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. Hi Erin

    Thanks for all the info. I am at the very start of planning a trip to Cuba. I have pretty much zero knowledge of Spanish and my wife just slightly above zero. Do you this will make travelling by bus and staying in homestays difficult? I like to avoid big hotels and tourist traps but am worried our lack of Spanish may make things difficult/impossible!

    Thanks for your help

    Stephen

    Reply

    • Take a phrasebook and give it a go and you’ll be fine. A couple staying at our homestay didn’t speak Spanish and the owner didn’t speak English but they managed to communicate with hand gestures and a few words and got on fine. Good luck!

      Reply

  2. Hi guys
    Everyone recommends taking loads of cash but I haven’t read anything about ‘security’ whilst carry all this cash around or leaving in hotels. Are there some tips you have for avoiding being ripped off and are tourists targeted for mugging given that people must know they carry ‘lots of cash’?
    Thanks
    Julie (just considering a trip right now)

    Reply

    • We did what we usually do with our cash when travelling. On travel days we have it under our clothes in a money belt, and when we are staying somewhere we leave it locked inside our bags when we’re out and about. We stayed with Cuban families in casas particulares and felt very safe.

      I don’t think tourists are targeted at all for mugging. The crime rate is quite low and we felt safe there. The government wants to attract tourists so would crack down on any crime against them. Apparently most thefts are when tourists do stupid things like leave their wallet and cameras on a table while they get up to dance. If you are sensible about it you should have no problems.

      Reply

  3. hey there quick question,
    I am going to be in Cuba for 2 weeks but only two of those days I will be free to roam and eat. How much does food cost for a sit down place? How much does beer run? and last but not least any idea on how much trinkets and such might be. Was shopping expensive? I live in the US so how does it compare to lets say a nice scarf as a gift for someone, or some sorta memory item. I am thinking I should only take about 200 for both those days where I will be spending my own money.
    Also should I get the exit fare out when I arrive or can I do that when I go to leave? ( the 25 dollar exit fee).
    Do you know if you can take 2 suitcases or just one?

    Reply

    • We actually didn’t eat in restaurants and it really depends what restaurant you go to. A beer can be a few dollars. We didn’t do any shopping so I don’t know prices. There is lots of local artwork that looks great.

      $200 should be plenty for those two days, although maybe take a bit extra in case you find more things you want to buy. Bear in mind you’ll get charged an extra 10% exchange fee for dollars so you might want to bring euros or Canadian dollars to change. Make sure you leave 25 CUC for the exit tax.

      The exit fee can be paid when you leave. You’ll have to check with your airline about the suitcases.

      Have a great trip!

      Reply

  4. Dear NEV,
    Can you please advise on below or anything at all to ease my mind?
    From reading all other notations I gather it is easier and less “hit” to exchange Euros, rather than USA dollars, Euros into CUC’s is less expensive? Allowed only $179.00 USA dollars and $3,000.00 family assistance flying in with World Atlantic.
    I am thrilled traveling to Cuba (August 10 thru 19-2013) for the first time since my departure at 10 years old.
    I already have a rented car and a house at the beach in Havana, BUT any recommendations and/or cautions are welcomed. Specially to where to buy “viveres” groceries while in Old Havana? I am of fair skin and the sun has me worried and sincerely the heat, planning to stay hydrated with plenty of water, BUT I do tend to perspire and “menopause hot flashes”. Bathing with cold water not a problem, mainly avoiding heat during the day and hot while sleeping,,, any ideas please. What about mosquitoes precautions –taking mosquitoes’ net?
    Back in 1976 when I left I remember “Apagones” light going off for long periods of time each day, any truth to that improving?
    Packing my free 44 pounds of clothes and food, free 22 pounds of medicine (is the 3 ounce liquid-rule the same to medicines, medicines go free but as carry-on and if more than 3 ounces is it still good to carry meds?) , purse and an 8 pound laptop and honestly as any Cuban knows I am blessed if returning with clothes I have on and purse, everything else even my personal items will remain in the island and much needed by my family.
    MapQuest is not helpful with local addresses: looking for distance from: Havana between Compostela and Luz, and to: Calle 132 between 249 & 134, Rio Verde, La Colonia 25336?
    I am a collector by heart, world currency and would like to bring back anything other than wood figurines,,, any ideas?
    My family, aunts, uncles, cousins await and God Willing our reunion to honor HIS name!
    Thank you,
    Barbara Grant

    Reply

    • Hi Barbara

      I don’t know the answers to all your questions but here’s what we do know.

      Taking euros to change will cost you less than dollars which get a 10% extra charge.

      We didn’t have any problems with power cuts, and every house we stayed had A/C so that will help with the heat. Wearing a hat, drinking lots of water, and avoiding being out in the middle of the day should help. We didn’t have problems with mosquitos but take some repellant just in case, I doubt you’ll need a net.

      It’s best to ask the airline about the medicine.

      We found Google Maps good for Havana so look up directions there in advance and print them off before you go.

      Have a great trip!
      Erin

      Reply

  5. Hi there.

    Fab post – thank you.

    Can I ask… Did you simply turn up in each place and find accommodation or did you pre-book any of it? Thinking of heading there next year so this post was very helpful.

    Cheers

    Reply

  6. Hi from Coggeshall in Essex,

    We are off to Cuba in a few days and the series of posts brings together a lot of ideas, places ad things we have been talking about.

    Great pics, great post.

    Thanks

    Reply

  7. Great guide for what to expect in Cuba. Hoping to get there sooner than later. Some good points to think about and consider here! :)

    Reply

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