Written by Kieran

Cuba | Travel Money Guide for Australians

How to access cash and pay for things in Cuba and how to find the best exchange rates.

Comparing Travel Money Options for Australians in Cuba

Traveller’s cheques aren’t accepted in Cuba. And all Australian bank cards and travel money cards are useless in Cuba due to the current United States sanctions. Australian bank issued cards don’t work in Cuba.

There are no functional Western Union outlets in Cuba as these have been closed due to the current US sanctions.

How the different travel money products work in Cuba

Using a prepaid travel card

You won’t be able to load Cuban pesos (CUP) on a travel money card. You’ll have to pay to either buy the card or load it. And some providers will put a margin on the travel card foreign exchange rate.

When you get to Cuba with one of these cards you will quickly discover it doesn’t work. And that you’ve wasted your money buying and loading it.

Don’t take a prepaid travel card to Cuba. You will not be able to use a prepaid travel card issued from Australia in Cuba.

For those travellers who have an aversion to cash and absolutely must use cards; a prepaid travel money card can be purchased from CADECA outlets in Cuba.

These CADECA cards are not reloadable. And they must be purchased in person in Cuba with cash at the offical exchange rate. Which is 1/5th of the real exchange rate.

Using a debit card

The Citibank Global Currency Transaction Account is usually the standout debit card to take overseas. However, you will have issues using a Citibank issued card in Cuba. Citibank is an American bank and will not function in Cuba.

There are anecdotal claims on the internet about some Australian bank debit cards working in Cuba. We have tried all of them and can confirm none of the major Australian banks work in Cuba.

Using a credit card

Visa and Mastercard credit cards issued by Australian banks will not work in Cuba at ATMs or over the counter.

American Express, Diners Club, GE Money and Citi cards will not work in Cuba over the counter or at ATMs.

If you would like to have a credit option available to you for larger purchases in Cuba; some Spanish and Canadian bank cards do work.

Using a traveller’s cheque

Don’t take traveller’s cheques to Cuba. Traveller’s cheques do not work in Cuba and are not accepted anywhere on the island.

Paying with cash in Cuba

Take as much cash with you in a currency that can be easily changed when you go to Cuba. Australian issued bank and travel money cards will not work in Cuba. Which is why it’s important to have as much cash with you as possible.

Tip: You should also take a money belt or some sort of small bag. Preferable one that can be worn across your chest (so you can keep an eye on it). This is because you will have to carry large amounts of Cuban Pesos (CUP) to pay for items in cash.

Cuban Pesos CUP
Cuban Pesos (CUP)

What are the currencies that can be easily exchanged in Cuba?

  • Euros (EUR)
  • US dollars (USD)

Tip 1: The CADECA office at the airport may be closed when you arrive. Bring small notes to pay for a taxi to your accommodation or arrange for your accommodation provider to pick you up (preferable).

Tip 2: You should purchase your entry visa also known as a tourist ticket or Tarjeta Del Turista before travelling to Cuba. If you wait to purchase it at the airport on arrival you may become stuck in transit if the office selling them is closed when you arrive.

Buying Cuban Pesos (CUP)

You can’t buy Cuban pesos in Australia, so you’re going to have to wait until you get to Cuba to obtain local currency.

When you arrive in Cuba you can get your cash changed at the CADECA office (money changers) in the airport or at CADECA offices throughout Cuba. CADECA also have a booth or desk in most large hotels.

Tip 1: The rates of exchange provided by CADECA are not anywhere near the informal or blackmarket exchange rate present in Cuba. CADECA change money at the official government rate which is on average 1/4 to 1/5 of the real exchange rate operating in Cuba.

Tip 2: You can get an idea of where the informal exchange rate is on any given day by going to Revolico and typing ‘efectivo’ (cash in Spanish) into the search bar. https://www.revolico.com

Tip 3: Never engage with anyone in Cuba who walks up to you on the street and tries to start a conversation. Almost all of these people are trying to sell fake cigars, fake rum, fake drugs and are running money exchange scams.

They will all offer to change money for you at higher rates and will either give you fake counterfeit notes or will change your money on WhatsApp and take a large commission (i.e. 20% – 50% or more).

Is Western Union available in Cuba?

There are no operating Western Union outlets in Cuba. Cuba is currently under United States sanctions and as a result there are no Western Union shops operating in Cuba.

You cannot send or receive money via Western Union in Cuba.

When leaving Cuba

You cannot take Cuban Pesos (CUP) with you when you leave Cuba. As the country is under sanctions you will not be able to convert your Cuban Pesos back to another currency outside of Cuba.

You should exchange any excess Cuban Peso back into Euro or USD before leaving Cuba. And spend any remaining funds you are unable to convert.

Tip 1: When leaving Cuba in the era of COVID-19 you may need to transit through a large international hub. If the transit hub requires a negative PCR test within 72hrs of arrival like Madrid; you will need to get that PCR test in Cuba before departure and be able to show proof of a negative result to the airline before boarding.

To get a PCR test in Cuba you can only pay with a bank card. The hospitals do not accept cash. In this instance you should take some of your remaining funds to CADECA and buy one of their tourist prepaid ATM cards in order to use that card to get a PCR test.

Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?

I’ve made a Cuba Frequently Asked Questions Page (FAQ) available on this website. And I would strongly advise you to read it before travelling to Cuba. 

My Cuba FAQ page will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared. 

Read the Cuba FAQ Page here.