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Image of CUP bills

Cuban Currency: The Definitive Guide (2021)

by cubapura

Using Cuban money one of the most confusing things about travelling to Cuba. In fact, many tourists who fail to do research are stranded without any usable money!

Our site is run by a group of Cubans and Cuba lovers and we’ll tell you all you need to know in order to help you avoid losing money or being left without any money.

Important Information!!!

From January 1, 2021 there is no longer a dual currency system in Cuba. The CUC was eliminated as part of Cuba’s monetary reform. The Cuban Peso (CUP) is now the only official cuban currency.
Also, from July 16, 2020 Cuba eliminated the 10% tax in US dollars. As of today you receive 24 CUP for 1 USD.

What is the Cuban currency?

Image of Cuban peso (CUP) bills

The official Cuban currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP).

But, until December 2020, Cuba also had another currency, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Cubans used both currencies interchangeably!

However, this all changed in January 1, 2021 when the government started a long-awaited monetary reform, unifying its dual currency and multiple exchange rate system. The CUC was eliminated and the CUP left as the only official Cuban currency.

The (eliminated)Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

The Cuban Convertible Peso was introduced in 1994 as a way of creating a parallel economy. The idea originally was that tourists would use CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) and Cubans would use CUP (Cuban National Pesos). In theory, 1 CUC was worth 25 CUP.

But, you can no longer use the CUC in Cuba, since it was eliminated in January 1, 2021, as part of the monetary reform. The CUP is now the only official cuban currency.

Image showing bills of Cuban money
Cuban pesos

Cuban Peso (CUP)

Also known as peso cubano or moneda nacional. This is Cuba’s original currency. CUP is use for both Cubans and tourists.

How much is the CUP worth? As of today, the CUP trades at 24 pesos to the US Dollar. There are bills of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 CUP. 

CUP bills

How to tell apart CUP vs CUC?

Cuban pesos

If you don’t want to get scammed, you should know the difference between CUP and CUC . You can tell the two currencies apart by looking at the artwork on the notes.

Note that CUC bills have monuments, while CUP bills have faces of famous leaders. Also, CUC has written “pesos convertibles” right on the center. Generally CUP bills are dirtier and more worn out.

The three peso CUP bill and 3 peso CUP coin is quite popular with tourists, as it has an image of iconic Che Guevara. It is not a rare coin, so don’t buy it if a scammer wants to sell it to you!

Che Guevara Coin Cuba
A coin with an iconic Che Guevara portrait.

Isn’t using Cuban Pesos (CUP) illegal for tourists?

A lot of people think foreigners are not allowed to get CUP. This used to be the case a decade ago, but is no longer true! You can get CUP at any official exchange place!

Can you pay in Cuba with US dollars?

You will be able to pay for your expenses in Cuba in CUP. Tourist attractions, restaurants, casas particulares, hotels and taxis will accept CUP. You should always have CUP bills for small expenses, such as paying the bus or for cheap meals in Havana.

Now, keep some of your USD bills, because you can also use them! While you won’t be able to pay in USD for products and services at state facilities, private businesses will rather take US dollar, euros or Canadian dollars.

In fact, US dollars are the preferred currency in private businesses. That’s because Cubans will use your hard currency (USD, Euros or Canadian dollars) to buy goods and products in the so-called “dollar stores” or “MLC stores”. These stores are better stocked than the CUP stores and only take US dollars. Actually, the scarcity of products in the CUP stores is astonishing. That’s the reason of the sudden popularity of US dollar among Cubans.

With that said, you can absolutely pay with USD in casas particulares and paladares. Also, when tipping in Cuba, a guide or restaurant attendant will welcome your USDs.

Where to exchange Money in Cuba?????

You have a variety of options to get Cuban currency. Most tourists will opt to withdraw cash via ATM, or exchange a foreign currency at a CADECA, bank or hotel. You will need your passport when exchanging money in Cuba. Other options (much less recommended) are to receive a Western Union transfer or to exchange foreign currency on the black market.

You cannot get Cuban currency in advance though. It is impossible to buy Cuban currency abroad. Do not plan on bringing Cuban money from your home country. If you manage to exchange some cuban currency in advance, you won’t be able to enter more than 2000 CUP according to a recent resolution.

CADECA (Casa de Cambio)

CADECAs (Casa de Cambio) are the official currency exchange offices in Cuba. It should not be very difficult to find a CADECA. They can be found pretty much everywhere, and asking anyone on the street top point you to the nearest CADECA. Again, don’t forget that you will need your passport when exchanging money in Cuba.

If you are having trouble finding one, here is a comprehensive map of all locations,, along with their opening times:

Hotel exchanges

CADECA’s generally offer the best exchange rates, but often have long waits. A potential solution is to exchange your money at a hotel exchange. Most premium hotels will have a currency exchange office.Exchanging your money at a hotels can be more convenient,  but it is significantly more expensive.

Banks

We do not recommend you exchange money in a bank in Cuba. They will give you a bad exchange rate, and you will also have to wait for hours in line. Paradoxically, probably the worst thing you can do is go to a bank to exchange money, as they’ll give you a hotel exchange rate with a long waiting time.

Your casa particular

Many casa particulares will offer to buy your foreign currency. Why? Either they’ll resell it at a profit in the black market, or they themselves need foreign currencies for their travels or to buy products in the dollar stores.

Generally, your casa particular host will not try scam you because you know where he or she lives and they will get in serious trouble if you alert authorities. It is possible to get a better rate from them than at the official exchanges, especially if you are selling US dollars. You should be aware however, that this is illegal.

