Saving for holiday - money in Cuba

Money in Cuba: What Is The Currency In Cuba? (2024)

The currency system in Cuba has given tourists headaches for quite a while, so it is not at all strange that you are wondering what the currency in Cuba is!

I have lived in Havana, Cuba, for two years and have learned everything about money in Cuba, how and where to exchange currency, official and unofficial currency rates, and how to pay with what where!

First, if you have heard about the dual-currency system in Cuba, that they have two currencies in the country, that is no longer the case. There is only one currency in Cuba now.

In 2021, the Cuban government changed the monetary policy and removed the CUC, the currency that was called the Cuban convertible pesos.

There is only one currency in Cuba now, and that is the Cuban peso, also called the CUP, peso Cubano, or moneda nacional.

Read on to get all the information you need about money in Cuba and the Cuban currency system right now!

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Quick Facts About Currency In Cuba

  • The Cuban Peso (CUP), which the Cubans call the Moneda Nacional, is the only official Cuban currency valid after 2021
  • One Euro sells for around 270 CUP on the street in Cuba (End of 2023, this number fluctuates). You also need to know that your notes need to be in good condition, or the banks in Cuba will not accept them
  • You CAN make card payments with an international Visa or Mastercard in some hotels and restaurants in Cuba, but still not everywhere
  • Follow this link to check the current official rate and the unofficial rate of the Cuban Peso from Cuban exchange offices
  • Cuban governmental shops, called MLC stores, are state-run businesses that only accept credit cards (except United States credit cards and cards connected to US banks that are banned in Cuba), debit bank cards, and not cash
  • NB: US credit cards are NOT accepted anywhere in Cuba
  • You can extract CUP from Cuban ATMs, but NOT from ATMs outside of Cuba prior to your holiday. The Cuban peso is only available in Cuba.
  • U.S. dollars in cash is not formally accepted in Cuba by the Banco Central de Cuba, but it CAN still be changed on the black market and used in private enterprises like paladares, to pay for taxis, and on the street.
  • Euro is VERY popular in Cuba
  • You can change Euro in cash for CUP in exchange offices or on the informal market with a trusted person in Cuba.
  • I would not recommend changing money with random people on the street (you will get that offer from Cubans in public spaces).
  • You can change foreign currency into CUP “on the street” and maybe get a good deal, but be aware that counterfeit Cuban money does exist
  • You CAN use Euro in cash for many services and in many shops in Cuba
  • Some places and shops do NOT accept Cuban CUP, ONLY Euro, dollars, or credit card
  • Some places accept ONLY Euro and dollars in cash, NOTHING else
  • Bring the majority of your holiday budget in Euro (or dollars) in cash for your Cuba holiday; you can pay in these currencies in most relevant places – and in some places, it is even (unofficially) mandatory!

What Is The Currency In Cuba Now?

In January 2021, the Cuban government reformed the system of dual currency in Cuba (Cuban convertible peso CUC and CUP) that has existed since the 90ies.

They removed the CUC, so now the CUP, the Cuban Peso, is the only national currency that is valid in Cuba.

In June 2021, the Banco Nacional de Cuba also announced a formal suspension of the use of dollar deposits due to the US sanctions.

For you, as a tourist, this means that U.S. dollars in cash no longer formally have any value in Cuba.

This is still a truth with modifications, as many paladares (private restaurants) and private businesses accept US dollars in cash, while governmental facilities do not.

The foreign currency used in Cuba that has official value is mainly the euro, and also the dollar.

Also read: 42 Legendary Things To Do In Havana!

The National Currency Of Cuba

The only official national currency of Cuba from 2021 is the Cuban Pesos (CUP), also called Moneda Nacional.

The CUP is only available in Cuba. You can withdraw CUP in an ATM when you arrive in Cuba, or you can bring Euro in cash and exchange this in an exchange office (or on the street).

Also read: Fantastic Day Trip From Havana To Vinales!

Shopping Cuba money in Cuba

Currency In Cuba For Tourists

Before January 2021, when there were two currencies in Cuba, one of them was known as the “tourist currency”, the CUC, before the government abolished the CUC and the dual currency system.

There is only one national currency to use in Cuba for everyone, including tourists, which is the CUP, or Peso Cubano – the Moneda Nacional.

Also read: Where To Stay Havana | Best Hotels, Neighborhoods And Areas!

