Which Currency Should I Take on My Trip to Cuba?

HAVANA TIMESWould it be wiser to exchange US Dollars to another currency prior to traveling to Cuba or should I just exchange US Dollars to CUC (Convertible Cuban Pesos) when arriving in Havana?

Answer: It will be to your advantage to take Canadian dollars, Euros, or Swiss Francs instead of USD. Whether it is also advantageous or not to take Mexican pesos will depend on the exchange rate you get.

After the 10% penalty (surcharge) is subtracted and the commission (just under 3%), the USD is exchanged at a fraction over 0.87 cents CUC.

Here is the site for the latest exchange rates at the CADECA money exchange.

Taken from the official CADECA website on February 19, 2019

Tasa de cambio/Exchange rate

Fecha/Date: 19/02/2019

Las monedas EUR, GBP y USD se multiplican en la compra./The EUR, GBP and USD currencies multiply in the purchase.

En Casas de Cambio/In Exchange Houses:

Moneda/Compra/Venta/
CurrencyBuySell
CADCAD1.360931.28808
CHFCHF1.032640.97737
CUCCUC1.000001.00000
CUPCUP25.0000024.00000
EUREUR1.100141.16236
GBPGBP1.257201.32830
JPYJPY113.72683107.64031
MXNMXN19.7941418.73361
USDUSD0.972501.02750

En hoteles, puertos y aeropuertos/In hotels, ports and aiports:

Moneda/Compra/Venta/
CurrencyBuySell
CADCAD1.371501.27876
CHFCHF1.040670.97029
CUCCUC1.000001.00000
CUPCUP25.0000024.00000
EUREUR1.091661.17084
GBPGBP1.247501.33800
JPYJPY114.61187106.85930
MXNMXN19.9481318.59773
USDUSD0.965001.03500

Below is a list of currencies that can be officially exchanged in Cuba:

Country and acronyms

CAD – Canadian dollar
GBP – British Pound
MXN – Mexican Peso
CHF – Swiss Franc
EUR – Euro
DKK – Danish Krone
SEK – Swedish Krona
JPY – Japanese Yen
USD – US Dollar (a 10% tax is applied before the exchange)
CUC – Cuban Convertible Peso

Should I change my money at the airport?

Question: How do I ensure i don’t get cheated when changing money.

Answer: The exchange rate is slightly less at the airport, ports and hotels.  You can see the rates above.   These are the only places that give a different (lower) rate.  Therefore, to get the best rate stick to the Cadeca money exchange offices and avoid changing money at the hotel.  At the the airport Cadeca we recommend you exchange a small amount so you can take a taxi and get to where you are staying in the city.   Although the exchange rate difference from the airport Cadeca and ones in the city is less than 1%.  The difference is similar for Euro or other currencies.

39 thoughts on “Which Currency Should I Take on My Trip to Cuba?

  • March 13, 2018 at 9:02 am
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    This is a grossly misleading article that ignores two critical points.

    First, it appears that at least 95% of the US dollar to CUC exchanges occur in private exchanges at a 94-95 CUC for a US$100 bill. This eliminates the 10% tax on US dollars. There is significant private demand for US$100 bills in Cuba from Cubans who travel overseas to purchase merchandise to resell in Cuba for CUC or CUP. While the dollar – CUC market is technically illegal, that regulation is never enforced and the market is brisk. The author seems to think that the primary source of US currency in Cuba is from tourists. In reality it is some $3.5 Billion brought in the pockets of Cuban Americans returning to visit family or for investment.

    Second, the article completely ignores the transaction costs to exchange US dollars for Euros or Canadian. This is a minimum of 5% at major banks resulting in only a minor savings at best while subjecting the traveler to additional cost to exchange left over foreign currencies back into dollars. But if a traveler exchanges US dollars for any intermediate currency such as Euros or Canadian at a US airport foreign exchange kiosk, the transaction costs are so high that they will net less than the .87 CUC they would have gotten by simply exchanging dollars for CUC in a cadeca.

    Reply
    • March 13, 2018 at 11:55 am
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      Bob, We do not advise visitors, be them from any country including Cubans living abroad, to look for illegal money change opportunities to get a better rate on the US dollar. You are right, they exist but we cannot publicize or vouch for any private money changers. On the other point, people with the exchange information in Cuba and what it would cost to change their money into Euros or Canadian Dollars at home, can calculate the best way to go. It will very from country to country, bank to bank, and from the type of accounts different people have and the rates charged for currency exchanges. Lastly, most Cubans returning home to visit are well aware of their different options both legal and illegal.

