How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Cuba?

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Many people are surprised that Cuba is not a cheap country to travel in. The average Cuban salary is around $25 a month after all, and travellers expect prices similar to those in Central America. But as we’ve said, Cuba is unlike anywhere else we’ve visited and you can’t expect things to be that straightforward.

Cuba has a dual currency system: Cuban pesos (CUP) or moneda nacional are what locals earn/spend while convertible pesos (CUC) are what tourists spend and locals need for any kind of luxuries. 1 CUC is about equivalent to US$1, and 1 CUC buys 24 CUP. Tourists can use moneda nacional for a few things like street food which is very cheap but everything else (accommodation, transport etc) must be paid for with convertibles. It sounds confusing but you get the hang of it once you are there.

Cuba Travel Costs

Here’s what we spent during our two weeks in Cuba visiting Havana, Vinales and Trinidad. These costs are for two people.

Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Cuba£74913£57.62
TOTALS:£749.0013£57.62
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Cuba£16.31£16.15£17.31£7.15£0.69£57.62
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Cuba$1,138.4813$87.58
TOTALS:$1,138.4813$87.58
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Cuba$24.79$24.55$26.31$10.87$1.05$87.58

This is the breakdown of how much this works out on an average daily basis.

We budgeted £70 a day which is about US$110 or 110 CUC for two people so we were pretty happy that we came in under budget at £58/ $88 a day or £29/ $44 per person. I doubt we could travel for that on any other Caribbean island.

Accommodation

Casa Particular room in Trinidad, Cuba

The room of our casa particular in Trinidad

  • We stayed entirely in casas particulares or homestays where Cuban families rent out one or two rooms in their homes. They are cheaper than the government-run hotels and you get the benefit of the wonderful hospitality and home-cooked meals. We paid between 20-30 CUC per room which were always clean, simple but comfortable, and equipped with private bathroom, hot water, A/C, and often a fridge.
  • As the price is per room accommodation costs are higher for solo travellers.

You can now book homestays online on Airbnb with rooms from $10 a night—sign up here for $39 of your first stay. 

Food

Cuban breakfast

Breakfast at the casa

  • We ate in our casas for most meals. Breakfast was 3-5 CUC each and dinner was 7-8 CUC each—portions are huge. We also ate peso pizza from street stalls for about 10 CUP ($0.42).
  • Bottled drinking water is included in this category and was a substantial expense—we spent £50/$76 on water, but we do drink a lot of it.

Transport

Classic car taxi in Trinidad, Cuba

Our taxi in Trinidad

  • We travelled by comfortable Viazul bus between cities (12-37 CUC for 4-9 hour trips).
  • A taxi from the airport into Havana is 25 CUC.
  • We paid US$25 each for a Cuban visa at Cancun airport.
  • Exit tax from Cuba is 25 CUC.

Entertainment

The view from Trinidad's Museo Historico Municipal

The view from Trinidad’s Museo Historico Municipal

  • This includes a few nights out seeing bands, two private salsa classes, horse riding, and entrance fees to museums and galleries.
  • We only drank alcohol a few times so if you plan to drink a lot of mojitos (2-3 CUC each, more in Hemingway bars) this category will be higher.

Miscellaneous

  • This includes laundry and tips, often for the bathroom attendant. Tips are a must in Cuba as locals rely on them for access to convertibles.

Other Costs Not Included Above

  • Our return flights from Cancun to Havana with Cubana cost US$282 each.
  • Don’t forget travel insurance—we use and recommend True Traveller for UK/EU citizens. World Nomads is another reliable option available worldwide. 

Things to Know About Money in Cuba

The money situation in Cuba is more complicated than in other countries so you’ll need to be prepared before you arrive.

