Last updated on March 8th, 2016

You can’t only be cautious of thieves on the streets or beaches in Cuba; you have to beware of them in the airport as well. The problem is these thieves don’t approach you at the airport; you approach them for Cuban money.

My travel buddy, Ryan aka Chinito, just came back from Holguin and told me about his encounter at the airport. He arrived in HOG airport, passed through security and went to the Cuban currency exchange booth.

Ryan was changing $1700 Canadian Dollars (CAD) into Cuban currency  (Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC)). There was a clear plastic barrier between the currency exchange and customers; only enough room for your hand and to pass money through.  Ryan gave the male attendant the money to exchange.

Here’s the scam the attendant pulls. The Cuban starts counting the  foreign money in front of his stomach with a little bit of space between him and the desk. Normally, the attendant should be counting the money with his arms directly in front of Ryan so he too can see the money being counted correctly. While the Cuban was counting the money, he dropped two $50 bills to the ground hoping Ryan wouldn’t notice, but Ryan did notice. He also noticed that the Cuban hesitated when he dropped the bills and looked at the ground for a split second. Ryan didn’t saying anything thinking the Cuban would pick up the bills and include them in his count; this of course didn’t happen.

After the Cuban counted the foreign money, in this case Canadian dollars, he quoted $1600 instead of $1700. Ryan told the Cuban he gave him $1700 and the Cuban politely denied it and tried counting again. Ryan asked him about the two $50 bills he dropped and the Cuban didn’t know what Ryan was talking about. After going back and forth for a bit and the Cuban still denying the missing $100; Ryan put his arm through the opening of the barrier and grabbed the Cuban by the collar threatening him for the missing $100. The Cuban gave in and exchanged $1700.

Ryan told me this was not the first time this scam happened to him before. Last time it was for $20 by another male attendant.

This is a money exchange scam I never knew about. I trust the attendants to be honourable, but now I have to be careful of this too. Obviously, this scam can happen in any country. Usually when I exchange money in Cuba, I notice the attendants to be female. I guess they prefer females working this job in Cuba.

Be careful of this Cuban currency exchange counting method.

Next time I am in Cuba, I will get my money exchanged by a female attendant and keep an eye.

Right now, the Canadian dollar is valued poorly on Forex. I need to get the most Cuban money for my Canadian dollars.