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.
Note: As of June 2019, President Trump has banned civilian tourist travel to Cuba. This restriction is meant to serve as a punishment for Cuba and its communist policies by keeping US tourist dollars out of the Cuban economy.
However, you can still visit Cuba by acquiring a general license, albeit only for certain circumstances. This includes visiting family, religious activities or humanitarian aid.
What's in this guide?
- What are the currencies that can be easily exchanged in Cuba?
- How much should I budget to travel in Cuba?
- Exchange rate history (USD to CUP/CUC)
- Should it be a travel card, a debit card or credit card?
- How the different travel money products work in Cuba
- Compare travel cards for Cuba
- A guide to Cuban banknotes and coins
- Buying Cuban pesos
- Why do I need to take more than just one card?
- Cash pickup services in Cuba
- Get travel insurance quotes for your vacation in Cuba
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)
avel insurance can protect you from common travel risks such as:
- 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)|
|Hotel room per night|
|Casa Particular (double room)|
|Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana|
|Real Cuban restaurant|
Meal for two, no alcohol
|Meal for two with one alcoholic meal|
|Meal for two with a bottle of wine|
|Wa-Wa – local bus|
depending on length of journey
Viazul: Havana to Varadero
*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.Back to top
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)|
*Exchange rates are accurate as of 5 September 2017Back to top
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.
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|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
|Credit cards for travel|
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
You’re currently out of luck when it comes to using a credit card in Cuba. If you have a credit card from another country however, 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 like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. Generally, not many places accept credit cards in Cuba, so you’ll want to focus more on access to cash.
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.
Compare travel cards for Cuba
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos.
- Lock in your exchange rate.
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations.
Case study: Oliver's experience
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.
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).
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)|
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 when you need more money.
Cash pickup services in Cuba
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
Read more on this topic
Travel money guide – China
Credit cards are widely accepted, but be sure to also carry some cash.
Travel money guide: Australia
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Australia.
Travel money guide: Argentina
Credit cards are widely accepted, but carry some cash as well.
Travel money guide – Costa Rica
Use your cards freely in Costa Rica, but also carry some cash.
Travel money guide: Scotland
Consider carrying a credit card, debit card and cash while in Scotland.
Using a credit card in Barbados
Here’s everything you need to know about using a credit card in Barbados. How much it may cost you, and holiday spending tricks. We help you do your homework before you travel.
Guide to working abroad as an expatriate
Here is what you need to know before you work overseas.
Keep your vacation budget under control
These helpful tips will let you have fun on your vacation without exceeding your budget.
Travel money guide: Ireland
Our Ireland Travel Guide gives you all the information you need to make an informed decision about which credit card, debit card or travel card to take to the land of green pastures and rolling hills.
Ask an Expert