I can’t use my US Debit Card here so I had to bring a big stuck of $20. To exchange dollars there are two options. Love options!!!! One is CUC and the other is National Currency or pesos.
0.8 CUC ≈ $1 (it’s about 1:1 but you get charged additional 10% as the imbargo penalty)
25 Pesos Cubanos ≈ 1 CUC
So after changing 60 CUC I got a huge pack of Pesos. It’s so confusing that I had also to get another wallet.
You can exchange money at the airport or at the bus terminal. The bus terminal gives you a better rate.
You have to get some money to get from the airport to the city, so exchange a little bit. The asking price from the airport to Vedado is about 30 CUC. However, you can negotiate and get it for cheaper. I paid 17 CUC on the way from Vedado to the airport when I was leaving Cuba. I got good at bargaining.
When you go to a store or a restaurant you have to ask whether they charge in CUC or pesos. After a few days I could tell based on the place. As a rule of thumb, poor looking places, old Chevy taxis, buses and all you buy on the street would charge in pesos. Better, tourist looking places, and yellow-plate taxis charge in CUC.
There is a little place on 23rd and C in Vedado where next to each other there are two bakeries. One charges in CUC and another in pesos. To save money I have been going to the one in pesos where a loaf costs ¢12. Sometime there is bread and delicious yellow pastries, sometimes there is bread, and sometimes there is nothing left.
By the University of Havana, walking through tiny streets there are a bunch of little kiosks where we had been getting ¢12 ice cream and ¢20 sandwiches after classes. Going farther from the popular places there are also a bunch of places that charge in pesos where for two beers and two pizzas Dania and I paid $4. In front of Capitolio all the places are in national pesos as well.
You can eat cheaply but you have to know where and be quick as those places run out of food quick.
The first day when I arrived to Cuba we had a very nice lunch with a non-alcoholic drink and a desert at RIVIERA and paid about 7 CUC for both. The worst thing is that even if a place charges in pesos they can charge foreigners in CUCs.
For a festival of Trumbao I went to get concert tickets that were 25 pesos for nationals. Dania asked first but when I went to get the tickets, a salesman asked me 10 CUCs which is about $11. I turned around and walked away. It really sucks! “I can bring 20 Cubans along and pay as much as I would pay by myself.” Dania had to go back and get the tickets.