One of the most distinctive characteristics of daily life in Cuba is the use of two currencies. Initially, it can be a little complicated trying to make sense of two completely different sets of notes and coins but with the following tips you acting like a local in no time.
In terms of changing your foreign money (USD, Euros or CAD) to Cuban Currency, this is relatively easy and straight forward. This can be done in your hotel but you will get a better rate at a bank or the official currency exchange, known in Cuba as a CADECA (Casa de Cambio). You will find these CADECAs all over Havana and Cuba more broadly. Also, if you see a CADECA with a big line, don’t worry, wait for a little while, the line goes quick and the staff are used to helping tourists. Changing money in the street is not recommended, not only is it illegal but it is nearly always some type of scam designed to steal money from tourists. It is important to note that CAD, EUR or GBP are all better than USD when it comes time to exchange your money as all USD transactions attract an additional tax of 10%.
The first you need to know is the two Cuban currencies are: CUC (Cuban Convertivle Pesos, also known as fula, chavito or dolar) y CUP (Cuban peso, peso cubano or national currency, moneda nacional). 1 USD is around 1 CUC and 1 CUC is equivalent to around 24 CUP. From a practical perspective we recommend that you first change your foreign money into CUC, and once you have done this that you then change a small amount of your CUC into CUP (Say around $20 worth).
You can pay for almost all services and goods in either of the currencies, so you will only have to remember the exchange rate between them when it comes time to pay. However, there are some products you will better off buying in CUP. Here we offer you a list of the 5 best things you can buy in Cuba in CUP.
Cuban love for peanuts (maní) is huge, even Cuban music is a reflection of that love, one of the most famous Cuban songs is El Manicero (the peanut seller), a Cuban son-pregón composed by Moisés Simons. If you want to know the reason for this addiction try every kind of peanut you can find, the prices go between 1 and 25 CUP: cucurucho de maní (salty peanut cone), manímolido (cream of ground peanut in a bar shape) and garapiñado (covered with sugar)… you will become an addict!
Fruits and vegetables:
Because of the tropical wheather, in Cuba there is a large variety of fruits and vegetables, all of them available in agricultural markets, known in Cuba as agros. The prices in these markets are always in moneda nacional. If you know how to choose well, with 75 CUP (3 CUC) you can buy everything needed to make a fruit cocktail or salad: pineapple, guava, banana, papaya, mango…
For 50 CUP you can take home a bottle of white or red wine Soroa. Produced on the most western province of Cuba: Pinar del Río, this beverage may be the solution if you are short on budget or if you want to impress your friends with a dinner of exclusively Cuban products.
In Cuba, there is a lot of focus on the use of contraceptive methods to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. That´s why condoms are crazy cheap: 1 box with 3 condoms costs only 1 CUP. You can find them at most Cuban local pharmacies.
For all the soaps available on the Cuban market, the one that is sold on MAI stores (national industrial market) is the best one. It costs only 6 CUP and it is known as Batey soap, it removes all kind of spots. The Batey soap does not have a special smell, so if you want a better fragrance you will have to add a conditioner, but your clothes are going to be so clean that you won´t want to use any other soap in your entire life.