There are two different currency exchange rates operating in Cuba, that all tourists need to know about in advance. There’s the official Cuban Government exchange rate. And then there’s the unofficial black market rate.
At the current rates operating now, knowing the black market rate can save you more than 45% off every transaction you make in Cuba. I don’t change my own money through the official channels, and neither should you. Here’s everything you need to know about exchange rates in Cuba.
What are the currency exchange rates in Cuba?
Official Exchange Rates In Cuba
The official exchange rate set by the Cuban Government, is listed on the CADECA website and is available from all official government exchanges and banks. The current USD exchange rate to Moneda Nacional (local currency also called CUP) is 110:1 on the USD.
Exchanging at an official exchange does not mean you will get the full 110:1 on the USD. There are fees and charges and these are highest on the USD, as opposed to the Euro or other currencies.
If you were to change $100USD to CUP, you would get less than $11,040CUP/MN. Or to put it into more of a useable context, a takeaway local beer would cost roughly $3.20USD.
Cuba’s Black Market Exchange Rate
The black market or unofficial exchange rate is what you will get exchanging money outside the official channels. This is best done with friends or with contacts acquired from WhatsApp groups and Revolico.
You should never change money with somebody on the street.
Every jinetero or street hustler will offer to change your money. But the only thing they will change it into, is thin air. They will steal from you.
If you are going to exchange USD, Euro or CAD to the local Cuban peso, to pay for goods and services, you should do this under the supervision of your casa particular host. Or a Cuban friend you have known for a long time (i.e. years).
This is so they can check the notes for counterfeits and ensure you are given the correct amount of local currency. Shortchanging foreigners, running off with cash or giving out counterfeit, notes is common in Cuba. And the jinetero street hustlers are professional criminals.
You can check the current black market exchange rate for Cuba, by visiting https://eltoque.com
The rate stated on the website eltoque is the mid market rate. The website works by aggregating the different buy and sell offers in the various WhatsApp groups and on Revolico. It takes the highs and lows and works out the mid-point.
You will never get the exact rate shown on eltoque. Because the currency exchanger will take a couple of percentage points for his or her risk. The currency changer will come to you and the exchange will happen at your accommodation.
Based on todays exchange rate for Cuba of 160:1 USD, you would get $16,000CUP. That is roughly 45% more local currency or Moneda Nacional.
To continue the beer example, a takeaway local beer would cost $2.18USD. Saving you roughly $1USD for every local beer you buy.
Exchanging Money In Cuba With A Street Hustler
I can’t say this enough. Do not change money on the street with the street hustlers that walk up to you offering currency exchange services. These people are professional criminals.
Street hustlers are also called jinetero’s in the local Cuban slang and they are professional criminals. When they aren’t perpetrating currency exchange scams, they’re acting as pimps and selling cocaine and marijuana.
In any other country, would you conduct a currency exchange with a drug dealer or pimp? No, you would not. So you shouldn’t change money with pimps and drug dealers in Cuba.
These ‘jinetero’ street hustlers will most often use one of two scams. They will either tell you that you need to wait at a specific spot, for the money person bringing the local currency. And they will run off with your foreign currency.
Or they will take you to a local business, that is in on their scam. You will be given small bills to count that don’t equate to what they promised. While they run off with the rest.
When perpetrating either scam, the jinetero’s operate on the assumption that you will not do anything about them. And that you will have left Cuba in a day or two and never be seen again.
Well, what they’re doing is illegal. So complain about them and identify them to your hotel or casa particular owner, so they can be arrested!
Outside the Hotel Nacional, Hotel Habana Libre and on the corner of 21 y N opposite the Capri Hotel are hotspots for these hustlers. Other hotspots are in Obispo and Parque Central.
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made my Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba available on this website. And I recommend you read it, before traveling to Cuba. It will help you navigate Cuba and Cuban society.
My Complete Guide To Cuba 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 most Complete Guide To Traveling Cuba here.