Money change scam

Money change scams are found in almost every tourist hotspot across the globe. Most of them happen when a tourist changes money on the streets with someone who just approached them instead of at an official money exchange office. In Cuba, it’s the government itself who steals from unsuspecting tourists who are off guard from a long flight when they want to change their money into Cuban Pesos.

Havana-Cuba-money_change-scam-tourist-ripoffsWhen arriving at the José Martí International airport near Havana, you’ll see an official money change office on each side of the Arrivals hall. Both are operated by the Cuba government and since there are not a lot of ATMs in Cuba, and credit cards are not widely accepted, most tourists decide to change all of their estimated travel expenses upon arrival at the airport. The lines are usually long, which only adds to the exhaustion from the long flight.

We’ve heard several stories from tourists who hand over their travel money for their entire stay (between 500 and 1.200 Euros or Dollars) to the clerk, who then counts the bills quickly. Here we have several versions of the same story. Some versions involved a distraction from another person inside the office, while other victims have admitted at not paying enough attention to the counting process themselves. Some tourists have told us the clerk verified the sum that was handed over for change, which could be anything between 20 and 100 Dollars less than what they thought they had just paid, while other tourists were just given a bunch of Pesos and a receipt and didn’t find out until much later that the entered amount of Dollars on the receipt was lower than what they thought they had given the clerk.

Havana-Cuba-money_change-ripoff-tourist-scamsSo to reduce the risk of being robbed from your holiday cash, count the bills on the counter in front of the clerk before handing them over. Don’t let anybody or anything distract you from keeping your eyes on your money when it is being counted by the clerk. Make sure the clerk verifies the sum again and check the receipt whether the correct amount has been entered. Once you’ve handed over your money and the clerk claims you’ve given less than what you’ve thought you had, you’re too late. Even if they’ll let you count it again yourself, one or more of your bills have already disappeared under the counter by the light-fingered scam artist and you won’t be able to prove it.

Extra tip: there are two types of Cuban Pesos: the Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists and the Peso (CUP) for locals. The exchange rate between the two is about 24:1, and some locals ask tourists for to change their Pesos 1:1 as a souvenir for the tourist and a handout for the local.


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