Trip to Cuba: Money

Cuban money can be confusing especially for Americans since American credit and debit cards are not accepted at the very few ATM machines on the island.

When traveling to Cuba Americans have to carry a lot of cash.

Cuban money can only be exchanged in Cuba and U.S. dollars are charged an extra 10% surcharge to exchange.

Pounds and Euros.

So we took with us on our recent trip to Cuba both Euros and British pounds.

Terminal 2 viewed from the tarmac. Arrivals on the left; departures o the right.

Having traveled on Southwest Airlines we flew into Terminal 2.  Upon arrival, after going through immigration and customs, we walked next door to the departures area where the foreign currency exchange booth or CADECA was located. (Previous research told us there would not be a currency exchange booth in Terminal 2 but that was not true.  We used it upon arrival and departure.) We were given a receipt telling how many of each denomination would be in the pile of money.  We had been warned of being cheated on these transactions and so counted the money at the window. We had been shorted 10 CUC which was corrected by the teller without much persuasion.

Some currency exchanges have a sign like this one.

We exchanged only Euros for Cuban Convertible dollars or CUC.  For about 800 Euros we received about 1000 CUC give or take which was more than sufficient for a 5-day stay since our accommodations had already been paid for.

Three dollar bill — so strange but legitimate.

Cuba has $3 bills which at first took Charlie and me by surprise.  The phrase “phony as a $3 bill” came immediately to mind but it was perfectly legitimate.

CUPs on the left; CUCs on the right.

There is a second type of paper money in Cuba called a CUP which is worth about 1/24th of a CUC; one bill is worth a little more than 4 cents. The way to quickly tell a CUC from a CUP is that CUCs have monuments on them and CUPs have people’s faces.

Breakfast at a casa particulare was 5 CUC per person.

When Charlie went out to buy a morning coffee at a ventanilla it cost him a nickel or 1 CUP which he had been given by one of our hosts. Coffee in a restaurant was usually between 1 and 1.5 CUCs.

This CADECA was never open during the 5 hours we spent in the departure area. We used the one prior to immigration when leaving.

We exchanged our left over Cuban money, CUCs only, again at the CADECA in Terminal 2 at departure. This time we asked for British pounds since we have a future trip planned there. Unfortunately our only choices were Euros and American dollars; we took the Euros.

Charlie spent his leftover money at the shops in the airport.

While I was in line waiting to exchange Cuban money an airport employee asked me if I wanted to exchange 100 CUC for $100 US — one to one — I agreed.

Does foreign exchange confuse you when you travel?

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Author: Jo

Welcome to The Glade, where the second generation of renovations has just begun and the mania about our home, music and other passions fill our days and nights. We’re Charlie and Jo in the music world; Mary Jo and Charles to family; and JoJo and Charlie to each other. We are renovating a midcentury house in a Victorian historic district where we want to live there the rest of our lives. It's a 1946 house located in Maryland. We were married in this house. Thus far (pre-blog) we refinished cabinets, added a window seat (still working on the cushion), rearranged a wall in the guest house due to sink/vanity replacement, planted a vegetable garden, and other quick and not-so-quick fixes. So this latest zeal for construction is the result of my having lived here since 1997 and feeling a need to ready the house for the next chapter and beyond.

5 thoughts on “Trip to Cuba: Money”

  1. I would be confused if I had to exchange twice–US to EU then to CUC, to be sure I wasn’t getting ripped off. They must make a lot of money shortchanging people! I take it the CUC-to-US exchange at the end was under the counter?

    1. The CUC to US exchange was between me and someone I thought was trying to fix my hair or do my nails. When I finally figured out what was going on I wasn’t too discreet but discreet enough for her friend to hold out a ten spot. Jo

    1. If you have any additional questions let me know. There are some things I wish I would have known before going that were not covered or clearly out-of-date on the internet. Jo

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