There are two currencies in Cuba:
- The CUC: Official name: Cuban Convertible Peso
- The CUP: Official name: Cuban Peso (a.k.a Moneda Nacional or Peso Nacional)
1.00 CUC = $1.00 USD (fixed rate) and 1 CUC = 26.50 CUP
In 2015, the Cuban government introduced new CUP larger bills: 200, 500 and 1,000 CUP
Both currencies are now available to everyone (foreigners and Cubans) without any restrictions, but CUPs are still mainly used by the Cubans and CUCs are used by both foreigners and Cubans. Some commercial establishments only take CUCs and others only take CUPs.
The CUP-only shops are mostly for the day-to-day life, such as produce markets, small grocery stores, street food, cafeterias, public transportation, movies, etc. If you're travelling independently and/or off the beaten track, it's always handy to have a few Cuban Pesos (CUP) on you.
- ALL CASH PURCHASES in Cuba have to be made in CUC (or CUP); no foreign currency is accepted.
- TIPPING in hotels and resorts is made in CUC.
You can only get Cuban currencies (CUP or CUC) in Cuba.
These currencies are not traded internationally, so they cannot be bought in advance.
Exchange from USD to CUC is subject to a 10% surcharge (penalty) since November 2004.
This is the only foreign currency that is penalized with this additional fee.
Warning! Sometimes when buying an item in CUC, the change may be given to you in CUP. This scam is not very common but it would still be wise to become familiar with the appearance of both currencies and be vigilant.
History of the CUC:
The Convertible Peso (CUC) closed currency was first introduced in 1994 but the US Dollar still remained the preferred currency for tourists until November 8, 2004 when the Cuban government completely withdrew the US dollar from circulation. Since then the CUC became the “tourist currency” to substitute the US Dollar (USD).
At first (1994 to early 2005), the CUC was pegged to the USD at 1:1. In April 2005, its value was increase to 1.08 USD, and then in March 2011 the Central Bank of Cuba devaluated the CUC by 8% against all foreign currencies, so this measure now pegs again the CUC at 1 to 1 with the US Dollar.
Future of the CUC:
On October 22, 2013 the Cuban Government announced its intention to eliminate their dual currency system (CUC and CUP). To the best of our knowledge, it seems like no schedule has been officially announced yet for this plan to eliminate the CUC and revalue the CUP. There's no indication yet on when the CUC will be put out of circulation. More new to come...
Lily & Normand