Traveling to Cuba?
Cuban currency isn’t traded internationally, so you'll need to get it once you arrive in Cuba.
Here’s everything you need to know...
What is the Cuban Currency?
Cuba uses two currencies, both of which are legal tender and both of which you can use on your trip.
The Cuban convertible peso (CUC)
The major legal currency of Cuba, the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC), is the one that you’ll most likely use when visiting Cuba as a tourist. When you exchange your money in Cuba, you’ll get CUC in return.
The Cuban convertible peso is pegged 1:1 to the US dollar.
The Cuban peso (CUP)
Most tourists use CUC, but there is a second legal currency called the Cuban peso (CUP). 24 CUP is equal to 1 CUC.
You can use CUP to pay for things like street food, items from local shops, and tickets on buses. You can also use CUP to pay for Cuba’s fixed route taxis (vintage American taxi cars known as almendrones or as a taxi colectivo). All rides are 10 CUP no matter the distance. If you pay in CUC, it’ll cost you CUC$0.50. That’s CUP$12 instead of CUP$10, so you’d save money by paying in CUP.
Once you’ve got CUC, you can exchange them for CUP at any bank and at most non-resort and non-airport CADECAs (more on these later).
Currencies accepted in Cuba
Since you can’t buy Cuban currency before you arrive, you’ll need to exchange your money once you get to Cuba. The foreign currencies that are commonly accepted to convert into pesos in Cuba are British pounds, Canadian dollars, euros, Japanese yen, Mexican pesos, Swiss francs, and US dollars.
It’s very important to note that there’s a 10% penalty charged if you exchange US dollars into Cuban pesos. You can avoid this charge by exchanging your US dollars into another accepted currency before you leave the US. Once you arrive in Cuba, you can exchange your cash into Cuban currency.
Where to exchange your currency in Cuba
To exchange your money in Cuba, head to a CADECA (a change bureau) or to a Cuban BFI Bank. The exchange rates are exactly the same in all CADECAs and banks, so you don’t need to shop around to find the best rate.
It’s important to note that cash is king in Cuba, and you shouldn’t rely on using a credit or debit card to pay or to withdraw cash from an ATM. Check with your bank before you travel to find out if your credit or debit card will work in Cuba. Many cards from American banks aren't accepted, so it's safer to take your money with you in cash (in pounds, euros or Canadian dollars to avoid the US dollar penalty) ready to exchange.
To avoid an extra fee on currency exchange in Cuba, convert your US dollars into pounds, euros or Canadian dollars before you depart. Take this in cash with you to Cuba and convert it into CUC at one of the banks or CADECAs when you arrive. You can also convert some of your CUC into CUP at the same place if you want some for small change. Enjoy your trip!
Are sanctions on Cuba still in place following the President’s announcement on December 17, 2014?Yes, the Cuba embargo remains in place. Most transactions between the United States, or persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and Cuba continue to be prohibited, and OFAC continues to enforce the prohibitions of the CACR. These changes, effective on January 16 and September 21, 2015, respectively, are targeted to further engage and empower the Cuban people by facilitating authorized travel to Cuba by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, certain authorized commerce, and the flow of information to, from, and within Cuba.
What are the travel authorizations in the Cuba program?OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel related transactions to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license (i.e., an application and a case-by-case determination). Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
Is travel to Cuba for tourist activities permitted?No. Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited.
Are there any spending limits for authorized U.S. travelers while in Cuba?There is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers may engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there. In addition, travelers are authorized to acquire in Cuba and import as accompanied baggage into the United States merchandise with a value not to exceed $400 per person, provided that no more than $100 of the merchandise consists of alcohol or tobacco products and the merchandise is imported for personal use only.
Can I purchase Cuban-origin cigars and/or Cuban-origin rum or other alcohol while traveling in Cuba?
Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption while there. Authorized travelers may return to the United States with up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.
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