  • There are some ATMs in big cities in Cuba but your card won’t work if it’s issued by an American bank. Although our British bank card may have worked the ATMs can be unreliable so we decided to take all our money in cash.
  • Outside of big resorts credit cards aren’t commonly accepted. We didn’t use ours.
  • As we were travelling from Mexico we took all our cash in Mexican pesos. Other good currencies to take are Euros, British pounds, and Canadian dollars. US dollars have a 10% exchange rate penalty so it’s best to avoid them.
  • Only change some of your money at the airport when you arrive as rates are better in Havana.
  • We used one of the cadecas (change booths) to change money from Mexican pesos to convertible pesos. The one we used was at 257 Obispo in Habana Vieja.
  • We also changed 20 CUC (convertible pesos) to CUP (Cuban pesos or moneda nacional) which we mostly spent in street food stands on peso pizza. This was actually quite a lot for two weeks as Cuban pesos go far and can’t be used for many items.
  • Prices in the Lonely Planet Cuba guidebook were surprisingly accurate, even though our guide book was an older version published in 2009 (the latest version is 2015). 

Tracking Our Expenses

As all our money was in cash and we didn’t want to run out it was particularly important to track our travel expenses in Cuba. We’ve been using our Trail Wallet app to note down our expenses since late last year but in Cuba it really came into its own and helped us to come in under budget. We could make decisions like “can we afford that horse riding trip?” based on how we were doing against our daily budget. 

Note that as there is no 3G and very limited WiFi in Cuba, if you use Trail Wallet in Cuba you’ll want to set the exchange rate before you arrive by going to settings and choosing Cuba (Convertible pesos) so that it’ll save the rate for you.

We hope you find Trail Wallet useful for keeping on budget on your travels. Trail Wallet is free for up to 25 items (with an In App Purchase for unlimited items) and is available for iPhone and iPad on the App Store—download it here.

For more Cuba tips see our post on planning a trip to Cuba and our travel resources page.

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How much does it cost to travel Cuba? Here's a budget breakdown.

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69 Comments (2 pingbacks)

  1. If Cuban’s can survive on $25/month then why can I, as a visitor, do the same? It is not as if I have “Rich Westerner to be fleeced” tatooed on my forehead (and anyway I might be Western European, but I am not rich). Surely I can convert my cash to the local currency and pay the same prices as they do?

    Reply

  2. Lovely country Cuba. I missed the Habana and Trinidad a lot. If I have not been to Cuba, I think I would be so surprised with this post. You expect Cuba being extremely cheap place to visit, but it’s absolutely not. Thank you for the great tips with excellent photos.

    Reply

  3. Hello,
    Can you please tell me how you found the accomodation in private houses? Did you book in advance, or just landed and looked for accommodation when there? I’ll be travelling with two children, we are keen to save money and not spend too much on fancy hotels, so staying with failies would be great, but I’m not sure where to start! Thank you!

    Reply

  4. Thank you so much for your website . I try to learn as much as i can from your information. i have two weeks after new year on January 4 to 16 would you mind highlight the city i worth to travel , also the casa who has good reputation i can trust and help me in Cube. i want to contact with them , then book my ticket . Thanks again.
    God bless you.
    Jenny

    Reply

  5. thank you for the info about cuba. ( I would like to travel to cuba from san Francisco u.s.a what would be the best way to do this ? also how much do 3 star hotels charge ?

    Reply

  6. Erin,

    Maybe a silly question but when you booked your flight, did the airline give you any hassle? I know that you obviously booked it through an airline outside the US but I’m curious if the airlines show any type of interest or give any type of hassle. Thanks for your posts.

    Reply

    • We had no problems (but we’re not from the US). We know many other Americans who’ve travelled there via Mexico and had no problems either.

      Reply

  7. Hey there, thank you so much for sharing all the details of your trip, it has been very useful during the planning of my trip to Cuba. I am currently in Mexico and so was thinking about taking Mexican pesos and changing them for CUCs in Cuba. However, i’ve read on a few websites that Mexican pesos have the second worst exchange rate behind USD. So I don’t know whether I should change my pesos to pounds, Canadian dollars or Euros in Mexico and then change those to CUCs in Cuba.

    I’ve used the rates quoted on the banco de Cuba website and when I convert from Mexican pesos to EUR, GBP or CAN and then to CUCs I get pretty much the same answer as converting straight from Mexican pesos to CUCs.

    My question is although you exchanged Mexican pesos directly to CUCs, did you notice that you would have got a better deal converting from another currency (EUR, GBP or CAN) instead?

    Thanks so much for any help you can give me. I’m so excited to have an experience like yours!! I’m going in 3 days now!!

    Reply

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