On Using US Dollars and AirBnB in Cuba

QUESTION:  We are planning a “people to people” five-day trip for a family of three, departing from the US the last week of June 2016.  Things are changing so fast; would appreciate some up-to-date information about two topics…

Can you give advice on the currency situation?  Are US dollars used in daily transactions?   Or do travelers still exchange dollars into CUC?  (And lose 13% in the process.)

We would also like to book lodging through Air B&B to better connect with local people.  Since most Cubans have no internet, there must be some “middle men” acting as agents.   Do you think it a good idea to use AirB&B?  Or do you suggest doing something else for affordable places to stay?

ANSWER: The currency situation has yet to change.  The Cuban government said it will take off the 10% penalty when the US allows the Cuban state companies to open dollar accounts in the United States.  That hasn’t happened yet.  You can save some by taking either Euro’s or Canadian dollars with you instead of USD.

No problem using AirBnB.  People who rent find a way to have email or use the Wifi public points to connect. Most either have email at home, legal or not, or someone who does makes the connections for them.  There are also other Casa Particular sites for booking homestays.

Should I bring my British Pounds to Cuba or another currency?

QUESTION: Dear Havana Times, I am travelling to Cuba on my own arriving 3.2.16. I am coming from the UK. Do I bring UK notes and is it best to change them at the airport.  With kind regards,  Dr. Lisa Silver

ANSWER: Dear Lisa, here are the latest rates at the money exchange houses called (CADECA) in Cuba.  No problem with taking British Pounds.  There are also ATM machines for Visa and Master Charge available, although you might want to double check with your bank to be sure your credit or debit card is excepted in Cuba.  (Almost for sure they are).

There is a CADECA at the airport so you can obtain some CUC immediately upon arrival in Cuba. The rate is the same as in town. Also at the airport, at the end of your time in Cuba, you can change your left-over CUC (as they are worthless outside of Cuba) to another currency.

Here are today’s exchange rates for several currencies in relation to the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).

Bear in mind that what is shown is the amount in CUC which can be acquired with a unit of the currency.

 Currency  Symbol Value
Pound GBP 1.4257
Canadian dollar CAD 0.6879
Swiss Franc CHF 0.9984
Japanese Yen (*) JPY 117.6471
American dollar (**) USD 1.0000
Mexican Peso MXN 0.0547
Danish Krone DKK 0.1462
Norway Krone NOK 0.1132
Sweden Krone SEK 0.1165
Euro EUR 1.0912
Convertible Cuban peso CUC 1.0000

( *) Yen amount per CUC.
(**) A tax of 10% is applied before performing the conversion.

Exchange rates are updated every hour.


  • Sarah Cameron

    Lisa, don’t assume that your credit card is valid in Cuba. Any card issued by a US bank such as MBNA is still subject to the embargo. If you do use a British credit card, the amount you spend will be converted to US$ before another conversion to £ and you will be charged the 10% tax on US$ as well as any other fees and commissions charged by your bank. Cash is king. However, make sure none of your sterling notes have any marks on them. Any torn notes or those with writing on them will be rejected. Large denomination notes are regarded suspiciously, so £20 notes are best. Make sure you’ve got a money belt and leave your valuables in a safe when in Cuba.

  • Doug1943

    Lisa: when you arrive at the airport in Havana, if you are going to change money and if the queue on the arrives floor is long, go upstairs to the arrivals level, where you can also change money and the queues are usually shorter, although one of the ladies at the exchange booth is a dragon. If you will contact me at LapTopsForCuba@Gmail.com, I can give you more information.

  • As has been said, you don’t need to bring or change that much pounds as you can get to ATM or change in banks. Things to remember – ATMs give out cash before returning your card, don’t forget to take your card out after. In banks you need to take your passport and have signed the back of the credit card. This sound silly but easy enough to forget – when I handed money over to be exchanged I looked up and the cashier had put them under the desk. He then asked me how much I’d given him. I luckily remembered, but many tourists probably don’t.