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Is Cuba expensive? Yes and no. Cuba is a relatively cheap country to enjoy an all-inclusive holiday in, but budget backpackers who are accustomed to the cost of travel in say Bolivia or Cambodia will find Cuba expensive. We spent three weeks in Cuba with the intention of seeing the whole island, which is possible in that time. However, our daily budget dictated and we had to cut the trip short. This travel budget for 3 weeks in Cuba will outline the price of accommodation, food, trips and travel, for two.
» Planning a trip to Cuba? | Don’t miss our extensive guide
Cuba Prices: How Much Does Cuba Cost?
Whether you are visiting Cuba for a long weekend or a three-week trip, our guide will help you plan and budget accordingly, eliminating any surprises when you hit the ground!
We visited Cuba as part of an 18-month sabbatical to travel the Americas and Europe.
We did find it hard going from Colombia to Cuba and the highest expense was moving between destinations. While Cuba on a budget is not impossible, it is difficult if you plan to travel. Read on to find out more.
Cuba Budget Planning Prices
Before you leave for Cuba there are some things you need to invest in:
- Airline ticket – the price of this will depend on where you travel from. European readers, pay more to ensure that your Cuba Tourist Card is included in the price. US, your travel insurance should be covered
- Cuba Travel Visa – this can cost anything from $15-35 and must be secured before you fly into Cuba
- Vaccinations – check with medical professionals that you are up to date with vaccinations required for Cuba
- Travel insurance – if not provided by your airline. Non-US readers check out True Traveller Insurance or World Nomads Travel Insurance. You can read our comparison guide here
- Cuba travel book US / UK – I rarely say you need one but you do need a detailed guide for Cuba. Why? Limited WiFi
- Spanish phrasebook- it is likely that only your tour guides will speak English
- Learn Spanish – you will need survival Spanish to have an easier vacation if you intend to move around the island. Here are 5 ways to learn
- Bug spray – like Avon So Soft US / UK
- Pack snacks – there are no grocery stores
- Don’t bother buying additional data from your phone provider – just buy a WiFi card when you arrive
- Cash! But not Cuban money – you want to bring Euros, British Pounds or Canadian Dollars. Not US Dollars as it is taxed at 13%
» Read next | Cuba currency explained – CUC, ATMs + credit cards
Cuba Travel Visa Card
Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba
Accommodation in Cuba
The most common type of accommodation in Cuba is casas pariculares.
Casas pariculares are private homes which have rooms for rent. This is legal, owners have to register with the government.
It is totally normal to stay with a local and the level of engagement will very much depend on the host and you.
There are hotels in bigger Cuban cities and towns like Havana and Trinidad but they are more expensive than the local option, casas particulares.
For example, the Iberostar Trinidad starts at $400 (U.S) for one night.
How Much Do Casas Cost in Cuba?
The cost of casas depends on where the house is and what the rooms offer.
Generally, rooms cost between 10-50 CUC per person.
We mostly spent 10 CUC per person and negotiated this price for every room after Viñales.
The price of your casa will include a bed for the night in a basic room, an ensuite and a fan or aircon.
Some rooms will have fridges. Not all casas have WiFi for you to log on to, others go as far as to offer you a phone!
Breakfast is around 4-5 CUC per person and varies in quantity, mostly a decent plate of eggs and fruit and served with love.
If you want to avoid carrying large sums of cash with you, you can reserve your room before you travel to Cuba. However, you really don’t need to do this as casas will recommend others in the town you are going to next. They will receive some commission for this recommendation from the owner.
You can even rock up to a destination and ask a taxi driver or PR hanging about the street to help you find one. So strange to us, very normal to travel in Cuba!
→ Find out everything you need to know about casas in Cuba here: Essential Guide to Casas Particulares in Cuba
Hostels in Havana
There is a handful of them in Havana but not elsewhere on the island.
Although many casas call themselves hostals they aren’t hostels like backpacker hostels with social areas. Actual hostel dorm beds cost between $5 USD – $10 USD.
Dorms are good place to start if visiting alone and you want to meet some travel buddies. Here are the best the Havana:
- Club 58: Outstanding reviews, friendly staff, very social, super central and safe
- Ronaldo’s: This is the first hostel in Havana and a bit of an institution. Nice rooftop. Friendly staff
- Paradise: This is where we stayed for two nights as Ronaldo’s was full. Nice rooftop. Hot rooms
Couchsurfing is illegal in Cuba.
