How To Exchange Money In Cuba

how to exchange money in cuba


Venturing into the vibrant and culturally rich island of Cuba entails getting familiar with its unique money exchange system. If you’re not aware, knowing how to exchange money in Cuba effectively can either make or break your budget during your travels.

Understanding the Cuban Currency

In Cuba, the currency is a little complex as two forms of money are primarily used - the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). While the CUP is primarily used by the locals, the CUC, pegged one-to-one with the US dollar, is commonly used by tourists. Understanding their difference and usage is key to making the most of your money in Cuba.

Exchanging Your Money

Once you arrive in Cuba, you can exchange your currency at the airport, banks, or CADECA (Casas de Cambio). These are the officially licensed money-changing booths in Cuba. Before making the exchange, make yourself thoroughly aware of the exchange rates, which can be volatile at times. You should exchange a small amount at the airport for immediate needs and then head to a CADECA or a bank for the rest.

Best Currency to Take to Cuba

The US dollar is disadvantaged due to the 10% penalty fee imposed by the Cuban government. So, it would be wiser to bring Canadian dollars, Euro, or British pounds, which do not attract any such additional charges. Always bring cash, as the Cuban establishments often do not accept credit/desbit cards.

Using Credit and Debit Cards

Cuba still largely operates as a cash-based society. Though the acceptance of cards is slowly increasing, it is always safer to carry cash. Trinidad, Havana, and Varadero are the few places where you might find ATMs. Remember that cards from any American bank will not work in Cuba.

Minimizing Exchange Fees

To minimize exchange fees, it is recommended to carry better-performing currencies like Euro or CAD in cash and converting them into CUC at CADECAs or banks in Cuba. We would also advise checking the exchange rates online regularly to ensure you are not being duped with inflated exchange rates.

Tipping in Cuba

Tipping in the tourism industry is common in Cuba. Keep some CUCs handy for this purpose. However, always carry small denominations to avoid awkward situations while giving tips.

Shopping in Cuba

In most government-run shops and all the paladares (privately-owned restaurants), you will be expected to pay in CUCs. However, street food, markets, and local transportation commonly operate on CUPs. Having a basic understanding of the dual currency system can significantly enhance your bargaining power.


Experiencing Cuba demands more than just having money to spend but possessing the knowledge of the country's financial system. By understanding the currency system, where to exchange money, and knowing potential fees, you are certain to have a smooth vacation that will leave pleasant memories for a lifetime. So, whether you’re planning a short trip or an extended stay, be ready to embrace Cuba's unique approach to currency and exchange. Be adequately prepared, and you'll enjoy your time in Cuba, one of the Caribbean's most captivating destinations.