Best travel money and currency options for Cuba

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

For British people travelling to Cuba, it pays to know a thing or 2 about the right type of travel money to take with you.

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Should it be a travel card, 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 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.

As 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 to Cuba and use a debit card when you need more money.

These are your options for spending money in Cuba

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

Using a credit card

Where credit cards are accepted, Visa and Mastercard credit cards will give you no problem making purchases 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
  • High withdrawal and cash advance fees
  • Spending depends on credit limit

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 may be unavoidable.

Pros
  • Save on overseas ATM fees
  • Emergency cash facilities
  • Ideal for managing your travel budget
  • 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 card

No travel cards support the Cuban peso, so look for a card that waives the currency conversion fee. 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 pounds for international ATM withdrawals 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 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

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 currencies 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)

A guide to Cuban banknotes and coins

Cuban banknotes are quite different, so you may want to familiarize yourself with them 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 UK, so you’ll 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 British pounds.

Budget (Cheap)MidrangeLuxury (High-end)
AccommodationHotel room per night
£16
Casa Particular (double room)
£25
Hotel Nacional de Cuba Havana
(standard room)
£106
MealsReal Cuban restaurant
Meal for 2, no alcohol
£4–£11
Meal for 2 with one alcoholic meal
£24–£37
Meal for 2 with a bottle of wine
£41–£81
ActivitiesWa-Wa – local bus
£2.00
Taxi (public)
£4–£16
depending on length of journey
Tourist Bus:
Viazul: Havana to Varadero
£8

*Prices are approximate and are subject to change.

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