Currency, Tipping, Souvenir & Gifting Guidelines
As of January 1, 2021, there is no dual currency system in Cuba. Therefore for foreigners it is cash only. You will not be able to use an ATM, withdraw cash or use a debit or credit card in Cuba. So you MUST prepare to bring cash.
How much money should I bring to Cuba?
At Discover Corps we suggest bringing at least $75 USD in cash per person for each day spent on the island. This ensures visitors have plenty of money for food, any incidental expenses and of course, souvenirs. *Note: Bring crisp fresh bills, old ones with any markings/tears will be rejected. Also we recommend smaller bills such as 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s. It is safe to leave your money at your casa and busget yourself day by day.
What are some sample costs in Cuba?
While all scheduled activities are included in the price of your trip, there will be times when you may want to go out independently or buy souvenirs. Here is a list of some sample costs travelers can incur:
Taxi from Vedado to Old Havana: $13-$19 USD.
Renting a Classic Car: $40-$50 USD.
Artwork: $25-$130 USD.
Night club entrance fees: $13-32 USD.
Alcoholic Beverages: $2.50-$9 USD.
Cabaret (Tropicana, Nacional): $38-$130 USD.
How can I exchange my USD in Cuba?
The Cuban Peso has a fixed exchange rate of 24 CUP to 1 USD, therefore, you can expect to receive 24 Cuban Pesos for every US Dollar you convert. Once you arrive in Cuba, your Discover Corps Guide can help you exchange your USD into local pesos. You can convert at the airport, or at a Cuban bank or a CADECA (exchange bureau) however we do not want you having to wait in line, so we will happily do it for you.
When you leave Cuba, convert any extra Cuban Pesos back to US Dollars. The Cuban Peso is not recognized outside of Cuba.
*Note: Navigating the Cuban currency system can be difficult since you cannot pay with a card, however travelers visiting Cuba with Discover Corps are well taken care of with a host to assist you with any questions that may come up during your trip. Just follow the above guidelines and relax as you prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!
On September 23, 2020, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that U.S. travelers will no longer be allowed to take home “Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products”. American travelers can import other souvenirs with no limits to the value of these goods for personal use. However, standard duties and exemptions on higher value imports still apply.
What are the duty-free limits and tax rates?
The U.S. allows $800 total in goods to be brought back to the U.S. from Cuba duty-free. There is a 4% flat rate plus any applicable IRS taxes on goods that exceed these exemption limits. For goods over $1,800 in value, the duty rates may vary. Contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection or visit the CBP website to confirm duty rates.
*Note: For additional information on restrictions of imported goods from Cuba to the U.S., please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
The Discover Corps program fee includes tips for luggage handling, restaurants, and program activities throughout the tour. Your guide will make sure these tips are paid appropriately. However, tips are one of the primary ways that Cubans earn dollars. So, we do encourage tipping musicians, housekeepers and other people you might interact with. As a rough guideline, tips for the guide are usually $10 -$12 per person, per day, and the driver usually gets $3-$5 per person, per day.
*Note: the customary end-of-tour gratuities for the guide, and driver are not included, and are left to the guest’s discretion. This should be based on your satisfaction with the level of service received.
Tipping is highly personal; the guidelines below are only suggested rates for tipping:
Guide - $10 - $12 USD per day
Cuban Driver - $3 - 5 per day
Bartenders - $1 USD per drink
Musicians - $5 - $10 USD
Taxi Drivers - 10% of fare
Bathroom Attendant: $1 USD
Donations have always been much appreciated in Cuba, however the Cuban Government has begun to strictly enforce a no-donation policy for items brought in by tourists. Anything that you bring for the Cuban people should be called “gifts” instead of donations. As a result we recommend not bringing large amounts of the same item - this is considered a donation and will raise red flags with Cuban officials and could result in confiscation.
Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, face wash etc.
Over the counter medicines such as Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, Vitamins, etc.
Medical gloves, masks, medical thermometers etc.
Feminine Hygiene products
Condoms, sanitary napkins, tampons, adult diapers, baby diapers etc.
Shoes, flip-flops, crocs etc.
Clothes - t-shirts, caps with neat logos (of any size - for hot weather)
Jewelry, Sunglasses etc.
Food items not easily found in Cuba - peanut butter, hazelnut spread, chocolate, coffee, spices.
Deflated soccer balls / baseballs etc.
Baseball bats, balls and gloves, footballs, sport helmets and padding
School & art supplies - pack of crayons, colored pencils or markers, notebooks, paint brushes & paints.
Small children’s backpack.
Toys for children (any age)
Musical instruments, guitar strings, reeds for wind instruments.
Metronomes, pitch pipes, tuning forks, sheet music.
Sheets & towels.
Kitchen gloves, sponges, aprons etc.
Cooking utensils, table cloths, kitchen gloves, aprons.
Spanish/English dictionaries and phrase books
New USB memory sticks - a favorite of many.
AA batteries - boring but they are scarce, costly and appreciated.
*Note: Even the items you leave behind will be considered gifts and are greatly appreciated. Also consult your guide once you are in Cuba as to the best time to give away the gifts and to who - they are your expert resource on the ground and are also happy to distribute fairly on your behalf. Also the maximum value of these items can only be 250 pesos without being taxed at customs. Therefore, we strongly advise not to bring anything over this value.