Cuba Currency (Cuban Peso History + Facts)

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The official currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso (CUP), also known as the moneda nacional. However, tourists are required to use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which is pegged to the US dollar at a 1:1 exchange rate.

Cuba Peso

One CUP is equivalent to 100 cents. Bills come in the following denominations: 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 pesos. There are also fractional coins of 1, 3, and 5 pesos as well as 5 and 20 cents.

Overall, understanding Cuba’s currency system is essential for a smooth and enjoyable trip. By exchanging your currency before arriving and being aware of the different exchange rates, you can ensure that you’re getting the most out of your money while in Cuba.

Historical Journey of Cuba Currency

Cuba has a rich history of currency that dates back to the 16th century. During this time, the Spanish-American silver dollar was the primary currency used in Cuba. The Cuban peso was introduced in 1857 and circulated at par with the Spanish-American silver dollar until the 19th century.

In 1881, the Cuban peso was pegged to the US dollar, and this continued until 1959. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the socialist planned economy was introduced, and the Cuban peso was pegged to the Soviet ruble.

In 1994, the convertible peso was introduced as a second official currency in Cuba, and its value was pegged 1:1 to the US dollar. The convertible peso was used mainly by tourists, and the Cuban peso was used by locals.

In 2004, the US dollar was no longer accepted in Cuban retail outlets, and the convertible peso became the only currency accepted by tourists. The Cuban government then introduced a dual currency system, where locals used the Cuban peso, and tourists used the convertible peso.

Today, the Cuban government is working towards unifying the two currencies, and it is expected that the dual currency system will be eliminated shortly.

Overall, the history of Cuba’s currency is a reflection of the country’s political and economic changes over time.

History of Coins

Cuban coinage history reflects the island’s complex economic and political transitions, featuring a variety of materials, denominations, and designs, from the late 19th century to the present.

Initially, revolutionary forces issued pesos in 1897 and 1898 to support independence. 

The early 20th century marked a significant expansion in Cuban coinage, with the introduction of various denominations in metals ranging from cupro-nickel to gold.

Notably, in 1915, the United States Mint in Philadelphia produced a series of Cuban coins designed by Charles E. Barber, including gold coins that ceased production after 1916 and a silver peso that was minted until 1939.

Cuba’s coinage evolved through the years, incorporating different compositions and designs to reflect changes in the nation’s identity and economy.

In 1943, brass centavos were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel compositions until 1958. The last U.S.-produced coin was minted in 1961, marking the end of an era in Cuban numismatics.

Post-1959, after the revolution, Cuba’s coinage shifted to include cupro-nickel, aluminum, and bi-metallic compositions, with denominations adjusting to the economic needs and inflation rates. 

Coins in circulation have featured national symbols and figures, like José Martí and Che Guevara, reinforcing national identity and revolutionary values. The introduction of aluminum coins in the 1960s and bi-metallic 5 pesos in 2017 reflects ongoing adjustments to the economy and coinage utility.

Special coinage series, such as the INTUR coins for tourists, were issued between 1981 and 1989 but were demonetized in 2001, replaced by the convertible peso (CUC). 

The CUC, introduced in 1994, had its coin denominations, including a rare bimetallic 5-peso coin, designed to co-circulate with the Cuban peso (CUP), offering a distinct appearance and material composition to differentiate from national currency.

Today, common circulating coins include denominations of 5 and 20 centavos and 1, 3, and 5 pesos, with 1 and 2 centavo coins rarely seen due to their low value but still remaining legal tender. 

History of Bills

The history of Cuban banknotes spans several periods, marked by significant changes in design, denomination, and issuing authorities.

Initially, under the Spanish Administration, the Banco Español de la Habana issued Cuba’s first banknotes in 1857 in denominations up to 1,000 dollars. This expanded over the years to include smaller denominations and the introduction of notes by other entities, reflecting political and economic shifts.

During the Ten Years’ War in 1869, currency issued in the name of the Republic of Cuba appeared, featuring denominations as low as 50 centavos. By 1872, the Banco Español de la Habana was issuing notes in a broader range of denominations, from 5 centavos to 3 pesos. 

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw further diversification, including the introduction of notes by the Treasury and changes in issuing banks’ names, culminating in the Banco Nacional de Cuba taking over note issuance in 1949 with denominations up to 10,000 pesos.

A significant shift occurred in 1934 with the introduction of silver certificates, designed, engraved, and printed in the U.S., which circulated in Cuba until the early 1950s. These certificates were a unique form of currency, distinct from regular banknotes.

The socialist revolution brought profound changes. In 1961, all previous banknotes were demonetized and replaced by new ones printed in Czechoslovakia.

