He money in Cuba It is one of the most disconcerting aspects of the country for tourists. The island used a dual currency system from 1994 to 2021. Currently, the only physical currency is the CUP (Cuban peso) but there is also a virtual currency called MLC (convertible free currency). It may seem like a huge hassle, and it really is! But Don’t be overwhelmed by money management in Cuba, once there it becomes much easier than it seems 😉 We tell you everything you need to know about money in Cuba: the difference between CUP and MLC, what currencies should be brought to the country, where to exchange money, where you can pay with a card and many more tips.

Contents of this article


1. Double currency in Cuba: a thing of the past?

Since January 2021, there is only one currency in Cuba: the CUP or Cuban peso. The dual currency system was put to an end after more than 20 years of use, which makes life much easier for visitors because it saves us confusion using different types of banknotes. But after the withdrawal of the old CUC, the Cuban government invented a virtual currency (MLC) comparable to various foreign currencies. We tell you the value of the Cuban peso and the MLC. As you will see, On the island there continues to be a double monetary system that harms those Cubans without access to foreign currencies.

1.1. CUP: how much is the Cuban peso worth?

The value of the Cuban peso depends on the value of the US dollar. And it is that 1USD equivale a 120CUP. The value with other currencies fluctuates and you can check it on the website of the Central Bank of Cuba (look at the column “TC population”). To give you a reference, at the beginning of 2024, 1EUR = 132CUP.

In some places you will see that 1 US dollar is 24 CUP, but that is an old-fashioned exchange rate. Since August 2022, the Central Bank of Cuba has improved the exchange rate fivefold due to the need to obtain foreign currencies, which are the truly valuable ones.. In this way, they try to fill their coffers to be able to pay for the food, medicines and other provisions that they import from other countries. It is also a measure to combat the black market for currency exchange, which offered more than 100 pesos for every euro while the state only gave around 26.

In practice, The CUP is useless outside Cuba and has little value on the island. For this reason, people who are dedicated to tourism prefer to accept payments in euros. But We recommend you have CUP to make day-to-day payments: restaurants, buses or buses within cities, street food stalls, ice cream parlors or basic stores that only accept pesos.

1.2. MLC, the virtual currency equivalent to foreign currencies

The freely convertible currency (MLC) is a virtual currency equivalent to 1 USD. Paradoxically, dollars in cash are not accepted on the island. Therefore, in practice 1MLC = 1 EUR. There are also equivalences with the following international currencies: pounds sterling, Canadian dollars, Swiss francs, Japanese yen and Mexican pesos.

There are no MLC coins or notes. At establishments where MLC is accepted, tourists can pay in cash with euros or with foreign credit or debit cards (as long as they are not from a US bank)..

Cubans who want to use this virtual currency must obtain a wallet card that they load with the accepted foreign currencies plus a commission that the government keeps (a big hassle!). Definitely, The MLC was invented so that Cubans could pay in the most “exclusive” stores that only accept this currency. Don’t think that they sell luxury items, quite the opposite. They sell food and basic necessities but they are usually better supplied than stores where you can only pay in CUP.

It is a very sad way to divide citizens into two categories: those who have access to foreign currency and those who do not. Unfortunately, The shortage of essential products is a reality in Cuba and the inhabitants have to manage to get them.

The MLC has also become the main currency in private homes and most tourist services (except restaurants). It is a way for its owners to have foreign currencies to be able to recharge virtual cards and have access to stores that work with MLC.

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2. Is it better to take euros or dollars to Cuba?

If you travel from Europe, take euros directly. We recommend you have €5, €10 and €20 bills to pay for everyday expenses in places where MLC is accepted. In many establishments they do not have change for large bills.

In case you travel from any American country, where the use of the dollar is more common, things get complicated. Since August 2022, state exchange offices accept dollars in cash or US credit cards to obtain Cuban pesos. Your dollars in cash will be of no use to you except to get CUP. As we have been saying, the CUP is very devalued and the use of the MLC is spreading in places focused on tourism. Therefore, It is advisable that you get euros in cash before arriving in Cuba to pay in places where they operate with MLC.

