Insider Cuba tips and information
Castro, Che, cigars and classic cars - everyone knows something about Cuba’s culture and history. We’re here to help you separate fact from fiction, and give you all the information you need to get to know the real Cuba for your individual Cuban adventure. Did you know Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world? Or that it has two currencies? Here you can explore our extraordinary country and answer any question you may have – whether it’s about WiFi, getting around or even just which comida criolla (Cuban cuisine) you have to try while on the island.
Cuba has two different currencies:
The Cuban Convertible Peso or CUC.
The Cuban National Peso or CUP.
Visitors pay mostly in Convertible Cuban Pesos. The CUC can be exchanged for a number of foreign currencies (and vice versa) – notes only, coins are not accepted - including the EURO, Swiss Franc, English Pound and US Dollar. Exchanging US Dollars in cash are charged with a tax of 10% on top of established bank commissions (not applied to credit or debit cards transactions). Almost every expense relevant to tourism like hotels, car rentals and fuel, restaurants, luxury goods, souvenirs, entrance fees etc. are paid in CUC.
There are banknotes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 convertible pesos, coins come in 5, 10, 25 and 50 Cents and 1 peso.
The Cuban National Peso (CUP) is also called Moneda Nacional (MN; National Money). The Cuban Peso is used mainly by Cubans to buy fruits and vegetables in the markets, a pizza on the street, for city bus fares, and to pay gas, telephone and electricity bills. Most salaries are paid in Cuban Pesos.
There are banknotes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos, coins come in 1 centavo, 2 centavos, 5 centavos, 20 centavos, 1 peso and 3 pesos. 1 Convertible Peso = approximately 24 Cuban pesos.
You can acquire 'Pesos Convertibles' at the airport, banks, various hotel lobbies and at money exchange offices, called "CADECA" (you can find these offices everywhere in the country). You can also get Cuban National Pesos (CUP) in the CADECA (exchanging small amounts is recommended). Do not exchange money on the streets. All Cuban money is only valid inside Cuba – importation and exportation is not allowed.
In tourist facilities and other service units, prices are in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). In Varadero, Cayo Largo del Sur, Jardines del Rey (Coco and Guillermo Keys), Santa Lucía and Covarrubias Beaches, as well as in Holguín province (tourist resorts on the northern coastline), payments in Euros are generally accepted.
In about 95% of hotels, a doctor is present to provide primary care to patients. Additionally, there are eight international clinics offering specialized treatment.
January 28: Anniversary of the birth of José Martí, Cuba's National Hero, in 1853.
February 24: Anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence, in 1895.
March 8: International Woman's Day.
March 13: Anniversary of the attack on Havana’s Presidential Palace by a group of revolutionary youths seeking to the tyrant Fulgencio Batista, in 1957.
April 19: Anniversary of the defeat of the mercenary attack at the Bay of Pigs, in 1961.
July 30: Day of the Martyrs of the Revolution.
October 8: Anniversary of the death of Commander Ernesto Ché Guevara, in 1967.
October 28: Anniversary of Commander Camilo Cienfuegos’ death, in 1959.
November 27: Commemoration of the execution of eight medical students, by the Spanish colonial government, in 1871.
December 7: Anniversary of Antonio Maceo's death in combat in 1896, an outstanding figure in Cuba’s War of Independence against Spanish colonial rule.
January 1st – Triumph of the Revolution.
January 28th - José Martí's Birthday.
July 26th - Attack on the Moncada and Carlos M. de Céspedes Barracks.
October 10th – Abolition of slavery.
The following dates are official public holidays:
January 1st and 2nd - May 1st - July 25th, 26th and 27th - October 10th - December 25th.
Official Commemorations in January: January 1st - Revolution Triumph January 28th - Jose Marti's Birthday
July Official Commemorations: 26 - Asalto a los cuarteles Moncada y Carlos M. de Cespedes
October Official Commemorations: October 10
Credit cards - except those issued by US banks or their branches in other countries - are accepted. Among those, MasterCard and Visa International are the most widely accepted.
The CUC is not an internationally circulating currency. When withdrawing cash with a credit card, the CUC will be converted first to the US Dollar, the amount in USD will be deducted from your account, plus 3%. Example: if you want to withdraw CUC 100.00 cash with your credit card, USD 103.00 will be debited.
Cuban Convertible Pesos are legal tender everywhere in the national territory. Cuban convertible pesos can be changed upon departure at bank offices at international airports and ports in Cuba. Travelers Checks - as long as they are payable against banks that are not based in the United States - are accepted, although not recommended as they are subject to a commission and in case of loss, they cannot be substituted in Cuba.
One of the most commonly used authorizations is for “group people-to-people” travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization such as Caribbean Travel Network Inc. More information about “group people-to-people” is provided below.
The other categories of authorized travel are:
• Family Visits
• Professional Research and Professional Meetings
• Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions
• Educational Activities, other than group people-to-people travel
• Journalistic Activity
• Religious Activities
• Support for the Cuban People
• Humanitarian Projects
• Activities for private foundations or research or educational institutes
• Official business of the U.S. Government, foreign government, and certain intergovernmental organizations
• Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or informational materials; and Exportation of BIS Authorized or Licensed Goods
Individuals traveling under one of these categories are responsible for making certain they satisfy all the U.S. regulatory requirements for the General License for that category.
Information about all of these General Licenses, and their requirements, can be found on the website for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Pages/cuba.aspx. OFAC is responsible for administering the U.S. regulations concerning Cuba.
A complete list of the requirements for each General License is located in the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515, which can be accessed at www.ecfr.gov.
When booking with Caribbean Travel Network Inc, U.S. citizens are required to sign a Certificate indicating the purpose of travel, under one of the mentioned categories.
What is group people-to-people travel?
Individuals are authorized to travel to Cuba under a General License (general authorization) for “group people-to-people” travel if they, travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization, such as Caribbean Travel Network Inc, and they adhere to Caribbean Travel Network Inc’s full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba and which are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people's independence from Cuban authorities. The U.S. organization must also have a tour escort accompany each program.
Individuals used to be able to travel on their own under the People-to-People General License; however, on June 16, 2017, President Trump announced the end of this individual people-to-people travel, which will likely take effect in the next several months. Once this takes effect, U.S. travelers traveling under the popular people-to-people category must travel under the auspices of a U.S. organization, such as Caribbean Travel Network Inc.
The predominant portion of the activities cannot be with certain high-ranking officials of the Government of Cuba or certain prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party.
Persons relying on this authorization must bring a copy of their Certification and Caribbean Travel Network Inc itinerary with them and maintain these records, as well as any other record related to the program, for 5 years. These records must be furnished to the Office of Foreign Assets Control on demand.
For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.565(b).
What is the general license for “public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions?
OFAC has issued a general license that authorizes travel to Cuba in order to participate in or organize a public performance, clinic, workshop, non-athletic competition, or exhibition in Cuba, provided that the event is open for attendance, and in relevant situations participation, by the Cuban public. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.567.
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