Cuba Currency. CUC. CUP

Cuba Currency: Everything You Need To Know For 2020

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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. 


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


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 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 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:

  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 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. 

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.

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.



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 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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Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 32

  1. 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.

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      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. 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!

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      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!)

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      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. 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.

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  4. 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

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      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. “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.

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

  6. 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.

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      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. 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.

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  8. 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.

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

    Thanks!

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      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. 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.

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  11. 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

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