Cuba Pesos - CUP
Any visit to Cuba may well meet with a few puzzled looks when it comes to the currency in use – or should we say currencies. While Cuba uses the peso it actually has two versions of it. One is called the Cuban peso as mentioned here, and the other is called the convertible peso. They are both decimal currencies and both are comprised of 100 centavos, so that part at least is easy to get to grips with. When you see the letters CUP used this refers to the Cuban peso, which is commonly referred to as the national peso. The convertible version is also traded on international markets and this has the currency code CUC.
Generally the Cuban peso is the one that is more common in the country. However if you visit as a tourist you may well come across it.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
The Cuban peso has coins as well as banknotes. The most commonly used coins are the 1, 5 and 30 centavos coins, along with the $1 and $3 peso coins. There are also a number of banknotes which range from the $1 peso note to the $100 peso note, although the latter is rarely used now. In between you can also find the $3, $5, $10, $20 and $50 peso notes.
If you see any convertible pesos you will see there are a number of coins here too – the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo coins, plus the $1 peso coin. There is also a $5 peso coin. As far as the banknotes are concerned they are released in the same denominations as the other Cuban peso notes.
From past to present – the history of the Cuban peso
The peso has been around for a long time now. It was actually the very first proper Cuban currency to be used, back in 1857. Before this the country’s inhabitants used the Spanish reales as their currency.
It would not be pegged to another currency until 1881. At this stage the Cubans chose the US dollar but it would not remain pegged to it for ever. As most people are aware the history between Cuba and the US is a little frosty in places. This is why the Cubans decided to peg their currency to the Russian rouble in 1960. Back they went to the US dollar – albeit somewhat reluctantly – in 1993 though, after the Soviet Union came to an end a couple of years previously.
This would prove to be the second time the peso lost a lot of its value, due to occurrences in the two countries the currency was pegged to. The convertible peso only came about in 1994. The name was created because it was the same value as the US dollar and was therefore convertible or exchangeable on an as-is basis. Before this point Cubans could use the US dollar as an acceptable currency in their country. By introducing the convertible peso alongside the Cuban peso, the government basically made their people switch to using the new form of the peso instead of the US dollar. Now of course the convertible version will eventually be ditched to give the Cubans just one currency – the original peso, if you will – to get used to.
How to get hold of the Cuban peso
It is worth noting you cannot get hold of the convertible peso outside of Cuba itself. Indeed eventually you won’t be able to get hold of it at all, because the government has decided it will become unified with the Cuban peso. This means that in a few years from now you will only see the Cuban peso while on holiday in the country. This will undoubtedly make things easier and less confusing for holidaymakers.
In the past you would have been able to use the US dollar in Cuba but as we now know, this is no longer the case. You can change a limited number of currencies – including the British pound – for Cuban pesos when you get to the airport there. Make sure you only ever use official ‘cadecas’ when you want to transfer some of your own cash into pesos. You should change them back into your own currency once you get ready to depart the country at the airport. Many people say the best thing is to take adequate amounts of foreign cash with you to change into pesos whenever you need them.
You will also find you can pay for goods by using your credit card. However there is a caveat here – given the nature of the ‘relationship’ between Cuba and the US, you should make doubly sure your credit card has no connection with the US. Even if you were granted your card in the UK the company that granted it to you could be American in some way or form. You can also use a debit card to get cash from a cash machine (if you are fortunate enough to find one, as they are hard to locate). However again make sure your card isn’t issued by a bank with connections to the US.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Cuban peso
You can do this quite easily by using the traditional online currency converter. There are several of them around – you might even want to download an app to your phone to bring you the latest conversion rate. Enter your own currency and then find the Cuban peso by searching for it or entering CUP to find it faster.
As you would expect Cuba has an embassy in the UK in London. The Embassy of Cuba also maintains a website at http://www.cubadiplomatica.cu, and indeed this is the best way to find out more about the country.
Travelling safely with the Cuban peso
Crime isn’t much of a concern in Cuba as far as tourists are concerned. It is not completely free from crime of course, but for the most part you shouldn’t be worried by it. Opportunists who look for easy marks are the people to watch out for. If you protect your money, cards and other valuables instead of drawing attention to them you should find you are not troubled at all.
To keep your mind at rest, the vast majority of people who choose Cuba as their holiday destination have a great time.
Where to spend your pesos in Cuba – and what to spend them on
Cuba is situated off the coast of southern Florida. It is an island situated in the Caribbean and most people will recognise the name of its capital – Havana. More than two million people live here and it is one of the most popular spots tourists want to see. There are several parts to the city but Old Havana is, as the name would suggest, the oldest part of them all. One of the best parts of the city as a whole is the architecture here. There are many different styles from many different times throughout the past few centuries that have all led to the mix that exists today.
Don’t miss Habana Vieja, which is the original part of the city. This has now been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect and preserve it for people to enjoy both now and in the future. Morro Castle, to be found at Havana Bay, is also worth a look. It dates back to the late-1500s and has prevented many an attempted entrance into the city since then.
Elsewhere you may also want to visit the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara. You can find out more about the man in the museum that is also on the site.
Cuba is clearly a country with lots of history. However there is more to the country than its history and indeed its cities and famous locations. Perhaps the best example of this is the Sierra Maestra. This beautifully-named location is also a mountain range, which will show you an altogether different side of Cuba. You’ll find it in the south-eastern part of the country. Elsewhere there are other more natural parts of the country such as the Turquino National Park. Wherever you go in Cuba you won’t be far from any of the most appealing features it has to share with you.
Cuba may not be the first destination that will come to mind when you are looking through holiday brochures for some ideas of where to go this year. However you can see there are many destinations on the island that offer an engaging experience for even the most casual of visitors.
Many people know something of Cuba’s history but they may not know anything of what it offers today. Whether you are into history or you want to see something of the natural world the island has to offer, you should think about booking a flight to Cuba and getting a few pesos in your pocket to see what you can find there.