What is the Currency in Cuba?
In Cuba, there are two currencies, the CUP and the CUC. A simple way to think of it is that tourists use CUC and locals use CUP.
The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC (pronounced "kook"). It’s what you exchange your foreign currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC. For international exchange purposes 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 USD. Note that there is a 13% penalty charged when exchanging USA dollars cash, so, you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one USA dollar when changing the money, allowing for the 13% interest (interest rates may vary).
You should also know that 1 CUC is worth 25 CUP. And if you don’t understand the system, it’s very easy to overpay. As a simple example, a group once paid 1 CUC per person to ride a ferry that was supposed to cost 1 CUP per person. They essentially paid 25 times too much. This is partially due to the fact that both forms of currency are considered “pesos,” so you don’t always know which type of peso is in question. You will definitely find places that accept both, but might list their prices in CUP. In that case, be prepared to double check their math.
How much money should I bring to Cuba?
We recommend to budget at least 100 convertible pesos per day (about $100 US dollars). This amount will cover standard meals and evening entertainment, as well as transportation costs. You may spend more but if you are mindful of where you eat and what transportation modes you use, you can easily spend less (i.e. touring around the city in a classic car is more costly). You’ll probably want to budget more if you’re considering buying gifts such as cigars and rum as well as partaking in several excursions/activities.
How do exchange money in Cuba?
You can exchange USD for CUC at the airport, most hotels, exchange bureau in town centers and some banks. The current fee for exchanging is 13%, i.e. for 100 USD you will get 87 CUC. The fee is the same no matter where you exchange your currency. You will need your passport to exchange money. In Cuba, they will not accept bills that are torn or written on when exchanging into CUC.
When exchanging money into CUC, try to get small denominations to make purchases easier, as many places (little stores, bars and restaurants) do not always have the possibility to break down larger notes for you.
Where can I exchange money in Cuba?
You can exchange money at the airport, some hotels or banks. We suggest that you do not bring Travelers Checks because they are not insured and are not be accepted. Therefore it is essential to travel with enough cash for your entire stay in Cuba. Note: You may find small locations called Cadecas where you can also exchange money.
Can I use my Credit Card or Traveler’s Checks?
NO! US-issued credit cards, debit cards, traveler's checks and ATM cards are not usable in Cuba. It is advisable to bring cash in order to make any purchases in Cuba or pay for most services. Most places will not take USD, so you must exchange currency upon arriving. Tips, however, can be given in any currency.
Tipping in Cuba
Considering that the average Cuban monthly salary is $25, tipping is expected and appreciated.
The Cuban people are very warm and welcoming to our groups. They work very hard to ensure our guests have a memorable experience in their country. We encourage you to embrace the joy of giving by tipping Guides, Drivers, Servers, Hotel Porters, Musicians, Housekeeping, etc.
•Cuban Guide: $10 - $20 CUC per person/per day
•Cuban Bus Driver: $5 - $10 CUC per person/per day
•Housekeeping: $1 CUC per day (daily instead of the end of the trip)
•Meals: $1 CUC per person
•Bell Hops: $1 CUC per bag
•Bartenders: $1 CUC per drink
•Musicians: $1 CUC
•Taxi Drivers: 10% of fare
•Bathroom Attendant: Small coins – 10 centavos, 25 centavos