Currency In Cuba – Cards vs Cash

Cuban citizens have two different credit cards from Cuban banks. One that has only CUP in it, and one that has only “MLC” in it.

MLC means Moneda Libremente Convertible and refers to foreign currency.

When the Cubans talk about the value of the MLC, it is generally the value of the US dollar they are referring to.

As the CUP is the only official currency in Cuba, in theory, you should be able to pay for anything with CUP. But this is not the case in reality.

Weirdly, euro and dollars are accepted (or expected) in a lot of places due to their street value and value in so-called MLC shops.

The Governmental Cuban MLC Shops

The reason Cubans need a special MLC card with foreign currency in it is that in Cuba, there is a chain of governmental shops that do not accept the domestic currency CUP.

These are called MLC shops.

In these shops, Cubans (and foreigners) can only pay with international currency credit cards (except US credit cards).

These are the shops that have clothes, shoes, all kinds of soap and vanity things, canned foods, detergent, cleaning stuff, kitchen appliances, interior accessories, refrigerators, and air conditioners, anything really, except fresh foods.

In order to deposit currency to their MLC cards, Cubans need someone outside the country to transfer currency to their account.

Or, they can deposit MLC (like Euro) in cash by physically going to the bank and depositing it to their MLC card.

It is not possible to withdraw international currency from any bank in Cuba, only CUP, as Cuba has a closed currency system.

Hence, Cubans can only get foreign currency, like Euro, in cash if tourists bring it on their holiday to pay for stuff, as state employees get paid in CUP and are not able to get foreign currency inside Cuba without outside help.

Because of the weird system with domestic MLC shops, the result is you can pay with foreign currency in cash in many places on the street, even in rural areas, as people need it to do their domestic shopping.

What Is the Currency In Cuba for Paladares and Particulares

Private enterprises, called particulares, will accept US dollars, although the dollar officially still is not officially permitted for use in Cuba.

Paladares (private restaurants), taxi drivers, private tourist services, sports activities, tours, street food, and almost any service Cubans offer to tourists will also accept foreign currency as payment in addition to local currency.

So you should bring a lot of cash. Pay for stuff in cash in foreign currency, change what you need into CUP in Cuba, and change back what you don`t use when you go home.

Apart from in the governmental MLC stores, you can normally also choose to pay with CUP, although people prefer foreign currency.

Be aware that the foreign currency exchange rate is fluctuating, and the price of euro and dollars is not the same.

This goes for fruit and vegetables, sandwiches on the streets, memorabilia in tourist shops, bicycle taxis, or propina, the Spanish word for tips.

Also read: 19 Best Things To Do In Varadero Cuba!

International Credit Cards In Cuba

Cash and credit cards: money in Cuba. All you need to know about the currency in Cuba in 2023.

Regardless of what is the isolated domestic currency in Cuba, you can use your international credit cards, like Visa or Mastercard, in an increasing number of places.

The majority of places are not online yet.

Large hotels and resorts will most likely accept payment with credit cards, and some will only accept credit cards, not cash.

Yet, when I went scuba diving in Varadero, I was expected to pay for the day with Euro (CUP was not accepted) in cash.

Electronic payment proved super difficult, so be prepared.

You can pay for some Cuban services online with your credit card, like bus transfers, on the Viazul Bus Company homepage.

You can also pay online for some prebooked accommodation before you arrive.

Again: Note that credit cards from any American bank are not accepted anywhere in Cuba, so American travelers need to bring all the money they need for their holiday in cash. In Euro or dollars.

Also read: 10 Perfect Day Trips From Havana!

How Much Cash Should I Bring To Cuba?

Well, how big is a fish? If you are wondering how much cash you should bring to Cuba, it all depends on how you plan to travel.

In luxury or backpacking style, or somewhere in between?

As a rule of thumb, I would say bring the amount of money in cash (Euro or Canadian dollars, or USD), that you plan on spending in Cuba.

Also, plan for what activities and adventures you are planning to do on your Cuba holiday and how much they cost.

So make sure to do your research before you go to have a good idea of what amount you need.

Castillo del Morro in Santiago de Cuba
Castillo del Morro Santiago de Cuba

Plan your whole budget and bring enough cash for (not prepaid) accommodation, food, shopping, transport, and activities during your stay in cash.

You can easily change back what currency in euro or dollar you don’t spend when you get back to your home country.

