Cuban Currency: Tips for Handling Money on the Island

Sometimes dealing with currency abroad can be a little bit tricky, so having some tips at hand can be really helpful. Cuban vendors are NOT set up to process credit card, debit card, and ATM transactions. Travel with a sufficient amount of cash (prices are similar to those in the U.S.) to make purchases or pay for services. U.S. currency is NOT accepted in Cuba, and U.S. dollars must be exchanged on arrival. Traveler’s checks may also be difficult to cash while in Cuba and are not recommended. The first thing you need to know about Cuban currency is that there are two types of money: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the convertible Cuban peso (CUC), both with different values. You can buy either of them at cadecas, Cuban currency exchange booths, just make sure you check the value of each currency to avoid confusion. Travelers should buy CUC, where 1CUC is equal to $1 USD. If you exchange US Dollars for CUC, you’ll have to pay a 10% tax plus a 3% fee for the transaction itself (so for 100 USD you will get 87 CUC). Because of this tax, it is recommended that travelers exchange Canadian dollars (CAD), British pounds (GBP) or euros (EUR), which result in a surcharge of only 3%. Most stores accept the CUC and, in most cases, that’s all you will need. Don’t forget to bring your passport to the exchange booth! You will need it to buy Cuban currency. The CUP is Cuba’s current coin, and the approximate exchange rate is 1 USD= 25 CUP, but it’s best to check these values before traveling to be sure. Even though it is not strictly necessary, having a few CUPs might come in handy when you visit local places, markets or food trucks. Understanding the difference between CUC and CUP, and how the bills and coins for each look like, will help you avoid possible scams. Check the change you receive when paying with CUC because the value of coins differs greatly. Credit or debit cards are convenient because there are no surcharges, but they might be rarely accepted in places outside the traveler circuit. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to carry cash with you at all times. Tipping might not be the norm amongst Cuban residents, but it is expected from tourists. A tip of 1 or 2 CUC for resorts, taxis and tour guides is usually enough. In restaurants, a 15% tip is fair for an excellent service and 10% is recommended if the service was just ok. Make sure you always tip with CUC. Dealing with Cuban currency is pretty easy once you know the basics. Remember to keep cash on you at all times.

iain kévin waite - Yoga Teacher in Paris