Last Update: November 11, 2021
Cuba is currently in the midst of one of their greatest challenges, the unification of their dual currency system. The money situation in Cuba has been complicated for travelers for many years, navigating the two currencies and the 10% tax that was previously charged to exchange USD. On January 1, 2021 they eliminated the tourist currency, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).
The Peso Cubano - CUP (or MN - moneda nacional) - is the only official currency, it is valued at 25CUP = US$1
As of June 2021, the US dollar is no longer permitted in cash transaction in Cuba. This means that you will not be able to exchange USD at any of Cuba’s exchange houses or hotels. USD can continue to be used in electronic transfers.
The Cuban government has announced that in order to avoid cash transaction, which they would like to eliminate due to hygiene concerns, they are offering pre-paid debit cards at the airport. These cards, known as MLC cards, will be sold in denominations of US$200, $500, and $1000 although you cannot purchase them with USD, it must be with one of the other accepted currencies. The remaining balance will be refunded at the airport upon departure.
MLC is a term you may hear quite frequently, it stands for Moneda Libremente Convertible, or Freely Convertible Money, which means foreign currency. Although MLC can be EUR, USD, GBP, etc, it is treated as if it's a currency itself. Bank cards are used for transactions in MLC. Some stores in Cuba only accept MLC and tend to be better stocked.
Cryptocurrency is quickly gaining popularity in Cuba, and there are several accommodations options and a couple of restaurants in Havana that accept Bitcoin and other cryptos. Cuban Adventures accepts bitcoin payment for our tours and services.
Foreign Currency Accepted in Cuba
Here is the complete list of foreign currencies currently accepted for exchange in Cuba.
- These currencies may be exchanged to CUP at most banks throughout the country
- They can be exchanged at the CADECA and at some banks. The exchange surcharge is usually 3%
CADECA the official exchange houses in Cuba
CUP can be obtained in the CADECA exchange houses, which are in every city in Cuba. CADECA provide the following services:
- Exchanging cash between foreign currencies and CUP. Many foreign currencies are listed, however we only relying on being able to exchange Euros, Canadian Dollars, and British Pounds in Cuba.
- Exchanging travelers cheques to CUP. These are not a popular option, nor a very convenient one.
- Providing cash advances with credit cards (Visa and MasterCard). These are widely accepted throughout Cuba and are valid from accounts in every currency, except for cards linked to banks in the United States. Cards in US$ from banks outside the the U.S. can be used. Cirrus and Maestro, are not accepted at all in Cuba.
There is a CADECA at the airport, so you can obtain currency immediately upon arrival in Cuba. Also, at the airport, at the end of your time in Cuba, you can change your left-over Cuban money to another currency (it is illegal to take Cuban currency outside of Cuba).
ATMs in Cuba
The ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines), should work in Cuba for Visa cards and Mastercards from non-US aligned banks. At present, the only cities we visit in Cuba with ATMs are Havana, Camaguey, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. You will need a pin number for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs.
Even though some banks are not American, they may still follow the US sanctions (presumably because they have lots of business interests in the US). and their cards will not work in Cuba. 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 also have a back-up plan for obtaining cash in Cuba in case your credit card does not end up working.
The monetary unification process could result in instability, so until we know more about how the CUP will function in Cuba, we recommend you bring plenty of cash. Since USD is not permitted, the most popular alternative is EUR, although any of the other exchangeable currencies is fine. Rules and regulations change quickly and often in Cuba, so you should always contact your bank before you travel to Cuba to check if your cards will work. Even if your bank says that your card WILL work, it is best to not rely on only one source of money - as a precaution, for other unforeseen circumstances, and because banks have been know to provide incorrect information. In Cuba, a combination of cash and cards is best.
Always take more rather than less, because Cuba is likely to be more expensive than you imagine, and prices for some items such as food and drink, have increased triple fold. You don't want to spoil your trip in Cuba by constantly feeling short of funds.