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