Best currency for Cuba to take or exchange beforehand?

edited April 2009 in - Cuba
i want to know what the best bang for my buck is as far as what money to take to Cuba or should I exchange Canadian $ for pesos beforehand? Is there a surcharge for using the ATM to get money? what money is given from an ATM in Cuba?


  • edited 12:41AM
    personally I would take us dollars although euro is widely accepted and you will be given pesos in change. if you are staying in what i classify as a compound hotel then i cannot see any use for peso. there are two types of peso currency in circulation and it is doubtful if you would be able to access the cuban peso exchange so be aware when you see advertised prises in peso this is not the peso that you would get from the travel agency. it took me three months to be able to access the cuban peso only because i had been mugged and robbed and ended up staying with a family at the insistance of the police although i was surveiled at every given moment and by the family and neighbours.

    things are changing slowly and now the cubans can accept more family funds from american family. so there will be alot more dollars in the system as there used to be before castro opted for the euro in defiance.

    i am a woman and solo travelled for over 4 months in the interior and although the above problem happened i survived in tact and can honestlt say that cuba is my most favourite place still. enjoy but please get out of the compound. surcharges are normal as to your card. even nationwide are now charging but not an additional rate as most other cards. i had no problems with the nationwide card at all in 2 years of travel and they are still the cheapest. i cannot confirm what currency you will get from the machines now but may i suggest you get dollars good luck and have fun
  • edited 12:41AM dollars is a bad idea. They charge an extra fee for exchange. Canadian dollars on the other hand is fine - just like euro and pounds.
  • edited 12:41AM
    I am visiting Hong Kong, Bali and Singapore and wondered how best to tale money. Using ATM's Collar/ Sterling Travellers Cheques or currency
  • edited 12:41AM
    I don't know why anyone bothers with traveller's checks anymore. They're such a hassle, frankly. Very few places will accept them and you end up running around trying to find someone to exchange them. The best way is to make sure you can draw on your credit card from an ATM (check with your bank before you go), and bring a bit of cash to change at the airport so you can tip taxis etc. Hong Kong and Singapore should have lots of atms, but you'll want to make sure you have some cash for Bali, depending on where you're staying. The big tourist resorts will have ATMs.
  • edited 12:41AM
    Everything you need to know abotu Money Exchange in Cuba...


    With a two currency monetary system and a very unique political situation Cuba's foreign currency exchange can appear a bit daunting for a first time visitor, but with some basic info most people should be able to grasp the essentials without too much trouble.

    Here are a few thoughts...


    Cuba is like most other foreign destinations, you bring a major foreign currency and exchange it into the local currency to make purchases while you’re there.

    Cuban currency is NOT traded internationally, so you can’t buy it in advance. You buy it when you arrive in Cuba.

    1.) The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC. It’s what you exchange your foreign currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC.

    2.) The second legal currency in Cuba is the simple and lowly Cuban Peso, CUP, which is rarely used by the vast majority of tourists, but it’s still something you should know about.

    Outside of a resort or hotel when you're traveling independantly it’s always handy to have a few Cuban Pesos on you. You get about 24 of them for 1 Convertible Peso.

    Street food like sandwiches and pizza, fresh fruit drinks and other small purchases are all incredibly cheap for Cuban Pesos. Once you get a feel for Cuba – and if you speak a little Spanish – there are peso bars and restaurants that can be quite interesting. Movies are cheap too.

    Both types of Pesos, CUC and CUP, are legal tender in Cuba and both are completely available to anyone – including foreigners – with no restrictions whatsoever . You can exchange your CUC for CUP at any bank and most non-resort and non-airport Cadecas.

    As a first-time visitor to Cuba though or as a resort tourist venturing off the resort for the day you can easily handle ALL your transactions with Convertible Pesos, CUC. Don't worry about CUP.

    Lastly, all your tipping at the resort is (of course) in CUC. Never tip in CUP.


    In some places it's a fairly common scam to be charged in CUC but given your change in CUP, so it's a good idea to know how to recognize the two different currencies...

