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Goats On The Road By
Posted 01 Dec, 2015 | 55 Comments
Posted in: Cuba, Newsletter 2, Travel Blogs

When preparing and planning for a trip to Cuba, it’s important to think about your budget and how you’re going to pay for things while gallivanting around this incredible island nation. With internet and wi-fi being scarce and a total hassle to find & use, you must have your finances and your budget sorted out beforehand. It’s not as easy to check your bank balance online and deal with acquiring currency as it is in other countries.

We backpacked around Cuba for 3 and a half weeks earlier this year we’re here to give you a full breakdown of what things cost and how much you can expect to spend while travelling there.

(For more information on preparing and planning for your trip to Cuba, see our article here)

First Things First

Before even figuring out how much money you’ll need in the bank, it’s important to understand the Cuban currency (of which there are two) and the rates.

1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) = 1 US Dollar

25 National Pesos (CUP) = 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

The National Peso (CUP)

This currency is what most of the local people are paid their salary in. Using the National Peso, you can purchase smaller items, and the “basics” that one needs. It’s important to realize that this isn’t the “Cuban people’s currency”, foreigners can use this money as well, and buy the following items with CUP:

  • Rides in the local inter-city buses (jam-packed full, no room to breathe)
  • Fruit and vegetables from the markets and side-of-the-road stands
  • Street snacks such as popcorn and fried plantains
  • Rides in a collectivo (shared) taxi
  • “Peso” food such as: pizza, ice cream, sandwiches, rice & bean meals, and other smaller meals (pork & rice, spaghetti)
  • Fresh fruit juice
  • Basic groceries and produce

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)

This currency is used for “luxury” items and is the money you’ll mostly find yourself spending during your travels in Cuba. Locals who earn this currency rather than the National Peso are typically those in tourism (casa owners, tour guides, taxi drivers, hotel staff, etc.)

Being a Cuban and earning CUC is definitely ideal. With just 1 CUC (after exchanging it into 25 National Pesos), they can buy 25 rides on a bus, 25 fresh cups of juice, or some rice and beans. This is the currency everyone wants.

Keep this in mind when musicians or dancers ask you for a tip – your 1 CUC goes a long way in Cuba.

With CUC, you can pay for:

  • Meals at a sit-down restaurant
  • Cocktails and beer
  • Bottled water
  • Tourist bus (Viazul) tickets
  • Internet
  • Hotels and casa particulares
  • Scuba Diving, horseback riding and other excursions
  • Car and scooter rentals
  • Anything you want to buy, you can with this currency

The two currencies actually look quite similar so when you first arrive, familiarize yourself with them to avoid being ripped off.

cuba dual currency

Also, always check your change to make sure that if you paid in CUC, you receive CUC back, (sometimes people will try to scam new travellers by giving them change in CUP, which is worth significantly less).

You can buy things that are normally charged in CUP with CUC and visa versa.

Note: If you have a debit or credit card issued by an American bank (ie: CitiBank), then it will NOT work in Cuba’s ATM machines. If you have a bank card from any other nation, it should work, but a 3% fee will be charged each transacation. Even if you opened your account in your home country, but it is affiliated or run by a US bank, your card will not work in Cuba.

Many people choose to bring cash into the country. Do NOT bring in US Dollars, as you will be charged a 10% conversion fee. Also, note that Australian dollars are NOT accepted. The best currencies to bring into Cuba to convert over to CUC are Canadian, Euro, Pound and Mexican Pesos.

For the sake of simplicity, prices in this article are in CUC / USD (they’re equal), unless otherwise stated.

Now that you understand the currency, let’s move on to costs…

(For more, see: How to Deal With Cuba’s Dual Currency)

How Much Does Cuba Cost?

Cuba is very strange in that it can simultaneously be one of the cheapest travel destinations in the world, and one of the most expensive, depending on how you travel. Here’s a breakdown of what things cost in the country:

Accommodation 

$20 – $30 / night for a double room in a casa particular. Solo travellers can get a discount.

$25 – $180 + / night for a hotel room.

For authentic Cuba travel, Casa Particulares are the way to go! They’re affordable, comfortable and you will enjoy a more local stay while in the country. This is the best way to get to know the locals – feel free to chat with them about their life in Cuba, and practice your Spanish! The food served by the casa owner is also very good. We highly recommend eating at least a meal or two at your casa particular.

Read more: What is a Casa Particular? All You Need to Know, with Video

Check out this video where we give you a tour of a casa so you can see what it’s like.