Our Accommodation Budget
After two weeks of travel, our Cuba travel budget was burning through our savings so we booked into an all-inclusive resort in Varadero. Hard life, I know.
- Accommodation in Cuba Total: 562 CUC for two nights in a hostel, the remaining two weeks in casas, for two
- This total includes 70 CUC per night all-inclusive resort for last week which includes food and drink
Casa in Viñales
Food Prices in Cuba
You can eat for cheap in Cuba if you are staying around Havana and are happy to live off the 1 CUC pizzas. Warning, they are a heart attack waiting to happen!
We watched a local buy one from the hole in the wall and then fold it in half to let the grease fall down the drain. I am not joking!
So yeah, you probably aren’t going to eat two pizzas a day and still fit into your travel clothes. There are fruit and veg markets in the city too. It’s unlikely you will have access to a kitchen to cook in though and I know this makes travel in Cuba difficult for vegans, vegetarians and families with small children. It also increases the prices of meals because you are relying on restaurants or casas to cook for you.
Pack snacks before you fly as grocery stores are not the norm.
There is a small shop in Trinidad which sells crackers and ice cream and you can always find somewhere to buy rum!
Breakfast is typically hosted by the casa owner at 4-5 CUC per person. Some casas offer dinner, we were never offered it though.
Restaurants in Cuba
Restaurants in Cuba are extremely hit or miss.
There are two kinds, government-run and privately owned restaurants called Paladar restaurants. The latter tends to be better.
Government-run are notoriously slow in service and basic. Our tour guide in Havana warned us of this.
Before you leave, I suggest taking note of the restaurants that you would like to try.
Here’s some of ours which admittedly are in the popular areas of popular places.
To keep costs down, travel outside of these destinations and eat on the outskirts:
- 304 O’Reilly: modern tapas and nice cocktails – 4 tapas / 2 cocktails 30 CUC
- El Chanchullero: more tapas – 3 mains, 3 soft drinks, 2 coffees 17 CUC
- Castas & Tal: nice decor, full plates – 2 mains / 1 cocktail / 1 beer 21 CUC
- Taberna La Botija: nice atmosphere, live music – tapas for 2 / 2 drinks: 23 CUC
- El Olivo: try the paella – two mains 15 CUC
- Dulce Vida: nice pizzas – pizzas/drinks 25 CUC
I do feel bad that these are up in the top 5 on TripAdvisor, something we normally try to avoid, but this highlights how varied the food quality is in Cuba!
- Food in Cuba Total: 445 CUC two weeks eating breakfast at casas, snacks/small meals for lunch and dinner out, for two. Includes coffee and water
The infamous 1 CUC pizza, and Gemma
Partying in Cuba
Cuba is a very social place and Cubans are very social people!
It’s hard not to get swept up in the Latin passion of salsa and that cheap rum (ron) goes down far too easily. It’s cheap too at 6-9 CUC!
Casa de la Musica in Trinidad and Havana are very popular with tourists, you will spot many jineteros dancing with foreign women and foreign men picking up local Cuban chicas.
Touristy spots like La Floridita in Havana will set you back 12 CUC for two daiquiris. They weren’t even the best we had during the trip.
Don’t miss the 1 CUC cocktail man in Trinidad, excellent for budget travel in Cuba!
Please be warned: sex workers target visitors of all ages. We met a young Irish high school teacher who was asked on a date by a waitress, they met that night and the police chased her away as she was a known worker. Life is hard for many Cubans, easy money is being made from visitors. Stay safe – check out this post on scams in Cuba.
- Partying in Cuba Total: 161.50 CUC includes drinks out and bottles of rum. We drank most days because it’s Cuba! This does not include the all-inclusive booze
Sunset with our new pals in Varadero
Transport in Cuba
The most expensive thing you can do in Cuba is to move.
The drive between destinations is what hurts the wallet most, hence why we stopped moving and opted for a lounger for a week.
Not what we intended but as long as you are prepared for the price, do put lots of destinations on your Cuba itinerary.
Viazul is the bus company which runs between towns and cities in Cuba. This is sometimes the cheapest way to travel around the country, however, locals never know the bus schedules and the times in the Lonely Planet are unreliable. Note down the times from the website before you go.
Word of warning – by the time the bus reaches smaller towns, there may be no seats.