3. Where to change money in Cuba

3.1. CADECA, the best place to change money in Cuba

The best place to change money in Cuba is CADECA. They are the official exchange houses and are located in practical places for tourists. There are CADECAs in airports, the busiest areas of cities and even some hotels. You can see all the exact locations on their website. We also recommend downloading the map of Cuba in the maps.me app, there you can search for addresses even without an internet connection.

In the CADECA You can exchange money in cash or with a debit/credit card. In any case, Always check that the receipt and the money they give you match before leaving the window. On one occasion, they gave us less pesos than we should have. We hope it is not a common practice, but we warn you just in case 🙂

The exchange rate in all CADECAs is the same. Therefore, the most practical thing is to change at the airport. That way when you get to the city you won’t have to worry anymore. The line is likely to be long, especially if you arrive at night like us, when only one window is open. Remember that it is essential to present your passport at all CADECAs for any transaction.

Our route through Cuba in 15 days

Waiting to exchange currency at Havana airport

3.2. Black market to change money in Cuba

With the introduction of the MLC, Cubans want to get their hands on foreign currencies by any means possible. Therefore, it is likely that they will offer you CUP in exchange for your euros in many restaurants, exchange offices or simply on the street. The exchange rate is usually a little better than in the CADECAs and it is a good way to help the locals. Of course, we recommend having a minimum of trust in the person to exchange money. For example, you can offer it to the owners of your private home or a taxi driver with whom you have talked for a while.

3.3. Banco Metropolitano and BFI

An alternative to CADECA are these two Cuban banks. The exchange rate is somewhat worse, since each bank’s own commissions apply. But they can help if you need money urgently.

3.4. Hotels

Most hotels have a currency exchange office, a practical option for travelers who want to exchange money in Cuba. Some operate with the same official exchange rates as at CADECA, but others apply their own surcharges. Keep that in mind.

Where to stay in Cuba: hotels or private homes?

4. Can you pay by card in Cuba?

Most payments in Cuba are made in cash. You can only pay by card in hotels, some restaurants and stores that accept MLC. Just keep in mind that Cards issued by US banks do not work in Cuba (only in CADECA to obtain CUP).

Yes indeed, Most banks apply a commission of between 3% and 5% on the exchange rate. We recommend the Revolut cardto travel around the world without hidden fees and with great exchange rates. But unfortunately, Revolut does not work in Cuba. Therefore, there is no choice but to settle for Visa or Mastercard cards from traditional banks.

5. Don’t change too many CUPs

It is difficult to calculate exactly how much money to exchange at the beginning of the trip. If you have leftover CUP at the end of your adventure in Cuba, run to change them before you get to the airport! The CADECAs at international airports do not exchange CUP in exchange for foreign currencies.

The CADECAs in the cities accept CUP back up to a maximum of €100. Keep in mind that many exchange offices only have €20 and €50 bills. Therefore, they will not be able to exchange all of the excess pesos for you. We had to keep little coins and some small CUP bills.

6. We do not recommend withdrawing money in Cuba

There are ATMs to withdraw CUP with your card from any non-US bank. But we do not recommend using them at all. First of all, The exchange rate applied at ATMs is 1USD=24CUP. It’s an old equivalence, remember that The official exchange rate is 1USD=120CUP. At ATMs it is much worse because there is no physical foreign money involved and Cuban banks have no incentive to offer you beneficial change.

You should also keep in mind that there are frequent power outages in various areas of Cuba that can leave ATMs without service. Additionally, many ATMs have a withdrawal limit or simply do not have money available. In addition, an extra commission is likely to apply.

It is good to have an ATM located where you can withdraw money in case of emergency. But It is much better to have euros in cashsince you can always use them as MLC or they will want to exchange them for CUP at a much better exchange rate than at an ATM.

Source: https://lostraveleros.com/dinero-en-cuba/

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