You should never pay a Cuban in advance for goods and services. If you do pay in advance they will cut corners, produce substandard work or simply run off with the money.
Here’s everything you need to know about paying Cubans in Cuba.
How To Pay In Cuba?
Cuba is a cash based society. International sanctions have kept Cuba financially isolated from the rest of the world. You should expect almost all transactions in Cuba to be conducted in cash.
With that said, international hotel chains and larger tour operators can be booked online using credit cards. This is because they use payment processors based abroad. Which are often located in Spain, Germany and Canada.
Within Cuba you will often see signs for Visa and Mastercard. But for most visitors to Cuba Visa and Mastercard will not work in Cuba.
If your Bank does not conduct significant business with Cuba but does business in the USA, then the cost of complying with US sanctions is often more than they are willing to pay. And as a result your cards will not work in Cuba.
How Should I Pay For Goods And Services In Cuba?
You will pay in cash. But only after you have received and inspected the goods or services you are paying for. Never pay a Cuban in advance.
If you do pay in advance they will cut corners, produce substandard work or simply run off with the money. And because Cuba is a cash based society, you will likely not be able to prove you have paid in advance.
Scams are rife in Cuba. And the often desperate circumstances in which Cubans live does produce out of necessity an informal and often amateur workforce.
For example, the plumber that kept trying to fix Alvaro‘s toilet during my last stay in Cuba was a qualified Barrister. But he could make more money selling his services as a plumber. Unfortunately his plumbing skills were not as good as his legal training may have been.
What Happens If I Pay In Advance?
You will often find that by paying in advance you get caught up in either of two scams. You will either be scammed directly and after paying in advance the service provider will disappear. Or the service provider will not have the skills or goods you’re paying for.
In either scenario if you have paid in advance your money is as good as gone. Trying to get money out of a Cuban is like trying to get blood from a stone.
Cuban’s are often overconfident in the assumptions of their own security within Cuba. They assume you can’t take legal action against them or use force against them to reclaim money owed.
Never Lend Money To A Cuban For Any Purpose
If you lend money to a Cuban the debt will never be repaid. Just like you should never pay a Cuban in advance, you should never lend money to anyone in Cuba.
Cubans will view you, the foreigner, as some sort of money tree they can just shake whenever they want cash. They will assume that because they’re Cuban and your foreign that the money is just free. Even if there were specific terms set at the time of the loan.
As an example lets take one of my own experiences. I loaned roughly $1000USD to a Cuban. It was clearly explained to the Cuban that this was an interest free loan that would be repaid when he was able and as a priority.
The terms for breaking the contract were very clear. I would shut down his foreign bank accounts, report his family connections so he would never be able to travel outside of Cuba and I would, send my personal debt collectors to recover the funds.
Now, when I say personal debt collectors I mean 6ft tall and 110kg+ former latino gangsters. Individuals who will turn up on a doorstep and demand double the original value be paid to them right at that moment.
Should my debt collectors not be paid the debtor will immediately lose the ability to chew solid food. And may also lose the ability to walk.
From personal experience I can say with certainty that it’s the type of threat that a normal person not living in Cuba’s WestWorld alternate reality would fear.
Instead a Cuban will go to the beach, eat at fancy restaurants or just spend the cash in a happy go lucky manner. With no thought of the future. Because they assume as Cubans that cash just grows on trees.
What If I Want To Gift Money To A Cuban Or Tip?
Gifting money to a Cuban or tipping is perfectly fine. Just never pay a Cuban in advance or loan money to a Cuban with the expectation of being repaid.
However if you’re intending to gift money to a Cuban or tip, I would highly recommend that you take a good hard look at who you’re planning to give the money too. Never gift money or tip anybody who works in tourism.
Those Cubans who speak English or work in tourism already earn far more than the average. And in point of fact they probably own assets like cars or are accommodation providers. And they are likely in the upper class and associated with the Cuban Government.
If you’re looking for a thorough explanation of tipping in Cuba, read my longer article on tipping in Cuba here.
If you’re looking for an explanation of the classicism that exists in Cuba, you can read my article on classicism in Cuba and the difference between those that have assets and those that do not. That way you can put your money to good use in Cuba.