This happened in Playa Larga where we participated in some diving in Cuba.
If the bus is full, you won’t get on – it’s not like the chicken buses of Central America where they squeeze everyone and everything on for a cosy ride!
Locals who run taxi colectivo ride shares will often match the bus prices. You will sometimes share the ride with others but it is not always the fastest way to get between stops!
The good thing about colectivos is that they are door to door so you don’t have to pay for a taxi to the bus station.
If you want to rent a car the rate is around 50-100 CUC per day, some deals include insurance, others don’t. Book before you go to ensure a car is available.
- Transport in Cuba Total: 249 CUC which includes local taxis, taxi colectivo and the bus
A classic car in Havana
Activities and Trips in Cuba
Many of the things to do in Cuba do cost money. Here’s a list of the things you shouldn’t miss:
- Day tour of Havana – 100 CUC per person
- Cycling among the mogotes in Viñales – 4 CUC per person
- Diving at Playa Larga – 35 CUC per person
- Hire a bike from Trinidad and cycle to Playa Larga – 5 CUC per person
- Salsa dancing in Trinidad – depends on your liver
What do you recommend? Tell us in the comments below
- Activities in Cuba Total: 324 CUC
Diving in Playa Larga
Miscellaneous + Luxuries
When looking at the above prices please remember that you will be hit by fees when transferring money which is explained in detail in this guide.
WiFi is not free. You have to purchase cards and log on at the designated spots around Cuba. Some of these spots are at the store you can buy the card, in the parks, some restaurants, hotels and casas.
One hour costs 1 CUC, five hours will get you 5 CUC. Find out more here.
It’s Cuba so it’s got to be done – we bought some cigars as gifts!
The best advice we were given was to avoid the jineteros who try to sell you cigars on the street (or from their windows!) and buy from the official shops for authentic smokes.
We found the Viñales store was cheaper than the Havana shop. Fewer tourists go to Viñales, and Viñales is the land of tobacco!
On our last day in Havana, we treated ourselves to a day at the fancy Hotel Sevilla where you can access WiFi using your cards by the pool for a day rate.
Hotel Sevilla in Havana was one of the first hotels to offer WiFi access. To access the pool, it costs 20 CUC per person but you get 15 CUC back to use as a credit at the bar for snacks and drink.
Craig celebrated his birthday in Cuba. I shopped ’til I dropped in the all-inclusive resort… Can you sense the sarcasm?
Craig loved his Che Guevara bamboo cup, a packet of crisps, and two 30 minutes WiFi cards. Ha!
- Luxuries and Miscellaneous Total: 162 CUC
Cuba on a Budget
How expensive is Cuba then? For us, as part of a big trip, expensive. For someone going on a standalone trip, not so much maybe. Here are our Cuba budget tips to help you save cash:
- Bring EUR, CAD or GBP but only if you get a decent rate at home
- Carry both CUC and CUP
- Shop at local vendors and markets. You may need to pay in CUP here
- Learn to love the 1 CUC pizza
- Dine at cafeterias. Again, have CUP
- Pick up fruit and veg at stalls
- Eat and drink at restaurants and bars outsides of the tourist areas
- Buy rum/ron in local shops
- Take a purifying and filter water bottle like the Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
- Stay in casas and negotiate before agreeing to stay. This is perfectly normal. You can not negotiate if you book before you go
- Ask how much things are before buying
- Avoid these scams
- Learn Spanish, as I said above you need survival but if you are at a conversational level you will get by much easier
- Do the groundwork before you go and have a digital detox so you don’t have to pay for WiFi
- Avoid moving around too much but then this means you won’t experience the best of the island
- Walk everywhere
- Do the free Havana walking tour and pay a tip at the end
- Bring everything you need like sunscreen and medicine. You might not get it in Cuba
Churros in Havana
Buy the Guides
There is only one country where I genuinely think you need a travel guide and that is Cuba. Due to the Wifi and 4G restrictions you can’t just jump on TripAdvisor, bus times etc. It is mighty frustrating. I really regret not investing in a guidebook.
Do you think Cuba is cheap? I hope our guide and three weeks in Cuba experience has helped you in your planning. I do think you could do it a little cheaper if you ate locally and moved around less but then you would miss out on really cool destinations and the varying landscape of the island.
Going to Cuba?
Pin to Cuba board
Have you been to Cuba?
Are you going? Any questions, fire below and I’ll get back to you.