We recommend booking your casas on HostelsClub.com. None of the other top booking engines (booking.com, hostelsworld.com, hostelbookers.com) cover Cuba. Once you’re in Cuba, finding internet is a hassle and it’s expensive, so it’s best to have your accommodation sorted out ahead of time, unless you’re prepared to wait in queue for internet.

Another option is to just show up at each city and look around without booking ahead. Many casa owners will greet you at the bus station and offer you a room (or sometimes lie and pretend that they are the casa that you booked with).

Food & Drink

The cost of a meal out varies greatly. Some cities are cheaper than others, such as Camaguey, while some are much more expensive. The cost of alcohol varies as well depending on where you choose to drink.

cost of food in cuba
We enjoyed lobster, snapper and pork meals at the casas!

Cocktails at your casa are often cheaper that at a bar. Expect to spend $2 for cocktails and $1 for a beer.

At a nicer restaurant or bar, cocktails and beer are often similar in pricing – $2 – $3 each. Go for a mojito, trust us, you’ll love it!

Bottled water is what you need to watch out for. It’s hot in Cuba and you’ll want to make sure you stay hydrated. The cost of a 1.5L bottle should be $0.70, however, most shops charge tourists $1.50 because they know we need it!

Shop around until you find the real price, or better yet, just hand them $0.70 and act like you know what it should cost. Also, some casas have fresh water and juice for free. Just ask.

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Check out our video where we sample peso food around Cuba!

 

Contrary to belief, the food in Cuba is pretty good! Don’t believe us? Check out our article about Cuban cuisine.

Attractions and Activities 

All of the museums, sites and activities that you’ll want to partake in will be paid for in CUC.

Havana: Museo de la Revolucion (Museum of the Revolution) – $8 entrance fee

Havana: Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana (Fort of Saint Charles) – $7 entrance fee

Havana: Museo de Bellas Artes – $5 entrance fee

Havana: Ride in a Classic Car down the Malecon – $15 – $25 depending on your bargaining skills

Vinales: Horseback riding tour – $25 for a 4 hour trip

Trinidad: Horseback riding tour – $15 for a 3 hour trip

Vinales: Santo Tomas Cave – $10 entrance fee (with guide)

Cayo Jutias: One scuba dive, including equipment – $40 (bad service though)

caving in vinales cuba
Geared up to go caving outside of Vinales

Cubans can enter museums and other attractions as well using the National Peso. For example: If it is 5 CUC for foreigners to get in, it’s 5 CUP for locals ($5 vs $0.20). This is one situation where it feels like there is a currency for foreigners and a currency for Cubans.

Although it truly is tourist pricing in this case, we do believe that if it weren’t this way, then many of the local people wouldn’t be able to visit the historic sites of their country. Tourist pricing is a hot topic, something we’ve covered in length before, but we won’t get into that here.

horseback riding travel in cuba
Horseback riding in the valley outside of Trinidad was great.

Transportation

The transportation options in Cuba are plentiful, comfortable and reliable. The cost of transport varies with each city, and with all of the transport listed below, make sure the price is per vehicle, not per person.

Here’s a rundown on the types of transport, and their costs:

Private Taxis: $2.50 – $7 for a journey within a city.

From the airport in Havana to Central Havana, the cost is $25 for the taxi. An intercity, 60 minute private taxi costs around $30.

Although taxis have meters in them, they won’t be turned on. Arrange a price before you get in.

Shared Taxis (Collectivos): $0.50 / ride in the city (paid with 10 CUP. Don’t pay with CUC)

In Havana, very old classic cars run up and down various streets, on a set route. They will pull over and pick up people who are going in their direction, but you must flag them down. If you don’t know the route, this can be confusing.

You can also take shared taxis in between cities for (often) the same cost as the bus. From Trinidad to Havana, the cost is $25 / person. Ask at the Infotur offices for more details.

budget for cuba
A collectivo taxi in Havana

City Bus: $0.04 (yes, 4 cents!)

This transportation is very cheap, but the buses are packed to the brim with people. If you know the route and where you want to go, this is a good option.

Astro Bus: (generally around 1/2 the price of a Viazul bus)

This is the regular choice for intercity buses in Cuba. The prices of the Astro are cheaper than the Viazul below, however, there are only a few seats reserved for foreigners, the buses aren’t as new, and they aren’t as reliable.

Note: locals pay in CUP, while tourists pay in CUC.