This move was part of a broader shift towards a socialist planned economy. In 1983, a three-peso note was introduced, and in 1997, the Central Bank of Cuba was established to oversee the country’s monetary policy and note issuance.

The most recent chapter on Cuban currency involves the demonetization of the 1961 notes in 2002 and the introduction of high-denomination notes in 2015.

Following the monetary unification in 2021, the convertible peso was retired, leaving a single series of banknotes in circulation, featuring prominent Cuban historical figures and national symbols on their obverse and reverse sides.

Additionally, foreign exchange certificates were issued in 1985, later replaced by the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) in 1994, which was co-circulated with the Cuban peso (CUP) until 2020.

The CUC notes were distinguishable by their depiction of monuments, contrasting with the portrait-laden CUP notes, until the CUC was phased out, simplifying Cuba’s complex currency system.

Inflation and Buying Power of the Cuban Peso

The value of the Cuban peso has been on a decline in recent years, leading to a rise in inflation and a decrease in the buying power of the currency.

According to Reuters, the Cuban peso was trading at an all-time low of 230 to the dollar on the informal market in August 2023. This is a significant drop from its value just a year ago when it was twice as strong.

The high inflation rate in Cuba has also contributed to the decline in the buying power of the Cuban peso. According to Reuters, government estimates put inflation at 77% in 2021, although independent experts say it may have been as high as 500%.

This has made it increasingly difficult for individuals and businesses in Cuba to afford basic necessities such as food and medicine.

The Cuban government has attempted to combat inflation by implementing various measures such as price controls and import restrictions. However, these measures have not been entirely effective in reducing inflation and increasing the buying power of the Cuban peso.

The Cuban Economic Transition suggests that the Cuban currency board should consider adopting a nominal exchange rate rule that is tied to changes in the terms of trade (TOT) to combat inflation.

In conclusion, the decline in the value of the Cuban peso and the high inflation rate have significantly reduced the buying power of the currency. While the Cuban government has attempted to combat inflation, more needs to be done to stabilize the economy and increase the value of the Cuban peso.

Cuban Peso

The current Cuban peso banknotes feature important figures and historic events on their fronts and backs.


1 peso: The front shows José Martí; the back depicts Fidel Castro and his men entering Havana in 1959.


3 pesos: The Front has Ernesto “Che” Guevara; the back shows Che cutting sugar cane.


5 pesos: Antonio Maceo is on the front; the back illustrates his 1878 conference with a Spanish general.


10 pesos: Features Máximo Gómez on the front; the back represents “War of the people.”


20 pesos: Camilo Cienfuegos is on the front; the back shows banana harvest and fieldwork.


50 pesos: The Front has Calixto García Íñiguez; the back displays a Genetic and Biotechnological Centre.


100 pesos: Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is on the front; the back features the Anti-imperialistic tribune in Havana.


200 pesos: Frank País is featured on the front; the back depicts Cuartel Moncada in Santiago de Cuba.


500 pesos: Ignacio Agramonte is on the front; the back shows the Constituent Assembly in Guáimaro.

These notes celebrate Cuba’s history, culture, and heroes, from independence fighters to significant moments in the nation’s journey.

Currency Usage in Cuba

When it comes to currency usage in Cuba, the official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP). It has been the only official currency since January 1st, 2021 when the government abolished the Convertible Peso (CUC) and did away with the dual currency system.

As a tourist, you will need to exchange your currency for Cuban Pesos to pay for goods and services.

Is USD Accepted in Cuba?

While USD is widely accepted in Cuba, it is important to note that any transactions in USD are subject to a 10% surcharge. This means that you will not get the full value of your USD when exchanging it for Cuban Pesos.

It is recommended that you exchange your USD for Cuban Pesos at a Cadeca (official currency exchange office) or a bank to avoid this surcharge.

It is also important to note that credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks are not accepted in Cuba. Therefore, it is best to bring cash with you and exchange it for Cuban Pesos upon arrival.

Overall, it is important to be mindful of the currency usage in Cuba and to plan accordingly to avoid any issues with payment or exchange rates.

Exchanging Currency in Cuba

If you’re planning a trip to Cuba, it’s important to know how to exchange currency.

The Cuban Peso (CUP) is the only official currency since January 1st, 2021, so if anyone says you need to exchange to CUC, they are probably scamming you.

Where can I exchange Cuba currency?

You can exchange currency at banks, official exchange offices, and some hotels in Cuba. Banks and exchange offices are generally open from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on weekdays and 8:30 am to 12:00 pm on Saturdays.

It’s important to note that exchange rates can vary between different banks and exchange offices, so it’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate.

