Cuba Currency: Everything You Need To Know For 2021

Cuba Currency. CUC. CUP

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Cuba currency is changing. From January 2021, locals and tourists say goodbye to the so-called dual currency system and hello to the reactivation of the historic national currency, the Cuban Peso (CUP). This guide will detail everything you need to know about Cuban currency, answer whether you can use your credit card in Cuba and discuss the rumoured USD tax AND exchange fee! Keep reading so you can prepare before you go and enjoy your stress-free trip from when you arrive.


» You may also like | First timer’s guide to Cuba


What Type of Cuba Currency Is There?

There is now one unified currency in Cuba, the Cuban Peso (CUP).

The CUP will trade at 24 pesos to the US Dollar.

Previously, there were two currencies.

The CUP, outlined above, which tourists only really used for street food, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC pronounced Cook), was the so-called Cuban tourist currency, used daily by foreigners to pay for accommodation such as casas particulares, buses, taxis, tours and food.

The CUC will be phased out, making way for the CUP.

Here is how to tell the difference between the two notes.

  • CUP = Pesos, pictures of people on the bill/note. Che on the 3 CUP note
  • CUC = Convertibles, pictures of monuments on the bill/note
  • 1 CUC = 24 CUP, check the up to date rates here

The 3 peso note is popular with visitors as it has Che Guevara face on it!

It is worth taking note of the difference between the two types to avoid getting short-changed. Uncommon but has happened.


» Read next | 10 scams in Cuba that actually happen


Cuban CurrencyCuban Convertible Peso Bills/Notes (CUC) 


Can I Get Cuban Currency in the UK/US/Etc?

No, I’m afraid you can’t exchange your native currency for Cuban in your home country or anywhere in the world apart from Cuba.

However, we have handy advice below to help you get the most out of the exchange.


What Currency to Take to Cuba?

You can’t buy CUP in other countries like you can buy euros for your trip to, say, Paris.

As a workaround, it is recommended* that you take either of the following three currencies to Cuba in cash:

  1. Pound sterling (GBP)
  2. Euros
  3. Canadian dollars

You can see today’s Cuba exchange rate here as well as other currencies accepted and their exchange rates.

Once you are in Cuba you can exchange the above with a 3% conversion fee.

* Taking GBP, EUR or CAD is only recommended if the exchange rate is good for you at home and you don’t have to go miles out of your way to make the exchange. Shop around online to see what the best rates are before deciding if you are going to exchange your native currency for either of the three.


What is the Cuba Exchange Rate for USD?

Up until July 2020, there was a 10% conversion fee on the US “greenback” dollar.

This meant visitors were charged the 3% conversation fee discussed above and a further 10% fee so 13% fee in total.

Previously, this would have meant:

  • $10 USD – 13% (1.30) = $8.70
  • $100 USD – 13% (13) = $87

According to many news outlets, as of July 2020, the 10% tax has now been scrapped. Do you have experience of this? Please leave us a comment or email gemma(at)twoscotsabroad(dot)com.

However, the official Banco Central De Cuba still shows GBP, EUR and CAD to offer better conversions than the USD.

CUC I Cuban Currency


How to Get Cuban Currency

The official Cuba money exchange is called CaDeCa (Casa de Cambio). They can be found everywhere in Havana and the bigger cities but less so in smaller towns.

We were caught out in Caleton by Playa Larga as the bank hours were limited. Luckily new friends lent us some CUC so we could go diving at the Bay of Pigs the next day.

To exchange money at CaDeCa you need:

  • An early rise
  • Your passport
  • Patience

Be prepared to wait in long lines.

I read that CADECA shops close at 3pm so get there early, at opening times is recommended. Although changing money in Cuba is not impossible, it can be taxing on time.

There are two CADECA at Havana airport, check upstairs for the quieter one which had no line when we arrived.

It is recommended to exchange as much as you are comfortable with at the airport.

The airport ATM did not work during our departure.

Cue panic as we were not aware that there was a tax you have to pay to leave. Luckily our airline had already covered it. Read our guide to Cuba to avoid the silly mistakes we made.


Should I Exchange Dollars at my Casa?

So this is an update as of 2017, a reader asked on our scams in Cuba post whether to exchange USD for CUC at their casa found through Airbnb.

I asked around and fellow bloggers who have recently been to Cuba said that they were offered this too and declined, opting to order euros instead and exchange some at the airport.

Have you exchanged money at your casa? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Bank in Havana I Cuban Currency_

What about ATMs in Cuba?

There are ‘hole in the wall’ ATMs in Cuba and we used them after our cash ran out. You can expect to pay a 3% exchange fee.

Non-US Visa is the preferred card. Others may not work.

