Money used in Cuba : Dual Currency
The currency of Cuba is something that at first is quite confusing. There are two currencies handled at once :
- CUP (national currency also called Cuban peso)
- CUC (Convertible peso).
Cubans use the Cuban peso for everyday purchases (food, drink, etc.) but also the Cuc for consumer goods more expensive (furniture, TV, multimedia products, etc.), hotel rooms, etc.).
CUP : Cuban Peso
The Cup is noted $)
In the past the CUP was for the use of Cubans and the CUC for tourists. Now they are used indiscriminately all over the world.
So that you don’t get into trouble, except for very few things, you will always pay in CUC.
If some products are marked with CUP (usually in shops and food stalls where ordinary Cubans shop) and you pay with CUC you will get your change back in CUP.
CUC : Convertible Peso
The CUC, is the currency used exclusively by tourists.
It replaces the U.S. dollar (US$) since 8 November 2004.
The CUC is referenced to the dollar. 1 CUC = 1 dollar.
1 CUC is equivalent to 24 CUP.
This means that if the exchange rate for the day is, for example, 1 Euro = 1.10 USD, then 1 Euro = 1.10 CUC.
Beware of scams
Tourists are often mistaken when they see the $ prices. They think it is in dollars. They then pay 10 Cuc something that in fact costs 10 Cup (0.4 Usd).
Changing Money in Cuba
If you are wondering can I buy something with a different currency than the CUP or CUC, the answer is NO.
If you arrive from the US or from another non-European country, do not bring US dollars to Cuba :
it is not at all convenient to change them, as they charge a 10% commission !
The best thing is to arrive with euros and change them in the exchange offices (CADECA).
Cadeca: Exchange offices
there are exchange offices in all the major cities of Cuba called CADECA.
This is the only official way to change money in Cuba.
Changing Money in the street
Outside these places, it is possible that some Cubans who are dedicated to changing on their own offer you a slightly higher exchange rate than the official one, it is not advisable to change with them first because this is illegal in Cuba and second because they can give you false bills.
Changing in Cuc or Cup, what’s better ?
Change most of the money in CUC, because unless you always move around in local transport and eat always at little windows, you will not spend many CUP.
Withdrawing Money in Cuba
There is a fairly extensive network of ATMs throughout the country, so it is not necessary to travel to Cuba on your own with all the cash.
The exchange rate is not that bad.
Can I pay with Credit Card in Cuba ?
Few services and goods can be paid for with credit cards, yet e-commerce is not widespread in Cuba.
Beyond the hotels and some travel agencies you can use them in very few places.
Cost of the Food in Cuba
The mega-saver option for eating is the street cafes, at counters, windows and family houses.
For 1-2 cuc you get a full plate of meat, salad, rice and some food.
This is a type of food and establishment more suitable for backpackers and for those who want to save as much as possible.
You can also get sandwiches for 1-2 cuc and small pizzas for 5-10 Cuban pesos depending on the city.
More info about Cuban Food prices and best dishes :
Cheap food in Cuba
One way to eat cheaply when traveling to Cuba is to eat in the street cafes, which are more frequented by Cubans.
Out of there the restaurants and “Paladar” charge depending on the quality :
- Main dish 3-12 cuc.
- Main dish with seafood 8 -20 cuc.
- Pasta 3-7 cuc.
- Drinks 1-3 cuc.
- Cocktails 1,5-3 cuc.
- Street soda cans and mineral water cost 1-1.5 cuc.
It depends on what you want to spend and what you want to eat.
Buying Food in Supermarkets in Cuba
With the prices you will be a little surprised, because there are very cheap things and others ridiculously expensive, for example a good plate of seafood in coastal towns you can get it for 6 CUC (not bad for other places in the world!), while a small bottle of local mayonnaise can cost more than 7 CUC.
Yes, I know! Cuba is not normal, but that is exactly what makes it a unique attraction.
Price of Transport in Cuba
Renting a car to travel around Cuba is not cheap (minimum 70 cuc per day plus other expenses).
If you are thinking about it, have a look to this post about Transportation in Cuba.
For short distances I recommend a normal taxi; 1 cuc per descent of the flag and 1 cuc per km although the price is usually negotiated before.
There are several types of taxis and other means of transport in the cities, you can see it in the section of how get around in Havana.
- Coco Taxi : 20 min drive cost 5-6 Cuc
- Bici Taxi : 1 Cuc to 4 Cuc depending on the distance
- Bus Havana Santiago : 50 Cuc
Price of the Accommodation in Cuba
- Cheap hotels cost 70 cuc in a double room.
- Mid-range hotels cost 120-150 cuc per night.
- Private houses (Casa Particular) cost 15 cuc to 30 cuc per room
You can now book your stay in Casa Particular through Airbnb which and find even better prices.
Average budget for one week
Here’s an example of an average to comfortable budget for one week for one person in Cuba:
- Hotel : 35 euros per night, 245 euros for 7 days.
- Transport: 4 euros per day, 30 for 7 days.
- Visits and outings: 4 euros per day, 30 euros for 7 days.
- Meals: 15 euros per day, 105 euros for 7 days.
Total budget: 410 euros for 7 days in Cuba.