Insider Tips to Exchanging Cuban Currency
In my Cuba 101 post, I gave a crash course on Cuban currency. We have two. Yes two. Go ahead and take it. It will take you 2 minutes to read.
Currency is a tricky thing in Cuba and as many of your know (or some that don’t), your credit card wont work here. I don’t care if you are Canadian, European or Asian. Credit card machines aren’t very common. Your ATM card will work (not for Americans) but you’ll be standing in line at a cadeca (bank) in Havana forever to get some money.
You need cash… and, lots of it. Most guides will say if you have USD to change to Euros. And then do some sort of mini forex (currency) market exchange all in your head.
You will loose more time and/or money if you do change from USD to EURO to CUC back to EURO to USD.
And its confusing… also, its not common sense.
Here are two ways to exchange currency to maximize your vacation money. Keep in mind, this is mainly for those using USD as any other currency is easily exchangeable (again, if you’re willing to wait in line if outside the airport).
Exchange with fellow foreigners at the airport
This seems the most common- sense to me and a tip I never see from fellow bloggers. It’s the way I always change to CUC and its honestly, pretty easy. Here’s how you do it: When you get to Havana, from arrivals go to departures (upstairs… there is an escalator in the international terminal). You will see your fellow yuma’s (Cuban for foreigners) at the cadeca terminal. Go up to the line and ask, descreetly, how many CUC’s they have left over to exchange with you. Do this until you have enough (or all). Bam, 1:1, no loss, and EASY AF
Change in Havana on the Streets
I guarantee you any owner of a casa particular in Havana knows 1-1000 people who make money from exchanging with tourists. The exchange rate for most tourists I have asked is between 90-95 for every $100. This is MUCH better than the exchange rate at the cadeca that will hit you hard at $87 for every $100.
MARI TIP: Bring your cash is $100 as $100 will exchange easier and for more than $20s or any other denomination.
If you do decide to go through government banks/hotels to exchange your money, the same currency rate is applied everywhere at every cadeca.
Cuba- the only place where the CUC is valued considerably lower than the USD (in the free market) and the government will still give you less for it. ☺