Be aware that during the pandemic, due to the monetary reforms, ongoing sanctions, and the covid-closing of the country.

There has been large inflation, with prices increasing 500-1000% on many foods and items in the shops and on the black market.

Therefore, prices in Cuba are higher than before the pandemic, which for tourists will be detectable in the prices of food and drinks in restaurants.

Below you have three examples of travel budgets for Cuba: cheap, budget, and luxury, to give you an idea.

What are you going to do in Cuba?

The Cheapest Cuba Vacations

A daily backpacking budget for Cuba should be at least around €80-100.

This budget will get you something like a shared room at a hostel or Casa Particular (€10-25), three cheap meals a day (€50ish), a large bottle of water (€2), a couple of beers (€3-4 each), a wifi card (€1), one or two taxi tours in the city center and entrance to a museum.

This budget will not cover a full night out, journeys, activities, or other transport.

Below is an example of the absolute cheapest hits on and on Hostelworld in December 2021 for Havana, Cuba.

As you see, a lot of casa particulares are promoted in both places.

Examples of cheap hotel prices havana 2021
Hostelworld cheap cuba travel accommodation

Cuba Budget Travel

A medium-level daily budget for Cuba budget travel would be around €150-200.

On Airbnb, you can get private rooms or even a studio or whole apartment to yourself for down to €25 per night, breakfast not included. But mostly the prices are higher than that.

The prices also vary a lot, so do some research for different dates if you are flexible.

In Trinidad, you can get a room in a Casa Particular for around €15 per night, breakfast not included.

Breakfast was €5 before the pandemic, and in some places, it still is – but it can be up to €7-10.

Good restaurants OR restaurants that are in the middle of the tourist hotspots in Havana will have higher prices than the casual little ones off the beaten track.

A nice dinner can easily be around €30-50 per person, including drinks and lunch a little less.

A couple of taxi trips (€20), entrance to a museum, drinks at night in one of the music bars, water & wifi, and a little tourist shopping, and your budget is already up.

If you want to go shopping, scuba diving, have treatment at a spa, take a tour or anything like that, you need to upgrade your budget too.

Cuba Luxury Holidays

Luxury hotels in Cuba, You can spend all the money in Cuba you want!

Cuba’s luxury holiday budget can quite frankly be limitless; you can get insane luxury in Cuba if money is not an issue.

I recently stayed at the Iberostar Selection Bella Vista in Varadero as well as the Melia Paradiso Varadero, both beautiful places.

Prices were €185 and €285 per day, respectively, all-inclusive. Any activities or not-included amenities (like spa treatments) add to the budget.

Luxury hotels in Havana tend to offer room and breakfast or half board, not the all-inclusive resort option, as people generally go exploring outside the hotel for lunch and dinner during their stay.

For 5 stars hotels in Cuba or the equivalent, check out the various accommodation options in different destinations.

All inclusive hotel Varadero Cuba pool is also something you book online, and then you dont have to worry about the currency or exchange rate in Cuba.

One night at the super stylish Manzana Kempinski Hotel at Parque Central in Havana starts at around $500 per night for one room and two people in November 2023, including breakfast.

Iberostar Parque Central, which is also a beautiful hotel centrally located between Old and Central Havana, starts at €187 per night, including breakfast.

You can also search for mansions or casas on Airbnb; there are some super fancy options with luxury amenities, pools, jacuzzi, and more.

I rented a house that I would call a mansion in the summer of 2021 for my birthday for one night, and that was €400 for one night.

Also read: Best travel resource tips bookings, flights & accommodation

This is a mansion in Havana that was for rent the summer of 2021. If you book online, you do not have to worry about what the currency in Cuba is or how to change it.
My birthday mansion rental!

In that particular house, there were four bedrooms and room for eight people sleeping.

Also, a huge kitchen, a living room with an oversized TV, a backyard with a pool and bar, and a jacuzzi on the roof.

Also read: Resorts in Cayo Santa Maria

At the all inclusive resorts in varadero cuba accept any foreign currency in Cuba.

There is a good scene for fine dining in Havana as well; read this overview of the best restaurants in Havana, including recommendations for fine dining at a la carte places.

Be aware that a lot of restaurants, although super elegant, do not accept credit cards. Ask beforehand, and be prepared to pay in cash.

Pretty much all paladares (privately owned restaurants) normally accept payments in CUP, euro, or both US and Canadian dollars, as US dollars still have street value.

