*This article was updated March 2019
If you are visiting Cuba for your holiday then unfortunately at the moment you can’t buy the Cuban Peso outside of Cuba itself. But, in the following Cuban Currency Guide we will explain a little more in detail about the local currency in Cuba, what to expect and how to get the best deal for your Pounds.
What currency is used in Cuba…
Cuba operates a dual currency and financial system and there are two currencies available in Cuba. Visitors to Cuba usually use the Cuban Convertible Peso also known as CUC and the locals use the Cuban Peso also known as CUP. The Cuban Peso used by locals is worth much less than the Cuban Convertible Peso.
As a visitor if you exchange your Pounds cash in Cuba then you will be given the Cuban Convertible Peso in return, however, there are no actual legal limitations and if you prefer you are entitled to use the local Cuban Peso instead for paying taxi drivers and buying street food etc.
What is the latest CUC Exchange Rate…
As you are unable to buy the Cuban Peso in the UK there are no easy ways to check the CUC Exchange Rates in the UK or even to compare them against several currency suppliers for finding the best Cuban Currency deal in advance of travelling to Cuba for your holiday.
However, to give you a rough guide on the CUC Exchange Rate you can visit the official Central Bank of Cuba where they display the latest GBP vs CUC Exchange Rates. Although, these CUC Exchange Rates won’t be the ones used by local banks, exchange houses or hotels and they will be less than this.
CUC Exchange Rates from the Central Bank of Cuba
The CUC Exchange Rate is pegged against the US Dollar and as mentioned above the CUP which is used by locals is worth much less the CUC which equates to around 24 CUP’s to 1 CUC. When exchanging and buying locally in Cuba always check your transaction sums carefully and make sure that when you pay in CUC that you receive any change in CUC as it is not uncommon to be given change in CUP which of course is worth less.
Where to exchange Currency in Cuba…
If you are looking to exchange currency in Cuba then always change your currency at the Cadeca exchange houses which are located all over the island and are commonly used by locals to change currency.
As queues can be long at the Cadeca exchange houses you should be aware of individuals offering to exchange your currency in order to avoid the queues. Always ask for small denominations which can be easy to use when out and about and again as recommended before always check your transactions to make sure they add up correctly.
As for other places to exchange currency in Cuba you can also use the local banks and your hotel, but the hotels will most likely be the worse place to exchange when it comes to the CUC Exchange Rate.
One of the most popular banks in Cuba is the Metropolitan Bank where again you can double check the CUC Exchange Rate against the Pound Sterling on their homepage and if you are looking for Cash Machines in Cuba then they have a list on their site depending on where you are in Cuba.
CUC Exchange Rates from the Metropolitan Bank in Cuba
Can you use US Dollars and Euros in Cuba…
If for any reason, you have US Dollars or Euros available, and are thinking about taking them with you to Cuba for spending then this will be fine as you can exchange these currencies just like the Pound Sterling at the local Cadeca exchange houses, bank and hotels in Cuba.
Obviously, if you are looking for a good deal then you can always check the CUC Exchange Rate on the websites suggested above in advance to see whether it would be worth your while in terms of the cost of exchanging these currencies separately over just exchanging the Sterling Pound in one transaction.
However, in terms of the US Dollar you should be aware that there are additional exchange fees on this currency because of the Trade Embargo set by the US against Cuba which means for Cuban’s to exchange the US Dollar currency it costs more and therefore this cost is passed back onto the consumer in Cuba.
In order to exchange US Dollars to the Cuban Convertible Peso there is an additional 10% commission charge on the American Currency and the usual 3% local exchange fee charge which you will get with exchanging all currencies locally in Cuba.
As for other forms of currency Travellers Cheques are available to exchange, but if they are related to any American Banks then this will be more tricky to exchange in Cuba and it would be best advised to double check with your bank before travelling. American Express travellers’ cheques are not accepted in Cuba which also includes Irish and Scottish banknotes.
Can you use Visa and Mastercard Debit and Credit Cards in Cuba…
Cuba is still very much cash based society, but there are cash machines around as mentioned above with regards to the Metropolitan Bank being one that supplies ATM’s locally in Cuba for anyone to use.
Although, most ATM’s seem to be limited to Visa rather than Mastercard and you will find it very difficult to find cash machines that accept Cirrus and Switch cards. The best thing to do is to double check with your bank or credit card provider to find out if your cards will work in Cuba in the first place.