Viazul Bus: $4 – $5 / hour

This is the tourist bus, which has air conditioning, and runs on a reliable schedule. Some sample costs:

Havana to Vinales: $12

Vinales to Cienfuegos: $35

Cienfuegos to Trinidad: $6

Trinidad to Camaguey: $15

cost of travel in cuba
The comfortable Viazul tourist bus

Cycle Taxi: $1 – $3 (depending on your bargaining abilities)

This is one mode of transportation where we always felt bad for the poor guy who had to cycle our big butts around in 35 degree heat! Bargain with the cycle drivers, but remember that this is a very hard job.

Scooter: $25 / day ($20 if you rent for 3 days)

This is the best way to get around in our opinion…especially in Vinales!

Check out our video of us scootering around Vinales!

Total Daily Budget:

After spending 25 days in Cuba, we spent $1,695.00. That’s $67.75 / day for two people. However, I have to say that we lived pretty well while we were in Cuba as it was our vacation from blogging and being online! It would be possible to travel here for a bit less if you ate more peso food, and took the local transportation.

We did stay in casa particulares, we often ate peso food, we limited the amount of entrance fees we paid, and we took many cycle taxis. However, we did drink mojitos and beers on the regular, ate good food and did a few activities (scuba diving, horseback riding and caving).

the cost of food in cuba
We drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of tapas in Camaguey!

Another thing to note is that we didn’t pay for our accommodations as we are ambassadors for HostelsClub.com. So you would need to add $20 to our daily budget of $67.75 to get a more accurate budget.

We think that $87 / day for two people to travel around an incredible Caribbean island is worth every penny!

budget for cuba
Food was what we spent the most money on!

What do you think, are you surprised by the cost of travel in Cuba? Have you been there? If so, how much did you spend on average? 

 

The Cost Of Travelling In Cuba- A Full Budget Breakdown

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55 thoughts on “The Cost Of Travelling In Cuba: A Full Budget Breakdown

  1. Great article! I just spent some more time in Cuba early November – my sixth time, haha – and I’d say this budget is spot on. If we’re really frugal, we can get by on 65-70CUC a day for the two of us, including the casa. But normally, we’d spend about 80-90CUC a day on average. Exactly the same as you two!

  2. Great post, guys! So thorough.

    From my experience in Cuba, I agree with you: staying at one “casa particular” is the way to go. Some are not so great, but many are gorgeous and amazing value for money. Plus you get to talk to the owners and get to know the country better (not that it’s very hard to get the Cubans to talk, anyway).

  3. Agreed Fernando! Talking with the owners of the casa is a great way to learn about Cuba 🙂 All of the casas we stayed at were very clean and nice places. Only one had a grumpy owner, but a beautiful room! lol

    Thanks for the comment

  4. Never been to Cuba but plan on taking a cruise over when its allowed. I’m really excited to go there and see a few of the nice places. Maybe if we really like it we will plan to stay a week there. Enjoyed reading your post!

  5. Thanks for this – very helpful. I’ve always dreamed of getting to Cuba, though it became a little more difficult when I married a US citizen and moved to the US. Glad that tourism for US residents and citizens is finally starting to open up – makes it much more accessible, and I’m sure it’s going to be a huge boost to the local economy there.

  6. It seems that a few things have changed a lot since I was there in 2001. For example, you could not get your hands on local money back then, nor could yo stay with locals. Small improvements, but it is something. Even paladares were illegal back then, always hidden and mysterious. I would love to go back to Cuba and see the differences. I think that for $70 roughly a day for two it is not expensive but some of the entrance tickets and food did seem pricier than I would have imagined

  7. I can’t even imagine what Cuba would have been like in 2001! Ya, luckily for travellers now there are many restaurants, and staying at casas is the norm 🙂 We thought many of the entrance fees were pricey as well.

    Thanks for the comment!

  8. Great article! In 3 weeks we will leave for our trip to Cuba so this helps a lot! We will start in Havana – Varadero – Vinales -Pinar del Rio – Cienfuegos – Santa Clara – Trinidad and back to Havana.
    Thanks for the article!

  9. Thanks for breaking this down so well. My wife and I thinking of hitting Cuba after doing a Caribbean cruise and this has really helped to know what we might be in for! Cheers.

  10. Hi, guys, thank you so much, this is really informative and detailed!

    I’d just like to ask when you went as its now 2016 and I’d like to go in September/October (will be by myself) this year , hopefully prices haven’t differed so much etc 🙂

    Kevin!

  11. Hi, guys, thank you so much, this is really informative and detailed!

    I’d just like to ask when you went as its now 2016 and I’d like to go in September/October (will be by myself) this year , hopefully prices haven’t differed so much etc 🙂

    Kevin!

  12. Our Spanish abilities are very, very limited, and we were able to get around just fine. Many people speak English, use an offline app on your phone (Spanish Dict), or you could always bring a Spanish phrasebook, or use hand gestures / signals!

