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Cuban Currency: Your Complete Guide

ViaHero
Updated December 14, 2021

One of the biggest questions about visiting Cuba has to do with money — what's the Cuban currency? What's the best way to pay for things in Cuba? How much money should travelers bring? 

This handy guide covers it all. Below, we discuss the importance of cash in Cuba, why you should leave your American credit card at home, and what to know about Cuba's two different currencies. 

No one knows a place like the people who live there. Work with a Cuban local to answer all your questions about visiting Cuba. Learn more. 

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Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

A handy guide to the CUP (Cuban Peso)

In Cuba, cash is king. Your American credit and debit cards simply won't work. Use this guide to learn all about using cash, cards, and checks in Cuba—after, feel free to message us with any questions you still have!

Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build unique, locally-curated trip plans, designed just for you. Get started.

Cuban Currency

For twenty-five years, Cuba had 2 currencies that were in use at the same time, but in 2020 they eliminated one (the CUC) and went back to having a single currency in circulation: the Cuban Peso (CUP). The Cuban peso can be used in almost any shop across the island, aside from special stores that only take a specific Cuban debit card for payment.

The Cuban government has recently made drastic changes to the USD-CUP exchange rate, so be sure you know what the latest rates are. It can be very helpful to have the assistance of a trusted local planner to make sure you're getting the best rate.

Exchanging Money In Cuba

To get the best exchange rate and avoid getting ripped off, be careful where you exchange money in Cuba. Cuban travel experts recommend that you only exchange money at the following places:

  • Airports: Lines at the Havana airport are often quite long, so plan accordingly.
  • Cadecas or exchange houses in the city:  Ask your casa particular owner or hotel front desk for the closest option.
  • BFI and Banco Metropolitano banks: most other banks only deal with CUP, so you wouldn't be able to get CUC outside of these banks. 
  • Major hotels like the Hotel Nacional or Hotel Saratoga
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How Much Money You Need To Bring To Cuba

When it comes to how much money you should bring to Cuba, our locals say it depends on what kind of experience you're looking to have. They provided these tips (but can help with more specific questions):

  • As an American, you need to bring enough money to last for your entire trip, so a good budget is essential.  
  • Paying for lodging via Airbnb is helpful, as it lessens the amount of cash you need to carry.
  • Meals can range from $1 for street food to $25 per meal at a fancy restaurant.

Credit Cards, Debit Cards, And Traveler's Checks

Locals tell us that the biggest mistake travelers make has to do with credit cards, debit cards, and traveler's checks. So, read these tips carefully:

For credit cards:

  • No credit card associated with an American bank can be used while in Cuba.
  • If you plan to get around this rule by bringing a credit card issued by a European bank, keep in mind that some European banks have American parent holding companies so these cards won't work in Cuba either. Contact your bank beforehand to ask if your card will work in Cuba.
  • For those traveling with all other (non-US) credit cards, most hotels and high-end restaurants will accept credit cards.  Otherwise, all other transactions will be in cash.  

For debit cards:

  • ATMs will not accept American debit cards.  The same goes for all Mastercard debit cards, regardless of country of origin.  Visa debit cards associated with a non-US bank are accepted at ATMs.
  • You can use non-US debit cards to exchange money at CADECA offices, plus all BFI and Banco Metropolitano branches.  You will be charged a 3% processing fee whenever you take out money with a debit card or exchange cash directly

For traveler's checks:

  • Traveler's checks do work in Cuba. The most reliable ones are from Thomas Cook and Visa, as long as they are associated with non-US banks.  You can use them at most banks, CADECA offices, hotels, and tourist-related businesses. These places charge commissions of around 3% (4% on weekends) for cashing traveler's checks. 
  • All that said, traveler's checks can be very inconvenient. If you're careful with where you keep your cash, there's no need to bother with them.
Still have questions about travel to Cuba?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

Looking for more info?

Have more questions about money in Cuba? Here is a list of our local Cuban travel experts who can help—feel free to send them a message!

And check out our other Cuba content, including: