April 30, 2023
The monetary situation in Cuba is quite complex. Cuba’s official currency is the CUP - Peso Cubano. Foreign currencies (especially USD and EUR) are also widely used.
Cuban Pesos (CUP) formally have a fixed value of 25 CUP = 1 USD, however, as of August 4, 2022 the government has set the foreign currency exchange rate at 120CUP = 1 USD. When changing USD, an 8% conversion fee will apply so the effective rate is 110CUP = 1USD. All other currencies have a 2% conversion fee.
Which Currency Should I Bring to Cuba
Euros (EUR) and US Dollars (USD) are the best currencies to bring to Cuba in the areas where our tours visit. These are the most widely accepted by locals therefore they can be used to pay directly to businesses or to exchange for CUP. British Pounds (GBP) has the highest official exchange rate but may not be as in demand by local businesses.
Below is the complete list of foreign currencies
- These currencies can be exchanged at the CADECA and at most banks (surcharge is 2% for most currencies and 8% for USD)
- We strongly recommend exchanging only small amounts of CUP currency at any one time (e.g. 50-100EUR).
|*United States Dollar||USD|
Click here to see current exchange rates
- As of April 10, 2023 all prohibitions on exchanging and depositing USD have been removed. Locals can now exchange USD for CUP and other foreign currencies and deposit USD cash into their bank accounts. These transactions were previously prohibited under rules issued in June 2021.
Where Can I Exchange Money?
Foreign currencies can be exchanged to CUP (at the official government rate) at airports, banks, hotels, exchange houses (CADECA), and shopping malls. They can also be exchanged in the informal markets (black market) usually at a rate much higher. This is a common, but not legal, practice. A popular resource for the unofficial exchange rate is the website El Toque. The informal rate should be seen as a suggestion, you may not receive this rate.
The Official Exchange Houses (CADECA) in all cities around Cuba. They provide the following services:
- Exchanging cash between foreign currencies and CUP.
- Exchanging traveller’s cheques to CUP. Nowadays not popular nor convenient.
- Credit Card - Cash advances (Visa and MasterCard). Possible throughout Cuba and from accounts in every currency, except for cards linked to banks in the United States. Cirrus and Maestro are not accepted at all in Cuba.
ATMs- Credit/Debit Cards
The ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) should work in Cuba for Visa, Mastercard, and American International Service (AIS). You will need a pin number for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs.
Except in rare circumstances, no Card issued by a US institution will work in Cuba, so it is important to check that your bank is not associated with a US financial institution. We do know that Visa credit cards obtained through the following banks will NOT work in Cuba:
- Westpac (Australia)
- St George (Australia)
- 28 Degrees
Some rechargeable Travel Cards (Visa and Mastercard) may work in Cuba even though obtained through these banks.
We recommend that you check with your bank before you come to Cuba and have a back-up plan for obtaining cash in Cuba in case your credit card does not end up working.
MLC Card - what is it?
MLC (‘Moneda Libremente Convertible’) is Cuba’s official digital currency that represents a value of 1 MLC = 1 USD. Because of this fixed value, it is often simply referred to as “dollars”.
- MLC pre-paid cards are sold at CADECAS in denominations of US $50, $100 $200, $500, and $1000
- There is a US $5 charge for the card, so for example, you will pay €50 for a card worth US $45
- You cannot purchase these cards with USD, only with EUR or other accepted currencies
- Some government stores in Cuba accept only MLC, these cards can be used there
- The remaining balance of your MLC card will not be refunded
- The card expires in 2 years
- Is accepted by some guesthouses and a couple of restaurants in Havana.
Our Tips and Recommendations
Bring plenty of cash. Access to your funds outside of Cuba may not be possible so bring more than you expect to spend, just in case. A good rule of thumb is 100USD equivalent per day if you are paying most of your expenses locally.
EUR and USD are the most useful currencies. GBP and CAD are often accepted, but may not be accepted in all restaurants, casas, taxis etc.
Bring plenty of small bills (5, 10, 20). Since locals cannot deposit 1s in the bank, for payments and tips less than $5 it's better to use CUP. For example, to tip a musician $1, you would give 150-160CUP (convert using the informal exchange rate)
Always take more rather than less, because Cuba is likely to be more expensive than you imagine. Don't spoil your trip in Cuba by potentially being short of funds.
Exchange only small amounts of money to CUP at any one time. Changing no more than 50-100EUR at a time will avoid having CUP to change back.
Change back your Cuban Pesos before you leave, they are neither valid nor exchangeable outside of Cuban territory, so on departures make sure you exchange it back to your preferred currency.
Don’t rely on being able to use ATMs. Sometimes they run out of money or aren't working due to power outages or simply won't accept your card for reasons unknown.
Some ATM machines and banking facilities may not be offering the new exchange rate of 120CUP:1USD. Verify the correct amount before accepting the transaction.
Private businesses (guesthouses, bars, private restaurants, small shops) will most likely prefer payment in foreign currency.
All Cuban State operated sites (Museums, Parks, State run restaurants, official sites, ETECSA, markets) will always require payment in CUP with exception for the MLC stores.
Some Hotels, most grocery stores, state-owned bars, and all medical facilities will only take card payment, not cash. Very few of these places accept US cards.
If you decide to change money informally (i.e. on the black market), avoid exchanging with people who approach you on the street. It is better to ask staff at casas or restaurants, guides, or other professionals to help you.
If you have many smaller bills in CUP, gather these into groups of 1000CUP to help you pay faster.
Rules and regulations change quickly and often in Cuba, check on the currency situation before your go.
Glossary of Cuban Money Terms
- CUP- The Cuban Peso. The only official currency in Cuba. CUP has no value outside of Cuba.
- M.N. - Moneda Nacional. This is just another name for CUP.
- CUC- Cuban Convertible Peso. Cuba’s former second currency, but as of 2021 the CUC was taken out of circulation.
- MLC- Moneda Libremente Convertible (Freely Convertible Money). Cuba’s dollar equivalent digital currency.
- MLC Card- A pre-paid card you can buy in Cuba that will work in government stores, restaurants, and hotels.
- Official Rate- The CUP exchange rate offered in CADECAs (exchange houses), ATMs, Banks, Hotels, and with state-run entities. This rate is static and set by the government, not the market.
- Unofficial Rate- The exchange rate you get when you trade with individuals or private businesses, instead of state institutions. Also known as black market or ‘por la izquierda’, this rate is set by supply and demand and will fluctuate. Current rates can be seen here