- How much money should I bring to Cuba? Cuban currency exchange to USD?
- What do you do when you run out of cash?
- Which is better: Cuban peso or Peso Convertible?
Here’s all you need to know about money for your trip to Cuba!
Due to a ridiculous embargo (or, as the Cubans call it, the “bloqueo”) Americans can NOT use credit cards in Cuba. Even more, Cuba is very much a cash economy.
To make your travel easy, follow these 3 simple rules:
- Bring lots of cash. Bigger bills are better (100, 50, 20 and in great condition).
- If you travel from the US, bring American dollars.
- In Cuba use peso convertible (CUC) and NOT Cuban peso (CUP)
If you are traveling from the US, then bring American dollars. It’s the easiest currency to exchange anywhere in Cuba.
If you have some leftover euros or Canadian dollars bring those as well. But do not change dollars to Euro or Canadian in the US just because you found online that Euro has 1:1 exchange rate in Cuba. It is definitely a bad deal.
1) The euro is expensive so you will lose on exchange rate in the US by changing dollar to euro first.
2) The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange with casa owners and restaurants. You can get a better rate on this so-called black market, even 1USD : 1CUC. Just ask your casa owner. Also, many stores, casas and private vendors gladly accept dollars instead of CUC.
(In October 2019, the government opened dollar stores for Cubans and now the dollar is in huge demand)
Remember, you can purchase Cuban currency only in Cuba.
The current situation on the airport with CUC
Cuban currency exchange is changing almost everyday. Currently in all Cuban airports past the security line, you can only use dollars or Euros. This is because the Cuban government wants to keep as much US currency in the country as possible. This means you should spend your CUC before reaching the airport.
CUC or CUP?
You should use CUC. Repeat: CUC, called peso convertible.
Some folks on internet forums will try to argue this simple rule just to show off how well they “know” Cuba. Don’t listen! Cuban peso is used mostly in government subsidized stores, selling dry beans and oil, or in buses (crowded and unpredictable). Additionally Cubans will always gladly accept CUC over CUP. Even in a bus. Sticking to one currency (CUC) is the best way to avoid the most common scams in Cuba (see below).
The Most Common Money Scams in Cuba
You pay someone with CUC ( 1 CUC worth about 1 USD) and they give you change in CUP (1 CUP = 0.06 USD). Look below at the two currencies and make sure you can tell the difference. You should only use one: CUC.
CUC or peso convertible has buildings and statues.
CUP or Cuban peso has faces on them.
How much money you should bring to Cuba?
The more, the better. People spend differently and have different budgets, so there is not a definitive answer. But here’s what everyone, regardless of budget, should know:
- You can legally bring up to $5000 per person in cash without any taxes and every solid casa particular has a safe.
- Due to the embargo Cuba is not as cheap as many other Latin American countries.
- If you run out of money, it isn’t easy to get more.
And with this knowledge we can go down to the numbers. The easiest way to calculate your budget is to count how much you will need per day and then add “emergency funds” ( keep your emergency money in dollars unless you need them. If you don’t spend those, you will just bring that money back to the US.
How much should be your daily budget?
If you’re traveling on a budget, paid for all your casa or hotels beforehand, and aren’t planning to buy many souvenirs, $60-70 per day should be enough. This amount will cover food, taxis, drinks, entry tickets to museums, tips, and bus tickets to Varadero or Vinales. Add $500-$600 emergency cash and you should be good for 7-10 day travel.
If you are planning to spend a lot (for example, hire a private driver, travel to Trinidad, see a show at Tropicana, buy cigars for all your friends) bring $100 USD a day and extra $600-800 emergency money.
How much things cost in Cuba
Food and drinks
- Breakfast at casa: 5–10 CUC
- Lunch: 10–20 CUC
- Dinner: 15–30 CUC
- Bottle water: 1-2 CUC
- Mojito, Cuba Libre and other cocktails: 2–8 CUC
- Snacks (icecream, fried dough, nuts): 1–5 CUC
- Cup of coffee or lemonade: 1–5 CUC
- Taxis: Airport to Havana: 30–35 CUC, between neighborhoods: 10–20 CUC
- Buses and shared rides: to Vinales, 20–30 CUC; Varadero, 15–25 CUC; Trinidad, 30–35 CUC
- Private drivers/cars: to Vinales, 130–160 CUC; Varadero, 100–160 CUC; Trinidad, 180–250 CUC
Museums, attractions, tours, guides
- Revolution Museum: 8 CUC
- Art Museum: 3 CUC
- La Cabana fortress: 6–8 CUC
- Cuban guide for a day: 40–75 CUC
- Rum: 7–45 CUC
- Cigars: 3– 25 CUC
- T-shirt: 20–25 CUC
- Hats: 5–15 CUC
- Books:10–35 C
What do you do if you run out of cash?
Tricky! But it happened to me. Twice. And yes, it wasn’t easy. The first time, my husband sent money to my Cuban friend via European transfer services. Until recently, you could do the same via Western Union. But with the new restrictions, it is much harder.
The second time, fortunately and coincidentally, my neighbor was coming the next day and brought me some money.
Here are some options for if you run out of money in Cuba:
- If you are using Colibri Travel & Tours (or a similar travel support service) for booking your casas, Cuban visa, drivers, etc., you can call the office and they will be able to send a guide to bring you the money. You can pay them back in the US. We provide this service for our independent travelers quite often.
- You can ask a trusted Cuban if they have family in the States. If yes, your family in the US can transfer money to their account and they can then transfer it via Western Union or other channels to the casa owner in Cuba. You should expect to pay for their time and service as well.
- You can try and ask your casa owner to borrow you a small amount. You can then ask your family in the US to book one night with that casa on some pre-paid booking site and than pay and cancel (it must be on non-refundable policy on the listening and you must first have the approval for such transaction from the casa owner). This is the most complicated.
And finally, one “currency souvenir” you may want to bring back
Ask your guide towards the end of your trip for 3 CUP bill (18 cents in US money): the 3 CUP bill with Che or 20 CUP with Camilo Cienfuegos. Cuba will eventually unify their currency and those bills will most likely disappear, making them more rare and valuable. You’ll have something small to remind you about the Cuban revolution and its heros.