Advice on Cuba’s currency
Rumours have been circulating about the end of the CUC for several years, and have yet to be realised. With the increasing involvement with the US (Obama visits on 21 and 22 March) the sands are certainly shifting: though it remains to be seen how soon this results in actual change.
Cuba currently operates a dual currency: the Cuban peso (peso cubano - CUP) is used by Cuban nationals/citizens; while the CUC, or 'covertable peso', is used by businesses and tourists. As and when the Cuban government removes the CUC it is likely that the CUP will become the main currency.
While the timing of any changes remain uncertain, at the time of writing, people travelling with Journey Latin America can rest assured that our expert local guides will keep them abreast of the evolving situation.
Our general advice is that visitors to Cuba should carry cash in small denomination sterling notes, keeping in mind how much their travel insurance policy will cover – both sterling and euros are accepted in most banks and some of the larger hotels but there is no need to convert GBP to Euros. These currencies are changed into pesos convertibles – CUCs – the equivalent in value to one US dollar. There’s usually an exchange fee too, check with your bank before you travel to confirm that your debit/credit cards will work and will be accepted in Cuba. If your bank cannot confirm this then you should bring suitable alternative funds.
There are virtually no ATMs available for drawing cash against Cirrus or Switch cards in Cuba. US dollars are not accepted as payment in Cuba, and you will be charged 10% or more commission to exchange them. Credit card transactions (not permitted from cards issued by US banks), including withdrawals from ATMs, are subject to local commission charges of between 11-13%. American Express travellers cheques are not accepted in Cuba and many banks are reluctant to take them. Travellers cheques and/or credit cards drawn from all other American banks are also not accepted in Cuba. There are ATM machines in Havana and other tourist cities such as Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba but their reliability is questionable so it is often safer and easier to get a cash advance over the counter of a bank or cadeca (exchange house) with your passport and credit card.