Again, there may be lines and there are instances when the money runs out. ATMs also max out so you may have to return for more.

Cash may come out before your card so remember to lift it out the machine or it will get swallowed. We had a swallowed card incident in Peru and it sucked, boom boom!

Overall, getting cash in Cuba is relatively easy if you have a non-US card that works, can beat the crowds and don’t mind making a few runs.

Can You Use Credit Cards in Cuba?

Overall, Cuba is a cash country and the easiest way to get around is by carrying currency.

Increasingly, there are some places that will accept non-US credit cards but this is not the norm.

It isn’t certain whether your credit card will work in Cuba either.


So How Much Does Cuba Cost?

The total budget for 3 weeks in Cuba came to 1903.50 USD. That’s 90 USD per day for two people with limited activities and one week in an all-inclusive resort. You can read the full details here in our breakdown guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What money is used in Cuba?

The currency used in Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP).

CUC v CUP?

Tourists were able to use both but CUC was used more frequently to pay for accommodation (casas), taxis, tours and meals. CUP was used for street food.

What is the currency in Cuba for tourists?

Now, there is one currency, CUP.

Previously, tourists used both CUP and CUC.

Can I use USD in Cuba? 

On the whole, no, you can’t pay with USD in Cuba.

Should I exchange my USD before I go to Cuba?

You can’t actually exchange USD to CUP outside of Cuba.

Should I exchange my USD to another currency before I travel?

This very much depends on what exchange rate you can get for GBP, CAD or EUR.

If the rate is poor, it may be worth you taking USD.

If it involves you having to drive for miles and eats into your time, just take USD and be prepared to wait in line.



Final Words

I hope this has helped answer your question – what currency do you use in Cuba?

To recap, the best currency to take to Cuba is either GBP, EUR or CAD which you exchange for CUP at the airport or city.

Did you find this useful?
Why not over image and pin to Cuba travel board?

Planning a trip to Cuba in the future? You need to know about Cuba's currency changes. Gone is the so-called tourist currency, the CUC. Click to find out more.

Any questions or comments?
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36 thoughts on “Cuba Currency: Everything You Need To Know For 2021

  1. Tamara says:

    Very helpful! Currency problems can be a nightmare for sure. I traveled to Cuba (US citizen) from the Dominican Republic in 1999. It was a spur of the moment trip, and with only credit/debit cards based on US banks, ATMs were not an option. We ran out of cash fast. Even after borrowing a few dollars (how humiliating) from a guy I overheard say he was studying at my former university (later met up in NYC to return the $$), we still left the country hungry. Planning ahead better would have made a much less stressful visit.

    We also ran into trouble on our last visit to Venezuela a few years ago. The currency there is in such an unstable state, it’s impossible to deal with. We were traveling, and didn’t have much cash with us. The rate for getting money from an ATM is the official rate. At that time, we would only get 1/8 of what we could get on the “parallel” market. We changed the cash we had in illegal casinos (long story, but good option) and then ended up having to travel to Colombia over the border to take out Colombian pesos and change THOSE unofficially into Venezuelan bolivars. What a mess.

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      Man what added stress. We’ve heard a lot about The Blue Dollar in Argentina whilst in South America but your Venezuela trip sounded way tougher. We let a chick from England borrow some money from us too in Cuba and were thankful of two girls we met in Playa Larga who were will helping us out in our time of need. Thanks for sharing your story Tamara.

  2. Marie @ Marie Away says:

    This sounds like suuuch a stressful experience. I’m always so confused about exchanging money. The Canadian dollar is crap right now so I’m terrified about exchanging for the American dollars I’ll need in Ecuador in a couple of weeks, although I know it’ll probably just keep dropping.

    Also, I probably rely too much on my visa, something I don’t really want to carry around with me all the time in South America. I suppose I’ll have to learn to use cash again!

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      We have two credit cards which don’t charge international fees but one is barred just now (kept forgetting to sort that out!) Definitely look into a debit card that omits charges too, we went with the Nationwide but there are others around in every country (we do pay £10 a month for the privilege!)

    • TwoScotsAbroad says:

      You are covering great areas! We’ve got heaps on our travels in Cuba – lots of tips on things to do, where to eat, scams to avoid etc. Highly recommend hiring bikes and cycling to Playa Acon from Trinidad early morning (then get a bus or taxi back, so hot!)

  3. Francis says:

    is it easier to exchange US dollars for CUC now that things have stabilized somewhat? I’m concerned that during my trip to Cuba in a couple of weeks it may be too expensive to exchange currency. I will some Euros but mostly dollars. Any advice would be appreciated.

