Tipping in Cuba

By globedrifters Uncategorized

Tipping in Cuba

Cuba has a modest but very present tipping culture. In restaurants, taxis, and for personal services, all tips are at your discretion. Many locals, especially those working in the service industries, are poorly compensated for their work so tipping helps them earn decent wages. Knowing who and how much to tip in Cuba is not always an easy task. Refer to this blog for your ultimate guide to tipping in Cuba.

Who should I tip in Cuba?

Cubans tend to tip anyone who offers them any kind of service. Cuban people will leave tips for waitresses at restaurants, grocery store cashiers, mechanics, bartenders, taxi drivers, barbers, maids, etc. During your travels in Cuba, we suggest tipping anyone who gave you service that went above and beyond their duties. Also, anyone who helped enhance your experience is a very good candidate for a tip. If you did not receive exemplary service, you are not required to tip.

tipping in cuba, tip anyone who gave great service

You can tip anyone who gives you great service in Cuba.

What currency should I use for tips in Cuba?

A tip in any currency will be appreciated but we recommend that US travelers tip in USD or CUP (the local Cuban currency) while in Cuba. If you’re from another country, tips in EUR are generally accepted if you’re not bringing USD. For more information on what currency to use in Cuba, check out our blog about Exchanging Money in Cuba

Leaving a tip of 10% of the total bill in restaurants and bars is a good rule of thumb.

When tipping in USD, you might want to leave a 1 – 2 USD tip. When eating out, you might consider tipping as a group and taking turns. For example, one person will tip for the group with a 5 or 10 USD bill at a meal. And at the next meal, someone else can leave the tip and so on. 

When tipping in USD, we recommend bringing about $30 – $50 worth in 1/5 USD bills to leave as tips.

When tipping in CUP, the 10% rule also applies, but it’s a bit trickier and involves a little more math. The exchange rate for CUP vs USD may be different in private businesses than in the government exchange offices. Many restaurants will value 1 USD at varying rates so be sure to ask.

You can read in our blog about the currencies in Cuba to better understand how this works. 

If you pay in USD, you’ll more than likely receive change in CUP. Before calculating your tip in CUP, you should ask what the restaurant’s exchange rate is for CUP vs USD. 

From there, the example below explains tipping in CUP:

  • The restaurant values 1 dollar at 180 CUP.
  • Your meal at a local restaurant costs 15 dollars.
  • You pay with a 20-dollar bill. Your change is 900 CUP (5 dollars).
  • You want to leave a tip of 2 dollars in CUP.
  • 2 dollars x 180 CUP = 360 CUP* is the tip in local currency. 

*You can just round up to 400 CUP to make it easy on yourself!

tipping in cuba, you can tip in cup!

It’s up to you in what currency you tip in Cuba… USD, EUR, or CUP.

How much should I tip in Cuba?

How much to tip in Cuba is always up to you, but as mentioned previously, 10% of the total bill is acceptable in a restaurant. You’re always free to leave more if you feel like the service you have received went above and beyond the call of duty. Below is a recommended list of who and how much to tip in Cuba:

  • Taxi drivers: 1 – 2 USD (if very good
  • Luggage porter: 1 – 2 USD per suitcase (keep in mind weight & size, more if very big and heavy)
  • Waiter/Bartender: 10% of the total bill
  • Cleaning ladies: 1 – 2 USD per day
  • Local guide/Trip leader: 5 – 10 USD per day (or in one lump sum at the end of the trip)
  • Bus driver: 2 – 4 USD per day (or in one lump sum at the end of the trip)
tipping in cuba, just tip what you feel right!

Don’t worry about who or how much to tip. Just do what you feel is right and come ready to enjoy the beauty of Cuba!

Tipping in Cuba is really all up to you; there are no set rules. Just tip what you feel is right and deserved. Remember that those who give you service will usually be appreciative of any tip you may give. Another way to help the Cuban people is to bring gifts with you to Cuba due to the lack of access to goods there. Check out our blog about bringing gifts for the Cuban People to learn more about this. Happy travels!


Exchanging Money in Cuba

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba

Exchanging Money in Cuba

Exchanging money in Cuba and the country’s currency system can be a complex matter and difficult to navigate. The Cuban government is notorious for making monetary and economic reforms at random and with little notice. This blog will introduce you to the basics of Cuba’s currency and of exchanging money plus tips to help you understand Cuba’s currency system.

What is the currency in Cuba?

Before finding out how to exchange money in Cuba, it’s important to know a bit about Cuba’s currency system. Cuba’s official currency is the Cuban peso (CUP). The moneda libremente convertible (MLC*) is also in use in certain places. The Cuban peso is a closed currency so you can’t buy, sell or trade it outside of Cuba. This means that you won’t be able to legally exchange other currencies for pesos before your trip; you can only do so in Cuba.

Official exchange rates are determined by the Cuban government and are subject to change at any moment without notice. You can see the government’s recent exchange rates on CADECA’S WEBSITE. This website may not be updated regularly or have the most current rates.

The Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is no longer in circulation in Cuba!

*MLC stands for moneda libremente convertible. It is a term created by the Cuban government for foreign currencies, usually US dollars and euros.

