Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Money Matters for the Uninitiated

10th March 2014

Before we could start exploring the city of Santiago de Cuba or the rest of the country for that matter the Canadian dollars which we'd purchased in Florida needed to be exchanged for Cuban cash. Although we all live in the 21st century, Cuba is still a pretty much a cash society and uses two types of currencies simultaneously. The Cuban Convertible Peso ( CUC for short ) and the Moneda Nacional (Peso). This can definitely be a bit mind boggling 'till you get your head around what can be bought with which type of money.

CUC is the nation's hard currency used mostly by tourists in shops, restaurants, accommodation and for getting from A to B. While the Peso is mostly the peoples' money and is used for purchasing meat, vegetables, bread, eggs and meals in what are known as Pesos restaurants, and for travel on local buses. 24 pesos = 1 CUC and 1 CUC = $CAN 0.85 and even less if you are changing $USD.

Foreign currency can be exchanged at either a Cadeca (money changer)or in a Bank. This is yet another lesson in the art of patience as both usually have very long queues stretching out on to the pavement. Our friend Pete stood in a bank queue for more than 2 hours to change money. Banks can also give a cash advance on a non US issued Visa credit card and the ATM's, if they are working, can also be used. But be warned if you are planning a trip to this country that even though the advertising tag line for MasterCard is "priceless", on this island it should read "useless". Not love nor money or anything else can be bought with it, be it at a bank or an ATM. We found that out the hard way after many unsuccessful attempts in the bank and at a few ATM's. Good thing we still had a Visa card with us.

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