Vacation in Cuba. Cayo Coco Resort: instructions for use. Part 2. Purchases, communication and payment

Отдых на Кубе. Курорт Кайо-Коко: инструкция по применению. Часть 2. Покупки, связь и оплата

In the first part of our “instructions” on the Cuban resort of Cayo Coco, following a trip to the islands with PEGAS Touristik, we talked about what the archipelago itself is, about hotels, meals and excursions. In this part, let’s talk about “money” things: what to take with you on a trip, how and how to pay and what to bring with you from the resort.

Tourist myths are tenacious. There are some in relation to Cuba. We will try to dispel some of them and answer a few questions that tourists often ask. 


If you are going on vacation with a tour operator to a hotel on Cayo Coco, then you will not have to think about everyday life. You will be taken to the hotel, tourists use the all-inclusive system in hotels almost around the clock, the guide will prompt and help solve minor household issues, and health problems are covered by medical insurance already included in the package. 

But it is impossible to foresee absolutely everything, so it is worth considering in advance the list of personal items that you will take with you on vacation. Cuba, as we have already said, lives under severe sanctions. Therefore, in the shops on the islands of the Jardines del Ray archipelago, you can buy relatively few things: beach shoes, shorts/t-shirts, razors, sunscreen, shampoo, etc.

It is definitely worth taking with you from Russia hygiene products for women and children (and in general everything for children, including circles and inflatable toys for the pool), sunscreens, preferably with a high SPF.

Take with you regularly used medications, as well as bactericidal ointment for cuts and patches. The hotels certainly have a doctor and basic medicines, but you may have to look for something specific.

Previously, tourists in Cuba could have problems charging mobile phones or other equipment with a European-style plug. Now there is no such problem: all hotels are equipped with sockets familiar to us and no adapters are needed for them. 


Over the past few years, communication in Cuba has reached almost an international level – fast Wi-Fi has appeared in hotels, and the national state cellular operator has begun to offer LTE mobile Internet, the speed of which in some places reaches 150 mbit/s.

Отдых на Кубе. Курорт Кайо-Коко: инструкция по применению. Часть 2. Покупки, связь и оплата

Tested the Cuban mobile Internet. Very decent.

Buying a local Cuban tourist SIM card does not yet make economic sense. It is expensive: at least, according to our calculations, roaming from some Russian mobile operators will cost about the same and will not require additional actions.

In addition, this is a slightly non–trivial task – the local “SIM card” must first be ordered online, and then picked up at the airport upon arrival, and officially there is no Cayo Coco airport on the lists yet.

Beeline is the cheapest for Cuba, offering 1 GB per day for 450 rubles. You can connect one of the roaming packages, for example, 5 GB for 3000 rubles or 15 GB for 5800 rubles for 30 days. If necessary, the traffic in this subscription can be purchased for 450 rubles/1 GB.

Communication from MTS in Cuba costs 490 rubles per day for 500 MB or a package for 10 days for 4000 rubles for 500 MB per day. Megafon’s services will cost 659 rubles per day for 500 MB.

When using Russian roaming operators, all traffic goes through Russia, so all banks and government services will work “like at home”, and banned social networks, respectively, will not.

In all the hotels that we managed to see on the islands of Cayo Paredon and Cayo Cruz, free Wi-Fi provided speeds of 10-15 Mbit/s and worked not only in the lobby, but also in the rooms, around all cafes and facilities on the territory, next to the pool and often even on the beach. This is unexpectedly good for Cuba.

But at Cayo Coco airport, free Internet is provided only after passing through passport control and only for 30 minutes.

Before the trip, iPhone owners should install the VPN application in advance – without it, they will not be able to download or update applications in the AppStore, if they suddenly need it.


Money in Cuba is interesting and unusual. Until January 2021, Cuba had two currencies – the Cuban national peso CUP and the Cuban convertible peso CUC, known as “cookies”. Tourists could only exchange dollars and euros for “cookies” and they could only pay in official stores. However, in January 2021, on the day also known as “day zero”, both currencies were combined into one – the Cuban peso, CUP.

The nominal government rate is 1 USD = 24 CUP, but… it’s not that simple. For the exchange operations of individuals with cash, the state has fixed a much higher exchange rate: 1 USD = 120 CUP, but you can only change it in one direction – it is almost impossible to buy dollars on the island. This led to the emergence of a black market, where the exchange rate is twice as high as the inflated “private” one.

Отдых на Кубе. Курорт Кайо-Коко: инструкция по применению. Часть 2. Покупки, связь и оплата

Exchange office on Cayo Coco. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR

But you shouldn’t worry. If you are going to Cuba to an all-inclusive hotel (and this is most of the Cayo Coco resort hotels), then you will not need any Cuban pesos at all. For payment everywhere, including government stores and duty-free, strictly US dollars are used.

Of course, in local shops and gas stations, most local goods can be bought for pesos – and at a price much lower than the dollar. That’s just the nearest such store, as well as the nearest ATM, is more than 100 kilometers from Cayo Coco Island.

Until March 2023, Cuba banned the official acceptance of US dollars and exchange offices accepted only euros. Now the ban has been lifted and it is necessary to take cash dollars with you. But it is not worth taking euros to Cuba in principle: it is unprofitable. The dollar-euro exchange rate is 1:1 everywhere, since local residents do not need the euro currency at all.

Let’s say right away that in some stores it will still not be possible to pay in cash with dollars – you will first need to buy a special prepaid card at the state exchange office, denominated in the new digital currency of Cuba – MLP, which is also strictly tied to the dollar.

Отдых на Кубе. Курорт Кайо-Коко: инструкция по применению. Часть 2. Покупки, связь и оплата

Instructions for Cuban prepaid cards. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR

Such cards come in several denominations – 200, 500 or 1000 dollars. For example, you can buy such a card at an official exchange office. There is one only in the shopping center on Cayo Coco Island and the second one is right at the Woovo Playa Hermosa Cayo Paredon Resort 5* hotel.

$5 will be deducted from the balance for issuing the card itself. In theory, the unused balance can be returned at the airport upon departure from the country.

You can withdraw money from such a card only at an ATM and only in Cuban pesos, and the nearest ATM on Cayo Coco may be a hundred kilometers away. So if you do not plan to spend a lot of time outside the hotel, it is easier not to buy such a card, but to use the help of a guide who will easily pay for you in the store with his card and then take cash dollars from you.

In government stores and Duty Free, you can pay for goods, including with foreign cards (except for cards of the Russian Federation and the USA). Currently, only Visa and Mastercard are working, but there is talk that the Mir card will be accepted soon.

In this case, payment is also made in US dollars, that is, exactly as much as indicated on the price tag will be withdrawn from the card. The only problem is that sometimes foreign cards do not work in the right store. So the best way for Cuba is to stock up on cash dollars.

Moreover, you will still need some cash for tips.

In Cuba, it is not only customary to tip, it is vital for the staff. Official salaries in Cuba, even in “expensive” hotels, are microscopic even by local standards, and, in fact, almost all employees (well, with the exception of senior managers) live off tips.

Отдых на Кубе. Курорт Кайо-Коко: инструкция по применению. Часть 2. Покупки, связь и оплата

Regardless of whether you tip or not, in Cuba, hotel staff and animators try to treat you like a native. Photo: Alexander Andreev, for ATOR

But! Unlike Turkey and Egypt, no one asks for tips in hotels. And he doesn’t even hint at them. Regardless of whether you give them or not, employees try to treat you like a family. But this is different

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