What to know before exchanging currency in Cuba

Before exchanging currency, it’s important to know that there is a 3% commission fee for changing US dollars to CUP.

Additionally, some currencies, such as the British pound and the euro, may have a better exchange rate than the US dollar. It’s also a good idea to bring cash with you to Cuba, as credit and debit cards are not widely accepted.

While it’s possible to exchange US dollars for CUP, it’s important to note that there is a 10% surcharge on this transaction. To avoid this fee, it’s recommended that you exchange your currency for Euros or Canadian dollars before arriving in Cuba.

Additionally, there are two different exchange rates for CUP – the official rate and the unofficial rate. The unofficial rate is typically higher, but it’s important to be cautious when exchanging money on the street to avoid scams.

When exchanging currency, make sure to count your money carefully and check for counterfeit bills. It’s also a good idea to keep your receipts, as you may need them to exchange any leftover CUP back to your home currency when leaving Cuba.

Overall, exchanging currency in Cuba is a straightforward process, but it’s important to be aware of the commission fee and to shop around for the best exchange rate.

Choosing Between USD and Cuban Currency

When traveling to Cuba, you have the option to use either USD or Cuban currency. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which currency to use during your trip.

Exchange Rate

It’s recommended to exchange your currency to CUP upon arrival in Cuba. You can exchange your currency at the airport or a bank. Some hotels and resorts also offer currency exchange services, but the exchange rate may not be as favorable as at a bank.


Most places in Cuba only accept Cuban currency, so using USD may not be the most convenient option. You will need to exchange your USD for Cuban currency at official exchange offices or banks. These offices may have long lines, and some may only accept certain types of currency, so it’s important to plan.


When exchanging USD for Cuban currency, there may be fees involved. Some exchange offices may charge a commission, and the exchange rate may not be as favorable as you would like.

Additionally, if you use your credit or debit card to withdraw money in Cuba, you may be charged foreign transaction fees by your bank.


If you do decide to use USD in Cuba, it’s a good idea to bring smaller bills. Many places in Cuba may not be able to make changes for larger bills, and you don’t want to be stuck with a large bill that you can’t use.

It’s also a good idea to bring some Cuban currency with you for small purchases, such as street food or souvenirs.

Overall, while USD may be more familiar to you, using Cuban currency can save you money and be more convenient during your trip.

Cost of Living in Cuba

If you are planning to visit or move to Cuba, it is important to understand the cost of living in the country.

According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Cuba is on average 37.8% lower than in the United States. A single person’s estimated monthly costs without rent are around $589.3 USD.

Rent in Cuba is, on average, 76.4% lower than in the United States. However, it is important to note that prices can vary greatly depending on the location and availability of goods and services.

The cost of food in Cuba is relatively low, with a meal in an inexpensive restaurant costing around 5 to 10 CUP. However, imported goods and luxury items can be expensive due to high tariffs and taxes. It is also important to note that some necessities, such as toiletries and household items, may not always be readily available.

Transportation in Cuba is relatively cheap, with a one-way ticket on public transport costing around 0.40 CUP. Taxis are also available, but they can be more expensive, with a short ride costing around 5 CUP.

Overall, the cost of living in Cuba can be affordable, but it is important to be aware of the unique economic situation in the country. It is recommended to bring cash in the form of Euros or Canadian dollars, as U.S. dollars are subject to a 10% penalty fee when exchanged in Cuba.

Don’t Get Scammed Tips

When it comes to exchanging money in Cuba, it’s important to be aware of the potential for scams. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting ripped off:

  1. Know the Exchange Rate

Always know the current exchange rate before exchanging money. This will help you avoid being shortchanged or overcharged. You can check the official exchange rate on the Cuban Central Bank’s website or use a currency converter app.

  1. Count Your Money

Always count your money before leaving the exchange office or vendor. This will help you catch any mistakes or discrepancies. If you find a mistake, bring it to the attention of the exchange office or vendor immediately.

  1. Beware of Unofficial Exchanges

Be cautious of unofficial exchanges, which are often offered by locals on the street or in shops. These exchanges may offer a better rate than official exchanges, but they are also more likely to be scams. Stick to official exchange offices or banks to ensure that you get a fair rate.

  1. Use CUP, Not CUC

Cuba used to have two currencies: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP). But since 2021, they only have the Cuban Peso (CUP). Always use CUP, and never accept someone trying to give you CUC.

  1. Confirm Prices Upfront

Always confirm the price of goods or services upfront to avoid any surprises. This is especially important when taking taxis or purchasing souvenirs. If possible, agree on a price before getting into a taxi or entering a shop.

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