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We are going to Cuba soon.

I read a lot about how to give back, to tip or whatsoever. But everything is not clear, especially with the aftermath of Covid and the fact that there's now only one money in circulation in Cuba (instead of initial 2).

So my question is, what is presently, either from your own experience or what you have heard lately, for different services (such as at the restaurant, or for room service), the best way to tip?

  • Is it in Canadian money (as I'm Canadian) but only paper, no coins?
  • Is in US money (traveling money I usually use and seems commonly accepted)
  • Goods (heard they need of pretty much everything; tylenol, kids goods, personal goods, etc) ?

**Please note: I know there is already questions about that, but they're referring back to like 2014 or something. I heard that the manners have changed recently.

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The best way to tip is in Cuban Pesos. The Cuban Pesos you have are now freely exchangeable by locals, which was not the case a few years ago. After that the preferred currency is Euros. US dollars are not preferred because private Cuban individuals are not able to deposit them to a bank account, and because USD are subject to a higher exchange rate commission than other currencies. (There is almost certainly a big black market in US dollars, but why make your server go through that hassle). Most major currencies will be preferred to USD (Canadian dollars, UK pounds etc.)

The changes you are probably hearing about are the unification of the two Cuban currencies (local pesos and tourist pesos), which made Cuban Pesos more desirable because now the currency that tourists have (and will tip in) are the same that Cuban citizens use for day-to-day transactions. Also the surcharge on USD exchange which makes them less desirable.

The US embargo still applies to Cuba and there are shortages of necessities, which makes imported goods desirable. Here is a blog about bringing gifts for Cubans. However I would never use goods as a substitute for a tip on a bill you have paid with cash (or card).

In the end, Cubans are going to appreciate the size of the tip you leave rather than the currency you leave it in.

Reference.

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    I would certainly not bother changing CAD to USD. You are probably going to change CAD to CUP, so work out what you want to tip in advance and change that much more. If you end up with a bit of CUP left at the end, make your maid happy and leave it as an extra tip. If you end up with less CUP then leave some CAD as well. Dec 9, 2022 at 16:04
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    The problem with Canadian dollars is that if one can't use coins, the smallest tip is $5.00. And Euros are even worse (currently the smallest bill is worth over CDN$7). US$1 bills are very handy. It's been over 20 years now, but when we were there a US$1 bill was appropriate for almost everything. Dec 11, 2022 at 2:50
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    @RayButterworth you're right, that's a reason why I was asking. Initially I would have go with USD for that perticular reason. But I think CUP will be the best then, so a CUP $20 tip is quite the same as a CAD $1 (CAD 1 -> CUP 17.5) Dec 11, 2022 at 14:00
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    @SimonDugré Per the Convertidor de Monedas eltoque.com/tasas-de-cambio-de-moneda-en-cuba-hoy 1 CAD = around 124 CUP. A tip of 20 pesos doesn’t buy much eg a bread roll is around 15 pesos currently, tomatoes = 80-100 pesos a pound, chicken is 300-350 a llb. A street vendor recently wanted 2000 pesos for 10lb of potatoes.
    – Traveller
    Dec 13, 2022 at 1:44
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    @SimonDugré That’s the official rate. The Cadeca rate is higher and the informal ‘street’ rate is higher again. I don’t recommend that you exchange CAD anywhere other than a Cadeca or other legit location like a hotel, but Cubans will definitely know where they can improve on the official rate. BTW, be vigilant about personal safety, street robbery and knife crime is much on the increase. Don’t wear expensive watches/jewellery and be careful when using your mobile as it’s not uncommon for them to be snatched from your hand by someone on a bike or an opportunist thief.
    – Traveller
    Dec 14, 2022 at 16:20
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Just to enlight after we return from our trip (too short) to Cuba;

We went to Holguín region.

Yes, they need money, as everyone. But they all told us they'll need stuff more than money. Even if they have money in their bank account, every markets and shops neerby them are empty. Bring them kids stuff, such as pens or notebooks, pharmaceutics such as Tylenol or toothpaste. Also, to bring some light in their harsh time, candies are also appreciated but moderate as we all know it's good for taste, but not too much for healty. But what was the most to consider regardings comments we had is to bring them clothes for both adults and kids.

If they do not use it, they'll sell it to someone in exchange of stuffs they need, even in black market because yeah, black market is a big part of their exchange.

Which leads to talk about money;

  • In resorts, tips; CAD was the big deal. Even CAD coins. They can't get CUP for CAD coins but they exchange it from people in resort (i.e.: $20 bill in exchange of $20 CAD coins). Some of them told us to give them bills which hasn't been too much damaged/torn, because some institute refuse them. They also take USD but haven't seen USD coins; just bills. I do have seen some CUP but not much. But they accept it anyway.

  • Outside; CAD or USD Bills and credit cards (not emitted by US banks). They put CAD into cards, but they use USD in black market. They do take CUP but they have no "purchasing power" with it, as stores are empty.

Overall; Cuban people are really nice people. Go talk with 'em and be kind. They're happy to see us back as they were mostly cut ouf of the world (much than usual) while COVID. So help them out and bring them supply (of any kind, as they all told us) and your good vibes.

Hidden beach in Cuba

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