money exchange and U.S. credit cards
CAN I USE U.S. CURRENCY IN CUBA?
MONEY & CREDIT CARDS | CUBAN CURRENCY (1 CUC = 1.13 USD)
As a foreigner, you will be expected to pay for everything in Convertible Pesos known as CUCs. You will need to convert your U.S. dollars into CUC at the hotel lobby. Conversion rates are standardized and you will receive the same rate at hotels or banks. There is a standard fee included when exchanging currency.
If you exchange $100 USD, you will receive 87 CUC. If you have CUC remaining in your wallet at the end of you time in Cuba, you may convert them back to U.S. dollars at the airport. There is another national currency, also called the Peso that is in wide circulation in Cuba. Cuban pesos exchange at a rate of roughly 24 pesos to the dollar. However, few stores will accept pesos from foreigners. Pesos are mostly useful on public transport, at the cinemas, at the neighborhood farmers’ markets, and are the currency used only by locals.
Many people will tell you that you should convert your USD to Euros or Canadian Dollars prior to your trip to obtain a better exchange fee in Cuba. This option is your choice completely as it really ends up to be the nearly the same after the conversion fees.
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I BRING TO CUBA?
We recommend passengers bring about $125.00, per person per day for extra meals, drinks, incidentals at the hotel, taxis, etc. This amount is a baseline and does not take in account the purchase of any artwork. It is likely you will not need this much, however, if you run out of money in Cuba you will find it impossible to replenish your funds. Better to have the cash and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
In an era when most Americans pay for everything with credit cards, many of us have forgotten what it feels like to have a wallet full of cash. It is not uncommon for U.S. travelers to Cuba to run out of cash because they were afraid to carry greenbacks. Do not make this mistake! Please carry a sufficient amount of money to Cuba. Each hotel room provides a security box to protect your valuables, keep your cash in the security box and only exchange money as needed. It is better to return with unused money than to go broke in Cuba.
ARE THERE ANY SPENDING LIMITS FOR AUTHORIZED U.S. TRAVELERS WHILE IN CUBA?
Pursuant to the U.S. Department of the Treasury frequently asked questions related to Cuba updated on October 14, 2016 there is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers may engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, including payment of living expenses and the acquisition in Cuba of goods for personal consumption there. In addition, travelers are authorized to acquire in Cuba and import as accompanied baggage into the United States merchandise for personal use only.
Effective October 17, 2016, the prior limitations on the value of such imports has been removed. Such imports remain subject to the normal limits on duty and tax exemptions for merchandise imported as accompanied baggage and for personal use.
BUYING ART IN CUBA
U.S. regulations allow importation of artwork into America. There are no limitations placed on American tourists buying art in Cuba. When buying art in Cuba, several things need to be considered. Firstly, that the seller of art provides the buyer with the proper documentation that allows the art to be exported out of the country. As you leave Havana, airport officials will ask any traveler with a cardboard tube containing rolled artwork to provide exit papers that show the piece was inspected by a government official and deemed appropriate for export. This procedure is done to ensure that a priceless piece of Cuban patrimony is not smuggled out of the country. This permit, in the form of a stamp, can only be provided by one office in Havana Vieja and the process normally takes one day to complete. The artist you purchased the artwork from will take care of this stamp. You will need to provide your passport number. Photographs or prints are exempt.
If you should fail to get the necessary paperwork, you will likely need to pay a small fee at the airport of 15 CUC per piece of art. If airport officials believe your art is significant, they may seize your art and ask you to return to the airport with additional information. Obviously, this option is non-workable. Therefore, it is best to get the proper paperwork ahead of time.
CAN I PURCHASE CUBAN-ORIGIN CIGARS AND/OR CUBAN-ORIGIN RUM OR OTHER ALCOHOL
WHILE TRAVELING IN CUBA?
Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption. Authorized travelers may also return to the United States with alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba as accompanied baggage for personal use. OFAC considers “personal use” of an imported item to include giving the item to another individual as a personal gift, but not the transfer of the item to another person for payment or other consideration.
WILL MY U.S. BANK VISA/MASTERCARD/AMEX OR DEBIT CARD WORK IN CUBA?
Until U.S. financial institutions have enrolled Cuban merchants into their systems for transaction processing, your credit card will not work in Cuba. Now, only credit cards and Traveler's Checks issued by a non-U.S. bank or company will work. This time, you can leave home without your American Express. Most foreign bank cards are accepted in the larger tourist spots throughout the island; however, small merchants are likely not set up to handle such transactions. Credit card operations in Cuba do not always run smoothly. Cash advances are usually possible only on Visa and MasterCard (provided they are not issued by North American banks) at certain banks, and will require your passport and payment of a commission fee.