Money and duty free for Cuba
Currency and Money
There are two types of currencies – Cuban Convertibles Pesos (CUC) and Cuban Pesos (CUP). Both are legal pesos, but the differences are:
• CUC is usually for visitors, whereas locals use CUP to pay for daily essentials.
• CUC is more valuable than CUP – CUC is pegged to the US dollar at 1:1 while CUP is 25 times less valuable than CUC.
• Every CUP bill has the face of a Cuban hero while every CUC bill features a monument.
Visitors are advised to exchange currency at the airport upon arrival (especially if you need to pay for a taxi). Otherwise, exchange your money at a bank or a licensed CADECA (exchange bureau) when you get to the city centre. Always get a receipt, make sure you have the right amount and that they are CUC. Visitors are advised not to exchange money outside of CADECA, banks or large hotels, as a forged currency may get you into trouble.
Before leaving Cuba, you must also change the remaining CUC you have at the airport. Once you are through immigration, CUC becomes useless, and you must pay for coffee, magazines etc in USD, Euro or other foreign currencies.
Convertible Peso (CUC; symbol CUC$ or $) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of CUC$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 3 and 1. Coins are in denominations of CUC$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, and the rarely used 1 centavo.
Mastercard and Visa are accepted, but American Express is not.
There are ATMs, but visitors should check with your bank before your travel to confirm that your card will work in Cuba. Also, there are no ATMs available for drawing cash against Cirrus or Switch cards.
Traveller's cheques are not popular now.
Mon-Fri 0830-1200 and 1330-1600, Sat 0830-1200. Hours may vary.
In theory, you can import an unlimited amount of foreign currency, although you may need to declare if the amount exceeds US$5,000. Technically, you cannot import local currency as Cuban Pesos (both CUC and CUP) are not available outside of Cuba. However, it has been reported that residents of Cuba could import up to 2,000 Cuban pesos.
You may keep some Cuban Pesos as souvenirs when you leave the country but beware that you cannot exchange them outside of Cuba.
As of 2019, some tourist venues are reported to accept USD but will provide change in local Cuban currency, the CUC.
Money exchange can be done at banks, state-run CADECAs and big hotels.
Cuba duty free
The following items may be imported into Cuba by travellers aged 18 years and over without incurring customs duty:
• 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
• 3L alcoholic beverages.
• Gifts up to a value of Cuban peso CUP of 1,000.
• Medicines for personal use (may need to show your prescriptions).
• Laptop for personal use.
Prohibited items include animal products, explosives, certain household appliances, and all pornographic material and drugs.
Restricted items requiring authorisation include firearms and ammunition, light motor vehicles, live animals and plants and their parts, certain foodstuffs, and works of art.
Note that GPS is not allowed.
Drugs, explosives, items of cultural value, manuscripts dating from between 1440 and 1500, library books, books edited by Libros Cubanos under the 'R' imprint, foreign editions published between the 16th and 18th centuries, Cuban editions published in the 18th century, and lobster in any form or quantity.
How many cigars can you bring back from Cuba depends on the import rules of your country. For example, if you are heading back to the UK, you are allowed to bring in 50 cigars provided that you don't have other tobacco products. If you are going to the United States, you are permitted to bring 100 cigars.