Travel money guide & spending advice for Cuba | finder.com

Travel money guide: Cuba

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

Cuba has two legal currencies: the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso (CUP). You’re going to come across both currencies, but convertible pesos are a tourist currency. Some visitors use convertible pesos only, but having CUP will let you experience the true flavor of the country – 1 CUC is equal to about 24 CUP.

Delicious street treats like fresh juice is available for cheap using CUP. You can pay with CUC, but it’s cost-effective if you’re using the same currency as the locals. Spending CUC and getting CUP as change isn’t uncommon either. Be sure to spend all of your CUP before you leave the country, as you won’t be able to change it back when you return home.

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Compare travel cards for Cuba

When picking out the ideal credit card for your trip to Cuba, make sure to choose one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Though small, these fees can add up quickly over the course of a vacation.

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

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Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% foreign exchange fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    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.

    How much should I budget to travel in Cuba?

    Budget (Cheap) Midrange Luxury (High-end)
    to-sleep Hotel room per night
    $20
    Casa Particular (double room)
    $30
    Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana
    (standard room)
    $130
    food Real 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
    bus Wa-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.

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    Exchange rate history (USD to CUP/CUC)

    Year Average annual exchange US dollar (USD) to Cuban Peso (CUP) Average annual exchange US dollar (USD) to Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
    2012 26.5 1
    2013 26.5 1
    2014 26.5 1
    2015 26.5 1
    2016 26.5 1
    2017 26.5 1

    *Exchange rates are accurate as of 5 September 2017

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

    A credit card and debit card combo is definitely the way to spend in Cuba as you shouldn’t have any problem using either to withdraw cash from a bank — 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. American Express, GE Money and Citi credit and debit cards won’t work due to their affiliation with the United States.

    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.
    How to use a credit card in Cuba

    A quick summary of travel money options in Cuba

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

    Travel money option Pros Cons
    Debit cards for travel
    • 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
    • Currency conversion and international ATM fees
    • Can’t be used over the counter
    • No emergency cash
    • No backup cards
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Protected by PIN & 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
    • No prepaid cards support the CUP
    • Reloading time
    • Local ATM fee
    Credit cards for travel
    • Protected by PIN & 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
    • High withdrawal and cash advance fees
    • Spending depends on credit limit
    Traveler’s checks
    • Secure and can be easily replaced if lost or stolen
    • Photo ID needed to cash checks
    • Initial purchase charges
    • Not accepted everywhere
    Cash
    • Payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How the different travel money products work in Cuba

    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.

    Using a prepaid travel card

    No travel cards support the Cuban Pesos, 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.

    Using a credit card

    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 like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. American Express, Diners Club and Citi cards will not work in Cuba. It’s advised you open an account with another institution if you plan on using your credit card to spend (and it’s always encouraged to have credit as a backup).

    Using a 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,

    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.

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    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.
    cuba_pinkcadilac_Shutterstock
    What cards did you take with you?

    Why did you take these cards or cash with you?

    Oliver says there is no limit to the amount of money you can bring into Cuba and the Havana airport has ATM machines as well as cadecas where money can be exchanged. Amounts more than $5,000 must be declared when you enter the country. He didn’t have problems finding places to swap money in the larger cities: Havana, Camaguey and Trinidad; however, he says ATMs are far less common than other countries

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Oliver didn’t make any ATM withdrawals in Cuba, he exchanged cash when he needed it and used his credit card for purchases on the rare occasion.

    Where could you use your credit cards?

    Oliver explains that there weren’t as many places as expected where cards could be used over the counter (large hotels and upscale restaurants being the exception). ATMs could be found predominately in the main tourist areas and gave him no problem.

    What do you think is the best way to take travel money to Cuba?

    Cash. You’re going to need a credit card for ‘just in case’ situations; however, expect to pay cash for the majority of transactions on the island.

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

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    A guide to Cuban banknotes and coins

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

    Banknote Cuban Peso (CUP) Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)

    $1

    cuban1 cuc1

    $3

    cuban3 cuc3

    $5

    cuban5 cuc5

    $10

    cuban10 cuc10

    $20

    cuban20 cuc20

    $50

    cuban50 cuc50

    $100

    cuban100 cuc100

    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).

    Why do I need to take more than just one card?

    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 or a credit card (ideally both) when you need more money.

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    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
    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Find and compare travel insurance policiesBack to top

    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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