Bienvenidos a Cuba! A land of enchanting beauty, vivid colors, lively music, and a rich cultural heritage. Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, Cuba tells a captivating story that extends far beyond its signature mojitos and classic vintage cars.
However, a trip to Cuba isn’t just about stepping back in time or savoring local cigars. There’s a whole economic landscape for travelers to navigate, especially regarding currency and budgeting. Ready to find out more? Let’s start unraveling the monetary mysteries of Cuba!
Understanding the Currency: The Cuban Peso
The only official currency of Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP). It’s been this way since the 1st of January, 2021 when the government abolished the Convertible Peso (CUC), thereby doing away with the dual currency system that was previously in place.
The most critical thing to remember is that the Cuban Peso (CUP) is not available outside Cuba and can only be purchased in the country. It’s impossible to exchange it outside of Cuba.
Given the nature of Cuba’s financial infrastructure, it’s crucial to note that cash is king in Cuba. Whether you’re dealing in local CUP or foreign currencies like USD, EURO, or GBP, cash is your safest bet.
Choosing Your Currency
What currency should you bring to Cuba? As of April 10th, 2023, the Cuban government changed the laws regarding the USD. The result? The USD is now equal to the EURO in terms of its exchange rate in Cuba. So whether you bring USD or EURO with you, don’t worry – they’ll both work. GBP also works but might be a tad less easy to exchange.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is to ensure your notes are either new or at least in very good condition. Worn notes may not be accepted.
Unfortunately, as of now, we don’t recommend bringing Canadian Dollars (CAD) due to difficulties in exchanging them in Cuba and less favorable exchange rates.
Exchanging Money in Cuba
Where should you exchange your currency? The official currency exchange office in Cuba is called CADECA. However, we recommend that you wait until you meet your guide or accommodation host, as they will likely know the best places to exchange your currency.
It’s also crucial to remember that exchange rates can vary depending on where you are traveling in Cuba, so be sure to plan accordingly!
Credit and Debit Cards in Cuba
Yes, most credit cards, apart from those issued by US banks, will work in Cuba. However, only VISA, Mastercard, and American International Service (AIS) cards are accepted. It’s always a good idea to double-check with your bank to ensure your card will function in Cuba.
Currently, we advise against using debit cards, as they do not work in Cuba.
It’s important to remember that if you’re relying on a credit card, the rate of exchange that you will receive from a bank or ATM withdrawal may not be as good as the unofficial street exchange rate.
Understanding the MLC Card
Another recent addition to the Cuban monetary system is the MLC card (Moneda Libremente Convertible), which is Cuba’s official digital currency equivalent to the current value of the USD. The MLC card can be obtained at the CADECA at Jose Marti Airport and used in businesses such as cigar and rum shops, some optional activities, and even some evening shows.
But do you need an MLC card? You won’t need one if your credit card works in Cuba. The MLC card can only be purchased with certain currencies, excluding the USD. However, please note that refunds are not possible for any remaining balance left on your MLC card.
Cryptocurrency in Cuba
While cryptocurrency is not widely accepted in Cuba yet, there’s a growing trend of businesses, such as restaurants or casas particulares, accepting cryptocurrencies like USDT and BUSD. However, we suggest not relying on it as a form of payment and always having cash as a backup.
Tipping in Cuba
Tipping is common in Cuba and is a great way to help local Cubans supplement their incomes. As a rough guide, consider tipping €1 per person per day for drivers, €3 – €8 per person per day for your guide, and about 15% for your waitstaff.
We hope this guide helps you navigate through the monetary system of Cuba and makes your travel experience more enjoyable. Remember, the economic situation in Cuba is fragile, and payment methods and exchange rates can change frequently. So, always keep a close eye on the most recent information before your trip. Happy travels!
Budget to travel to Cuba
Flights to Cuba
The first step in planning your trip to Cuba is booking your flight. If you book in advance, you can find round trip tickets for less than €600.
Visa for Cuba
To travel to Cuba, you’ll need to obtain a visa. The process is simple and requires providing your personal information and paying a fee of €22. You can apply for the visa online and have it delivered to your home, or you can visit the Cuban Embassy or Consulate in person. If you have a layover in the US, be aware that the visa you obtained is not valid for travel from there, and you’ll need to apply for a special visa, which can be more expensive.
Travel Insurance for Cuba
Travel insurance is an essential requirement for visiting Cuba as a tourist. We recommend getting travel insurance that provides medical coverage and 24/7 assistance for any unforeseen events during your trip.
Accommodations in Cuba
When it comes to accommodations in Cuba, there are two main options: private houses and hotels. Private houses, known as casas particulares, are homes owned by Cubans who rent out rooms to tourists. These can be a great option, with prices starting at around €15 per night for a room with private bathroom. You can find casas particulares throughout the country, and booking in advance through Airbnb is recommended.
Hotels in Cuba are limited, and they tend to be quite expensive. Even basic hotels can cost over €100 per night. However, if you’re visiting certain areas like the keys, hotels may be your only option. We recommend staying in casas particulares whenever possible, as they offer a more affordable and authentic experience.
Transportation in Cuba
The most common way to get around Cuba is by using public buses operated by Viazul. The fares are reasonable, with tickets costing around €9 for routes like Havana to Varadero or €18 for Cayo Santa María to Trinidad. It’s a good idea to book your bus tickets in advance to ensure that you have a seat.
If you need to travel to destinations not covered by Viazul or prefer private transfers, you can arrange them through your casa particular. Private transfers between cities can be easily arranged, and you may even be able to share the expenses with other travelers.
Renting a car in Cuba is also an option, but we don’t recommend it. The roads are not in the best condition, and renting a car can be expensive, costing around €100 per day including mandatory insurance. It’s often more convenient and cost-effective to rely on buses and private transfers for transportation.
Tourist Activities and Food in Cuba
The good news is that most of the attractions in Cuba are free. Exploring the streets of Havana, relaxing on the beaches, and visiting many museums and historic sites won’t cost you anything. The only major expense in terms of activities is taking a ride in a classic car, which can cost around €30 per hour.
When it comes to food, eating in Cuba is affordable. Cuban restaurants offer dishes for around €5, while European or upscale restaurants may be more expensive. We spent an average of €15 per person per day on food, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel to Cuba ?
With all of these expenses considered, here’s a breakdown of how much it costs to travel to Cuba for a 15-day trip for two people:
- Flights: €1,000
- Visas: €53
- Accommodations: €700
- Transportation: €184
- Food: €330
- Activities: €40
This adds up to a total cost of around €2,307. Keep in mind that this is just an estimate and can vary depending on your travel preferences and the specific accommodations and activities you choose. It’s always a good idea to have some extra cash on hand for unexpected expenses.
Traveling to Cuba is an incredible experience, and with careful planning and budgeting, it can be an affordable one too. Don’t let the misconceptions about high costs deter you from exploring this vibrant and captivating country. Start saving and planning your trip to Cuba today!