Learn to get to grips with the unique dual currency in Cuba. Make sure you are prepared for your trip and don't get stung by exchange rates and added fees. Cuban currency for tourists can be difficult to understand in the beginning, but you'll soon get used to it!
There are two official currencies in Cuba. One is the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the other is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Unlike other places in the world, you can’t buy your currency before you get to Cuba. You can only change Cuban currency in Cuba. This means you have to buy it when you arrive.
If you buy American Dollars beforehand, you will be charged a 10% penalty to change your currency into CUC. Instead, consider buying GPB or EUR before travelling to Cuba. When you get to Cuba, change your pounds or Euros into CUC. You should also take a credit card for emergencies, but be aware that some American-owned cards will not work.
CUC is the currency most used by tourists and visitors. However, if you are buying local purchases like street food, bread, fruit and drinks, you might like to go local and make your purchases using the Cuban peso.
If you want to take a ride in an old Cuban taxi, you can pay with CUC, but if you have some Cuban pesos, the price will be slightly cheaper. The same applies to things like street food or ice cream.
You will get 24/25 Cuban Pesos per CUC if you exchange them, so if you pay for something that is advertised in CUP and you pay in CUC, don’t forget to wait, or ask for the change.
You can exchange your CUC for Cuban pesos (CUP) at any Cadeca (exchange office). Some hotels also offer facilities to change money and then you can use both currencies. You will need your passport to change money in Cuba.
Your Vamos Cuba host will know where the exchange office and the cash machines are located. They will give you all of this information on the first day of your stay in Cuba.
Credit cards aren’t commonly used in Cuba. Everyone pays in cash. There are ATM machines in Havana. These will accept English Visa cards and Debit cards without a problem. Those that are linked to American banks might be difficult to use. Cash machines might be hard to find outside of the city, so if you go on an excursion, take cash with you.
Once you have been a day or so in Cuba, you’ll get the hang of it and the money won’t seem so confusing!