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Should I get some cuban currency before arriving? If so, where to get the best rate?

Should I get some cuban currency before arriving? If so, where to get the best rate?

Old Jan 14, 20, 4:55 pm
  #1  
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Should I get some cuban currency before arriving? If so, where to get the best rate?

I've always relied on the ATM fee reimbursement feature off my Fidelity Cash Management Account (CMA) debit card while traveling abroad. It has been working out really well for me thus far in Europe and Mexico.

Well, it looks like Cuba presents a whole different challenge all together. Reading from here: Cuba FAQ's : Frequently Asked Questions | Cuba-Junky.com It looks like I cannot draw money from any US bank due to US embargo restriction on Cuba.

If anyone has experience using CMA debit card (or similar type of card) in Cuba please let me know. Otherwise, could anyone recommend a good place or just how you get the best rate before/while visiting Cuba?

I am a green card holder, not a US citizen, but I think the same rule applies.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 7:03 pm
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You won't be able to get any of the Cuban currencies (CUP or CUC for "hard currency") outside Cuba unless you buy the from another visitor.

Bring small (USD 1) bills for tips - though I've been asked by various Cubans to exchange their small amount of USD notes for CUCs.

Anything bigger, bring CAD and EUR (no 10% penalty for converting USD) if you can get those cheaply. I've been able to exchange a relatively-large amount of CAD in a remote village bank. Notes have to be immaculate and untorn however.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 7:43 pm
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No wonder every vblogger I've watched so far seems to exchange currency at the airport. Got you now.

I will have to get some CAD in US then convert them to CUP or CUC in Cuba. Which means I will lose some % going from USD to CAD and then some more % going from CAD to CUC or CUP.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 7:58 pm
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Originally Posted by lakersgo View Post
No wonder every vblogger I've watched so far seems to exchange currency at the airport. Got you now.

I will have to get some CAD in US then convert them to CUP or CUC in Cuba. Which means I will lose some % going from USD to CAD and then some more % going from CAD to CUC or CUP.
The forex charge in Cuba is about 3-3.5% unless you're changing USD where you lose another 10%. Just do your sums to see how much you might save.

CUC is the hard currency and very desirable. CUP less so (don't get taken being given CUP instead of CUC). CUC coins are unpolished while CUC ones are shiny. I did end up getting some CUP (I knew I was getting them) and ended up at a barber where I got my hair cut for CUP 5. Gave the barber CUP 5 tip too, which he was very happy with.

IIRC, the charge is slightly less at Casa de Cambios than at banks (or is it vice-versa?) Hotels are said to have the worst rates.

Even if your ATM bank card wasn't restricted, you need to work with the system. 5 years ago, reportedly only debit cards with a Visa logo worked Didn't matter if they were Plus, Maestro or Cirrus. Had to have the Visa logo. I got one but never used an ATM.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 8:46 pm
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Originally Posted by lakersgo View Post
Otherwise, could anyone recommend a good place or just how you get the best rate before/while visiting Cuba?
There is some concern among Cubans about the CUC going away. Because of this you can find people willing to trade their CUCs for USD with you privately at a one-to-one rate. That's what I did. Not sure where you're staying but if it's at an airbnb, talk to your host, I'm sure they'll know.
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Old Jan 15, 20, 1:41 pm
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Currently Cubans are waiting to see when the supposedly imminent (February) change over from CUC and CUP to only CUP will occur. Most every Cuban who comes in contact with tourists wants to hold USD right now. In private transactions (which can usually be arranged safely by your casa particular host), 100 USD was getting 110 CUC (and up, with some bargaining, as of December visit).
So change enough at the airport in Cuba to get you to your lodging (or arrange ahead for your host to pay the driver and add cost to your bill). Then see what you can get for your dollars once on the ground.
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Old Jan 15, 20, 4:32 pm
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Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
There is some concern among Cubans about the CUC going away. Because of this you can find people willing to trade their CUCs for USD with you privately at a one-to-one rate. That's what I did. Not sure where you're staying but if it's at an airbnb, talk to your host, I'm sure they'll know.
This. Yes, the CUC may well disappear, the uncertainty has changed the informal exchange rates (although the official bank/hotel rate remains at .87CUC/USD. I am now regularly getting 1.1 CUCs/USD, and in one exchange I got 1.2.
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Old Jan 15, 20, 8:51 pm
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That's good to hear but will CUC still be accepted everywhere? I am afraid by the time I visit (Feb 5th - Feb 12th), things may look differently again.

Last edited by lakersgo; Jan 15, 20 at 9:05 pm
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Old Jan 15, 20, 8:58 pm
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Originally Posted by lakersgo View Post
Great rate it may be, but will CUC still be accepted everywhere? I am afraid by the time I visit (Feb 5th - Feb 12th), things may look differently again.
I was just there two months ago. I doubt you have any difficulties with CUCs anywhere. Likewise, I am skeptical that if there is a shift away from CUCs, the Cuban government will leave CUC-holders holding the bag. They badly need hard currency from foreign tourists. They cannot afford any bad PR in that area.
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Old Jan 16, 20, 6:21 am
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Originally Posted by lakersgo View Post
That's good to hear but will CUC still be accepted everywhere? I am afraid by the time I visit (Feb 5th - Feb 12th), things may look differently again.
CUC is being accepted currently everywhere but beyond security in the airport.
USD is NOT accepted for purchases/services, just for exchanges of 100USD to CUC in private transactions.
It will be accepted or it will have changed by your dates in February. Nothing you can do about it except go with the flow. You will certainly know by the time you have to exchange money in Cuba.
Learn how to say "Es Cuba!" with a shrug of your shoulders. LOL
Keep an eye on the latest news coming from the island. There will certainly be some notice. Cubans have to change over too.
(And it's been said that there will be a restructuring of the CUP vis-a-vis Cuban salaries as well. )
Right now 25 CUP = 1 CUC so the math is not/will not be hard.
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Old Jan 17, 20, 4:16 pm
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I think I will bring both CAD and USD to Cuba. If the conversion rate on USD is more favorable (like a couple of you mentioned) I will use USD. Otherwise, CAD.

Now to find someone willing to do the private transaction....booked an AirBnB in Havana but really know nothing about the host...
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Old Jan 20, 20, 6:49 pm
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Originally Posted by lakersgo View Post
...booked an AirBnB in Havana ...
No, you booked a casa particular, through AirBnB, which is only one agency, a US not a Cuban agency, that works with mostly the same casas.
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Old Jan 22, 20, 5:52 pm
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I wonder why USD is now suddenly the hot commodity? Curious what the locals can do with it?
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Old Jan 23, 20, 8:51 am
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1) About a month or so ago, some new stores opened up that sell goods for dollars (USD) only, goods like refrigerators, TVs, etc.
2) Dollars are used by Cubans who go abroad to buy items to sell at home.
3) Dollars are considered to hold their value.
The Cuban currency is about to change, so dollars may seem a secure way for Cubans to hold savings, for the time being anyway, until the currency issues are resolved.
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Old Jan 23, 20, 9:07 am
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
You won't be able to get any of the Cuban currencies (CUP or CUC for "hard currency") outside Cuba unless you buy the from another visitor.

Bring small (USD 1) bills for tips - though I've been asked by various Cubans to exchange their small amount of USD notes for CUCs.

Anything bigger, bring CAD and EUR (no 10% penalty for converting USD) if you can get those cheaply. I've been able to exchange a relatively-large amount of CAD in a remote village bank. Notes have to be immaculate and untorn however.
I can buy CUCs at a currency exchange house near my workplace in the GTA (Toronto region). They seem to sell just about any currency including ones that should not be available officially.
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