A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY
The question of how much to tip comes up with almost all travelers we interact. This is what I continuously tell our guests.
Expect that you will receive a high level of service and meet warm and friendly people willing to share their country and their stories with you. On average, Cubans earn the equivalent of approximately USD20 - 60 per month. While our staff does better than that, without exception, they have families that much depend on them.
Tipping is optional but rest assured that your tips at restaurants, bars and to the staff that will work with you will be very welcome, and go a long way. As guidance, I will say:
- 10-15% at bars and restaurants
- CUC10 for any subject matter expert that we bring to enhance your experiences
- CUC5 per day to divide between your driver and assigned Amigo
Hope this guide helps you
In Cuba, cash is truly king as US-based credit cards currently do not work in Cuba. And credit cards issued in other countries..., well they work sometimes.
That said, Cuban currency is somewhat “peculiar” as there are two currencies of legal tender in the country:
- The Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC is the currency you will most likely transact with. For international exchange purposes 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 USD. However, when exchanging USD there is a 10% penalty charged and a 3% currency exchange fee, therefore you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one USD.
Travelers traditionally exchange their USD to EUR or CAD to avoid the 10% tax Cuban banks are imposing on USD/CUC exchange. Depending on the amount to be exchanged and the exchange rate your bank uses this can make a difference i.e. on the exchange of USD1,000 one can lose USD100.
A matter of simple math:
- $US100 buys 87 CUC
- $US100 buys $115 CAD which converts to 92 CUC (assuming a CAD to CUC exchange rate of 80.06)
- $US100 bu ys 79.25 Euros, which converts to 92.32 CUC (assuming a Euro to CUC exchange rate of 117.76)
At times the exchange at the airport is slightly lower than what you will find at most hotels money exchange counters and the CADECA (Foreign Exchange offices) throughout the country. The issues with the CADECAS is that depending on the day and the time you can spend significant amounts of time lining up to exchange say USD500.00. The money exchange counters at most hotels are open 24hrs or at least until midnight.
Ask your Amigo to assist you to locate a location convenient for you to exchange money when needed.
- The Cuban Peso, CUP is the other legal currency in Cuba. The vast majority of tourists will not need /come across this version of currency, although it is perfectly legal to use it. For example, you can pay the ride in old taxis anywhere in Cuba in CUP. They cost between 10 CUP and 20 CUP per person depending on the distance. This currency is primarily used by locals for collecting their salaries and buying their basic provisions.
If you are up for the adventure, your Amigo can take you to bars and restaurants that accept CUP and are quite interesting, in particular if you speak a little Spanish.
Both types of Pesos, CUC and CUP, are legal tender in Cuba and completely available to anyone – including foreigners. Both CUC and CUP can be bought at the “Cadecas” (ForEx kiosks) located at airports, hotels and key locations around the main cities and towns.
Lastly, if you leave a tip, leave it in CUC.