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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69 Comments (2 pingbacks)

  1. Could I bother you with a couple of quick cash question – you came in with peso and changed where at the airport?
    Did you happen to notice if they change a lot of currencies? We’re currently in Honduras and will be going to cuba via Grand Cayman so the only cash we’ll be able to get is either Honduran Lempiras, Grand Cayman dollars or US dollars.
    Thanks for all the Cuba info – it’s invaluable. As someone already said, there really isn’t much about – not about the every day details.

    Reply

  2. I went to Havanna and Varadero in 2005 and even then prices were quite steep. As I was on an organized tour I was staying in hotels all the time. I love the sound of the casas particulares though. What a great way to get to know a country!

    Reply

    • We are Americans and travelled to Cuba illegally, flying into Havana and back from Cancun with absolutely no problems. From all I have read no American has ever been prosecuted for travelling illegally to Cuba and the US government is simply not interested in pursuing this ridiculous situation. Upon entering the US we simply said we had been in Cancun (true) and that was it. Most all the Americans we met in Cuba had done something similar. Entering legally is just a huge rip off with “educational” trips being super expensive and overpriced.

      Reply

      • It’s really a little more complicated than you say it is and the penalty is steep. Things change, especially if Republicans win the election – the door could close again – tomorrow. Why chance it? $300 to return to Cancun, illegally? $600. is what it costs from Miami and back legally. There must be a reason they want you to keep your trip itinerary, etc for the net 5 years. I’m just saying, is it worth it?

        Reply

  3. Great article! Thanks for all of the detailed information. I love the idea of staying and eating in casitas. I’m planning to head to Cuba within the next year and this will be a great resource (along with your awesome article of random observations).

    Reply

  4. The accommodation looked good and the food looked plentiful, sounds like you guys had a great time. We’ve been using your trail wallet app (even come up with a new verb: to trail wallett something – meaning to add an expense to Trail Wallett, we’re thinking of shortening it to ‘To Twallett something’) while travelling round New Zealand and Australia, very useful, thanks for designing it!

    Reply

  5. Yes, I would have assumed Cuba to be similar in terms of cost as other Central American countries, so this is good to know. The money situation sounds like a pain, and actually sounds quite similar to the current situation here in Argentina, except that US dollars here are coveted like gold!

    Reply

  6. I’m Cuban American and I’ve been there several times to visit family. Its been 13 years since I was there last because the rules did change for us BUT i have been courious on how much and how it was for others. Great article, thanks.

    Reply

  7. Really useful post, in fact all of your posts on Cuba have been as there doesn’t seem to be that many out there. Its somewhere that we plan to go to but just readng up on the money side of things, just led to confusion and the vintage cars were prettier to look at anyway! Its good to know how much to budget, so we can work this into our total trip budget. I think I’ve finally got it now…Thank You!

    Reply

    • It does seem confusing at first but it isn’t all that bad. The main thing is to take lots of cash with you and don’t rely on ATMs. You could get away without spending pesos at all, and just spend convertibles, but it’s nice to eat at the more local places and save some cash.

      Reply

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