Money in Cuba, feeling a bit confused? The only official currency of Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP) and it has been that way since the 1st January 2021. This was the date that the government abolished the Convertible Peso (CUC) thus doing away with the dual currency system. Money in Cuba everything you need to know is all explained below.
CASH is king in Cuba. Both local CUP and FX such as USD$ + EURO +GDP£.
- Most CREDIT CARDS will work in Cuba, except those issued by banks in the USA as they don’t function in Cuba due to the ongoing embargo. So remember to always check with your bank first to see if your credit card will work in Cuba.
- The Cuban Peso (CUP) is not available outside Cuba and can only be purchased in the country. It is impossible to exchange outside of Cuba.
- OUR ADVICE: Don’t exchange your USD$, EURO or GBP£ for more CUP than you’ll think you’ll spend. Better to exchange small amounts frequently than one large amount.
- To understand more about what to expect when you travel to Cuba you can check out our advice for travellers to Cuba.
IMPORTANT: The economic situation in Cuba is fragile and accepted payment methods and exchange rates can change on a weekly basis. So CASH is always going to be your safest bet.
What Currency to Bring to Cuba?
- As of April 10th 2023 the Cuban government changed the laws regarding the USD$. The end result being that the USD$ is now equal to the EURO in terms of its exchange rate in Cuba.
- So whether you bring USD$ or EURO with you don’t worry they’ll both work. Good news for US citizens! GBP£ also works but may be a little less easy to exchange. We recommend to stick to these 3 currencies.
- Make sure you bring notes are either new or at least in very good condition because worn notes may not be accepted.
- We DON’T recommend the Canadian Dollar CAD$ as it’s little more difficult to exchange in Cuba right now and the exchange rates offered for CAD$ are not as favourable.
- Remember that whatever currency you decide on, bring it in notes of SMALL denominations. This makes it easier to pay for goods and services, because you’ll get your change in CUP.
How Do I Exchange My Money Into CUP In Cuba?
Our current advice is that you that you DO NOT exchange your currency on arrival at the airport at the branch of the official currency exchange office called CADECA.
You’re much better off waiting until you meet your guide or accommodation host. They they will know the best place(s) to exchange the currency you’ve brought with you into Cuban Peso (CUP).
In addition note that exchange rates (other than official bank rates) may vary according to where you are travelling in Cuba.
How Much Money Can You Take to Cuba?
You can bring up to USD$5,000 in cash into Cuba so any amount in excess of that you’ll have to declare it to Cuban Customs upon arrival.
Do Credit/Debit Cards work in Cuba?
- YES, most CREDIT CARDS (apart from those issued by US banks) will work in Cuba but only for VISA Mastercard and American International Service (AIS).
- CREDIT CARDS that WILL NOT work in Cuba include:
- For further information see travelling as a US citizen in Cuba.
- DEBIT CARDS: At this point in time we advise that you DO NOT take DEBIT CARDS of any kind as they will not work in Cuba.
- You should also double-check that your bank is not associated with a US financial institution as many banks don’t advertise this publicly.
- If you have a credit card that will work in Cuba, the rate of exchange that you will receive from a bank or ATM withdrawal, will not be as good as the CUP’s unofficial street exchange rate.
- CREDIT CARDS issued through these Australian banks WILL NOT work in Cuba:
- Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’s) are found in most big cities and towns. Please make sure you have a pin number connected to your card. Note that two-factor authentication via phone message most likely won’t work in Cuba due to the infrastructure. So don’t forget your PIN number!
What’s the Best Way to Pay in Cuba, CASH or CREDIT CARD?
- CASH is almost always the best way to pay for goods or services in Cuba.
- In private restaurants (non-govt) they will sometimes allow you to pay the CUP bill in the applicable equivalent amount in USD$ or EURO$. Bear in mind the exchange rate they offer will be between what the official bank rate is and the unofficial street rate is.
- Cuban Peso (CUP) is the only currency accepted in shops selling souvenirs and artisanal products in the country.
- It’s always good to have some CUP on hand for shopping in local fruit markets and small shops on the street and for various incidentals.
- In non-government shops and restaurants you’ll sometimes be able to pay for goods, services and meals in foreign currency (EURO’s, USD$, GBP£), as well as in local CUP.
- CREDIT CARDS are accepted in all major hotels, some government shops, various up market restaurants and bars. Also in places like Galeria de Tiendas in the Hotel Manzana Kempinski which houses a number of foreign luxury brand outlets. Some MLC stores also accept credit cards.
What’s an MLC card and how does it work?
An MLC card (‘Moneda Libremente Convertible’) is Cuba’s official digital currency that’s equal to the current value of the USD. Eg: 1 MLC = 1 USD$. It can only be obtained at the CADECA at Jose Marti Airport.
For instance if your CREDIT CARD won’t work in Cuba, you might want to consider getting an MLC Card on arrival at the airport. MLC can be used in cigar and rum shops, some optional activities and some evening shows as well and official MLC Shops.
MLC shops are where you can buy all imported goods like shampoo, imported foods etc. Just be prepared to possibly have to wait in line for hours!
- You WON’T need an MLC card if you credit card that functions in Cuba. See “Do Credit/Debit Cards work in Cuba?” above.
- MLC card can only be purchased with currencies currently listed by CADECA: EURO, Japanese Yen, Swiss Franc, Canadian dollar, Pound Sterling, Mexican Peso.
- MLC cards CANNOT be purchased with USD$.
- It can be loaded with values equivalent to $50, $100, $200, $500 and $1000.
- There is a $5 charge for the card, so for example, you will pay €50 for a card worth €45.
- Refunds are NOT possible for any remaining balance left on your MLC card.
Be aware that some websites writing about tourism in Cuba claim that refunds are available but our local guides tell us this is NOT the case.
- Buy an MLC card only get a card of an amount that you think you will spend!
- The MLC card expires in 2 years.
- Generally you won’t need a MLC card if you have a CREDIT CARD that functions in Cuba.
Can I Use Travellers’ cheques in Cuba?
We generally advise against bringing travellers’ cheques to Cuba. They are becoming less and less common worldwide and ultimately stand a very slim chance of being accepted in Cuba.
Is Cryptocurrency Used in Cuba?
Cryptocurrency is new to Cuba. It’s rare to find businesses that will accept, although there’ll be the occasional restaurant or casa particular that will. The two main types of crypto that are accepted are USDT and BUSD. But we suggest don’t rely on it as a form of payment and always bring cash as a back up.
Money in Cuba All You Need to Know About Tipping
Tipping is very common in Cuba and it’s a good way to help local Cubans to supplement their modest incomes. We suggest the following as a guide:
- €1 per person per day for drivers
- €3 – €8 per person per day for your guide
- 15% for your waitstaff
All information in this blog correct at time of publication.