Exchanging Money in Cuba

Exchanging money in Cuba

Learn more about our Cuba Culinary Tour and explore Cuban culture through its cuisine.

Photo credit: Laura Hobbs – Darling Creative

The Cuba Currency Situation

While it may not be the most exciting element of travel, how and where you get and keep your money is always an important consideration. Exchanging money in Cuba is more complex than most other countries, and there are a few rules and limitations you’ll need to be aware of in order to have a successful trip to Cuba.

Cuba uses two kinds of currency: the Cuban Convertable Peso (CUC) and the Cuban National Peso (CUP). Of these, only the CUC is a legal currency for visitors and tourists. You should expect to receive CUCs when exchanging money in Cuba for for goods and services like purchasing gifts, cigars, rum, extra meals out or special shows.

Exchanging Money in Cuba

Our first hope is that the exchange office will be open at the airport when you arrive. This is Cuba, and the unexpected is inevitable, so if the airport exchange office is not open when you arrive, or if you arrive on a Sunday, your guide will take care of your needs until the next day. You are advised to exchange most or all your money on your first stop at an exchange office. Lines are often long, and stopping partway through the tour means your entire group will have to wait with you.

Canadian Dollars (or Euros) vs. American Dollars

When converting US Dollars to Convertible Pesos, you will lose 13% to Cuban taxes and exchange fees. Euros and Canadian dollars suffer fewer penalties and so you may want to arrange to bring those currencies with you instead of US cash. You can acquire Euros or Canadian Dollars through your local bank but call ahead to make sure they have them on hand.

Cash in Cuba

American credit cards and ATM cards will not work in Cuba. What does this mean? It essentially means you need to prepare. The average Access Culinary Trips guest is recommended to bring $600 to cover basics, tips, and a little extra fun while on our 8-day tour of Cuba. Some visitors want to indulge a little more, and if so, we would suggest anywhere from $600-$1200 for a week. What you won’t want to do is not bring enough, regardless of how much you exchange, because you won’t be able to get more while there.

While some American banks have tentatively begun issuing credit cards for use in Cuba, not many Cuban businesses are set up to use credit cards as a form of payment. In addition to few private businesses being equipped to use credit cards, the likelihood of finding both a set-up and connectivity is slim. Should you find the rare spot that has both you’ll also need to do a lengthy amount of paperwork to accompany your purchase. Because of this, in Cuba, cash is king. In an article for the online magazine Nylon, writer Irina Ghrecko noted that at any given point you’ll find Americans at the airport booking an earlier flight home because they were simply out of cash. Don’t let yourself land in that position; come prepared.