    1.) Convertible Pesos, CUC:

    2.) Cuban Pesos, CUP:

    Note: The 3 CUP bill with the image of Che makes a nice inexpensive souvenir.


    Accurate Exchange Rates: ALL the internet currency exchange sites (like,,,, etc.) are useless for real budgeting because they only give mid-market rates, ignoring the buy/sell costs that you'll be charged at the bank or Cadeca in Cuba.

    This website is sometimes slow to load but it's the ONLY website that will give you the exact rates that you'll receive at a Cuban Bank:

    It's in Spanish, but it's very easy to decipher. Here's how it works...

    1.) The first column, "Compra" (Purchase) is the rate they're charging you to BUY Cuban Convertible Pesos, CUC.

    2.) The second column, "Venta" (Sell) is the rate they're charging to SELL Cuban Convertible Pesos, CUC.

    UK and European travellers: See the asterisk (*) beside the GBP and EUR? That means you multiply instead of divide.

    Amercian travellers: The USD exchanges at $1.08 + the commission so it trades at about 1.11 CUC. Don't forget to subtract an additional 10% for the surcharge that Cuba charges against your USD - it's the only foreign currency that gets hit with this additional fee.

    Mexican Travellers: The only other currency besides the USD that is also consistently a poor choice in Cuba is the Mexican Peso - for some reason its exchange rate is always horrible...


    As you can see from the Banco Central de Cuba website mentioned above these foreign currencies are accepted

    * Canadian Dollars CAD
    * Pound Sterling GBP
    * Mexican Pesos MXN
    * Danish Krone DKK
    * Norwegian Krone NOK
    * Swedish Krona SEK
    * Japanese Yen JPY
    * Euro EUR
    * Swiss Francs CHF
    * US Dollars USD (Don't forget the additional 10% surcharge mentioned above.)

    Note: Not all banks or Cadecas will handle all these currencies, so to cash your Krone, Krona, etc. you sometimes have to go to a main branch.

    For our pals from Scotland... you'll need British notes, so hit a Clydesdale Bank cashpoint, etc.


    Where to exchange your foreign currency:

    1.) The best exchange rate is a Bank.

    2.) The next best exchange rate as it any Cadeca. A Cadeca (Casas de Cambio which means House of Exchange) is a government exchange facility. They're located at many resorts and hotels, and at locations all over the Island.

    3.) The next best rate is at the Airport Cadeca.

    4.) The worst rate can potentially be over-the-counter at any hotel or resort because the rate is not regulated by the government.

    On a 1 or 2 week all-inclusive holiday then the difference between Options 1, 2 & 3 is immaterial.

    If you're an independent traveler or a long term visitor and paying everything in CUC then exchanging at a bank is the most sensible option.

    Lastly, and this is brand new, there are some Cadecas in some of the higher-end hotels that display the exchange rates on a lighted board. (The rates are lit-ip with LEDs.) For some reason these particular Cadecas are VERY expensive. Your first clue will be that there's zero line-up. Have a look for these "special" tourist-only Cadecas in the Park Central Hotel, Sevilla Hotel, etc. They're a rip-off.

    You can buy your CUC at any Cadeca or Bank. With few exceptions CUP is available at most non-resort Cadecas, non-Airport Cadecas and Banks.


    Accepted Currency: Always bring new(ish) bank notes, with no rips, tears or markings. All foreign coins are (of course) useless.

    (Resort workers or any Cuban in contact with foreigners will accept coins, but then you're burdening another tourist with the task of exchanging the coins into paper cash. In other words, Canadians, leave those Loonies and Toonies at home!)


    #1 Tourist Scam in Cuba: Unfortunately it's money exchange... fortunately though it's also 100% easily avoidable.

    Always take a calculator with you so you know the correct amount of CUC that should be coming to you. If you don’t have a calculator do NOT accept any transaction that doesn't come with a printed receipt. Take your time and re-count your money in front of the teller. No big deal!


