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General Information

Cuba is a safe country to visit .. in fact, the safest destinations in all of the Americas with a very low crime rate. Tourism is extremely crucial to Cuba’s economy so strict and prominent policing make the streets a safe places for tourists.
Currencies used in Cuba.
There are two official national currencies in Cuba:
• CUC:  Official name Cuban Convertible Peso
• CUP:  Official name Cuban Peso (a.k.a Peso nacional or Moneda Nacional).
1 CUC = 1 USD (fixed)   and   1 CUC = 25 CUP

History of the CUC The CUC was first introduced in 1994 but the US Dollar still remained the preferred currency for tourists until November 8, 2004 when the Cuban government completely withdrew the US dollar from circulation.
Since then the CUC became the "tourist currency" to substitute the US Dollar (USD). At first (November 2004) the CUC was pegged to the USD (1.00 CUC = 1.00 USD), then in April 2005 the exchange rate was changed to 1.00 CUC = 1.08 USD, and then in March 2011 the Central Bank of Cuba devaluated the CUC by 8% against all foreign currencies, so this measure now pegs again the CUC at 1 to 1 with the US Dollar. Both currencies are now available to everyone, but CUPs are generally used by the Cubans and CUCs are used by both the foreigners and the Cubans.
Some stores and other establishments only use CUCs and others only use CUPs. The CUP-only establishments are mainly for the Cuban day-to-day life, such as street food, produce market, small grocery stores, cafeterias and movies etc. All cash purchases in Cuba have to be made in CUC (or CUP), no other foreign currency is accepted. Tipping is made in CUC, no foreign currency.
IMPORTANT! You can only receive and use Cuban currencies (CUP or CUC) in Cuba and the currency cannot be exchanged in any other country.
The Bank is where you will get the best exchange rate. Cadeca  (acronym for Casa de Cambio, This is the official government’s currency exchange house. Exchange rate can be just a little bit higher than the bank, but they usually are more conveniently located. Exchanging your money at the hotel is a simple and convenient option but usually not the best rate you will find. Service fees can sometimes be quite high (average 3% to 5%
but as high as 10% in some upscale hotels!) and their rates are not regulated by the government. Your passport is required to exchange money at a bank or cadeca but not at your hotel. Banknotes with rips, markings or tears are not accepted so make sure to bring banknotes in decent condition.Please note that no foreign coinage can be exchanged, notes only. Always check the cashier calculation to make sure you get the same amount as written on the receipt and the exact exchange rate was applied. Many foreign currencies may be exchanged for CUC (such as: EUR, CAD, USD, GBP, CHF, MXP, DKK, NOK, SEK, and JPY) at the daily exchange rate (please note
that not all banks, cadecas or hotels can handle all of these currencies).
USD Exchange against CUC is different; a 10% tax (penalty) is added, so avoid bringing US dollars. The Banco Nacional de Cuba publishes the official daily exchange rates in its website ... http://www.bc.gob.cu/
You can change back unused CUCs at the end of your trip, but then the exchange rate is extremely bad. CUCs have no value outside Cuba, so it is better to buy smaller amounts as needed. Keep a few CUC for the airport departure purchases like duty free, souvenirs, drinks, snacks, etc.Travellers’ checks are not very practical in Cuba because it’s tough to find a place to change them and you have to pay a commission. Plus, you cannot have them replaced in Cuba if you lose them or they get stolen, you’ll have to wait until you come back home. American Express Travelers Cheques are not accepted in Cuba.
CREDIT CARDS Credit cards affiliated with any US bank or US financial institution are not accepted. Accepted cards in Cuba:  Any Visa and Master Card with USA affiliation will NOT work. American Express, MBNA, City Bank, Capital one, Egg, Marks & Spenser, Maestro, Alliance & Leicester or any other credit card with US affiliation WILL NOT WORK. MasterCard and Visa cards (from a non-US bank) are accepted as a form of payment in most hotels, resorts, restaurants, stores, and tours agencies, but usually, not in open-air markets, handicraft kiosks, small restaurants, casa particular (private property lodging), smaller hotels or hotels outside the popular tourist areas, privately own restaurant or paladar, street vendors, and many other places off the beaten path. Credit cards can also be used in banks or cadedas to withdraw money (CUCs) but remember that your card company will charge you interests starting the day of the transaction.
As the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) is not traded internationally all transaction on credit cards are charged in $USD (remember that 1 CUC=1 USD), and an administration fee of 3% is added. For example: if you buy something which costs 100 CUC you credit card will be charged $103 USD, and then you credit card company will convert the amount to your local currency on your statement.
DEBIT CARDS & ATM Debit cards have always been ineffective in Cuba, but it’s slowly starting to change. Now only the debit cards with a Visa or MasterCard logo on them works, but in an ATM (Automated Teller Machine) only the one with a Visa logo works, for a MasterCard debit card you have to go inside the bank and see a teller. AMT's can be found in main cities and tourist areas.
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Cristobal Columbus Model, First Contact Reenactment Park, Holguin Provence.
Photo Paul Sorensen
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Moncada Barracks, Santiago de Cuba