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Money in Cuba

Understanding Money in Cuba can get complicated if you’re not prepared before your trip. Cuban Currency, Pesos, CUC vs CUP, it’s all a bit confusing at first.

When planning an international trip I don’t usually worry too much about changing currency beforehand. You can easily have it delivered to your house for free through Travelex if you want to save time, or you can just head over to your bank.

However, that travel hack doesn’t work for your trip to Cuba since you can’t buy or exchange Cuban currency in America. Another issue is that Cuba is not very connected with the internet so credit cards aren’t widely accepted, especially American credit cards. Prepare for your trip with these easy tips and have a smooth Cuban currency exchange.

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Cuban Currency – Cash is King

Cash is used 99% of the time for all transactions in Cuba. Everyone carries the local Cuban currency on them whether it’s CUC or CUP. The internet is very scarce and there is no way to run your credit card without that connection. Cuba does not accept credit cards from America anyway, even if you did have a connection. The same issue applies to ATMs. They are far and few between, have an unreliable internet connection, and if they do work, there will most likely be a huge line.

Bring plenty of cash with you for the whole trip. A safe budget would be about $100 a day per person, depending on your spending habits, of course. The exchange rate is about $1 USD to 1 CUC so budget what you would normally spend on a trip in U.S. dollars.

Bring Cash, But Not U.S. Dollars

If you bring U.S. dollars to exchange for Cuban pesos (CUC or CUP), you’ll be charged an extra 10% penalty fee on the amount exchanged. This is basically just a waste of money. Instead, bring Euros or Canadian dollars for a much better Cuban currency exchange rate. This is an extra step but it will save you a lot of money in the end. You don’t want to show up uninformed and waste 10% of your travel budget without even having left the airport.

Hackerette’s Hack: Save time & have Euros or Canadian dollars delivered right to your door for FREE!

Exchange Cash Upon Arrival for CUC

You cannot buy Cuban currency in America so you’ll need to exchange at the airport upon arrival. You’ll need it to pay for the taxi anyway so you might as well get it all done here. I don’t usually recommend exchanging money at the airport, but in this case, it’s the same rate as any other CADECA (exchange house) that you’ll find in Cuba.

In Havana, there is a Cuban currency exchange booth right outside of the airport. Walk outside and turn right and you’ll see it on your right. The one inside the airport had a long line and this one didn’t. You’ll have this checked off of your list and you can go enjoy your trip without having to waste time trying to track down a bank for CUC.

The banks usually have the best rates for CUC, but they also have long lines where you may wait for hours. The rate is not that much better, and the line isn’t worth saving a few dollars. Hotels have the absolute worst rates so be sure to avoid this option. Always get a receipt when exchanging money in Cuba. You don’t want to get confused with CUC & CUP. Which leads me to the most important tip I have regarding Cuban currency exchange.

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Know The Difference Between CUC & CUP

You absolutely MUST know the difference between CUC & CUP. This is where things can get confusing and you don’t want to get ripped off and waste your money in Cuba this way.

Cuban Peso (CUP) & Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

The Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) are both legal Cuban currency, and they are both in circulation when using money in Cuba. The confusing part is that Cubans call them both ‘pesos’.

You’ll want to know the difference because the CUC is much more valuable. It is also much more commonly used.

$1 USD = 1 CUC

$1 USD = 25 CUP

A vendor or taxi driver may try to give you change back in CUP, the less valuable Cuban peso. Be aware of this trick and know what both Cuban currencies look like. Both CUP and CUC are completely useless currencies outside of using money in Cuba. Make sure to exchange your money in Cuba at the airport before you head home. Don’t take any Cuban currency back with you to the USA unless you’d like to keep it for a souvenir. There are places to exchange Cuban currency at the airport after you pass security, so you’ll be able to grab your last meal before exchanging the rest of your money in Cuba.

Understanding Money in Cuba - Cuban Currency, Pesos & CUC vs CUP

Photo Credit: Those Who Wander

This is the 3rd article of a 4 part series that I wrote on Traveling to Cuba.

You can read the rest of the articles here:

1. The Lucky Peso

2. How to Hack Your Way Into Cuba, Legally

3. Understanding Money in Cuba – Cuban Currency, Pesos & CUC vs CUP

4. 5 Places in Havana You Must Visit

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If you are planning a trip to Cuba, you need to read this post about money exchange in Cuba. Find out everything you need to know about exchanging money in Cuba before you go. #cuba #cubatravel #travel #traveltips | Cuban money exchange | money in Cuba | Cuban money | Cuba pesos


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