money and note in cuba

Cuba is a country where tourists have to face problems with the currencies, like any other all over the world. What to expect and to take into account? Let’s answer the most frequents questions.

  • There are two currencies in Cuba: CUP local (Cuban pesos) and CUC (Cuban Convertibles pesos) for all persons. Foreigner use CUC but there is no sense to have two currencies. The feeling they are keeping back one of them, the CUP … is only the impression.
  • The money in Cuba can be taken out from cash machines, but not all credit cards always work. It is worthwhile to have two types: VISA and MasterCard. The credit cards of American Banks, for instance, City, doesn’t work. Paying with credit card for tourist still been very rare: is better to have cash with you.
  • The best currency to take to Cuba is The Euro. For changing money there are many currency exchange offices, called CADECA. The daily rate is the same everywhere (except for Hotels offices).

What are the Cubans currencies?

A lot of questions and doubts about Cuban Money came from the fact that is a country with double currency. We have CUC (commonly called «kukami» or frequently «CUC» by the Cubans), or Cuban convertibles pesos and we also have CUP or Cubans pesos, national currency (called Moneda Nacional by the Cubans). The salary of Cuban people is paid in National currency or CUP, subsequently, is the unique currency they can use to buy in the ration stores. However, where there is no rationing, also stores of the State, you can pay with both currencies and that way is how prices are presented. Nevertheless, we should never fallow the symbol of dollar (the word S cut with a line -$), because indeed, it is a symbol used to express both prices, CUC and CUP and this, at the same time, confuse very often the foreigners that pay overplus 25 times …

History of Cuban money

The first pesos were sending out by the Spanish Bank of Cuba, during colonial time. Thereafter, the CUC was introducing in 1994, officially to facilitate transactions in foreign currency (divisas), not officially to stop the money washing, and therefore, the CUC should replace the American dollar and have its equivalence. Till lately, notwithstanding, the USD was taxed in Cuba with the 10 %.      

The Cuban money has been always printed, since 1997, by the Cuban Central Bank. Previously, Cuba subcontract the service to former URSS, and even before, to The United States of America.     

The notes of CUP show pictures of heroes of the Cuban revolution and the independence wars; in a style truly patriotic and Cuban. In the bill of national currency you can see cyphers like:

  • Jose Marti
  • Ernesto Che Guevara
  • Antonio Maceo
  • Maximo Gomez
  • Camilo Cienfuegos
  • Calixto Garcia
  • Carlos Manuel de Céspedes
  • Frank Pais
  • Ignacio Agramonte
  • Julio Antonio Mella

The CUC note presents different monuments that we may notice in the whole Island, also with a historic and patriotic meaning; sometimes is possible to find some relics among the CUC notes. Curiously, ISO (International Organization of Normalization) doesn’t accredit the Cuban convertible peso as an international currency, that’s why the CUC as a currency, doesn’t have receive an international code issued by this Organization.

What’s the currency we should take to Cuba?

We bring Euros, Canadian Dollars or Pounds to Cuba. However, the last may be an issue due to the written pounds that are so usual, we should have careful and check every single note. Of course, you can bring with you American Dollars (USD), until July 2020 there was a tax of 10% for the transactions in that currency, except for the cash ones, nowadays this tax has been cancel by the Government. Nevertheless, Euro, as far as I know, is the best currency to take with you to go to Cuba. Interestingly, the taxation wasn’t applicable to bank transactions and credit cards. Very important information for independent travelers: Cubans are happy to accept payment in foreign money, like euros. Notwithstanding, you should watch out the course.   

Is there any Cash Machine (ATM) in Cuba?

Yes, there are cash machines in Cuba; in fact, there is at least one ATM in every touristic destination. However, the problem is that here, issues are very common. Firstly, the cash machines, like in the rest of the world, fail, and if there is only one in the area, we do have a problem. Secondly, not all credit cards will work for us and there in none rule for that here. In theory, MasterCard and Visa card that were not issue by an American Bank should work in Cuba. Anyways, this is not the affair, so it is good to have two different cards, just in case. The ATM in Cuba pays in CUC currency. It’s not possible to take Euro or USD from them.       

