What are the best currency and money tips in Cuba ?
Money and Cuba
There are 2 currencies in Cuba. The first one is the Convertible Cubano Peso (CUC). Roughly 1 CUC = 1$ (mid 2016). The second one is the Cuban peso. In the spring of 2015, 1 CUC was equivalent to about 25 Cuban pesos.
This second currency only concerns the Cubans, who use it to buy their food at the market, to pay their housing to the State ...
Everything else (restaurant for tourists, fuel, hotels ...) is paid in convertible pesos, CUC (pronounced "kuk"), whether Cuban or foreign.
The period when the tourist could pay everything in dollars is finished: US dollars are now overtaxed.
We advise you to arrive in Cuba with euros in cash and change them into a convertible peso (CUC).
The exchange takes place in banks or exchange houses "cadeca" where the exchange rate will be the same and no commission will be applied.
However, the rates of exchange in the hotels will be worse.
We advise you not to take traveler's checks, they are very little accepted and heavily taxed.
Credit cards are accepted provided they have not been issued by a US bank. The CUC being a non-convertible currency, do not forget to sell your tickets before leaving.
To make small purchases, simply exchange your CUC to a bank or Cadeca (casa de cambio, exchange office, what!). In certain situations, one can also make the exchange in pesos cubanos.
However, to exchange your Cuban pesos to CUC, only the Cadeca perform the operation.
The convertible peso has been indexed to the US dollar in 2011. For a tourist, everything is for sale in convertible pesos (CUC, popular nickname: chavito). This is the only currency you will use, to the point that you can travel to Cuba without ever seeing or touching a Cuban peso.
Beware of the symbol "$" displayed in the street: it is often the same for the Cuban pesos that for the convertible pesos. Do not pay for an ice cream with 2 Cuban pesos with 2 convertible pesos, which represent about 50 Cuban pesos!
- It is interesting, however, to always have some Cuban pesos to buy small goods (in popular stores, breaking the crust at a lower cost or leaving a tip).
- Important: when we talk about pesos, it is the Cuban pesos (moneda nacional), otherwise we specify pesos convertible (CUC).
Banks and bureaux de change
The American dollar is no longer a currency with which to pay in Cuba. Moreover, it is heavily taxed at the exchange.
The exchange is made when arriving at the airport against convertible pesos (same rate as in the city). The euro is also accepted for current expenses in hotels in all major tourist areas. However, it is much better to change euros or dollars against convertible pesos in banks, as the rate applied for payment is still very unfavorable.
Euros are exchanged in major national banks, which are generally open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 3.00 pm. Currency exchange retail, which close later, are open on Saturdays and sometimes even Sunday morning.
In addition, you will wait less at a currency exchange than at a bank. It is a good idea to exchange money at currency exchange retail in Cuba and not in bank because they close later, offer a good exchange rate, and are open on Saturdays and sometimes even on Sunday mornings.
The CUC is used in Cuban only. Therefore spend all your pesos in Cuba. Do not expect to exchange them back in your home country.
Credit cards in Cuba
The Visa card is accepted in Cuba if it has not been issued by a US bank. On the other hand, the MasterCard is much rarely accepted. Do not rely on it, bring some cash !
It is better to take as much money as possible (in US dollars, euros … ). Apart from the rental agencies, international stores and a few restaurants in Havana, payment cards are rarely accepted in Cuba, especially when you leave the major cities!