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Currency tips for Cuba
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As of November 8 2004 the US dollar, the common currency of exchange for tourists in Cuba, is no longer legal tender. Cubans continue to be allowed to hold dollars, but transactions in shops, restaurants, .... will have to be in "peso convertible" (CUC).
This will leave Cuba with two currencies, two "peso" circulating: the "peso nacional" that is the currency in which Cuban citizens are paid and in which they do most of their purchases (except for those goods that are only available in the "divisas" shops) and the "peso convertible" (also referred to as "chavito").
On April 9, 2005 the peso convertible "CUC" has in turn been revaluated with 8% versus all currencies. This is reflected in the exchange rates listed on this page.
This "peso convertible" has by now replaced the dollar as currency in the so called "dollar shops" or "tiendas in divisa". Restaurants, taxis, hotels, ... which previously denominated their prices in dollars now charge peso convertible and this is now the "tourist" currency. Any payments you make with credit cards will also be in peso convertible for which you will be charged your local currency equivalent of the current value of the CUC when you receive your credit card bill.
The special 10% "tax" imposed on any transaction exchanging dollars to peso convertible remains in place. This means that the "exchange value" (as listed in the banks) of the US dollar is effectively reduced by and additional 10% for both tourists and Cubans.
Let me focus on the effect that this had for the casa owners: if they had continued to accept dollars without raising prices they would have effectively lost 18% (exchange tax + revaluation) as of April 2005 as they have to pay both their taxes and purchases in peso convertible. The consensus solution is that all prices for rooms are now stated in peso convertible and can be paid in any easily exchangeable foreign currency the conversion calculated on the basis of the exchange rates that are valid at the time. In practice the most wanted currencies will be the Euro and the Canadian dollar.
As such people from Europe will be better off taking Euros with them to Cuba. Canadians are best to take their national dollar though Cubans seem to prefer Euros. These can then be used in Cuba as direct payment (take sufficient small denomination notes and coins in that case as for a while people will have little change) or can be exchanged for peso convertible. All others are best to convert their currency to any of the two above in their home country or exchange their national currency for peso convertible in Cuba. Note that only a limited range of currencies is easily exchangeable in Cuba except is a very few specialist exchange houses in Havana and the tourist resorts.
You will find that Cubans will still like to hold foreign currency as a hedge against any changes in the value of the peso convertible and casa owners have indicated that payment in foreign currency is still very attractive to them.
The calculator below gives some indicative (daily adapted) exchange rates:
Links to Cuban bank pages with exchange rates:
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