Currency exchange in Cuba can be a challenge for new visitors, the country has two different currencies at the same time, tourists have to change their currency into the one authorized in the country, and exchange rates can be a bit difficult to understand for newcomers. This guide explains the currencies usable in Cuba, exchange rates to mayor world currencies, where and how to exchange them and local issues regarding the exchange.
The Official Cuban Currency: Cuban Peso (CUP)
The Cuban currency and the entire financial system are handled by the Cuban Central Bank: “Banco Central de Cuba”. The official Cuban currency is the “peso cubano” (Cuban Peso). The notes vary from 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. This currency is used country-wide for internal trades. People are paid in this currency. It’s used to pay for services and goods but for local people only, tourists have to exchange their currency into CUC as explained below.
The Cuban Convertible Currency: CUC
There is another currency authorized to circulate in the country: the Cuban Convertible Peso, or CUC as it’s known within the country. Notes vary from 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. Notes from CUC are a little wider than the CUP and in a different color: they are reddish.
The CUC exists as an exchangeable currency for foreign currencies. Tourists are to use the CUC instead of CUP, they have to change their original currency (read USD, EUR, GBP, CAD, etc.) into this one in order to use it in any establishment country-wide and buy stuffs.
Exchanging CUC from other currencies
As soon as you enter the country, you have to exchange your current currency to CUC, at your return you can exchange back the CUC you have left. There is a place for currency exchange named CADECA.
A CADECA is an exchange house for buying and selling currencies. Everybody can use this house, tourists and local residents as well, and you can go there at any time. There are a lot of these houses everywhere. Also, banks exchange currencies. CADECA exchanges CUC for British Pound, Canadian Dollar, Switzerland Franc, Japanese Yen, Mexican Peso, Danish Crown, Norway Crown, Swedish Crown, Euro, Cuban Peso and US Dollar. It buys your currency and returns CUC, or buys CUC and returns some currencies. The buying price is a little lower than the selling price so the house has a profit just for exchanging your currency.
Tip: find a CADECA to exchange your currency, there are a lot of them available.
Cadecas in Varadero:
- Las Américas Road
- Mar del Sur Hotel
- Paradisus Hotel
- Solymar Hotel
- Punta Hicacos
- 40 street and Avenida Playa
- 59 street and 1ra. Avenida
The exchange rates are set by the central bank. The following table is an example for the day this article was written, for up to date values please visit the official page for currency exchange)
|GBP||Pound Sterling (*)||1.61362||1.72214|
(*) CUC per EUR and Sterling Pund
10% tax applicable to USD
As you can see, they see selling and buying price is different (buying price lower than selling price).
To convert from your currency to CUC just locate your exchange rate (for selling or buying, as appropriate) then multiply the value.
Important: If your currency is USD, they will charge an additional 10% gravamen. There is a long story for why this happens which is not covered in this paper.
Let’s make some examples to illustrate how it works:
- You have 1000 USD, how much CUC you will get?
1000* 0.96852 = 968.52
968.52 * 0.9 = 871.668 CUC (subtracting 10% gravamen)
You will get 871.66 CUC.
If when returning home, you have 100 CUC left, the numbers are:
100* 1.03360 = 103.60 CUC
103.66 + (103.66 * 0.1) = 113.696 USD
You will carry home 113.69 USD.
- You have 1000 Euros, how much CUC you will get?
1000* 1.49145 = 1491.45
you will get 1491.45 CUC.
If when returning home, you have 100 CUC left, the numbers are:
100 * 1.39745 = 139.74 Euros
You will carry home 139.74 Euros
If you have USD, you may be thinking: wow, I will exchange my USDs to Euro in my country, and then at Cuba I will exchange Euros for CUC instead to avoid the 10% gravamen to USD? Well yes, you can do this.
Let’s make an example: If you bringing 1000USD to Cuba, it will be 871.66CUC. At the time the table was get, 1 USD = 0.692042 Euro world-wide so if you change 1000USD to Euro in your country it will be 692.04Euro. If you bring 692.04 Euros to Cuba, it will be 1032.12 CUC, it’s a 6% higher.
Tip: if you bring USD currency, exchange it to Euro or British Pound when coming to Cuba, you will avoid the 10% gravamen to the USD.
Exchanging CUC for CUP
For exchange CUC to CUP, you can go to any CADECA, the rate is fixed, and they sell CUC at 25CUP and buy CUC at 24CUP.
International Credit Cards and ATMs usage
In Cuba you can use your international major credit cards: Visa, MasterCard and others ONLY if not expended by US Banks (American Express, for instance) or its branches in other countries. You can pay at any establishment that supports your card. Look for the credit card symbol at the door, if present, you can use it to pay for the things you may buy. You will be charged an extra for using the credit card in the country. You can use your credit or debit card at an ATM machine to withdraw cash (ATMs also has the identification logo for the supported cards). Check in the list of foreign banks accredited in Cuba and search for yours. Your bank should be listed here in order to use your card. For example if you’re a US citizen, you can’t use your credit cards, because no US bank has business with Cuba.
Tip: before coming, be sure your bank has business with Cuba, so your credit cards won’t work if it doesn’t.
When using your credit cards, ATMs and POSTs will convert your currency to CUC according to the rules explained in the previous section. Also, you will be charge an extra for using the ATM or using the card in any store.
Tip: remember you will be charged a fee for using your credit cards in Cuba.
- Tourists are mandatory to change their currency for CUC to be able to use it in the country.
- CUC can be exchanged in any CADECA or any BANK.
- Exchange rates are published in the Cuban Central Bank page.
- Review the exchange rates before coming and decide which currency to bring up.
- You can use credit cards from certain banks, not U.S. banks, check the list and remember you will be charged extra for using the cards.