    Getting rid of your Cuban Convertible Pesos: You can exchange your leftover CUC at the airport when you leave, but the exchange is a rip-off.

    A better way to handle it is to budget wisely during the last few days of your trip so you don’t arrive at the airport loaded with useless CUC. Bring 25 CUC (exact change, in cash) for the Airport Departure Tax and spend the rest at the Duty Free, or save it for your next trip.



    1.) Travelers Cheques: They're are more hassle than they're worth. They're difficult to exchange and when you do find a place to accept them you pay a commission to cash them. If they do get lost or stolen they can't be replaced until you return home.

    Notable Exception: For Americans who have so few options for handling their Cuban budgets American Express Travelers Checks ARE a viable option. They've been accepted at BFI (Banco Financiero Internacional) and BM (Banco Metropoliano) for the last several years. Since you're not hit with the 10% surcharge penalty that cash faces the exchange rate is not bad. Important Reminder: You must have all the original purchase receipts with you to cash Travelers Checks and it's difficult to find places to cash them outside major centres.

    Americans should also investigate this option. It's particularly good for Amercians who travel frequently to Cuba or for longer periods of time away from the all-inclusive resort scene:

    Lastly, Americans should also investigate any cost advantage to exchanging their USDs into another foreign currency in order to help lessen the 10% surcharge that Cuba levies against US cash. USD to CAD to CUC is usually much cheaper than exchanging USD directly to CUC.

    2.) Canadian Credit Cards: Any of the "Big Five" Canadian banks are fine. Royal Bank, TD/Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

    No problems with PC Financial or Canadian Tire Mastercards as well. And for our friends in Quebec the National Bank Mastercard and Desjardins Visa also work too.

    Since they don't have a Visa or Mastercard symbol Canadian Debit Cards are useless.

    3.) UK/European Credit and Debit Cards: Many North American and UK/European Global Debit and Credit Cards like Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Nationwide, Post Office, Yorkshire, Tesco, HSBC, Halifax, etc. are fine.

    Of course they have to be non US affiliated and display the Visa or Mastercard symbol. Visa will work in an ATM, Mastercard means a trip inside to deal with a teller.

    Lastly, most UK credit cards now charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.75% which they disguise in the exchange rate back to Sterling. National's rate is lower and Post Office doesn't have this charge at all. Contact your card supplier to confirm their charges.

    4.) Useless Credit/Debit Cards: Citi Bank, Capital One, Maestro, MBNA, AMX, any Mastercard from a Canadian Credit Union, Diners, Egg, Santander/RBS, Abbey, Abbey National, Marks & Spenser, Alliance & Leicester, etc. are some of the US affiliated cards that are not accepted in Cuba.

    5.) Credit Card verses Cash: There is no extra fee for using a credit card. This often repeated myth is due to the confusion surrounding how credit card charges are calculated. The CUC cost on the card is exchanged into USD (1 CUC = $1.08 USD) plus the exchange fee (about 3%) gives you the impression the credit card company charged a fee, but in actuality the exchange process is almost identical to exchanging cash.

    6.) Passport: Always bring your Passport with you when you visit a bank or off-resort Cadeca. It's not always required, but if you're dealing with a credit card or a big pile of cash they'll likely ask for it, especially at a Bank.

    Hope this info helps!

  • edited 12:41AM

    you cant use atms, prepaid cards either, so its ££ cash only im afraid

    for the other destinations you could order a prepaid card from and use that anywhere in the world in the atms for free, they last 4-5 years and are reloadable online, and replaced within 20 mins if lost or stolen
  • edited 12:41AM
    1.) "... you cant use atms..."

    I'm Canadian and have used my Visa credit cards in ATMs all over Cuba. The new Canadian Debit Cards with the Visa logo work in ATMs too now.

    2.) "... so its ££ cash only im afraid..."

    The Original Poster is Canadian. £ is immaterial, they'll be using Canadian Dollars.