Does it work the REVOLUT Card in Cuba?

The situation is very similar to cash machines. Sometimes it work, sometimes it doesn’t, and it doesn’t has to do anything with the Revolut. Naturally, you can have a Revolut card with you, but it will be good if this one is not the only one.

Is it possible to pay with credit card in Cuba?

From a tourist perspective, there are a few places where we don’t have to pay in cash. Definitely is much better to have cash with you and rule Cuba. Warning! We shouldn’t wait till the last minute to change money or going to a cash machine to collect it. This is something that happens very often, people run out of cash and then, there is a problem. If the situation above-mentioned occur, we try to change money with local people, there is no doubt someone will agree with pleasure to exchange Euros into CUC.        

Where to exchange money in Cuba?

The first cash we should change it at the airport because is more practicable. The rate normally is very similar or the same you will find in the city; sometimes is even more profitable. Later on, we change more money in “Cadeca”, which is the name that receives the Currency Exchange Office in Cuba. Some Banks also offer the currency exchange service, but not all of them, so you must to be sure, before making a big line out! Of course, we don’t exchange money on the streets! Although…recently, after the introduction of the stores for Cubans where the shopping only can be done with USD or EUR, Cubans are willing to interchange CUC for a good rate. Nevertheless, this is not legal and we do not know who we meet on the streets.

It is very important to verify the receipt and the cash while we change money at the Currency Exchange Office, to be sure that we have the deducted amount and that all notes are CUC and not CUP.   

To exchange money in Cuba is mandatory for foreigners, to show the passport and for Cubans the Identity Card. Apparently; we could find an issue, while buying in shops with bigger notes: 50 or 100 CUC.

What’s the rate of exchange in Cuba?

The rate fluctuates, sometimes even daily, but the changings are not immense. The exchange rate normally is the same in all Cuba (except for places like Hotels, Airport or other unusual currency exchange spot).

This is possible to see it in the website of CADECA.

Do I need two currencies in Cuba?

There are two currencies in Cuba. The touristic one, is the CUC (Called kukami, and polish sometimes call it pony), or Cuban convertibles pesos and the CUP, or Cuban pesos called moneda nacional (National currency). 1 CUC=23-25 Exchange rate. Actually, Cubans use the CUC (kukas) with the same frequency.

How to distinguish the Cuban currency CUC from the CUP? The notes of Cuban pesos have portraits or pictures of historical figures and the CUC monuments. It is worth to remember this to avoid confusion and not to be deceived while expending the rest.

It is said that Cubans gives more value to the monuments (CUC) than to the people (CUP) or that tourist admire the monuments (CUC) and Cubans the national heroes (CUP). Now, nobody will get confuse!

You can buy simple things with Cuban pesos like pizzas or fruits on the street. We could buy these things with CUC too, therefore, it is an individual matter if we want to have and use both currencies. However, don’t think it will be cheaper the CUP because it won’t be.

Tips in Cuba

The rules of tipping in restaurants are the same we have all over the world. In some places, tip for the service is included in the bill.

The hotel service has the tipping system too: waiters and chambermaid.

It is not usual to leave a tip in guesthouses, but of course, the host will be very happy if you do so. The same happens with drives and tour guides.    

Can we bargain in Cuba?

Cuba is not an Arabic country to have business in blood. In many places, we hear that is a state shop or maybe private, and prices are chosen by the owner or the state and there is no chance of negotiation. Then, it is better to let it go. It is worthwhile to bargain with the drivers if we suspect the price is not fixing. Undoubtedly, we should always deal the price with the drivers in advance, before departures. Even if they hide the taximeter, the price can be determined before starting and it will be much better.        

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *