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Withdrawing money with a UK bank card when in Cuba

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Withdrawing money with a UK bank card when in Cuba

1. Posted by chestwig (Budding Member 14 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi peoples,

My question is not how much will I be charged or anything like that.

BUt does anyone know if I withdraw using my UK debit card from a Cuba ATM will it dispense the 'tourist money' or the local currency?

Thanks in advance.

2. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Don't know for sure, but I'd guess that as a tourist, you only have access to ATMs dispersing tourist money. Since local currency is illegal for you to get your hands on, I don't think that you'll get it from a machine :)

3. Posted by kael (Budding Member 15 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!


I just came back from Havana and I used a UK visa debit card at the Cadeca money exchange at the Hotel Nacional to get Convertibles (tourist money) from my bank account. I was advised by the family I was staying with to do this rather than use ATMs. I took their advice because I was there just over 2 weeks and didn't feel like that was long enough to start going against the advice of locals.

I heard that the ATMs are famous for swallowing cards and the family said you make yourself into a target. I don't really know if this is any more true in Cuba than in any other Latin American country, but decided to go to the Cadeca anyway. To do it that way you need your card and your passport. There's loads of Cadecas in Havana but the one I used is downstairs in the Hotel Nacional and there's a fee but the same as there would be using the ATM.

You'll need Convertibles too though, you won't be able to get by with only Cuban Pesos. A member of the family I stayed with changed me some Convertibles into Cuban Pesos at another Cadeca. You can eat cheaper with the Cuban Pesos but you'll need Convertibles for accomodation and most other stuff. I don't think that it's illegal to have Cuban Pesos, just that the value is so much lower than the Convertible and most things of any value are sold in Convertibles. This is why the situation is so difficult for Cubans because they are paid in Pesos but things they need are sold in Convertibles.

Make sure you change your money back before you leave (if you haven't spent it all-Cuba isn't cheap). You can't change Cuban money outside of Cuba as it's a closed economy.

Hope this helps. The double economy is a hugely complex issue which runs so much deeper than being an inconvenience to the tourist. Have a good time. Words don't really describe Cuba.

4. Posted by chestwig (Budding Member 14 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the replies...

I'm still have a great deal of difficulty getting my head around this. As a 'selfish tourist', I really want to know how much Im getting charge... I don't particularly like the idea that I have to may more for a loaf of bread than a local. Although don't mind paying a higher charge for accomodation

So Does anyone have any idea what I can buy in the national Peso?
Also if the price is offered in national and convertabile, How much would you may in each? I.e if a bottle of water was $1 in national would that mean it would be $24 in local or would it be $1 in local?

I'm flummoxed!

5. Posted by kael (Budding Member 15 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi again. Yes the double economy is very confusing. I didn't see anything sold with 2 prices, places either sell in Convertibles or Pesos. Things I bought in Pesos (national money) are: ice cream on the street, pizzas on the street, guava empanadas, flowers from a flower seller, you can buy fruit and veg from the agropecuario in pesos too. I went to a few peso restaurants too in Centro Habana. The supermarket sold everything in Convertibles and all the bottles of water I bought were in Convertibles too. I think that loaves of bread are sold in pesos, I saw lots of mysterious looking places with bread and lots of people. Maybe Cubans get bread on the ration I'm not sure. Maybe someone else might know about bread? I didn't buy any. Using local buses you would use pesos. Oh the cinema and the theatre had 2 rates, one for locals and one for foreigners.

You will often pay more than Cubans for things it is true (including accomodation), and you may well be overcharged a lot of places too. But I think it is important to consider the economic situation of the Cuban people while you feel that resentment.

It would be interesting to hear of other people's experiences with this..........


6. Posted by chestwig (Budding Member 14 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Thanks again for the further infomation... I certainly expect to pay more for some things like accomodation. But I'm not happy paying a lot more just because I'm a tourist for bread, beer, food.

I've read in my guide book that it's not actuall ilegal for a tourist to pay for anything using the national peso- But you can expect to get strange looks from locals. It's probably not worth getting into debates about it though. After you got your convertable peso how did you get some changed to the local pesos?

Where going over in July... Two festivals are on, one in Havana and one in Santiago De Cuba. CAn't wait!!

7. Posted by mohnton (Budding Member 16 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!


I am going to Cuba in July too for a month. It is my third trip to Cuba in 1 year:o)

About the currency:

CUC 1 equals about 24 pesos cubanos (at least the last time I was there). Cubans are paid in pesos cubanos and only make about the equivalent of CUC 18 a month. A thing like oil for cooking is only sold in CUC, so they will first have to pay to convert their money into CUC and then have to pay about CUC 2 for the oil. Other than that they are paying of the refrigerator from China, which is probably about CUC 3 a month etc, so when all expenses are paid, there is no money left! That is why all families many times have a side business. If they are working at the destillary, they probably smugle som rum or beer out and sell it to other cubans in pesos. The cubans them selves can't afford to buy "real bottled beer", but they know where to get the illegal beer for next to nothing.

So if you would like to go the cheap way, I would recommend you to find some Cuban friends and hang out with them. Otherwise, you will be a tourist! And tourists pay to visit Cuba - some pay more than others. Accomodation ranges from CUC 10 and up for at double room at night, and many times it has nothing to do with quality. Most people end up paying about CUC 25 -30 unless you are staying in a hotel. And keep of the touristy track, if you don't want to be treated like one!

I would also recommend you to book accomodation before you go to Cuba, as many things are fully booked during carnavales.

Hope I helped you a bit!