Cuba Three Week Travel Budget

Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

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Cuba is a relatively cheap country to enjoy an all – inclusive holiday in, but budget backpackers who are accustomed to the cost of travelling in say Bolivia or Cambodia will find Cuba expensive. We spent three weeks in Cuba, with the intention of travelling around 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, travel, and socialising (for two).

3 Week Cuba Itinerary

Like I said, our big Cuba backpacking itinerary was to travel around the island, from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and back and we were told that three weeks is ample time to explore the whole island. However, our reduced itinerary became Havana (vintage cars, salsa bars) – Viñales (mogotes, tobacco fields) – Playa Larga (diving in The Caribbean) – Trinidad (cheap rum, paradise beach) – Varadero (all inclusive hotel) – Havana (I could spend a week here!)

Check out our three-week Cuba itinerary.

We flew from Bogota in Colombia. Luckily, our flight company offered us the chance to buy our Cuba Tourist Card at the airport as the Embassy was closed due to a bank holiday. Make sure you have your card organised before flying.

Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Accommodation in Cuba

The most common type of accommodation for travellers in Cuba is casas particulares. This is when locals rent out their spare rooms. The most popular type of room is a double private room with a fan and a bathroom. We did experience a four bed (dorm like) room in Viñales so there are opportunities for solo backpackers to stay in casas. These casas are all regulated (you will receive a receipt) and identified by a sign with an upside down anchor outside of the property.

From our experience, there is no need to pay more than 10 CUC for a room (20 CUC for a couple). The Cubans which run casas are house proud, the rooms were always clean – it was a positive experience. Casa owners usually offer breakfast for a fee (around $2.50). We enjoyed eating breakfast amongst the flowers in Trinidad!

There is no denying it, it really helps if you can speak and understand Spanish. I would carry a phrase book with you at the very minimum.

There are hostels in Havana and it might be a good idea for solo travellers to start there and meet some travelling buddies / work out an itinerary from fellow backpackers! Dorm beds go as low as £7 and most dorms are not bigger than 4 person with a private bathroom. Some include breakfast, others add a surcharge. —> check prices and availability here.

By the second week of our three week trip, we were burning through cash – hitting double our daily budget (£45 for two) at times, so we did the unthinkable and booked a holiday within a holiday. We logged on to the WiFi (yes, Cuba has WiFi it is limited but evolving fast, there is even 3G roaming now) and arranged an all inclusive hotel stay for our final week – life is hard!

  • Accommodation in Cuba Total: $489 (including one week all inclusive ) 

Casas Particulares I Cuba

Food in Cuba

Other travellers ate with their casa owners for a fixed price however we were never offered dinner (only breakfast). There is no access to kitchens in casas or hostels. Restaurants in Cuba are extremely hit or miss. Be prepared to frequently see UK prices on menus for a plate of greasy mess. There is a big difference between government and private run restaurants but unfortunately you won’t know which is which until you are waiting an hour for food (that’s the government run one!) After a few culinary fails, we succumbed to buying a Wifi card and logging on to check out reviews on TripAdvisor Cuba. I would advise taking note of recommendations before you go. You don’t want to waste your backpacking Cuba budget or your holiday spends on poor grub. Our favourites were

Havana

  • 304 O’Reilly (modern tapas and nice cocktails – 4 tapas / 2 cocktails $30)
  • El Chanchullero (more tapas – 3 mains, 3 soft drinks, 2 coffees $17)
  • Castas & Tal (nice decor, full plates)

Trinidad

  • Taberna La Botija (nice atmosphere, live music)

Viñales

  • El Olivo (try the paella!)

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 in quality food in Cuba is! Executing Cuba travel on a budget? Don’t miss the ‘hole in the wall’ pizzerias which sell 1 CUC pizzas (accompanied with lots of oil)!

  • Food in Cuba Total: $581

Food in Cuba I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Socialising 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. Casa de la Musica in Trinidad and Havana is very popular with tourists, you will spot many jineteros dancing with foreign women and foreign men picking up local Cuban chicas. Don’t miss the 1 CUC cocktail man in Trinidad, excellent for budget travel in Cuba!

Please be warned: sex workers target travellers 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 know worker. Life is hard for many Cubans, easy money is be be made from visitors. Stay safe – check out this post on scams in Cuba.

  • Socialising in Cuba Total: $342 

Varadero All Inclusive Beach I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Transport in Cuba

Viazul is the bus company which runs between towns and cities in Cuba. This is 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.

When we did investigate the bus times in Trinidad – the employee sold us two seats in his friend’s taxi collectivo (Trinidad to Varadero $25 each / same price as bus but door to door) – a taxi which you share with others. This might be an old vintage car but not out of romance – just because that’s what everyone drives!

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! So how does this compare to backpacking in Cuba 2017? Come back and let us know. 

