The official currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP), and it’s the currency you will use the most while on the island.

But, as a traveler, using CUPs and money in general is not straightforward.

The Cuban currency system may be difficult to deal with because Cuba’s monetary policy changes so often, and the exchange rates are wildly volatile. In fact, we have updated this article more than a hundred times over eight years!

But don’t panic; we will cover absolutely everything you need to know about using money in Cuba.

NOTE: The monetary policy in Cuba changes almost every year (don’t blame us!). We will always keep this article up to date, but some updates may be posted up to a week after a sweeping change in monetary policy. Likewise, some comments, including our responses, may no longer be accurate at the time you read them.
In this article…

    The Cuban Peso (CUP) is The National Currency

    Cuban Pesos

    The Cuban Peso (“Peso Cubano”, “moneda nacional” or simply “MN”) remained the only official Cuban currency after the elimination of the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) in 2021

    Cuban Pesos are available in bills of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000. You can also find coins in denominations of 1, 3, and 5 pesos, as well as 5 and 20-cent coins.

    What Should You Pay For in Cuban Pesos?

    As a traveler, you will cover most of your trip to Cuba costs in Cuban Pesos, including:

    • Food and drinks.
    • Local transportation (e.g., the Viazul bus).
    • Entertainment.
    • Internet and Wi-Fi.
    • Tours and travel services by state-owned companies.
    • Shopping at state-owned stores.

    Because of the current inflation crisis in Cuba, expect to carry a ton of cash. Although Cuba is generally safe, pickpocketing is common in large cities. Thus, a travel money belt may be handy to protect your money and small valuables while walking the streets of Cuba.

    What Can You Pay For in Your Home Currency?

    You must pay for certain transactions in foreign currency. For example:

    • All-inclusive hotels and some resorts won’t accept cash in Cuban Pesos. For example, non-covered services or products in all-inclusive resorts are charged in Cuban Pesos, but you can only pay with a credit card! When paying with a credit card, they will exchange your home currency for Cuban Pesos at the official exchange rate.
    • When renting a car, you must pay in foreign currency at car rental offices in Cuba, and you can’t use cash!
    • You must use your home currency at the airport past the security checkpoint.

    You can also use foreign currency in these scenarios:

    • When tipping in Cuba, but remember that the people you tip will later need to exchange the foreign currency for Cuban Pesos.
    • Because the informal exchange rate has nearly quadrupled the official exchange rate, some private facilities, such as “hostales” (private rooms or Cuban Airbnbs) and “paladares” (private restaurants), will welcome your Euros, Pounds, or even US dollars.

    Can You Use the US Dollar in Cuba?

    US Dollars and Cuban Pesos

    You can bring US dollars to Cuba and exchange them for Cuban Pesos at CADECA or in the informal market. However, you cannot use US dollars in Cuba at any government-owned facility. You can’t use credit or debit cards issued by US banks either.

    The value of the Cuban Peso against the USD depends on to whom you sell your US dollars (more on this below). In March 2024:

    • 1 USD is worth about 120 CUPs if you sell it to CADECA.
    • 1 USD is worth more than 320 CUP if you sell it in the informal market.

    What is the Best Currency to Bring to Cuba?

    The Euro is the best currency to bring to Cuba if you plan to use it. It’s convenient, widely accepted on the island, and subject to the lowest bank fee (2%) when exchanging them.

    You can also bring US dollars and sell them in the informal market. Just consider two things:

    • You cannot use US dollars to buy products or services from state-owned facilities on the island.
    • You will incur an 8% bank fee when selling your USDs to CADECA, which is higher than the standard 2% for other foreign currencies.

    Other foreign currencies accepted in Cuba are:

    • Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is convenient for the many Canadians traveling to Cuba every year.
    • Swiss Franc (CHF)
    • Euro (EUR)
    • Pound Sterling (GBP)
    • Japanese Yen (JPY)
    • Mexican Peso (MXN)

    The Cuban Currency Exchange Rate

    There are two types of exchange rates in Cuba.

    The Official Exchange Rate


    The official exchange rate for the Cuban currency is imposed by the Banco Central de Cuba. The best place to check the current exchange rates is CADECA’s website.

    Casas de Cambio (CADECA) is the government’s currency exchange house. Their offices are in many airports, hotels, cruise ports, banks, and shopping centers.

    Please remember that you can’t buy Cuban Pesos in your home country. Even if you manage to do it, you can only import up to 5,000 CUP, according to a recent resolution from the Aduana General de la República de Cuba (customs).

    CADECA is the safest place to sell your home currency, although you will get more Cuban Pesos for your money in the informal market.

    The Informal Exchange Rate

    Due to the recent spike of Cuban migrants, the price of foreign currencies in the black market reached more than two times the official exchange rate.

