Currency in Cuba

You will find a very peculiar situation in Cuba about his national currency, since officially we have two of them circulating right now. This fact might be a little confusing to visitors and this page goal is clarify that for you, providing information you need to correctly use and exchange Cuban currency and payment forms you will find. See the official rate of exchange for foreign currencies.

National currencies circulating in Cuba: CUC and CUP.

Two national currencies circulate in Cuba:

  • CUC – Official name Cuban Convertible Peso, also called “divisa” (currency) by Cubans.
  • CUP - Official name Cuban Peso, also called “Moneda Nacional” (National Currency) by Cubans and in occasions written “MN”, a little confusing because CUC are definitely a National Currency too.

You can obtain and spend both currencies only in Cuba; outside his boundaries they have not value at all.

State owned establishment, certainly the vast majority in Cuba, only accept CUC or CUP; except for the Euro, officially accepted in some big tourist poles, but in normal practice this don’t work very well. CUC was introduced by the Cuban government in 2004 to substitute the USD dollar that was allowed to circulate in the country before that year, and playing the role of a “national convertible currency”.

You can easily differentiate CUC from CUP because the former has printed in the front side “pesos convertibles”, Spanish for “convertible peso”; this one will be the most frequently used by you in Cuba, but if you immerse into the actual Cuban common life, the CUP will play a role.

Can you pay in whatever of two currencies you like?

No. Some establishments take only CUC and the others take only CUP; except for a few ones that operate with both of them, still they sell some goods in CUC and others in CUP, exclusively.

What kind of payment can you use in the places you visit?

All kind of establishments designed for international tourism, operated by state enterprises, will take cash in CUC or one of the credit cards accepted in the country. Again, these involve the majority of cases and include hotels, restaurants, shops, excursions and all other recreational activities.

On the other hand, you have the private establishments, essentially “Casas Particulares” and “Paladares” (a kind of private restaurant), where you can pay only in cash, since they are not allowed to access the credit card system.

There are shops and restaurants, designed for Cuban people, that only accept CUP; neither CUC nor credits cards. They are usually far from tourist centers and resorts, but they are free for all to use and you can use them if you feel like.

Which credit card can you use in Cuba?

As long as they are not emitted for a USA Bank, are accepted:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard Internacional
  • Cabal
  • International Eurocard
  • Banamex
  • Transcard
  • Carnet
  • Bancomer
  • Dinners Club International
  • JCB
  • Access

Also you can use credit cards emitted by Cubans banks.

Which foreign currencies are acceptable to exchange for CUC?

These ones:

  • British Pound (GBP)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • US Dollar (USD)
  • Swiss Franc (CHF)
  • Mexican Peso (MXP)
  • Danish Krone (DKK)
  • Sweden Krone (SEK)
  • Norway Krone (NOK)
  • Yapanese Yen (JPY)

USD exchange rate against CUC always remains the same by government regulation and seldom changes; this rate is taken for reference for the exchange rates of the rest of foreign currencies. USD sale rate is 0.9685 and he add a tax of 10%, and purchase rate is 1.033; that is, if you give 100 USD, you will receive in return 87.15 CUC. The Banco Nacional de Cuba (Spanish for Cuban National Bank) online site publishes the official exchange rates for the day. For the above reasons, is strongly recommended, to preferably use Euros.

Where to exchange money?

Always exchange your money in official places. These are “Cadecas”, a contraction of “Casa de Cambio” (Spanish for exchange house), banks, hotels and airports; there you should find, in some very visible place, a list of the valid exchange rates values for the day, as demand the government regulations about this matter. For each exchange operation you will get a ticket; if not, we recommend you ask for it.

Cadecas have slightly better exchange rates for you, but the difference is not relevant.

You will find very useful to exchange some money in the airport when you first arrive, just to have cash (CUC) to grab a taxi, some snack, etc. Remember, only CUC will be accepted in most places.

Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) characteristics.

One CUC contains 100 cents. It appears in:

  • 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 bills.
  • 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and 1 CUC coins.

Security elements in bills:

  • Water mark: Visible against the light, showing a Jose Marti (Cuban National Hero) sphinx, and also, in the last series, the denomination number of the bill.
  • Security band: Visible against the light with the text “PATRIA O MUERTE VENCEREMOS”.

Can you need to use Cuban Peso (CUP) at all?

Yes, you can. If you feel like immerse in the Cuban common life and customs, the way to go is getting close to the places less visited for tourist and then learning to properly use CUP will provide you with better prices for some goods. For example:

  • Restaurants and “Paladares”: There are some of them where you can pay with CUP for a good quality cheaper meal. If you are staying in a Casa Particular, ask the owners, they can recommend the good ones in the neighborhood.
  • Agricultural Markets: Places where Cubans buy vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. Here you will find lower prices for this kind of products.
  • Foods from street sellers.

If you are in a doubt, ask someone if you must pay for the product in CUC or National Currency.

CUP exchange only with CUC and the rate is fixed right now by government regulations at:

  • 1 CUC = 24 CUP
  • 25 CUP = 1 CUC

Custom-house and money.

You can enter the country with as many cash as you want. It is very important to declare the amount in the custom office, if not; you only can take out of country 5000 USD or equivalent of other foreign currency.