      Reply
    • March 13, 2018 at 9:05 pm
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      Circles: OK if you want to be Puritanical and be in that small minority to use cadecas. BTW: I defy anyone to strictly obey all the Cuban regulations. We both know that is simply impossible. I certainly agree that a first time visitor to Cuba should not attempt to exchange $ for CUC in the street solo. However it is quite normal to ask a casa host to help arrange such.

      But the issue of the exchange cost from US dollars to an intermediate currency remains. That is the key variable that requires doing some simple math and makes any blanket statement grossly misleading.

      If someone buys Euros or Canadian at a US airport foreign exchange kiosk, then exchanges that intermediate currency for CUC in a cadeca, they will end up with the equivalent of 85 and a fraction CUC. That is less than if they would have simply exchanged US dollars for CUC in a cadeca at the .87 rate. That is because of the poor exchange rates (i.e. transaction costs) at the airport FX kiosk. I know as I frequently ask the rates at MIA, TPA, FLL, and MCO as I travel to Cuba every 6-8 weeks or so.

      Reply
      • July 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm
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        Oh, Bob! I hope we see you on an episode of “Locked Up Abroad!” Please let me know before your next trip… I’d like to give the Cubans a head’s up!

        Reply
      • January 20, 2019 at 7:14 pm
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        You hit the nail…I was thinking the same thing.. the savings aint really nothing to talk about might not even be a savings , unless you plan in changing a million dollars.

        Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 4:09 am
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      Bob not everyone is so determined to eek out the last cents from their money-changing transaction as you appear to be! Nor are all casa owners able or willing to facilitate unofficial exchanges. And it depends on where you travel also. Now Cubans can get hold of dollars ‘more easily’ than say 10 years ago, not everyone wants to do deals with unknown yumas. Not sure where you get your stats but leaving that aside, Cadacas, with their single rates, are way better for changing money than if you needed to change money in another foreign country where rates inevitably swing wildly between banks etc. Also if an American happens to have excess Euros, sterling or Canadian dollars it makes sense to change them in Cuba if rates are favourable.

      Reply
      • April 16, 2018 at 3:54 pm
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        Just admit your wrong

        Reply
  • March 13, 2018 at 12:14 pm
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    If you are going to Cuba from Canada, buy US dollars at your Canadian bank before leaving. Exchange the USD at the airport or hotel in Cuba for CUC, at the fixed exchange rate of 1 USD for 0.87 CUC. The Canadian dollar / CUC exchange rate is not fixed, so the rate varies daily. It will cost you more to use Cdn dollars for CUCs in Cuba than if you used USD, because the Cdn / CUC rate will be more expensive than the Cdn / USD rate in Canada. And, don’t buy more CUCs than you can use, because they are worthless outside of Cuba.

    Reply
    • March 13, 2018 at 3:08 pm
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      Not true. To get $100 US will cost you $130 CA. To change $100 US to CUC you will get 87 CUC. If you change $130 CA to CUC you will get about 101 CUC. So it better to take Canadian dollars if you live in Canada.

      Reply
      • March 13, 2018 at 8:27 pm
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        Are you honestly this financially incompetent to suggest buying Canadian with American to travel to Cuba? The airport in Havana shows a rate for Canadian dollars significantly less than that for the US dollar. When you calculate using that exchange rate, you come out much worse off. That does not include the exchange rate transaction costs, which make the deal even less favorable.
        If what you posit were correct, you could get rich exchanging US for Canadian and then converting it to CUCs, then back to US.
        The technical term for this process is arbitrage. I suggest you stick to talking about hotels and beaches, and leave money management to people more competent.

        Reply
        • March 14, 2018 at 12:33 am
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          My calculation was to explain that there is no point for Canadian to change money first to US dollars and after that to CUC. It is better for Canadian to take Canadian dollars and change them directly to CUC. Canadian loses money if they first change Canadian dollars to US dollars in Canada and change US dollars to CUC in Cuba. Please note $100 US is about $130. Willy Moron if you don’t agree my calculations on my previous comment please explain why you think I am wrong. Please remember Canadians need to pay $130 CA to get $100 US.

          Reply
          • September 16, 2018 at 7:55 am
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            you are absolutely correct! Makes no sense whatsoever.

      • March 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm
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        KAV: Today 13 March 2017 at Wells Fargo bank, US$100 will get you CDN$122.05. At a cadeca in Cuba that Canadian 122.05 will convert into 93.52 CUC, not your 101. Those are actual numbers for those specific banks. Maybe you are using the spot rate, not what a customer actually pays.

        Indisputably, if you live in Canada, you are always better taking Canadian dollars. That is a no brainer.

        Reply
        • March 14, 2018 at 1:06 pm
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          Bob Michaels: My first reply was to PLP who recommended Canadians to take US dollars to Cuba. If you change CAD to US$ it cost about 130 CAD for $100 US in Canada. 130 CAD is about 99.60 CUC.

          My second reply to Willy Moron was to make sure that I was talking about Canadians taking Canadian dollars to Cuba.

          Reply
        • May 25, 2018 at 1:24 am
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          This is the most accurate scenario as far as exchanging U.S. currency to CUC. I have done it this way for 6 of my visits to Cuba and I always yield anywhere between .938- .942 or so.
          Banks will charge the most for currency exchange. I go to a currency exchange place. Usually better rates. NEVER exchange $ at an AP kiosk. Unless you know someone that will exchange USD to CUC in Cuba where at most you will get .95, change to Canadian before arriving and in Cuba at a “Cadeca” Acronym for “Casas De Cambio” change to CUC.

          Reply
    • September 16, 2018 at 7:53 am
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      That’s not a good idea when our Canadian dollar is only worth about 75 USD.

      Reply
  • March 18, 2018 at 9:27 am
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    So, let me get this straight. As an American, it is better to exchange money, with my bank, into Canadian dollars and, then upon arrival into Cuba, to change the Canadian money into CUC’s?

    Reply
    • March 18, 2018 at 5:20 pm
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      Maybe: It all depends on the rate of exchange you get at your bank. Often American banks will charge up to 10% (the charges are not explicitly stated, but reflected in the rates you are given). You will pay about 3% at the cadecas in Cuba to change your currency to CUC. So check with your bank for its rates, and do the math. (Unless you are dealing with a Canadian bank, operating in America, you probably will not get a good enough rate to make it worthwhile.)

      Reply
      • March 19, 2018 at 7:29 am
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        The bank tells you outright what they will charge, so that’s not problematic. Since, Canadian dollars offer a higher rate of exchange than Euros, it is more beneficial to exchange dollars to Canadian dollars. But, the difference will be eaten up in fees, perhaps, when exchanging for CUCs. It is always something!

        Reply
  • March 19, 2018 at 7:33 am
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    Funny how hard it is to clarify the answers to a fairly simple question: which currency to bring to Cuba? Part of the problem is that answers are country-specific. If you’re a US traveler, here is my experience with 4 different ways: As a US traveler, I have bought Euros at my local US bank, then converted those to CUC at a Cuban bank; also converted some of those Euros on the street to CUC; converted US Dollars to CUC at a Cuban bank; and converted USD to CUC on the street. On the street we got 90 CUC per $100 once, and 93 CUC per $100 another time. Now, I realize that I could probably get 95 CUC per $100 if I wanted to spend the time hunting for better rates, but keep in mind that a difference of 2 CUC per $100 equals only $20 CUC per $1000 US! Personally, my time while visiting Cuba is always the most limited commodity–losing 20 CUC per $1000 is not a crisis, I’d rather spend that time enjoying Cuba. As soon as we felt we were spending too much time looking for exchange rates, we went to a bank, ate a little cost, and enjoyed our time again. Euros were more or less the same range of options, but the more imortant lesson there was that by the time my bank in the US took a cut of my Dollars-to-Euros exhange before I headed to Cuba, and then when I exchanged Euros to CUC, any appreciable savings by avoiding the 10% tax on US Dollars in Cuban banks was lost.

    Reply
    • January 20, 2019 at 7:24 pm
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      excellentt!!! thank youuu!

      Reply
  • March 21, 2018 at 5:26 am
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    We travel to Cuba from the UK a lot and never think about exchange rates. To busy enjoying this wonderful country. The exchange rate is what it is. Best to avoid Americans and Russians

    Reply
  • March 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm
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    I tried converting 1000 USD to CAD at an exchange place at the mall with a price match guarantee. I then converted the CAD to CUC and would up with 892 CUC at the SNU airport. The 22 CUC extra wasn’t worth the legwork.

    Reply
    • May 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm
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      Remember Mr. Anonymous that the 22 CUC you so lightly dismiss, is the average pay for a MONTH in Cuba. Quite a price for a little legwork!

      Reply
  • July 22, 2018 at 12:46 pm
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    As a frequent Cuba Visitor and Travel Guide, I really appreciate this discussion above. There are different opinions based on a variety of individual experiences. My specific advice for first-time American visitors is to bring newer USD $100 bills (Cubans generally do not like the old ones, because some have been counterfeit). Convert only one or two at a time if you are staying at a hotel. You will be able to use USD’s in a number of situations involving private restaurants, private galleries, artist street fairs, etc.. Except for highest-level government taxis, you can usually use USDs to pay for services. As an example, if a taxi driver quotes you a rate of “10 CUC’s” to take you to a specific spot, you can counter with “8 dollars.” This amount value is less than 8 CUCs, but quite likely to be accepted.
    If you are a repeat visitor or an experienced traveler who speaks conversational Spanish, and especially if you are staying at a BnB, speak privately with the owner or other individual. Be discreet. Being discreet while traveling around Cuba is essential. If caught, YOU won’t get locked up, but the Cuban involved could get fined. It is simply a matter of who receives the conversion commission—the Cuban Government, your pleasant & helpful BnB owner, or his sister-in-law next door. (I also view it as a political affirmation about where I want my conversion-donation to end up—with the government?–or with a private entrepreneur!) It’s definitely worth it for a local to take your new USD $100 bill, disappear for a few minutes, and return with $90-93 in CUCs. He will get his 2-3 CUC’s for a 5-minute transaction, you will get a better rate, and all will be well.
    I’ve tried converting at my local bank 100 USDs to Canadians and Euros, and I do not think it is worth it. Here is the issue–when you receive the conversion rate, it may seem like a reasonable deal, and your first math calculation may seem to make sense. However, most banks quietly add a separate fee or cost for the transaction. If you include this in your calculations, Then your original $100 is quickly re-valued to $95-97 USD’s before you even consider the official conversion rate–which your bank will emphasize, so that you think you are getting a great deal. I’ve met travelers who bragged about this scheme, as though they were suddenly international money traders! Do the math with ALL the figures!
    As I said at the beginning of this article–if it’s your first trip, bring newer USD $100 bills and convert only a few at a time at your hotel. (You should also bring about 30 USD $1 bills for tips, where you can leave for any occasion or venue.) The only CHANGE you should concern yourself about is the big change coming to Cuba very soon. Go soon–meet some wonderful locals, and HAVE FUN!

    Reply
    • January 20, 2019 at 3:55 am
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      OK so this is so far the best answer I found :) so to be clear.. best way is to bring newer 100$ bills and exchange at the airport in order to have cash for taxi airport etc.. or ask the local person to help you out. I will be travelling around Cuba for about 10 days, staying in casas booked via AirBnB.. no hotels. Any suggestions how much money should I take with me if I plan to visit Havana, Varadero, Trinidad, Baracoa and more? Can I use my credit card in cuba or would I be able to withdraw money?
      Thanks!

      Reply
      • February 23, 2019 at 7:24 am
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        If you haven’t already gone to Cuba, I would suggest you stay in one area. Considering you are only there for 10 days you will spend all your time on the bus or whatever mode of transportation you chose. Cross Baracoa off your list if you are landing around the Havana end. That being said we always go to Baracoa. Our first trips were to Veradero , Vinales, Havana, Trinidad and always in Casa Particulares. The island is bigger than you think, and in order to spend time with the Cubans you need to spend less time travelling from point A to point B, in my opinion. Also, we prepay on our credit card and use that at the banks to take out money. Plus, we take new Canadian dollars as we are Canadians, which we change at the bank to CUC’s

        Reply
        • May 11, 2019 at 2:21 am
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          Virginia, this thread is making my head spin. You seem experienced in this matter so I would like to ask some questions that might seem a bit silly. This is my first trip to Cuba and I will be entering from Canada. I’ve loaded Australian dollars onto my global travel card and can convert to CAN or US as needed. Obviously using CAN dollars will be the way to go for me but here is my silly question. Must I withdraw actual cash to take into Cuba with me before I leave Canada? Also, I’ve been told that I can use my Visa card although it might not be accepted everywhere.

          Reply
  • August 28, 2018 at 8:59 am
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    By far the best comment on this thread is … ‘I hope we see you on an episode of “Locked Up Abroad!” ‘!

    I think, in a nutshell, this is a great guiding principle, do you want to be locked up in a Cuban prison for your own stupidity? You’re adults, make your own decisions, but why not just follow the rules, get a little less on the exchange rate and enjoy your time in Cuba.

    Do your own math to see what is the most cost effective currency to bring with you.

    Just my opinion.

    Reply
    • January 5, 2019 at 11:58 am
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      Voice of Reason …..

      Reply
  • October 4, 2018 at 10:53 am
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    Very informative conversation, as I am preparing to visit for the first time, in a few days.
    I was going to exchange USD for EUR, and exchange the EUR for CUC in Cuba.
    Thanks to J,and James Lewis I think I will take Brand new $100 bills to exchange to CUC for my tour fees, and about $40 in USD for tips. I will be traveling by Cruise, and will be there from 10am to Midnight.
    Thanks for the advice.
    I definitely don’t want to be “Locked up Abroad”

    Reply
    • October 15, 2018 at 7:13 pm
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      I’m with you Douglas, will visit Cuba via Cruise in a few days. Thank you for your very clear and simple response.

      Reply
    • December 6, 2018 at 7:12 pm
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      I am heading to Cuba December 26. Now that you have been there what is your suggestion for money exchange bring USD or exchange them for Euros before leaving?

      Reply
  • October 28, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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    I am from Canada,and live in Cuba min six months a year. I rent a casa paticular then live among the real Cuban people, and shop the Cuban way. I travel with Canadian visa card and get my CUC or CUP at the bank in town. I believe its safer and easier. I have never had trouble doing this, plus my card makes “in store” purchases easier.
    If you take cash, I have been told that USA funds are not preferred, but Canadian funds are.

    Reply
  • January 5, 2019 at 8:09 pm
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    Living in Detroit, I can go across the river to Windsor, Ontario, and exchange USD for CAD. Today’s rate at Caesar’s Palace Windsor Casino shows that US$1,000 will get me $1,310 CAD. If I take $1,310 CAD to Cuba and exchange it for CUCs, according to today’s online published CADECA rate, I would get 956 CUCs, compared to 870 CUCs by exchanging US$1,000. But then you have to factor in bridge or tunnel tolls to and from Canada, the time involved in making the journey, and the cost of changing my leftover Canadian currency back to US currency when I return, and I wonder if it’s worth it. Plus, the last time I did this I was held up at U.S. customs upon returning to Detroit and asked why I traveled to Canada. When I responded that I was there to exchange currency for a people-to-people licensed trip to Cuba, a rather officious customs guy demanded to see my travel license (I was traveling under a general license and didn’t have a specific document) and he hassled me for ten minutes. I’ve decided on my next trip it’s not worth the tolls, the time, the cost of re-changing currency, and the potential nastiness of U.S. border agents. I’ll take my US dollars and exchange them at CADECA even though I’ll net less. And, after reading other posts, I will use CADECA to avoid potential scams that have been reported about exchanging money on the street. I do appreciate the suggestion of taking one-dollar bills to leave as tips. Last time, it was hard to get small CUC change or bills.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2019 at 2:42 am
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    Why can’t you just make the exchange in Detroit?

    Reply
  • January 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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    I tried three different banks in Detroit, but none had enough Canadian currency. And if they did, the exchange rate would not be as good as it is at the Windsor casino.

    Reply
  • February 6, 2019 at 9:37 pm
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    Here is what works for me as a Canadian Citizen visiting Cuba. I bring Canadian $50s and $100s for exchange into CUC. As I like to tip at each meal, I do so with US “singles” as the lowest bill denomination in Canadian currency is the $5 bill. Many “Canucks” tip with a “loonie” or “toonie” but the Cuban banks refuse coin from another currency – in Canada, Canadian banks will accept US coin but at par. So the first time I was in Cuba in 2015, I was accosted at the airport check-in at departure to buy Canadian coins from the various travel firm reps with “paper” bills (now polymer notes).

    Resort staff are happy to accept any foreign currency. My wife is fluent in Spanish and she asked them if it was okay to tip in US currency and they all said yes. They have their own ways of dealing with exchanges and rates. Many on the resort will even look to complete exchanges with guests too – I don’t, but it goes on.

    To my American friends I say this – take clean and crisp (large) US bills and exchange any which way you wish. Or look for a friendly Canadian and make a deal for Canadian currency. To exchange to Canadian and then to CUC and back is ridiculous as you are paying 2.5 – 3% on each transaction. Enjoy the island, the history, the music and the people – enjoy yourself, have a cigar & rum and be happy.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2019 at 3:01 pm
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    Just a note on Cadeca’s. I’ve been scammed there by unscrupulous cashiers. When changing money, in a busy Cadeca, ask for your receipt before the money is counted and make sure it shows the quantity of 20’s, 10’s, 5’s, 3’s etc. you are to get. I got scammed at the Santa Clara airport for 20 CUC and later in Trinidad for 3 CUC. I later realized that the cashier carefully ripped the receipt off the machine before the bill quantity was printed. He gave me a bunch of 10’s 5’s and 3’s and because I was in a hurry with I didn’t quite follow his counting. I now ask for the receipt first and make sure the bill quantity is printed and the I recount it myself.
    BTW changing your US currency at a bank for CAD or Euro’s will usually only incur a 2.5-3% fee, then there is another 3% fee at the Cadeca, so a 6% hit seems better than 13%

    Reply

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