The standard Cuba currency is the Peso, and unlike other currencies it’s exclusive to Cuba. There are two versions, the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for visitors. You can only get Convertible Pesos inside Cuba. To stop confusion between the two, currency in Cuba can only be changed at banks and cadecas (currency exchanges) at the airport or in hotels. It’s best to take Pounds to exchange, but watch out as Scottish notes aren’t accepted.
Avoid fake money
Currency in Cuba isn’t traded internationally, so you won’t be able to buy it in advance. Like a lot of countries, forged currency is common in Cuba, so to make sure you don’t end up with some dodgy Pesos, don’t exchange money in anywhere other than at Cadeca currency exchanges, large hotels (often the worst rate) or banks.
Ignore locals who offer better exchange rates or say they have a faster exchange service, as you’ll probably end up with fake notes. Make sure that you get a printed receipt when changing your Cuba currency, and where possible ask for small denomination notes too, as they are easier to use when you’re out. Just remember to bring your passport, as you’ll need it for all currency exchanges.
Credit and debit cards
Cash is king in Cuba and you shouldn’t count on paying for goods or meals with a credit card anywhere in Cuba except for in major hotels. Before you travel, check with your bank that your debit, credit and ATM cards will work in Cuba. If your bank is unable to confirm this, then make sure you bring sterling or euros in cash to change up.
You’ll find it very difficult to find cash machines that accept Cirrus and Switch cards and credit card transactions have local commission charges of approximately 3% added on, as well as your bank transaction charges. Travellers cheques aren’t widely accepted either, and it’s worth remembering that American Express travellers cheques aren’t accepted anywhere in Cuba. Try and avoid exchanging US dollars, as you’ll be subject to a 10% special additional tax/commission.
Tipping in Cuba is important and if you leave a tip, make sure you leave it in CUC. Many restaurants (state and private) now add 10% service to the bill, but if service is not already added to the bill then between 5-10% is reasonable. You can tip bellboys, room maids and restaurant staff for good service in resorts and hotels. Change up CUC 20 at the start of a week to spend in tips. Musicians will often serenade you as you dine in restaurants, and a dollar when the basket comes around is appreciated.
Getting rid of your Cuban Convertible Pesos
If you’ve got any left-over Cuban currency, then you can exchange it in the airport when you leave. As you’ll lose money in the exchange, it’s worth using it up in the last few days of your trip so you don’t arrive at the airport loaded with useless CUC that you’re unable to take out of the country.
|A bottle of water: 1 CUC (80p)||A beer in a bar: 1-2 CUC (80p-£1.60)|
|Mojito cocktail: 2.50–3 CUC (£2-£2.40)||Bottle of Cuban rum: 8-11 CUC (£6.30-£8.70)|
|Three-course meal with drinks: 20 CUC (£16)||Breakfast in a state-run restaurant: 5 CUC (£4)|
|Car hire (per day): 50-160 CUC (£40-£127)||Taxi (per km): 0.6 CUC (48p)|
|Internet access (per hour): 4.50 CUC (£3)||Museum entrance: 5 CUC (£4)|
|Handcrafted souvenir: 2-5 CUC (£1.60-£4)||Cuban cigar: 2-5 CUC (£1.60-£4)|
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