Written by Kieran Proctor

How And When To Pay Cubans In Cuba

You should never pay a Cuban in advance for goods and services. Or for anything else. If you do pay ...

You should never pay a Cuban in advance for goods and services. Or for anything else. If you do pay in advance, they will cut corners, produce substandard work or simply run off with your money.

Here’s everything you need to know about paying Cubans in Cuba. And it’s based on my own experience, spending months at a time 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, their Visa and Mastercards will not work.

If your Bank doesn’t conduct significant business with Cuba, but does do 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 bank 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, that 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 your money. And because Cuba is a cash based society, you won’t be able to prove that you have paid in advance.

Scams are rife in Cuba. And the often desperate circumstances in which Cubans live, 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, that you’re paying them 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 that they can just shake whenever they want cash. They will assume that because they’re Cuban and you’re foreign, that the money you give them is free. Even if there were specific terms set at the time of the loan.

As an example, let’s 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.

Do not pay a Cuban in Advance
Che Guevara Graffiti in Buenos Aires, Argentina

What If I Want To Gift Money To A Cuban Or Tip?

Gifting money to a Cuban or tipping a Cuban is perfectly fine. Just be sure to 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. Somewhere in the order of 400 times more than the average Cuban. And in point of fact, they probably own assets like cars or houses (accommodation providers). And they’re likely in the upper class, and associated with the Cuban Government.

If you’re looking for a thorough explanation of tipping in Cuba, then I would suggest you read my longer article on tipping in Cuba. But 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.

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 Cuba travel guide will save you a lot of time and money on your next trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can arrive unprepared. Read the most complete Cuba Travel Guide.