Money in Cuba
Cuba operates a dual currency system.
There are two different forms of currency in Cuba - both are legal tender for Tourists.
The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
- The Cuban Non-Convertible Peso (CUP) or Meneda Nacional (MN)
The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
As a general rule, all goods and service which a Tourist pays for will be in CUCs.
This includes all hotels, flights, buses and virtually all shops, restaurants and bars. Virtually all goods in shops are priced in CUC, with no option for payment in local money (for neither Tourists or Locals)
You can not buy Cuban Convertible Pesos CUC outside of the country, therefore you will need to exchange some money at the airport when you arrive.
Remember that once out of Cuba, you will not be able to use or exchange CUCs, therefore you MUST make sure that you spend/exchange/donate any left over money before leaving the country.
You can change CUC back into GBP/Euros/CAD at teh airport or CADECAs anywhere.
The Cuban Non-convertible Peso (CUP or Moneda Nacional (MN).
The national currency (CUPs) are used mainly for Cubans paying for basic food, rent, utility bills, local transportation et.
It is not illegal for you to have or use CUPs. You can quite easily go into a bank or CADECA and exchange CUC for CUP at an exchange rate of 1:24.
Last year, I would have said that it was not worth you having or using CUP, but things have change this year (2011). With the opening up of small private businesses, people are now selling street food from their porches, and you can pay in CUP. (You can also pay in CUC and get the change back in CUP, but you need to keep an eye on the change).
In general the only places where a Tourist will use Moneda Nacional is at the agricultural market, buying street food, taking collective taxis and going to the cinema etc.
Changing Money In Cuba
Remeber, you can not buy Cuban CUC outside of the county, and will need to exchange some money at the airport when you arrive. Also, remember that once out of Cuba you will not be able to use or exchange CUCs.
Currency can be changed at banks, at casa de cambios called CADECA and in some hotels.
There is little or no difference in exchange rates offered at CADECAS (state owned exchange bureaus) or state owned banks. The airport Cadeca offers exactly the same rates as in the city.
DON’T change money on the street,!!! You’ll probably get ripped off and end up with a load of CUP, not CUC.
Always try to exchange as much as you can at one time, it saves a lot of time queuing!
Remember to take your passport with you when you change money.
Try to ask cashiers for small notes – Good luck with that one!
US Dollars are NOT accepted in Cuba.
Do carry some cash (£ sterling/Euros or Canadian Dollars). I tend to take most of my money in cash - crisp £50 notes! Make sure they are Bank of England notes and not issued by a Scottish or Northern Irish bank.
Beware of torn notes, as some CADECAs will not accept them.
You should try to carry at least some of your money in small denominations, so that you can change only the amount you will actually need.
ATMs in Cuba
There are NO ATMs in Viñales
ATM machines do exist in Cuba, but they generally don’t work too efficiently, so it’s best to have plenty of cash with you. Apparently only VISA cards will work in Cuban ATMs.
Many banks in Havana have ATM’s – try on Calle Obispo, near Plaza Vieja.
My question is: If the ATM swallows your card, and that’s your only way of get cash, what will you do?
Credit Cards in Cuba
You can get cash advances through your debit/credit card from banks and CADECAs, provided they are not issued by a US Bank. Be warned, you will be charged a whopping 12% commission for the privilege of using a debit or credit card.
Visa & MasterCard are accepted. The most accepted credit card is Visa, although authorisation can sometimes be denied due to poor computer connections or other problems.
The amount charged to your credit card will (ironically) be in US Dollars.
Getting a cash advance can be a very drawn out process and all banks will need to see your passport, although my experience at the CADECA in Viñales High Street have always been very quick & efficient.
Please Note: American Express and any cards drawn on American banks will NOT be accepted. I also had problems with my Alliance & Leicester card which really surprised me! I was told it was an American bank - its MBNA. Luckily I had my Barclays Debit card with me, as a back up!
Travellers Cheques in Cuba
Traveller's cheques are a useful back-up which are popular for security reasons but they can be difficult or time consuming to change in Cuba. If lost, I believe that there is no way of reclaiming them whilst in Cuba. My question is this:- Are they worth the hassle?
Travellers cheques are accepted either in £ sterling/Euros or Canadian Dollars, but again they will NOT accept any traveller’s cheques that are printed by an American bank i.e. American Express.