1950s chevrolet in Havana used for tourist trips.
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

New 2023 money guidelines for Americans visiting Cuba

How much cash do I need in Cuba?

The official exchange rate is one US dollar to 110 Cuban pesos. Exchange houses, known as CADECAs, in Havana, including the airport, provide this service.

US credit cards don’t work in Cuba except at Hotel Aston and select restaurants. Bring more cash than you think you’ll need. You don’t have to spend all of it. We suggest a minimum of $100 USD per day. Prices in Cuba are similar to the United States.

If you get stuck short of funds during your Cuba Explorer trip, WE WILL HELP.

Primer on the peculiar Cuban peso

Cuba’s currency is known as the peso, CUP, or moneda nacional. The Cuban peso is only good in Cuba. Visitors can purchase Cuban pesos at exchange bureaus (CADECA) with American dollars and other major foreign currencies.

It is not possible to buy Cuban pesos outside of Cuba. We don’t recommend taking Cuban pesos home except as souvenirs, as they have no value outside Cuba.

Once you purchase Cuban pesos, you will unlikely be able to exchange them back into US dollars or other foreign currencies.

How do I obtain Cuban pesos, and what is the exchange rate?

  • At banks. Cuban pesos can be purchased at Cuban banks. The rate is one dollar for 110 pesos.
  • At Cuban exchange bureaus (CADECA). A limited number of CADECAs are available in Havana, including the airport. At a CADECA, you will receive a special tourist rate of 1 dollar for 110 pesos. You CAN USE US DOLLARS or other major foreign currencies. However, it is unlikely you will be able to redeem your pesos once you purchase them.
  • On the street. This is dicey as scams are abundant. Watch out!
  • At major hotels. This option is extremely limited and should not be depended upon.
  • Ask Cuba Explorer. Let us know in advance of travel if you need clarification or help with money in Cuba.

Why would I bother to convert my US dollars into pesos?

Cuban girls enjoying rum cocktail.
Cuba money guidelines to keep you safe.

Small private businesses welcome payments in US dollars. Most honor the tourist exchange rate of one USD for 110 Cuban pesos, and some better it.

Small private businesses display prices in pesos. And recently, also in US dollars. So you’ll always know accurate costs and pay the same price as Cubans. You’ll not have to worry about calculating or haggling over exchange rates on the spot. Having Cuban pesos in hand provides a sense of security, and you’ll feel like a local.

“I heard special Cuban debit cards for tourists are required.”

Not true. It’s an option, not a requirement. In Cuba, there are two payment systems: Pesos and MLC cards. And there are two types of MLC cards. One is for tourists and another for Cubans. Both function as pre-paid debit cards. You add money to these cards using foreign currencies. Once the money is in the MLC card, its value is equivalent to the US dollar.

Why would I want a pre-paid tourist card?

Pre-paid MLC cards are the only way to make purchases and pay fees at Cuban government stores and institutions. In Cuba, there is an extensive network of grocery stores that sell products in MLC not otherwise available to Cubans. Likewise, many small private businesses, including restaurants, are beginning to accept MLC card transactions. However, most visitors do not consider these cards worth the time and hassle.

How do pre-paid tourist cards work, and where do I get one?

Pre-paid MLC tourist cards are sold at Cuban banks and exchange bureaus. The cards come in three USD equivalent amounts: $1000, $500, and $200. Refills are in the same fixed amounts. The one-time card cost is $5 USD.

Popular currencies used to purchase or refill tourist MLC are US and Canadian dollars, euros, UK pounds sterling, Swiss francs, and Mexican pesos.

Pre-paid MLC tourist cards only work in Cuba. You cannot transfer funds into or out of the card. However, you can refill them and use them to withdraw Cuban pesos from Cuban bank machines.

Your name is not attached to the card. No replacements or refunds are provided if you lose the card or forget your PIN. The card is not redeemable for US funds but is valid for two years.

Travel with Cuba Explorer means fewer money worries in Cuba

Major expenses on your Cuba Explorer tour are prepaid: accommodations, transportation, day excursions, and most meals. You only need cash for gratuities, optional evening entertainment, extra libations, souvenirs, and meals not included in your trip package.

Tips from seasoned travelers and Cuba travel advisers

Don’t be overwhelmed. Make a simple plan before travel. Here’s a summary of what our travelers say worked best for them. Cuba travel advisers concur.

  • Budget a minimum of $100 per day in US dollars. You can bring more for hiccups or larks.
  • Keep the rest of your money in US dollars, which you’ll have no problems spending while in Cuba.
  • Don’t waste time purchasing a non-refundable MLC tourist card unless you have a very good reason to do so.
  • Rest assured, Team Cuba Explorer is happy to answer money questions and assist with Cuba’s money matters. So feel welcome to call, email, or chat with us.