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Travel money guide: Cuba

What you need to know about travel money before you get on the plane to Cuba

In December of 2020, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel announced the country would discontinue using one of its two currencies, the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) beginning January 2021. That makes the Cuban peso (CUP) Cuba’s only official currency.

And only using CUP isn’t such a bad change, as CUP will let you experience the country’s true flavor. Fresh juice and other delicious street treats are available for cheap using CUP.

Note: Former president Trump banned civilian tourist travel to Cuba in mid-2019. This restriction is a rejection of Cuba’s communist policies by keeping US tourist dollars out of the Cuban economy.

You can still visit Cuba — but it’s a bit complicated. You must acquire a general license, albeit only for specific circumstances. This includes visiting family, religious activities or humanitarian aid.

Should it be a travel card, a debit card or credit card?

A debit card is definitely the way to spend in Cuba as you shouldn’t have any problem using it to withdraw cash from a bank — though you may have issues using ATMs on the street. Mastercard and Visa will typically work for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, but be aware that some card brands won’t work at all. Generally speaking, credit cards originating in the United States will not work in Cuba.

Although no prepaid travel cards currently support Cuban pesos, preloading a currency with a good history against the Cuban pesos could be beneficial. While there are travel cards that don’t charge for currency conversion, it is important to consider the back-end fees, exchange rate and if you want to manage an extra account.

Like we mentioned before, cards can work in some places and not in others; this is why it’s important to spread your funds across a couple of different types of travel money options. Take as much cash as you can with you to Cuba and use a debit card when you need more money.

These are your options for spending money in Cuba

Here are some of the benefits and disadvantages of using different types of travel money products in Cuba.

Using a credit card

You’re currently out of luck when it comes to using a credit card in Cuba. But if you have a credit card from another country, such as Canada, you might find some success.

Where credit cards are accepted, Visa and Mastercard credit cards will give you no problem making purchase or withdrawals from ATMs in Cuba. Look for a card that waives foreign transaction fees. Generally, not many places accept credit cards in Cuba, so you’ll want to focus more on access to cash.

Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Access to funds within your credit limit
  • Accepted worldwide
  • No currency conversion or transaction fees
  • Rewards points and frequent flyer perks
  • Emergency card replacement
Cons
  • US credit cards not currently accepted
  • High withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Spending depends on credit limit

Which credit card issuers are accepted in Cuba?

If you’re using a US credit card, you won’t find luck with any of the providers below. But even with cards from other countries, acceptance is fairly low.

Merchant acceptanceATM acceptance
Visacross mark iconLowcross mark iconLow
Mastercardcross mark iconLowcross mark iconLow
American Expresscross mark iconNot acceptedcross mark iconNot accepted
Discovercross mark iconNot acceptedcross mark iconNot accepted

Using a debit card

If you’re going to use a debit card when you’re on vacation, paying the extra fee for currency conversion is may be unavoidable, unless you can get your hands on the Capital One 360 debit card.

Pros
  • Save on overseas ATM fees
  • Emergency cash facilities
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • $0 account keeping fees with a minimum deposit
  • Unlimited free withdrawals at selected banks
Cons
  • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
  • Can’t be used over the counter
  • No emergency cash
  • No backup cards

Using a prepaid travel card

No travel cards support the Cuban peso, so look for a card that waives currency conversion fee, such as Travelex . It won’t charge for currency conversion when you spend in pesos, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The downside is these cards charge a couple of dollars for international ATM withdrawal in Cuba.

Pros
  • Protected by PIN and chip
  • Preload and secure your exchange rate in multiple foreign currencies
  • Accepted worldwide
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
Cons
  • No prepaid cards support the CUP
  • Reloading time
  • Local ATM fee

Paying with cash in Cuba

Take as much cash with you as you can as it will be easy to exchange when you go to Cuba. Make withdrawals from your debit account and use your credit card for big purchases. We’ve heard different cards will and won’t work in different places, which is why it’s important to have as much cash on you as possible.

Pros
  • Payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • Difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Don’t worry about traveler’s checks in Cuba as there are fewer places than ever to get a traveler’s check cashed. Card providers can give you a full refund if you get your credit or debit card scammed.

Pros
  • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
  • Photo ID needed to cash checks
Cons
  • Initial purchase charges
  • Not accepted everywhere
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Keeping your travel money (physically) safe

Old Havana is infamous for its share of pickpockets and bag-snatchers. Watch out while in busy marketplaces and on public transport, nightclubs and tourist attractions. Beware of misdirection schemes, where one person distracts you while another takes off with your wallet, bag or purse.

What are the currencies that can be easily exchanged in Cuba?

  • US dollars (USD)
  • Canadian dollars (CAD)
  • British pounds (GBP)
  • Mexican pesos (MXN)
  • Euros (EUR)
  • Japanese yen (JPY)
  • Swiss francs (CHF)
  • Tip: You’ll have to pay a fee for an entry visa when you arrive to the country, it’s about $20 or 240 pesos.

Exchange rate history: USD to CUP

YearAverage annual exchange US dollar (USD) to Cuban Peso (CUP)
201226.5
201326.5
201426.5
201526.5
201626.5
201726.5

*Exchange rates are accurate as of 5 September 2017

A guide to Cuban banknotes and coins

Cuban banknotes are quite different so you may want to familiarize yourself with it before heading there:

BanknoteCuban Peso (CUP)

$5

5 Cuban Pesos

$10

10 Cuban Pesos

$20

20 Cuban Pesos

$50

50 Cuban Pesos

$100

100 Cuban Pesos

Buying Cuban pesos

You can’t buy Cuban pesos in the US, so you’re going to have to wait until you get there to obtain local currency. When you arrive in Cuba, you can get your cash changed at the airport or look for cadecas (money changers).

How much should I budget to travel in Cuba?

All prices are in US dollars.

Budget (Cheap)MidrangeLuxury (High-end)
AccommodationHotel room per night
$20
Casa Particular (double room)
$30
Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana
(standard room)
$130
MealsReal Cuban restaurant
Meal for two, no alcohol
$5–$13
Meal for two with one alcoholic meal
$30–$45
Meal for two with a bottle of wine
$50–$100
ActivitiesWa-Wa – local bus
$0.02
Taxi (public)
$5–$20
depending on length of journey
Tourist Bus:
Viazul: Havana to Varadero
$10

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

Case study: Oliver's experience

Oliver profile photo
Oliver

Interview with Oliver about using travel money in Cuba

We interviewed Oliver, a finder.com user, and asked about how he spent money during his visit to Cuba as he explored Havana, Trinidad and Camaguey.

Do you have any Cuba travel money tips?

Oliver says it’s better to take euros than US dollars to Cuba. If you’re trying to exchange US dollars, a 13% fee applies to the transaction.

You’ll pay 10% for changing US currency — but other currencies such as euros don’t incur this fee — and 3% for actually exchanging the cash. This fee applies no matter which currency you’re trying to change.

Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Cuba

Heading to Cuba? Travel insurance is a must. Since May 2010, travel Insurance for the duration of your trip with sufficient medical cover has been a requirement for entry into Cuba.

Travel insurance can protect you from common travel risks such as:

  • Stolen and delayed luggage
  • Cancelled trips
  • Personal liability
  • Overseas medical emergencies
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