If you are planning to travel to the beautiful country of Cuba, you will need to convert your money into the local currency.  There are two distict types of currency circulating in Cuba. The moneda nacional or the Cuban Peso (MN or CUP) which the local population uses, and the the moneda libremente convertible or the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which foreigners must use. To complicate matters, the euro is also legal tender in many of the hotels, restaurants, and shops in several of the larger, isolated beach resort destinations.

The Cuban Peso is made up of 100 centavos or cents. There are coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos as well as in 1 and 3 Pesos. Notes are available in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Cuban Peso

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The Cuban Convertible Peso is also made up of 100 centavos or cents. You will be able to get coins in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos as well as in 1 Convertible Peso. Notes are available in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Cuban Convertible Pesos. The exchange rate between the Cuban Convertible Peso and the Cuban Peso can vary between $24.00 to $26.00 Cuban Pesos to the Cuban Convertible Peso.

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As of November 8, 2004, the US Dollar is no longer accepted as legal tender in Cuba. Travelers arriving with US Dollars can exchange them for the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) at the airport and at the official exchange houses – called CADECA which are widely available throughout all of the cities in Cuba. A 10% surcharge is assessed on all US Dollar exchanges into Cuban Convertible Peso. The10% surcharge is waived upon exchanging your Cuban Convertible Peso back into US Dollars when leaving the country. There is no fee of any kind charged upon exchanges of Euros, British Pounds, Canadian dollars or other foreign currencies into Cuban Convertible Peso (other than a nominal service fee of 1%-2% which may be assessed).

On April 9 2005, the Cuban Convertible Peso was re-valued in relation to the US Dollar at exactly US$1.08 to 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). This rate is fixed by the Cuban Government, and is subject to change at anytime. From this date forward, the Cuban Convertible Peso has been valued at 8% more than the US Dollar at the constant rate of US$1.08 to 1.00 CUC. When obtaining Cuban Convertible Pesos, however, the CADECA or Cuban bank will also add a service charge or commission of 3% to 4% (in the form of an exchange rate differencial). Therefore, the effective exchange rate is approximately US$ 1.12 to $1 CUC.

The 10% surcharge applicable when exchanging US$ for CUC does not apply when exchanging CUC into other currencies, or when exchanging CUC back to US$.

Aside from exchanging cash from foreign to local currencies the CADECAs also exchange travellers cheks into local currency (except Eurocheques which are not accepted anywhere in Cuba). Visa and Thomas Cook travellers cheks issued in US Dollars incur the 10% surcharge when exchanged for Convertible Cuban Pesos. The CADECAs  also provide cash advances on Visa and MasterCard credit cards which are widely accepted throughout Cuba and are valid from accounts in every currency. This includes US Dollar issued credit cards. These credit cards, however, are subject to the 10% surcharge when used locally. As of this writing, credit cards issued on the Cirrus and Maestro networks are not accepted within Cuba.

If you are planning to shop in some of the smaller towns and villages, it would be advisable that you pay with cash.