With no budget limitations, you can get a convenient taxi to take you or collect you from anywhere, ride in style with the old classic car taxis that roam the streets.

Read the shopping guide if you need to do some shopping during your stay. Be aware, though, that Havana is not a shopping mecca.

My advice is to not expect to be able to buy everything you might want to!

This is why packing smart for Cuba is the best advice I can give you!

The drivers of the Classic American Cars prefer payment in euros.The money of Cuba are not worth a lot to Cubans.
The drivers of the Classic American Cars prefer payment in euros.

How To Get Cuban Currency

Again, you will not be able to get Cuban current CUP outside of Cuba.

Once in Cuba, you can extract CUP from Cuban ATMs with your national credit or debit card, which is easily available in most cities and towns.

You can bring foreign currency in cash to Cuba and change it when you get here. You can change your foreign currency at Havana airport and other international airports, in exchange offices in Cuban cities (casa de cambio) to the official exchange rate, or you can ask your host for advice.

If you are an American, you are advised to bring cash, the equivalent of the holiday budget you plan to spend as your credit card is not accepted in Cuba.

Cuba Transportation Options And Prices

Transport between destinations in Cuba is definitely the cheapest and quite easy by bus, but more convenient, more expensive, and less time-consuming by taxi.

The following are price examples for Viazul bus travel in Cuba.

  • Havana – Varadero $9
  • Havana – Vinales $12
  • Havana – Trinidad $21
  • Havana – Santiago de Cuba (long haul) $56

You should definitely buy your Viazul tickets online beforehand if you can.

It is safe, and you do not need to stand in lines or deal with the bureaucracy of buying from a ticket office at a Cuban bus station.

Also, you get your ticket electronically and are guaranteed a seat.

The Viazul bus from Havana leaves from the Terminal de Omnibus Nacionales, on Avenida de la Independencia, Esquina (corner) Calle 19 de Mayo (take a taxi here).

NB: You normally need to be at the bus station ONE HOUR prior to departure.

Depending on the day of the week, departure place, and destination, there might be queues for check-in, luggage drop-off, and entering the bus.

Remember to bring your passport also for domestic transportation!

In Havana, you can take bicycle taxis for short distances, which will be around €1/200 CUP.

A private taxi between Old Havana and the Vedado for tourists can be €5-10/500-1000 CUP, dependent on the day and time.

A one-hour tour of Havana with a classic American car is around €35.

Also read: Your Ultimate Guide to Havana Nightlife

Examples Of Prices In Cuba

  • A bus ride (the guagua, the city bus) or taxi collectivo a short stretch within a city in Cuba should be 1 or 5 CUP (dependent on the bus), which is less than €1/4.

  • Bici taxi a short stretch (2 persons) around 3-500 CUP or €4.

  • Private taxis between city areas, like between Old Havana and Vedado, probably will be around 1500 CUP for tourists (day-night/weekday/weekend) or €8-20.

  • One can of foreign beer is 230-260 CUP or around €2-3.

  • One bottle of wine is a minimum of 1000 CUP, or around 10 Euro, and one bottle of rum from between at least 5000 CUP.

  • A breakfast or lunch in the daytime with a drink starts at around 450-700 CUP or €4-7 and up.

  • Between Havana and Varadero (2,5 hours), a private taxi will be around 25000 CUP €200-300, dependent on the day of the week, time, and your bargaining skills.
Research cheap and budget travel like backpacking by knowing what is the currency in Cuba!

FAQ Money In Cuba

How Much Is One $US In Cuba?

The Cuban currency CUP is not “hard currency”; it is unstable and fluctuates based on the domestic situation. The official value of the Cuban peso will fluctuate. Follow this link to check the current value of the Cuban peso CUP.

What Is The Best Currency To Use In Cuba?

The best currency to bring for your Cuba holiday is euros or Canadian dollars. You will also be able to use US dollars, as it is accepted on the black market and by private enterprises.

You can change euros or Canadian dollars in official exchange offices in Cuba or with a trusted person in Cuba.

Can You Use US Dollars In Cuba?

Private enterprises will accept US dollars as payment in Cuba, although the American currency is officially banned from use in Cuba.

The reason is that the government has an “amnesty” for people returning US dollars circulating on the street on the “black market” to try to reduce the amount of US dollars floating around.

