FAQ - payments and OTHER Money-Related Topics

We recommend reading the full FAQ page BEFORE traveling to Cuba.

We are convinced that you will thank us later for this detailed information, when you are in Cuba and start understanding the complexity of this topic.

What is the most important travel tip related to payments in Cuba?

Cuba is primarily a cash country. So, plan on paying for most of your expenses with hard currency (optimally Euros) and bring sufficient cash in order to not encounter problems during your stay.

Why are up-to-date money-related travel tips so important for Cuba?

Cuba’s currency system is as unique and complex as the island itself and the monetary policies and ways to make business in Cuba change almost every year. 

If you are not an experienced Cuba traveler or have not been to Cuba in the last two years, we recommend carefully reading the following FAQ paragraphs. They provide important insights on money-related topics, mainly regarding currencies, money exchange and credit card use. We try our best to keep the information up-to-date, as a special service to you, because most information that you will find in guide books, on the internet or in ChatGPT is completely outdated.

What is important to know about currencies and their use in Cuba?

  • The CUP (Cuban Peso = Peso Cubano, also called MN = Moneda Nacional) is currently the main official currency in Cuba.
  • CUP are however not used for many transactions for touristic activities with privately-owned businesses (e.g. accommodation at casas particulares, taxis to other cities, paladares (= private restaurants), dance classes, Spanish lessons, souvenir shops, etc.). For these, you will mainly need cash in a hard currency, optimally Euros (or alternatively USD). We therefore recommend bringing sufficient funds in cash (plus a credit card). 
  • CUP are mainly used for small, daily purchases, e.g. for paying for fruits on a market, snacks on the street, food and drinks at some restaurants or bars, fares for local transport (collective taxis or normal taxis), entry fees for dance clubs, museums, etc.
  • Some state-owned businesses (selected hotels, restaurants or bars) might also require payments by credit card. Sometimes they show their prices in CUP, but only allow payments by credit card, converting from CUP at the official exchange rate. It might be worth asking how the payment works before you order.
  • Journeys on tourist buses can only be paid by credit card (in hard currency).
  • Many shops now sell items in MLC (= Moneda Libremente Convertible, which is a 'virtual' currency having the same value as the USD). These shops are called 'tiendas en MLC' in Spanish and they exclusively accept payments by credit card (no cash possible). There can be large queues in front of some of them, just because they have one item that is in high demand and although their product range may still be very limited. However, you might be able to find water, alcohol or some toiletries at such MLC shops.
  • A 'historical' note: The CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) was one of the two currencies in use in Cuba and the main currency for tourists until December 2020. 1 CUC equaled approximately 1 USD. Payments at tourist establishments in Cuba were usually done in CUC until then. However, on January 1st, 2021, a money unification happened and the CUC was officially abolished and completely vanished end of June 2021.

How much cash in what currency should you bring to Cuba?

  • For the majority of transactions, you will need cash in a hard currency, optimally Euros  (or alternatively USD), so please bring sufficient funds in cash (plus a credit card). 
  • In order to make payments in hard currency easy, we recommend also bringing enough money in low denominations (best are banknotes of 5, 10, 20 EUR).
  • For tipping purposes, banknotes of 1 USD are suited best (besides CUP and 5 EUR). 
  • Banknotes should be in good condition with no tears, rips or markings.
  • If Euros are not your home currency, we recommend exchanging sufficient money into Euros in your home country (better exchange more than you believe you will need), Euros are the best option to bring, but if you live in the US or Canada, you can also bring a part in USD or CAD, however, exchanging some money into Euros would still be useful.
  • Attention: You cannot change another currency to Euros (or USD) in Cuba, because the banks will not have enough Euros (or USD) for any conversion. There is also no option to get Euros or USD at ATMs, as they only provide cash in CUP for a bad exchange rate. 

Where and how can you exchange money in Cuba?

  • You can ask the manager of the casa particular for the best way to exchange Euros or USD into the local currency, the CUP (Cuban Peso). We suggest only changing a small amount of hard currency to CUP and change again later if you need more.
  • You can exchange internationally traded currencies (AUD, CAD, CHF, EUR, DKK, GBP, JPY MXN, NOK, SEK, USD) into CUP in the 'Casas de Cambio' (CADECA), banks, hotels and at the airport. USD are now also accepted for money exchange to CUP, but incur an extra 6% bank fee (8% instead of 2% fee for other currencies). Here you can find the official exchange rates to the CUP of the Central Bank of Cubawww.bc.gob.cu
    Attention: The different change types you see might be very confusing. Please look at the ones shown for the Banco Metropolitano S.A.; they are the ones relevant for tourists.
  • Cuba also has an informal market for exchanging Euros and USD to CUP. However, this is illegal and purchasing from street vendors involves the risk of draconic penalties and also of being scammed. We therefore advise against exchanging your money on the street. For complete information, we nevertheless share the El Toque homepage, in which the informal = unofficial exchange rates are being tracked daily: en.eltoque.com
  • Should you decide to exchange money through a person you trust (e.g. a friend or host), please be aware that the exchange rates will normally be lower than on El Toque due to only changing a low amount and fees incurred for 1-2 intermediaries being involved.

 Can credit cards be used in Cuba?

  • Credit cards (VISA or Mastercard) only work in Cuba if they are not issued by or using an American bank as an intermediary.
  • If you use a credit card to get cash at an ATM or bank, you can only withdraw CUP with a bad exchange rate (no other currency possible). Often, many ATMs might also be empty.
  • You will be able to use your credit card for payments for the Viazul buses for journeys between the Cuban cities and also for the Transtur bus tours, e.g. with the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus in Havana or for a bus trip to the beaches of 'Playas del Este'.
  • Your credit card might also work for payments in selected hotels, restaurants or bars (e.g. in the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana). Most of the restaurants will however only accept payments in cash (in CUP, Euros or USD), so we recommend you always take a credit card and enough CUP and Euros (or USD) with you when you go out.
  • Moreover, your credit card will serve you if you need to pay for a PCR test or a treatment at one of the international clinics,
  • There are also many shops where you could pay by international credit card. However, the queues in front of these MLC shops (called 'tiendas en MLC' in Spanish) can be long, although the product range may still be limited. We suggest you ask the manager of the casa particular for recommendations if you want to buy food or sanitary products.
  • As tourists will probably not make much use of these MLC shops (except for possibly buying water, rum, other alcohol or toiletries), we recommend taking most of your money to Cuba in cash and in Euros (or USD).

What is a good source for Cuba-related information on the internet?

The following two blogs provide very good, informative and up-to-date travel tips for Cuba and a comprehensive overview about the Cuban currency system: