The CUC (peso convertible) is not tradable on the international market, so it’s difficult to get information on exact exchange rates. However, there are some ways to get approximate rates on Internet:
- www.banco-metropolitano.com is the official website of the Banco Metropolitano S.A., which gives daily listings of the CUC against major foreign currencies. This would be the most accurate information available as it comes from within Cuba itself, and the exchange rate chart is updated daily. Look at the column marked “Compra” (“Purchase”), as this shows how much one CUC will cost. Only for the Euro and the pound sterling are the rates reversed, showing how many CUCs will be in each unit of foreign currency.
- www.xe.com is the website for The Universal Currency Converter, which, among other currencies, provides information on CUC conversions. You can also go directly to Full Universal Currency Converter for The Full Universal Currency Converter, which gives information on CUC conversions. NOTE: the rates given are sometimes lower than what one finds in Cuba, but they still give a good idea.
Only exchange money at official locations in Cuba, which are banks or the exchange booths called CADECA, located all over the country including at the José Marti International Airport and in most major hotels. Do not exchange money in the streets, as not only is it illegal, but sometimes counterfeit bills are given out.
At most CADECA’s, you can also exchange CUCs for moneda nacional or local pesos, which are handy for agricultural markets, peso restaurants, peso bakeries, peso bookstores, buses, movie theaters, etc. Given that pesos go a long way, you might want to exchange only CUC 5-10. For the past several years, the exchange rate has remained steady at 24 pesos per one CUC, but this could of course change in the future.
Sometimes visitors to Cuba get confused between the appearance of pesos convertibles and moneda nacional. Without exception, all paper denominations of pesos convertibles (the paper money) have the words “pesos convertibles” printed on the front of the bill. If it does not have these words, it is moneda nacional.
You will also note differences in the coins, with the peso convertibles coins always having the number indicated of what it’s worth. Sometimes at agricultural markets, Cubans or visitors will pay in pesos convertibles and get the equivalent change in moneda nacional or even pay in moneda nacional and get peso convertible coins as change. It can be confusing at first, but its part of Cuban life!
And if you’re wandering the streets of Cuba looking at the sights – especially outside of traditional tourist areas – and you happen to go into a restaurant, it may be authorized to charge only in CUC, or only in pesos, or in both depending on whether one is a Cuban or a tourist. And there’s usually nothing posted indicating this, so do be sure to ask.
Another thing that can be confusing for visitors is that Cubans will often refer to both moneda nacional and pesos convertibles as pesos. So when in doubt about which currency one is referring to, be sure to ask.
NOTE Posted on September 16, 2010: The Banco Metropolitano website has been down for three months. Here’s another way to access the exchange rate information:
Go into the Banco Central de Cuba website through the following URL – www.bc.gov.cu/Espanol/tipo_cambio.asp Don’t be concerned that it’s in Spanish; it doesn’t appear that you can get the Banco Metropolitano exchange rate information through the comparable English-language URL. But, as you’ll see, the Spanish is very easy to decipher.
However, don’t stop on this page, which although it provides official exchange rates, is exclusively for the use of Cuban enterprises when registering operations made in foreign exchange. The indicated rate of exchange is not valid for currency purchase and selling operations for the population at large.
Instead, go to the bottom of the above page, under Enlaces de interés (Interest links) and click on Tipo de cambio Banco Metropolitano (Temporal). This takes you to a page that gives you the Banco Metropolitano daily exchange rates. Here’s how it works:
The first column, Compra (Purchase) is the rate you’re being charged to BUY Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).
The second column, Venta (Sell), is the rate you’re being charged to SELL Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC).
The asterisk (*) beside the GBP (Pound Sterling) and EUR (Euro) means that you multiply instead of divide.
For the USD, there is an additional 10% surcharge that Cuba charges.
Note: Not all banks or CADECAs handle all ten currencies listed, so sometimes you may have to go to a main branch.