My advice, nevertheless, is to bring euros, or Canadian or U.S. dollars, in cash for your Cuba holiday.

What Are The Two Currencies Uses In Cuba?

There are no longer two currencies in Cuba.

The only official currency in Cuba is the Cuban peso, the CUP, also called Moneda Nacional.

Why are US citizens not allowed to travel to Cuba?

This is NOT correct. US citizens ARE ALLOWED to travel to Cuba.

Americans can choose a reason for Cuba travel among 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba, determined by the US Government.

Can US citizens travel to Cuba as a tourist?

Technically, US citizens are NOT allowed to travel to Cuba as a tourist. Americans choose between 12 pre-approved reasons for Cuba travel, among which the most common one is “to help the Cuban people”.

American citizens still need to buy a tourist card, also called a tourist visa, to enter Cuba.

What are the 12 requirements to travel to Cuba?

You can read about the 12 pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba for US citizens here.

The easiest and most common reason for Cuba travel is “to help the Cuban people”. There is no paperwork or application process connected to this, you just choose your reason and state that reason if anyone asks.

What happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba?

Nothing happens if a US citizen travels to Cuba, apart from hopefully, the US citizen will have a fabulous holiday and encounter with Cuban culture.

US citizens need to choose one of the pre-approved reasons to travel to Cuba and need to buy the PINK Cuban tourist card, also called a tourist visa.

Selected airlines sell this visa/tourist card, or you can buy one online.

What documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

You need the following documents to travel to Cuba:

Do Americans need to be vaccinated to enter Cuba?

No, there is no requirement for specific vaccines prior to entering Cuba. Your country’s health department probably has recommendations for what vaccines you should consider before entering Cuba.

How Do I get a tourist card for Cuba?

You can buy a tourist card online from Easy Tourist Card, or from the Cuban embassy in your country.

You might also be able to buy a Cuban tourist card from your airline or at the airport prior to departure.

It is possible to buy a Cuban tourist card at Miami International Airport at the check-in counter with American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

How Do I Get A Tourist Visa For Cuba?

A tourist visa is the same as a tourist card for Cuba. You can buy it from the following places:

  • Buy one online from Easy Tourist Card
  • Buy one from your airline if they offer this
  • Buy one at the airport of departure if they offer this
  • Buy one from the Cuban Embassy in your country

Is Travel To Cuba Allowed Right Now?

Yes, Cuba travel is allowed right now. There are no COVID or health restraints from entering Cuba right now.

There are no political constraints from entering Cuba right now for most international travelers.

American citizens need to, in addition, choose one of the 12 pre-approved reasons for traveling to Cuba (Americans can not travel as “tourists”) and follow some simple guidelines for traveling in Cuba.

Wanna buy me a coffee to keep me writing? <3

Wrap-Up What Is The Currency In Cuba?

From one monetary system to another, although there are no longer two official currencies in Cuba, there is still one official and now several unofficial currencies to wrap your head around.

The different foreign currencies have slightly different values on the street of Cuba, “en las calles“, which is the term Cubans use for whatever goes on outside the private home!

My suggestion for your key takeaway is to bring cash in Euro or Canadian dollars and change them with a trusted person, bring as much money as you plan to spend. Cubans need foreign cash to shop in the Cuban MLC stores.

Pay in foreign currency when you can, a lot of vendors and service workers will prefer that.

And lastly, spend your money on private enterprises like paladares (privately owned restaurants) and empresas particulares (private businesses)!

Related blog posts:

Is There Wifi In Cuba? | All About Internet In Cuba!

Can Americans Travel To Cuba? How To Travel From US Hassle-Free!

What Are Casa Particulares In Cuba? Are they legal? (Yes!) How To Find & Book The Best Ones!

My Resource Go-To List For Best Travel Booking Deals!

Best Airfare bookings: Skyscanner, Wayaway

Best tour companies: Civitatis (for Cuba), Viator

Best Hotel Bookings: Booking, Expedia

Travel Insurance: IMG Medical Travel Insurance

VPN Secure Internet: ExpressVPN

Cuba Visa Online: Easy Tourist Card

Car Rentals Online: Discover Cars

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One Comment

  1. Nice… A lot of questions answered here. Sufficient cash/euros is definitely of the essence. One of my colleagues was planning a backpacking trip through the country, but he didn’t bring any cash, and had a very hard time… Ended up leaving for home earlier than planned.

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