Can you exchange money at the airport in Cuba?

Yes, both Varadero and Havana airports have a CADECAs. A money exchange will be open 24/7 at the airport. Usually airport money exchanges are very expensive, but because Cuba isn’t a market economy, the rates aren’t worse than in other CADECAs all over the country!

The problem with Airport CADECAs can get extremely crowded, especially if you arrive late, as they have limited capacity. If your bank offers you free cash withdrawals it is probably better to go to an ATM.

Western Union

Vector Illustration showing Western Unions on a Cuba map
Western Union locations in Cuba. Credits to BusinessWire.com

This should be an emergency solution for tourists, as it can be very expensive. If you lose your wallet or are stuck in Cuba with nothing but Australian dollars, this may be the only option you have. Convince a loved one to go to the nearest Western Union place and have them send money to Cuba in your name. They will have to give you the transfer ID number, which you will need along with some ID to get the money.

You cannot send money through Western Union online to Cuba, you will have to go personally. The only exception is if you live in the United States.

Black market

We do NOT recommend you buy money on the black market. As a tourist, you will almost be asking to be scammed or otherwise be taken advantage of if you do not buy money at official locations. The “safest” option would be to have your Airbnb host take care of it.

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On the street, you may encounter individuals offering to exchange money (especially outside CADECA’s). These individuals may leave without giving you any money, or can give you fake notes, or notes out of circulation. You could go to the police, but you lose your money anyway, as you are participating in an illegal activity.

That being said, many Cubans exchange foreign money, mostly USD but also sometimes EUR. This is because sometimes it can be difficult to get foreign currencies for Cubans. Meet ups can be organised on sites such as Revolico, which is the most popular classified page in Cuba (like Craigslist).

ATM, Credit and Debit Cards in Cuba

Image showing man withdrawing Cuban money from ATM.

First, you have to make sure your debit or credit card will work in Cuba. The best thing to do is to ask your bank. Most US bank cards will not work in Cuba due to the American Embargo. European, Latin American, Canadian and Asian banks generally work, but it is best to try to do your own research.

Both VISA and MasterCard cards work in Cuba. Union Pay also works. American Express does not work.

However, apart from state owned hotels and restaurants not many places will take card for payment. Cuba is a cash based country, the vast majority of payments are made in cash. No private business will have the permits or infrastructure necessary to receive card payments.  The more reliable option is to go to ATMs.

How easy is it to find ATMs in Cuba?

ATMs are not hard to find in Havana and in other larger cities, specially in the touristy areas.

You might have trouble in smaller cities or towns. In the best case there will be only one ATM in town, in the worst case you might have to go to a neighbouring town for an ATM. For example, there are is no ATM in Gibara.

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When you select an ATM make sure whether it takes your card (VISA, MasterCard or UnionPay).

Some ATMs have withdrawal limits, make sure you take these into account. The ATMs are a bit older than the ones you might have back home, and it is not unheard of that they can be defective, so make sure you are paying attention when working them.

How much does it cost to withdraw money from ATMs in Cuba?

There is a 3% surcharge on all withdrawals by the ATM. Your bank might charge you extra, although many newer institutions such as Revolut do not charge you under a certain monthly limit.

Depending on the rates your bank gives you, you can get almost the same rate by withdrawing via ATM than carrying cash to Cuba.

What currencies can you exchange in Cuba?

CADECAs (Casa de Cambio) are the official currency exchange offices in Cuba. You can exchange the following paper currencies in a CADECA:

  • Canadian Dollar (CAD)
  • Swiss Frank (CHF)
  • Euro (EUR)
  • Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Mexican Peso (MXN)
  • US dollar (USD)

You cannot exchange Australian dollars (AUD), Hong Kong dollars (HKD) or any other currency in Cuba.

You cannot exchange Scottish pound notes (GBP) either. For up to date info on which currencies are supported check here.

Can you exchange US dollars in Cuba?

Yes! As of today, CUP trades at 24 pesos to the US Dollar. Also, in July 16th, 2020 Cuba eliminated the extra 10% tax for exchanging US dollars.

From 2004 to July 16th, 2020, there was an extra 10% tax for exchanging US dollars, which basically means that your money was worth 10% less if you bring US dollars. For this reason many American tourists opted to exchange to Canadian dollars, Euros or Mexican Pesos before coming to Cuba, in order to avoid the 10% tax.

Since the 10 % tax for exchanging US dollars was eliminated you no longer need to exchange US dollars before going to Cuba.

Can you exchange Swedish Krona (SEK), Danish Krone (DKK), Norwegian Krone (NOK) in Cuba?

The short answer is no. CADECAs will not accept any of those currencies. If you are preparing to travel to Cuba it is far better to bring EUR.

If you are already stuck in Cuba with nothing but SEK, DKK or NOK, try to go to Banco Metropolitano in Havana. On their website, they claim to exchange these Scandinavian currencies. Whether they actually take them or not is unknown, and you might have to wait for 2 hours to find out that they will not accept them.

How much money do you need in Cuba

This depends on how much money you are willing to spend. You should bring at a minimum 15-30 USD per day if you are planning to travel on a budget. Most travellers however will want some more comfort and will be spending around $100 USD per day.

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How to tip in Cuba

Cuba does not have a tipping culture, tipping is is much more of an American tradition that has been imported. That being said, tips are always welcome, often more than the gifts that tourists bring to Cuba.

If you want to tip, you are expected to tip around 10-15% for services. Read in detail in the post below.

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If you want to learn more about budgeting for your Cuba trip you can use ViaHero to connect with a local in Cuba who will help plan your legal trip.

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