    El Toque has been tracking the evolution of the unofficial exchange rates for some time now, and it does not seem that the upward trend is going to end anytime soon:

    You can sell your home currency in the informal market through your hosts and friends.

    If you trust them, ask them to sell your home currency for you in the informal market. This can even help you if you travel to Cuba from the US because you will directly strengthen civil society in Cuba, a requirement of the Support for the Cuban People license.

    You can also sell your money to street vendors, but the risk of being scammed is higher.

    Using Credit Cards in Cuba


    You can use credit cards in Cuba as long as they are not issued by a US bank or a subsidiary of a US bank.

    However, one of the most important travel tips for Cuba you must know is that Cuba is primarily a cash country. That’s because the credit card processing infrastructure on the island is quite poor.

    For example, ATMs are scarce, expensive, and unreliable.

    So, plan on paying for most of your expenses with hard currency!

    Prepaid MLC Cards for Travelers

    On June 15, 2021, the Cuban Government launched prepaid MLC cards exclusively available to foreign visitors. BANDEC (a Cuban bank) issues these cards, and you can use them to pay for goods and services at facilities that accept “Moneda Libremente Convertible” (MLC).

    The MLC is a digital currency that Cuban residents can use at “dollar stores” (“tiendas MLC”). Theoretically, you can use a prepaid MLC card at retail stores, car rental offices, some hotels, and state-operated restaurants. But the card is a little complicated and probably not worth it.

    Here is what you should know about using prepaid MLC cards in Cuba:

    • You can only pay in MLC, and they are valid for two years.
    • You can buy prepaid cards in CADECA and BANDEC offices. You will need your passport to acquire a prepaid card.
    • There is a 5 USD processing fee, and you cannot pay it in USD (lol).
    • To make things even more complicated, the prepaid cards are printed with denominations in US dollars (!) of 200 USD, 500 USD, and 1,000 USD.
    • You can reload the prepaid cards any time you need.
    • You can’t load the card from any other country.
    • The card won’t display your name on it.
    • You will need to set up a PIN.
    • You cannot transfer money to prepaid cards from other cards or bank accounts.
    • You can withdraw money, but only in CUP.
    • The bank won’t replace your card if you lose it.
    • If you have leftover money at the end of your trip, CADECA will refund the money in Cuban Pesos.

    Learn more about prepaid MLC cards in Cuba in the list of FAQs from the Government’s tourist portal.

    Key Takeaways

    As you can see, Cuba’s currency system is as unique as the island itself.

    While this can catch a visitor off guard if they don’t know what to expect, the currency system is much easier to navigate if you know a few key pieces of information:

    • You must use CUPs for most of your expenses in Cuba.
    • You can use your home currency only when paying for a rental car, tipping, and past the airport security checkpoint.
    • Bring US dollars or Euros and sell them in the informal market. You will get twice what you would have gotten in CADECA.
    • Keep in mind that US dollars are not accepted at any state-owned facility.
    • You can use non-US credit cards and ATMs in Cuba, but the infrastructure is scattered and old.
    • Although you can get a prepaid MLC card, it’s unlikely that you will really need it. MLCs are mostly reserved for Cuban residents.
    • Exchange your leftover Cuban Pesos before going to the airport. It will be hard to sell them once you are there, and you can’t use them past the security checkpoint.

    So, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!

    Essential Travel Logistics For Cuba

    Cuban Tourist Card – If your Cuban Tourist Card (a.k.a Cuban Tourist Visa) isn’t bundled into your airline ticket or travel package, buy it only through EasyTouristCard

    Travel Health Insurance – Travel medical insurance is an entry requirement for Cuba, so you can’t skip it. Travelers can get travel health insurance for Cuba via Insubuy. Travel protection benefits such as trip interruption and cancellation, baggage delay insurance, etc., are not required.

    Essential Items to Pack – Bring the essential travel necessities that you may not be able to get in Cuba:

    Read our complete packing list for Cuba.

    Find Accommodations – Find hotels or casas particulares (private accommodations) on Skyscanner, which lists thousands of accommodations available in Cuba.

    Book Your Flight – Book cheap flights to Cuba on Skyscanner, our favorite flight search engine to find deals on flights to Cuba.

    About the Author

    Tour Republic

    Tour Republic is a marketplace where you can discover, book, and review the very best experiences Cuba has to offer. We are a team of tourism professionals and journalists who have partnered with Cuban entrepreneurs to provide travel experiences that can transform your trip into a life-changing adventure. We also share our profound love for Cuba through in-depth travel guides, myth-busting articles, and captivating narratives. Whether you want to explore Cuba's wonders or understand its intricacies, our blog posts are your gateway to the heart of this extraordinary country.

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