Cuba currency can be confusing! Do you know your CUP from CUC? Wondering whether you can use your credit card in Cuba? What about the rumoured USD tax AND exchange fee? Don’t worry! This guide to currency in Cuba explains everything you need to know so you can prepare before you go and enjoy your stress-free trip from when you arrive.
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What Type of Cuba Currency Is There?
There are two currencies in Cuba.
The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC pronounced Cook), is the so-called Cuban tourist currency. You will use this daily to pay for accommodation such as casas particulares, buses, taxis, tours and food.
The other money used in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP), which you might use for street food but in all honesty, we could have lived without it.
The only time I was desperate for CUP was when I heard Che Guevara’s face was on the three CUP note! We came home with most of it.
However, recently there have been a few shops Havana who are giving CUP as change. This is part of a trial run.
Here is how to tell the difference between the two notes.
- CUC = Convertibles, pictures of monuments on the bill/note
- CUP = Pesos, pictures of people on the bill/note. Che on the 3 CUP note
- 1 CUC = 24-26 CUP, check the up to date rates here
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 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 CUC or 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:
- Pound sterling (GBP)
- 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 without being hit by a big 13% fee which I will explain below. Instead, you have to accept just 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?
While trusted sites will tell you that the USD to CUC exchange rate is like for like – 10 USD for 10 CUC this is not what happens on the ground in Cuba.
When you exchange USD in Cuba you will face fees.
- 10% penalty charge
- 3% currency exchange fee
- So 13% in total
Let’s do some maths:
- $10 USD – 13% (1.30) = $8.70
- $100 USD – 13% (13) = $87
That starts to add up. However, if you have to go out your way for crappy exchange rates on GBP, EUR or CAD it might be the better option just to take the 13% hit and do the exchange in Cuba.
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
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.
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.
We took out 150 CUC and was charged 4.50 fee.
Non-US Visa is the prefered 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 CUC.
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.
Don’t Take CUC To The Airport
If you have spare CUC at the end of your trip that you just can’t spend, exchange it in the city as you won’t get it exchanged at the airport or in your home country.
So How Much Does Cuba Cost?
The total budget for 3 weeks in Cuba came to 1903.50 CUC. That’s 90 CUC 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 can use both but CUC is used more frequently to pay for accommodation (casas), taxis, tours and meals. You might use CUP for street food.
What is the currency in Cuba for tourists?
Tourists can use both but will mostly use Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
Can I use USD in Cuba?
On the whole, no you can’t pay with USD in Cuba.
However, since November, there are reports that airport shops are now accepting USD for the likes of alcohol which some may take some as a souvenir, for themselves!
Should I exchange my USD before I go to Cuba?
You can’t actually exchange USD to CUC 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 a hit of the USD tax and exchange fee.
If it involves you having to drive for miles and eats into your time, just take USD and be prepared to wait in line.
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 CUC at the airport or city. Swap some CUC for CUP which you can live without but may be handy for market food.
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Table of Contents
- What Type of Cuba Currency Is There?
- Can I Get Cuban Currency in the UK/US/Etc?
- What Currency to Take to Cuba?
- What is the Cuba Exchange Rate?
- How to Get Cuban Currency
- Should I Exchange Dollars at my Casa?
- What about ATMs in Cuba?
- Can You Use Credit Cards in Cuba?
- Don’t Take CUC To The Airport
- So How Much Does Cuba Cost?
- Frequently Asked Questions