As for Mastercard debit and credit cards if you are unable to find a cash machine locally to you that accepts Mastercard then you can always go into the Cadeca exchange houses or any of the banks to withdraw cash from your card. But, get there early as sometimes they close earlier than they would in the UK.
How much spending money for Cuba…
This question is usually a very difficult question to answer as it will depend on what the Sterling Pound to CUC Exchange Rates are on the day and how much exploring you are planning to do outside of your hotel or accommodation in Cuba.
Cuba has a lot to offer its visitors and is most certainly a place to go exploring especially as the locals are very social and accommodating along with the island being such a beautiful place to see.
Following some extensive research you might like to visit the blog of the Two Scots Abroad as they visited Cuba and produced a blog post back in August 2015 about the Local Cuban Currency. They also, followed up this blog post with another in July 2016 which highlighted their Travel Budget for three weeks in Cuba.
So, with this mind on how much spending for Cuba you will need the Two Scots Abroad spent around $1979 US Dollars for three weeks which roughly equates to $95 US Dollars per day for two people. Based on today’s US Dollar Exchange Rates from the Sterling Pound this would cost you roughly £75 per day for two people.
This does actually include accommodation which they have highlighted in their blog post so if you have accommodation already you could take this out of the equation including if you have all inclusive food and drink at your hotel too.
It is worth keeping in mind that the Two Scots Abroad used a variety of currency including British Pounds, Euros and US Dollars. If you focus on exchanging directly from the Sterling Pound to the local Cuban Convertible Peso this will get the best CUC Exchange Rate especially if you are travelling directly from the UK.
Finally, keeping the number of transactions to a minimum will also ensure that you avoid the local 3% commission fee charges every time and any of the fees that your personal bank or credit card provider will impose on each of your overseas card transactions. The best thing to do will be to check your bank or credit card providers’ website to find out what overseas card payment and cash machine withdrawal fees that they will impose on each of your transactions whilst in Cuba.
PrePaid Multi Currency Cash Card options for Cuba..
The cheapest way to take money to Cuba would be take what you need in Sterling Pounds Cash and exchange this locally as advised above into the Cuban Convertible Peso. This would help limit the local currency commission charges every time you process a transaction and it would help you avoid any card payment or cash machine withdrawal fees from your own bank or credit card providers each time you use your cards overseas in Cuba.
However, if you feel uneasy in taking large amounts of cash with you to Cuba then there is another option. Prepaid Multi Currency Cash Cards allow you to top up what you are looking to spend and then you can always convert cash or withdraw cash as required when in Cuba.
PrePaid Multi Currency Cash Card – ICE Travellers Cash Card
The ICE Travellers Cash Card could be a suitable cheap option to just using your debit or credit card and could actually work out cheaper than what your bank charges for overseas card and cash machine withdrawal transactions.
The only costs you have to keep in mind is the initial £1.50 Card Cost for getting the ICE Traveller Cash Card and the Reload Fee of 2.85%, however, if you over budget for spending money on the card then there is No Redemption Fee to recover the remaining Sterling Pounds balance when you are back home which therefore means you can easily avoid the Reload Fee.
The added benefit to the ICE Travellers Cash Card is that you don’t have to worry about the Transaction Fees or the ATM Fees either overseas or in the UK which means there is a chance that this PrePaid Multi Currency Cash Card is cheaper than using your debit or credit card in Cuba.
But, don’t forget the local 3% commission charges in Cuba when you are exchanging money from Sterling Pounds to the Cuban Convertible Peso each time you process a transaction. Other alternative PrePaid Multi Currency Cash Cards are the Post Office Travel Money Card and the peer to peer We Swap Currency Card which you can find on our Multi Currency Card comparison page.
Final Cuban Currency Top Tips…
- You will need your passport for all over the counter Cuban Currency Exchanges in Cuba.
- If you need to sell any left-over Cuban Currency Cash you can do so at the airport in Cuba on your way back home.
- Make sure any of your cards are not US Affiliated as they might not be accepted.
- Always check with your bank that your cards will work in Cuba before travelling.
- Always tip in the CUC Currency and not the CUP Currency as it’s insulting to Cuban’s.
If you have any personal top tips from your travelling experience to Cuba from the UK please feel free to leave them below so that we can help more people. Thank you and have a good time in Cuba!