Exchange money in Cuba for Cuban pesos (CUP)

Cuban pesos (CUP)

Which currency should I bring to Cuba?

Simply put, we recommended that US travelers bring US dollars (USD) for purchases and spending in Cuba.

Cuba is experiencing one of its worst bouts of inflation so prices in CUP are extremely elevated, but USD are accepted at many private food and beverage establishments. These are the only types of places we dine at on our 9-day trip.

At the official government exchange houses, 1 USD is approximately 110 CUP.

When paying in US dollars, you will often receive change in CUP. You can use this to tip your server, bartender, etc. Be sure to ask at every place you visit what their USD to CUP exchange rate is. 1 USD is valued at varying amounts of CUP at private restaurants, bars, and cafes. For more information about what to tip, check out our blog about Tipping in Cuba!

If you are from another country, it is probably more feasible for you to bring euros (EUR), Great British pounds (GBP), or Canadian dollars (CAD). We do not advise travelers on which currency to bring. It’s best to look around and find out exchange rates and fees locally in order to decide which currency is best for you.

PRO TIP: When bringing US dollars, it’s best to bring smaller bills of 20s, 10s, and 5s for purchases (i.e. meals, drinks, tips). Avoid bringing too many bills above 50.

Exchange money in Cuba to get a cool Cuban beer on a hot Havana day

A cold, refreshing Cuban beer on a hot day!

How can I exchange money in Cuba?

The most common place to exchange money in Cuba is the CADECA, the official government currency exchange office. You will see these offices at the Havana airport as well as in major cities and tourist destinations. The official exchange rates are set by the government and do not really vary too much from office to office. 

As of June 23, 2023, 1 USD = 110 CUP.  This includes the 8% conversion fee that CADECA charges. All other currencies have a 2% conversion fee.

Many hotels will often exchange money, but it is not recommended to exchange there because of the inflated exchange fees they charge.

There are many unofficial money exchangers on the street, but we do not advise our travelers on how to do this. If you choose to exchange money in Cuba in this way, it is at your discretion and own risk! 

At the end of your trip, you can usually exchange your remaining CUP back to an available foreign currency at the airport. CADECA in the city may exchange CUP back for foreign currency for you depending on availability. You can also try to spend the rest of your CUP. Keep in mind that CADECA in the city or at the airport may impose a $100 – $300 USD limit when exchanging back from CUP.

Note that only euros and Canadian dollars are accepted after security at the Havana airport. USD will not be accepted.

PRO TIP: As most taxis at the airport will accept USD, we recommend that all travelers on our 9-day trip wait to exchange money in Cuba until you meet with the guide on the evening of Day 1 of the trip. He will offer guidance on exchanging money at the first meeting when you arrive.

Exchange money in Cuba legally at the CADECA

CADECA are legal Cuban government exchange houses where you can exchange currency

Can I use my debit/credit card in Cuba?

In short, you cannot use a debit or credit card in Cuba as a US traveler and you should not rely on any card as a main method of payment. No US debit or credit card will work in Cuba so basically: No, you cannot use your debit/credit card in Cuba. 

Many cards issued from non-US banks may work in Cuba, but the common issues with cards are twofold: 1.) Card readers don’t always function properly because they’re outdated or they experience connectivity problems; 2.) ATMs are known to break down or run out of cash when withdrawing Cuban pesos. Remember that some cards from banks in other countries are affiliated with US banks so they may not work either.

It’s best to be prepared to deal in cash only during your travels to Cuba. We never recommend relying on a card as a main method of payment for the above-mentioned reasons.

PRO TIP: You may be advised to get an MLC debit card on arrival in Cuba. We do not recommend getting this card. It is offered by the Cuban government and works primarily at state-run businesses which we do not patronize on our trips. Most private restaurants, bars, casa particulares, etc. do not have card readers and will not accept payment by any type of card.

How much money will I need for my Cuba trip?

For travelers on our 9-day trip, we recommend bringing 600 – 900 USD in cash based on past travelers’ feedback for the few lunches & dinners that are not included as well as tips, souvenirs, and any other optional activities that you wish to participate in. This will vary depending on your spending habits and travel style. We strongly advise bringing more money than you expect to spend in case of an emergency!

Many travelers have told us that they found Cuba to be much more expensive than other developing countries. Be prepared to pay as much for food and beverages as you might in a ‘developed’ Western country.

Below are some approximate prices for food, drink, souvenirs, etc. to help you budget for your trip:

Meal at a nice, sit-down restaurant: 20 – 30+ USD
• Cocktail: 5 – 10 USD
• Can of beer: 2 – 3 USD
• Wifi (1-hour card): 1 USD

*These are only approximate prices and the cost of items may vary depending on location and your personal preferences.

You can read up on tipping by checking out our Tipping in Cuba blog!

No need to exchange money in Cuba to eat at a paladar. Pay in EUR!

Cuban restaurants: You can purchase food in USD or EUR, and tip in CUP!

Cuba’s currency exchange and monetary system are ever-changing and quite complex at times. By knowing what to expect beforehand, you’ll have a great trip that you’ll never forget. Remember that on our Globe Drifters 9-day trip, your guide will be there to help point you in the right direction. Happy travels!