  4. Victoria says:

    Hello I am going to Cuba in April and wanted to ask what if I take Mexican money and then exchange to CUC?? How can I get GBP I am from San Diego

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hi Victoria. We actually travelled around Cuba with a Brit who now lives in Mexico. I’ve just asked her what she did regarding cash and said that she had a British debit card but she * thinks * you can exchange Mexican pesos. I can’t say for sure though I’m afraid. Trip Advisor says you can. You’d have to check XE for exchange rate though.

      San Diego, California? You’d just exchange USD dollar for pound at money bureau or bank (like you would to go on holiday to the UK).

  5. beardo says:

    “ATMs charge you $4.50 … every time you use it and the max you can withdraw is $150”

    Others have mentioned a limit of 150 – that was not my experience, I only found limits of 40 of whatever the notes were. So if CUC 20, the limit was 800.

    And that 4.50 sounds like the 3% exchange from CUC to USD. I wonder how that compared to the multiple exchanges GBP to COP to EUR to CUC that you did with the cash.

    The exit tax has not been collected separately since May 2015 – it is included in the ticket price.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Thanks for your experience, we certainly did panic a bit about the exit pass since we were pulling our pennies together!

  6. ann phelan says:

    We are US nationals so cannot use our credit cards. We only have US currencies. We arrive at 5 PM on a Sat. We are hoping we can convert money at the airport. Quite honestly, this is the only aspect of the trip that is tripping me up.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      I know it really is a tough and annoying one. You just have to take the low rate hit, unfortunately. We honestly spent the day converting money in Colombia, trying to get our hands on Euros and British Pound. Would have been a lot easier if we were doing a UK to Cuba trip but that wasn’t the itinerary. Come back to me and let me know how you get on, please. I’m sure you’ll have a fun trip once the money is dealt with.

      Are you stopping over at another airport? You could change currency there possibly or take money out at the ATM.

  7. Boaz says:

    As Scots you should probably point out that Scottish notes are not accepted anywhere in Cuba. I know this because I had a Spaniard living in Scotland begging me to buy his Scottish notes for Euros, as he had practically no useful money.

  8. Doug says:

    Please be more specific as to if “high” exchange rates means “favorable or “unfavorable”.. (good exchange rate or bad?) I will pick up British pounds or Canadian Dollars from my bank before I leave in order to get the best exchange rate. Wells Fargo will provide any currency for no exchange fees, just a $7 “delivery fee” if you order them just two business days ahead.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Thanks for the input about currency delivery. High exchange rate = favourable. You don’t want to take USD Dollar with you! It sounds like you are organised now 🙂 Have a great trip and come back to let me know how you get on.

  9. Andy says:

    Hi, just a quick recap about debit en credit cards: Only American cards are not accepted, but our Belgian ones will be?

    Thanks!

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hi Andy. We used cash everywhere because we have Amex which you can’t use. Double check your own credit card provider before you go. Come back and let us know how you get on, please.

  10. Sharon Roberts says:

    My husband & I going to Cuba soon, we are both in Edinburgh.
    Cheers for the great advice re; potential currency issues
    Will change our Scottish notes for English & hopefully have no trouble buying the CUC when we’re there. I will also know take my MasterCard Debit card too.

  11. Argo says:

    Hello,

    We are landing in Havana at 6:35 PM (way past 3 PM). We plan on bringing GBP or EUR in cash. In you blog you mentioned “I read that CADECA shops close at 3 PM so get there early. So although changing money in Cuba is not impossible, it might be taxing on time. There are two CADECA at Havana airport” Do the CADECAs at the airport also close by 3 PM or does the 3 PM rule apply only to CADECAs outside the airport? Thank you.

    Best wishes,
    Argo

  12. Paul Comeau says:

    HAVANA, July 16 (Xinhua) — Cuba announced Thursday that it will eliminate a 10-percent tax on U.S. dollars.

    “Removing penalty on the U.S. dollar will benefit Cubans on the island and abroad alike. This will provide them with more purchasing power,” Cuban Economy Minister Alejandro Gil told state TV Mesa Redonda Internacional.

    The tax, which has been effect since 2004, will be lifted on July 20, to absorb more hard currency in response to the country’s economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the tightened U.S. economic sanctions, Gil said.

    The decision will allow citizens to use dollars to buy food, hygiene products and other goods via bank cards from nearly 70 stores.

    Since last year, Cuba has begun to allow the public to buy with dollars imported goods such as electronics and car parts sold at state-operated stores. Enditem

    • Gemma | Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hi Paul, thank you for the update. Do you have any personal experience of this? I’m seeing the same message across lots of news sites but no from the ground experience. Difficult with the pandemic naturally.

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