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, I’m going to Cuba and would like to stay at a casa paticulare. How do I get in touch with people who rent out their rooms to know the price they charge but also to know more about it… Is there a casa you recommend that is safe?

    – Ylfa

    Reply

  2. Very informative. i recently went, legally, with a Roads Scholar/Elder Hostel group. The guides were wonderful, university quality. I have a Cuban stamp on my passport. Roads Scholars was expensive, but half the price of some of the other groups.
    I had ample time to practice español and Cubans are more difficult to understand than Mexicans, verdad. However, after a little it was OK. Lots of people in our group had no español and that was no problema! Several in our group were fluent, alot better than me, so it all worked out.
    I recommend going with a group, such as ours, and then branch out and go however. I have travelled and lived in Latin America and still found Cuba to be different and extremely interesting.
    Gracias a todos y vaya a Cuba!!!

    Reply

  3. Appreciate the response.

    I may be wrong but common sense serves CUP is for Cubans, whilst the tourists buy CUC with their £, €, $, ¥ to pay for shelter, sustenance and souvenirs.

    Casas are private enterprises, hence profit oriented as rest of the world.
    “1 CUC=12 CUP”
    So, do casa particulares charge the tourists same as the natives? Guess they don’t.
    A 25 CUC rent may be paid in CUP, but it has to be 25×12, right?

    [sorry if any of this sounds stupid, for we have to plan in Ruppee and fares for five to half the world away are bringing the jews out of us]

    Reply

    • You have to pay for accommodation, transport and tours in CUC but you can change money to CUP and use it in the simple street stands and shops to buy snacks (like pizza, sandwiches) and drinks.

      Reply

  4. Hello! Thanks for sharing a first hand experience.
    An India here, fantasising a visit.

    Havana via Heathrow seems to be one of the few options.
    Can you suggest a cheaper detour?
    As an Indian, guess I can’t help thinking as a cheapstake–can local people or owners of Casa Particulares be befriended so I can avail the benefits of CUP and those cheap beers? You know like scratching each others back? Is it even legal if possible?

    Thanks.

    Reply

    • Tourists can use CUP to buy things in local shops/restaurants, it’s not illegal.

      I’m not sure where would be cheaper than London. Maybe try Spain. Or use skyscanner.net and see which options it gives you.

      Reply

  5. Hi! This was excellent info and is very helpful in our planning! We are going to Cuba in the end of Jan. 2014 and are very excited!! :) So thanks for your very useful information about costs in Cuba!!
    Best regards.

    p.s. some questions from readers sure are interesting…about law and rental car… :)
    obviously you are not a tourist information… ;)

    Reply

  6. Hi great info guys Thanks. Dat will help us on our trip to cuba in December. First time in Cuba. What do u reccomend we should go see & where, & cheapest way to get there?

    Reply

  7. Hi! great breakdown! I think best i found till now :) just to clear things, your budget of 70sterling a day was for 2, so it was 35sterling per person? If so I must say a pretty good budget. When did you visit Cuba? Was it in summer?
    thanks

    Reply

    • Yep that’s right although we spent less than our planned budget at £29 per person per day. It’s cheaper for a couple to travel though because of accommodation costs. We were there in March 2013.

      Reply

  8. My father is from Cuba and he came here 16, and I really would like to visit. But with all the laws changing, would he even be able to go over there?

    Reply

    • Alana Quedrida,
      I recently went to Cuba with a Roads Scholars group. Wonderful experience.
      I believe that you, as a descendent of a Cuban, now have special status. Cuban Americans can go with much more facility than non-Cuban Americans. Cubans want everyone to visit, especially you, who may still have family there.
      Vaya a Cuba. They need the business,
      Abrazos,
      Emily Patch
      Portland, OR
      {

      Reply

  9. Hi
    Thanks for the article.
    Great tips.
    Do you have any idea how much would it cost to rent a car for 10 days?
    Including gas and insurance.
    Thanks
    Steff

    Reply

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