Tara Hitchcock's 'Cuban Money Crisis'

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(Source: luzitanija via 123RF) (Source: luzitanija via 123RF)
(Source: Radomír Režný via 123RF) (Source: Radomír Režný via 123RF)

It all started with cigars!

One minute, my husband is becoming best pals with Rodolfo, the next, he’s in an alley spending our remaining cash on Rodolfo’s cigars (and he doesn’t even SMOKE!) Needless to say, we spent over an hour in a money exchange line only to convert that last $200 we had. We needed more money as we hadn’t even been in Cuba for 24 hours!

If you run out of money in Cuba, you’re in trouble -- especially if you’re American. You can’t use any ATM card or credit card there yet (hopefully that will change soon), which means your only real option is Western Union.

But, as we found out the hard way, you can’t wire money to an American in Cuba. The recipient has to be CUBAN! So, make some friends fast, which is what we had to do!

Cuba is actually very affordable. We brought $800 with us for three days. Our accommodations were less than half that for three nights and I never shop. I figured between cabs and some meals, we would be fine!

[MAIN STORY and VIDEOS: My adventures in Cuba]

I shot a couple of personal videos documenting our "Cuban Money Crisis." The first one (at the top of this story) is on top of the Hotel Ambos Mundos. I had met Reinier Menendez, our amazing guide, on the internet on the flight over. Thank goodness I did because he became lifesaver No. 1.

After finally getting in touch with my husband’s brother, Tom, to wire us money (can’t wait to see that phone bill), we learned that you can’t wire money to another American. Enter an amazing Cuban couple now living in Orlando -- Iris and David Munoz became lifesavers No. 2 and No. 3

[WATCH: Iris and David Munoz save the day in Cuba]

The lesson

Bring more money than you think you need! I would convert it into Canadian dollars (CAD) or Mexican pesos (MXN) before you go to Cuba because the exchange rate will be better. You can usually order foreign currency from your bank.

[TOOL: XE currency converter]

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