  • edited 12:41AM
    Anyone wanting information about Visas for cuba should call 0207 240 6655 and speak to the cuban tourist board / embassy.

    They'll sort you out quickly and clearly.

    Looking forward to my 2 weeks in the cuban sun!
  • edited 12:41AM
    DiddyB, did you mean to post on another thread?

  • edited 12:41AM
    Hi Terry... your posts above are probably the most useful things I have read about the Cuban Currency debate... many thanks. We're flying out on 2 Mar and I can't wait! I+A, Wales
  • edited 12:41AM
    Thanks roon. The currency exchange situation is a bit complicated, but I'm still always blown away by the amount of misinformation that gets perpetuated on Cuban travel forums concerning the subject.

    Have a great trip.

  • edited 12:41AM
    Thanks Terry

    Clear and Precise

  • edited 12:41AM
    Have a gas!

  • edited 12:41AM
    Lots of good advice here, but .... just looking outside USA/European travellers...
    I've usually managed to get by ok in other parts of the world with ATM's and/or my visa credit card.
    So I have a Citibank Visa card (which looks like being useless) and a Westpac Visa card (major Australian bank) -- also useless??
    And my ATM card is a Westpac Mastercard??

    Am I stuck with carrying cash?? I can bring sterling of course, but would prefer not to carry that much.
  • edited 12:41AM
    Sorry, no experience with a Westpac... have a look here...

    I wouldn't depend on it until you find solid info somewhere...

  • edited 12:41AM
    After travelling to Cuba many times I have learned that US$ is probably the worst currency to take. You will be asked for as much as a 20% surcharge even though the true Cuban surcharge is closer to 12%. Some people pay it, other try to cash in on their Credit Cards, which you can do up to a certain amount, and only is your card is Canadian, such as Royal bank, CIBC etc. Forget Amex, MNBA, Master and Visa from Capitol 1 etc. They are all useless. Debit cards.... forget it. I try just for kicks, each time I am there. NFG. So be prepared to get burnt on each transaction. Canadians a little and our cousins to the South... Big Time. No... there are lots of Americans visiting Cuba regardless of embargos. The enter via Canada and Mexico. Fidel is so thoughtful not to stamp their passports. Car rental. Decent mid size that you wont need a kidney belt for. About $70 per day plus 15-20 insurance per day and a you will need a working credit card for an additional security of $200 (refundable). Expect to pay $750 a week all in. Whatever you do, hire a driver. It works out well for larger families that must shell out $150 each for an excursion as you can rent a car and driver for a hundred and change (Tip) a day on a three day rental. You can cover a lot of ground in Three days. If you don't hire a driver, you better be good behind the wheel and have some understanding of Spanish. Do not stop for anyone posing as a cop. It will unknowingly pay a fine for no reason. Rule;;; no weapon= no stopping. Do not change money with anyone other than a bank or at your hotel or airport (airport is usually the best rate of exchange) 2 Currencies. One for tourists CUC and one for locals CUP. The latter of which is 25X less value. This is the one the sharks will exchange for you hard currency. In closing.. It will be worth it. YOU will hate the food at most hotels. But the People, the Beaches and Culture make up for it all. You cannot blame the majority, whom are honest and decent people. I will be there Nov 12 to Dc 3rd this year. Let me know if I can advise in any way. Terry
  • edited 12:41AM
  • edited 12:41AM
    Hi Terry and others
    We are Australians travelling to Cuba as part of a holiday to USA, Jamaica, London, Thailand
    Can you share any advice re currency and ATM cards in Cuba - particularly ATM and credit and debit cards from National Australia Bank
    We have already had our Wizard Mastercard Credit Card [GE Money] rejected when paying for a flight from Havana but our NAB Visa Credit Card was ok
    I am starting to form the opinion that we should take Euros or GBP and exchange them at a bank only and forget about using any sort of card at an ATM or elsewhere. I am assuming Aussie dollars would not be any good
    Appreciate any help / advice / opinions
  • edited 12:41AM
    I am no expert on Australian credit/debit cards, but here's a few thoughts...

