budget of 100 or 150€ would be reasonable. It all depends on your personal budget and the sorts of things you plan to do during your vacation in Cuba.
VISA cards in Cuba usually work pretty well. MASTER CARD may work sometimes but it is not reliable, AMERICAN EXPRESS will not work anywhere and nor will any cards connected with and to American Banks. My advice is to bring some CASH and some money cards. Please note that when using an ATM around 3% is charged.
In Cuba there are two currencies. The CUP and the CUC. The CUP is the Cuban Peso, best known as moneda nacional and the CUC is the Cuban Convertible Peso. In other words, the Cuban dollar. Please note that these days in Cuba there is not a system whereby tourist money is different to the money Cubans use, as there used to be. Everybody on the Island uses both CUP and CUC in order to purchase goods and hire services. Nowadays, you may pay with both currencies except in hotels, car rental offices, and certain stores specializing in cigars and souvenirs for tourists. In These places CUC will be required and in some of these places credit cards are accepted (the ones accepted in Cuba).
How can we identify each of them?
How can we identify each of them? The CUC is a more colorful note and always reads PESO CONVERTIBLE while the CUP or local peso is way less colorful and does not read anything, but PESO on the corners.
What is the exchange rate?
Well, for 1 CUC we get 24/25 CUP or pesos. That is very important to keep in mind. Because in many stores, shops and markets items on sale are tagged with two prices. One in CUC and the other one in CUP. For example, in farmers´ markets everything is rated in local pesos or CUP. Note that 1 CUC = 24/25 CUP or pesos
You may change money in airports, cruise ship terminals, banks, ATMs and in CADECA (currency exchange offices). CADECA can only change cash and are open longer hours than banks. Banks are regularly open from 8:30 am until 3:00 pm. There are a few exceptions. The exchange rate is almost the same in the entire Island. Hotels desks change money at a very high commission. Notice that every time you need to change money in Cuba you are going to be asked to produce your passport or ID. Be aware, you can withdraw money in banks from your credit or debit cards at counters at no extra cost. Never change money on the streets and carefully count the cash you are given at counters before leaving the counter.
It is important to note that in Cuba you cannot pay in USD or any foreign currency. However, in touristic areas such as Varadero beach, USD and EUR are accepted in certain places at the current exchange rate. Note that you may tip using foreign currency!
You can exchange EUR, USD, Sterling Pounds, CAD, Mexican Pesos, Scandinavian Crowns, Swiss Francs, and Japanese Yens. Notice the USD in Cuba has a penalty on the exchange rate of 10%. It means for 1 USD we get 0.87 cents of CUC.
You can exchange your remaining CUC at the airport on your way back to your country. Note that you are going to lose some money because of the going rate when you sell the currency back. Coins cannot be exchanged!
You can get cash from Western Union in Cuba. It works very well.
This information is crucial for travelers visiting Cuba for the first time!
For more detailed information about money in Cuba, don´t hesitate and leave us a question and comments!
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