Money, banks, exchange in Cuba - The Traveller


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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Money, banks, exchange in Cuba

Since late 2004, there are two currencies circulating in Cuba: the Cuban peso (the Moneda Nacional) and Convertible Cuban peso (CUC). After being banned until 1993, and then worshiped as the golden calf for 11 years, the U.S. dollar is no longer a new currency with which to pay in Cuba. It is heavily taxed by the change. Therefore arrive on the island with euros, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs ... but certainly not with U.S. dollars. The exchange is done in arriving at the airport against convertible pesos.

- The Cuban peso: Spring 2011, 1 CUC is roughly equivalent to 24 pesos cubanos.
This currency only affects Cubans, who use it to buy food at the market, pay for housing the State ... The rest (restaurant for tourists, fuel, hotels ...) is paid in convertible pesos, CUC, whether you are Cuban or foreign. Beware of the "$" symbol displayed in the street is often the same for pesos cubanos that for convertible pesos. If you want to shop or eat in a restaurant only accepts pesos cubanos (or Moneda Nacional), you simply change your CUC in a bank or CADECA. However, in the opposite direction (to change your pesos cubanos in CUC), only CADECA perform the operation.

- The convertible peso or CUC pegged to the U.S. dollar in 2011. For a tourist, everything is for sale in CUC (popular nickname: chavito). This is the only currency you use.
Mid-2011, € 1 is worth about 1 CUC 1.25 CUC and will change more or less than 0.80 €.
The UCC only course in Cuban territory. Moreover, it is worth less than peanuts.

- IMPORTANT: when we speak of pesos, it is of Cuban pesos (Moneda Nacional), we specify otherwise convertible pesos (CUC).

- And the euro? It is accepted for current expenses in hotels of Varadero and in all major tourist areas. It is much more advantageous to change the euro against convertible pesos, as the rate applied for payment in euros is still very unfavorable.

Banks and exchange offices

We change the euro in the big banks generally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 15h, or exchange houses CADECA, which have the advantage of close later to be open on Saturdays and sometimes on Sunday morning. In addition, there is generally less in the tail CADECA.
No exchange takes place in committee, and the rates are similar regardless of where you change. It is always possible to change in large hotels, but here, however, sometimes the rates are tightening. Readers have reported a small entourloupe CADECA in some offices in Havana.

Travelers checks

Careful readers will take travelers checks in euros (not dollars, it is repeated!). But the commission is 3 to 5%. Moreover, very few merchants accept travelers, except for some major hotels.

They exchange against cash in banks and in some offices CADECA.

Payment cards

Visa International and MasterCard are accepted provided they were not issued by a U.S. bank. Similarly, American maps are banned, including American Express. Cuba is not a cheap tourist destination, it becomes difficult to travel without a credit card.

- Attention to all credit card, as one passes by the U.S. dollar, we add about 5% to your bill.


Compared to other Latin American countries, Cuba is a country that can be a bit expensive for tourists, especially for those traveling individually. Sometimes accompanied by Cuban tourists pay for their consumption more expensive than their friends. Feel free to challenge abuses (a phone bill overvalued in a hotel, a cheap beer, etc..). In Spanish, the message is getting better.
The cheapest solution is to sleep and eat with a host, in casa particular. Prices for hotels or restaurants of State are almost comparable to those in Europe. Renting a car, it is more expensive.

Hotels and casas

Prices are based on double occupancy.
- Cheap: about 20 CUC (16 €). Only casas particulares.
- Moderate prices: 20 to 40 CUC (about 16-32 €). Few hotels in this category, but most of the casas particulares are in this price range (around 25-35 CUC).
- Average Prices: 40 to 70 CUC (about 32-56 €).
- Chic: 70 to 110 CUC (about 56-88 €).
- Very smart: 110 to 160 CUC (about 88-128 €).

Eating and palarades

- Very cheap: less than 6 CUC (4.80 €). For a meal in a restaurant payable in pesos (national currency) or a fried chicken in a RĂ¡pido (cafeteria) ...
- Cheap: 6 to 10 CUC (about € 4.80 to 8). Average prices of most paladares.
- Average Prices: 10 to 15 CUC (about) € 8-12). Prices paladares "luxury" of Havana or most restaurants of State.
- More chic: more than 15 CUC (about 12 €).

Tipping and bargaining

- Tipping is a fairly common practice. If you leave nothing, you will note ironically!
Often expected of you while 1 CUC reasonable gratuity should be limited to half. Arrange to always have small change on you.

A bad habit that began to spread: the servers that fit their own tips by not making money or scribbling a generous 10% extra on the bill.

- Cuba is not really the country bargaining. However, some blatantly inflate prices. In this case, do not hesitate to haggle. But remember that taxes are very high, running a casa particular is tricky.

Crafts, shopping

While Cuban cigars and rum are widely accepted, it can not be said of local crafts. Cuba does not have a tradition of craftsmanship, even if the arrival of tourists has changed the situation. You can always fall back on a straw hat, a guayabera - the famous traditional Cuban shirt in cotton - or religious figures of Santeria, the religion popular in Cuba ...

In tourist cities are emerging markets that sell craft production, although not very typical, but more and more varied objects made yarey (palm leaves) or coconut fiber, seed necklaces and shells, pearl bracelets, dominoes, mobile, ceramics ...

Attention black coral is an endangered species found on sale everywhere in the form of jewelry, charms or earrings. Do not be complicit in this exploitation.

Passage of cigars customs

- At the Cuban customs: you can leave the country that up to 50 cigars without a receipt. However, you can buy and leave the country with the number of boxes you want true. Customs you will claim the bill (and copy to hand).

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