    1.) If your ANZ card doesn't have the Mastercard or Visa symbol then it will be useless in Cuba. On a further note "'normal" ANZ Visa cards work in Cuba for both ATM and over the counter transactions but ANZ Visa Travel Cards do not. Don't ask why, they have no clue.

    2.) Westpac Master Card and Westpac Debit Master Card are fine.

    3.) Wizard Mastercard which is close to the best for overseas usage (no fees ) does not work because of their US connection. (I believe Wizard is now called 28 Degrees but the parent company is still GE USA so the caveat of it not working in Cuba still applies.)

    4.) An MECU Visa debit card has a single flat fee of $3.50 and no other charges.

    5.) If you read my long reply above you'll see that your Australian Dollars are NOT on the list of accepted currencies so your cash is indeed useless.

    6.) Generally most of your credit/debit cards work if they have no connection to the US. Before trusting your National Australia Bank be sure to confirm from another source that it's okay. The Lonely Planet site has several Australian contributors, give them a try. Listen especially to anything johnabbotsford posts:

    Have fun!

  • edited 12:41AM
    Hi Terry
    You are spot on re Wizard - it is now 28 Degrees and is the best oversease because the exchange rate they use is as good if not better than the big banks and they do not charge any fees - however all that will be useless in Cuba due the US connection
    Once again thanks for your advice
    Your posts are invaluable
  • edited 12:41AM
    Have fun, buddy...

  • edited 12:41AM
  • edited 12:41AM
    This has been the best site so far. Thanks guys. We are going to Cuba in about 3 weeks and the information has been great - especially about the credit cards and what money to take. Can't wait until the US and Cuba kiss and make up.
  • edited 12:41AM
    Have a gas, Lulu...

  • edited 12:41AM
    I have found all the info very interesting and just so I have this right BMO mastercard will work for us and we can exchange canadian cash at a bank or cash exchange location when we get there correct?
  • edited 12:41AM
    Hi Terry,
    We are Australians going to cuba after quite a few other countries, lastly being mexico. I read in an earlier post that mexican pesos have the worst exchange rate in cuba and we do not want to hold onto another currency the whole time we're away in case of theft. Do you suggest exchanging pesos in mexico for another currency (pounds or canadian dollar for example) then changing them to CUC or should we just change the minimum pesos to CUC to get us to hotel in havana and find a atm/cash point?
    Many Thanks
  • edited 12:41AM
    How is tipping in coin viewed...Loonies and Toonies?
    When tipping resort staff, I would be using paper currency...10's, 20's. But when on a stroll off resort and stopping for a quick drink, tipping 5 could really start to add up! Do I assumne Canadian coin is just as acceptable as paper currency?
  • edited April 2012
    1.) jojo: It's all explained in my post above. Here's a direct link:

    2.) JCbella: Just do the math, all the rates are in the link above. If you are 100% sure that you have a Credit/Debit Card that will work in a Cuban Bank or Cadeca then you don't have to worry.

    3.) Winterpeg: Do NOT tip with coins! They can't be exchanged - the Cuban has to bug another tourist to exchange them into CUC. You're in Cuba so use Cuban money, of course. Read the link above, it has everything you need to know.

  • edited 12:41AM
    Im am going to Cuba Jan 19/13. Just wondering how much Candaian Cash one should bring and convert to CUC for tipping for a 1 week stay. We wont be leaving the the resort for any reason. Also duty free can you use Canadian Cash there ir is it Convertible Pesos. Also does any one know how much money I need to leave Cuba? I've read somewhere that it is 25 CUC is this still the case?
  • edited 12:41AM
    1.) Tipping is a personal matter, you would know better than anyone your own tipping habits. Tipping also varies wildly depending at which resort you are staying.

    2.) Use CUC no matter where you are in Cuba, including the Duty Free.

    3.) Departure Tax is 25 CUC, payable in exact cash.

    Have fun.

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