  13. Thank you for such a thorough report on your time in Cuba. Our daughter will be traveling to Cuba in August for 4 weeks with other college students staying at case particulars. This really is good for our visualization, to know what she might experience. I hope she has as much fun as you did! Thanks again!

  14. I love the breakdown from someone who travelled there and experienced a lot. Do you do these for most of the countries you travel to?

  15. Great article! Thanks for all of the information. So what is the best way to exchange American USD? Is it better to exchange/ convert USD into CUC in United States? If not, then where? Does it make sense to bring US travelers checks?

  16. The best thing to do is to exchange your USD in the United States for Canadian Dollars, Euros or Pounds. Then, take that cash to Cuba and exchange it there for CUC. If you have a debit card not issued in the States, you can use that at the ATM’s and withdrawal CUC.

    Happy travels!

  17. How did you guys travel to Cuba? Did you go through a gateway country or with an organization? I thought vacation travel there is still banned.

  18. Hi! Thanks for this amazing breakdown! I am going this January and will be staying in Trinidad for quite a bit. Would you consider that a more expensive town since it is a little more turistic? And how do you get the CUP? Can you also get that when you change your money? And did you bring all the money with you in cash or was it quite easy to get money from an atm if you have a non-american creditcard? Sorry for the overload of questions 😛

  19. Hello!

    Trinidad is a little bit more than other places in Cuba, but it’s all quite affordable, espeically if you eat local food and stay at casas. If you have a non- American debit / credit card, you can use it at the ATMs. We brought in some Euros. Canadian, Euros, mexican Pesos and Pounds are the best to bring in – no Australian or American dollars. You can change cash at the cardecas for CUC, but if you have a non American card, then just use the ATM 🙂

  20. Hi Jane,

    We are Canadian, so we aren’t banned from going there. We flew from Guatemala and didn’t need to be on any sort of tour or with an organization.

    Cheers.

  21. You guys are a gem. Been looking at your info for practical travel information for a few years now. Keep it up, and thanks!

  22. Hi! I’m traveling to Cuba for the first time in March, and I’m so excited! When you went caving and horseback riding, did you have to book it ahead of time, or did you just go when you got there?

  23. Loved the comment about just discovering the heating coil! First used 30 years ago when it, and a small jar of nescafe coffee saved me from another cup of tea in Japan and China! Only 3 pairs of underwear required, one on, one to be washed, one drying. Sarong is MOST IMPORTANT, can use as a towel as dries fast…and depending on where I am going I buy “walking shoes” where I am going…usually less than $10 and saves on weight…give away when I leave, looong tshirt for bed, over swimsuit. I shawl….a small suitcase with wheels is acceptable for those of us who cant use a pack…i just make sure it always qualifies as cabin baggage…u can pack a lightweight folding bag if u plan on buying alot of things to bring back

  24. I find this article absolutely amazing! I have just started planning, I am going with my mom in September. She used to live there but it’s been almost 40 years since she came back home in Europe. Anyway I assume the prices has changed a little bit over those two years but it is full of other tips that will still apply when we are there. Thank you so much, this is definitely taking some of the stress and fear of unknown off my shoulders!!!

  25. Great article,, i will soon go to Cuba and would like to know how to go from Havana to Varadero and how much does it cost? please

  26. I’ve just returned from Cuba. It was an awesome experience! But if I had read this article before traveling to Cuba, I would have spent less money. My brother and I spent $40 a night for a 2 bedroom apartment using Airbnb. The cost from the airport to the apartment was $30 CUC. A private taxi was to trying to charge us $60 CUC a day to drive us anywhere in Cuba. I brought the price down to $40 CUC a day but I still think we were getting ripped off. We didn’t go to many place in Cuba. I did not know about the horseback riding nor scuba diving. The driver took us to a beach but there was no sand, just rocks. On average, we were spending $55-65 CUC each of us per day.

  27. Hi Jason,

    I’m sorry to hear that you spent more money than you had hoped in Cuba. the Casas really are the way to go in the country for sure, in my opinion. I think we paid 20 CUC from the airport, but it depends on where you are going in Havana, and also, prices could have gone up a bit now. Sorry you didn’t make it to a nice beach either! But, I hope you still had some good experiences there.

  28. Great article! I was wondering your budget ideas for getting souvineers. I wanted a painting, a Che shirt and a few nick- nacks. I’ve also heard that some people can do portraits. How much should I be prepared to pay? I wad hoping to keep souvineers to $100. Thanks!!!

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