All prices in this book are quoted in Cuban Convertible Pesos (pesos convertibles), denominated by “CUC” (pronounced “say-ooh-say”) and often, within Cuba, by “$.” Foreigners must exchange their foreign currency for convertible pesos (at press time 1 dollar was worth CUC0.89), issued in the following denominations: 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 peso notes; and 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 centavo plus CUC1 and CUC5 coins. Euros are acceptable tender in Varadero, Cayo Coco, and Havana.
Always carry a wad of small bills; change for larger bills is often hard to come by.
The Cuban currency (moneda nacional), in which state salaries are paid, is the peso, which is worth about US$0.04 (the exchange rate at press time was about 25 pesos to the dollar). It is also designated “$” and should not be confused with the CUC or U.S. “$” (to make matters worse, the dollar is sometimes called the peso). The peso is divided into 100 centavos.
There is very little that you will need pesos for. Exceptions are if you want to travel on local buses or buy snacks from street stalls.
In 2008, the government announced that it is planning to do away with the two-currency system.
Foreign currency can be changed for CUC at tourist hotels, banks, and official burós de cambios (exchange bureaus) operated by Cadeca (Av. 26, esq. 45, Nuevo Vedado, tel. 07/855-5701), which has outlets throughout Cuba. They can also change CUC or foreign currency for moneda nacional. A 10 percent commission is charged for exchanging U.S. dollars; other foreign currencies are not charged. To avoid the surcharge, U.S. visitors should change their dollars into Canadian dollars or euros prior to arriving in Cuba. Check the current exchange rates at the Banco Central de Cuba website (www.bc.gov.cu).
Jineteros may offer to change currency illegally on the streets. Many tourists are ripped off and muggings have been reported.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition