Unlike other currencies, there is no international exchange market for Cuban
money. You will only be able to buy and sell Cuban pesos in Cuba. There are sev-
eral ways to exchange your foreign currency.
In Cuba, you can change money in state-operated exchange houses called
CADECA s. These locations are usually clearly indicated on street signs and can
be found in all cities and towns and at most airports and hotels. The CADECAs
located in cities usually offer much better foreign exchange rates than those at ho-
tels and airports. It is advisable to exchange just a bit of money at the airport, upon
entering the country. This will give you some purchasing power until you can locate
a CADECA offering better rates.
CADECA offices will exchange all types of foreign currency. The most common
currencies exchanged are Euros, Canadian and American dollars, Mexican pesos
and Swedish francs. To exchange some more obscure currencies, you might have
to visit a main CADECA office rather than a satellite branch.
Foreign currencies are all converted first to Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). If you
want Moneda Nacional, you can convert your CUC currency to MN on a 1:24
basis, as part of a separate transaction.
Contrary to some beliefs, tellers at CADECA offices are very honest when exchan-
ging foreign currency. Scams at these locations are extremely rare. In order to ex-
change foreign currency you will be asked to provide a piece of ID, usually a pass-
port, and your information will be entered into a computer. The clerk will count out
your money, confirming the amount with you, and then give you a printed slip indic-
ating how much Cuban currency you will receive back. The clerk will then count
out the Cuban currency two times before passing it to you. You are free to take
your time to recount the currency. Generally, clerks will refuse all tips so as to re-
main completely impartial in the transaction.
Note: It is best to convert your foreign currency to Cuban currency at several inter-
vals throughout your trip rather than converting everything at once. If you find your-
self with a lot of Cuban currency at the end of your trip and want to convert it back
to your original foreign money there will be substantial foreign exchange charges.
This might easily reduce the value of your currency by 5%. Furthermore, taking a
large amount of Cuban currency out of the country is not permitted. A few dollars is
fine, but if Cuban customs finds that you have many hundreds of dollars in CUC as
you exit the country, it can be confiscated.