  • Transport in Cuba Total: $205

Havana I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Activities and Trips in Cuba

We went diving in The Bay of Pigs – check out our video footage! It was magical and highly recommend if you like to dive. Diving in Cuba is one of cheapest places in the world to to take the plunge! When we first arrived in Cuba, we partnered with Havana Tour Company and reviewed their full day walking tour which included lunch and a vintage car ride. Walking tours are always a great way to get your bearings and tap into to local knowledge. Our tour guide, Yaniel (no I’ve not misplaced the D), was an excellent and answered our questions on life in Cuba, past and present – no holds barred, surprisingly! Warning: there are mosquitos in Cuba. We were blighted with them in Playa Larga and Varadero. Avoid dusk and cover up. If you still want to see those famous sunsets (and you should) take some kind of mosquito repellent. We use Avon So Soft which does not contain DEET.

  • Activities in Cuba Total: $167 (+ day tour $99 per person)

Diving in Cuba I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Cuba Backpacking Budget

Luxuries and Miscellaneous 

It’s Cuba so it’s got to be done – we bought some cigars as gifts! The best advice we were given was – 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. Less tourists go to Viñales, and Viñales is the land of tobacco!

Now this will sound strange to us who live in the land of privilege but… we had to pay for WiFi cards too ($4.50 for one hour). We treated ourselves to a day at a fancy hotel where we could access WiFI (using our cards). Craig celebrated his 32nd birthday in Cuba. I shopped ’til I dropped in the all inclusive resort… Craig loved his Che Guevara bamboo cup, packet of crisps from the resort shop, and two 30 minutes WiFi cards. Ha! Where was your best birthday abroad spent?

  • Luxuries and Miscellaneous Total: $162

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, Airbnb, bus times etc. It is mighty frustrating. I really regret not investing in a guide book. Don’t be me, be organised.


Varadero I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Fees in Cuba

Charges apply when using the ATM in Cuba at the rate of 10%. We did have British Pounds and Euros (after Craig spending two days in Bogota, Colombia, taking money out of ATMs) but not enough. Currency is tricky in Cuba. If you don’t know your CUCs from the CUPs or why you should not take American dollars read this Cuban currency help guide.

  • Fees in Cuba Total: $33
  • We were not charged for leaving the country as this was included in our outbound flight to Toronto 

Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba: $1979 for two
($608 over budget – yikes!)

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Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba - A guide to how much does accommodation, food, travel, trips, and socialising costs in Cuba.

So now you know how much money you need for Cuba! Our Cuba travel budget per day was $47 each. Do you think Cuba is expensive? Tell us your Cuba backpacking budget. 

Have you been to Cuba?
Are you going? Any questions, fire below and I’ll get back to you.

 

Comments 48

  1. We’re really hoping to end this trip in Cuba so it’s great to find articles like this – thanks. One question, did you have any luck using the alternative currency? I hear life can be a LOT cheaper that way.

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      You don’t really use it bar for things like flowers and fruit at markets. Markets aren’t markets like the Witches Markets in Peru or Bolivia either. Change some of the CUC (easy to do) for CUP but not too much, you won’t really spend it. Try and get a 3 CUP – it has Che on it! Locals will swap you, they have plenty of them.

  2. These posts always amaze me – you’re so organised!! Note to self: Must get better at budgeting and recording what we spend. Such a useful article… Bookmarked for whenever we make it to Cuba one day!

    PS. Your spam defence maths question really tested me this afternoon ;).

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  3. You did really well in terms of price for accommodation. I only had one room where I paid 10 CUC/night – in Havana booked through AirBnB. In Vinales, I paid 25 CUC/night, and this seemed to be the ‘standard’ rate that I was seeing (it also might have been because it is high tourist season).

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  4. We found it harder to get anything under about 10 CUC per person at the Casa Particulars as well (but we had an awkward number with 3 people).

    Maybe we got lucky, but we also had plenty of offers of meals from our Casa’s, but we only partook in a couple…

    It is actually possible to book Viazul buses online (from outside of Cuba), but we only did that from Baracoa all the way back to Havana as there is only 1 bus out of the town per day…

    For the shorter journeys (Havana to Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos to Trinidad) you can get a taxi for the same price as the bus fare in any case.

    Interesting to see how anothers experience differs!

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      We did use collectivos for every journey bar Havana to Viñales but we just couldn’t afford to keep travelling in between towns. It may have been different if this was the first country on our trip and we had no idea of budget but after four months in South America it was hard to swallow forking out so much! Our friends had just been to Cuba and ate in casas for dinner too! We just got unlucky (lucky?)!

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      Our first one (Viñales) was the advice from the hostel we stayed with in Havana but in all honesty there were about 15 people waiting to sell their casas as soon as we got off the bus! We also saw this in Trinidad. Our taxi collectivo helped us find one in Playa Larga, Trinidad and then a random tuk tuk driver took us to his friend’s casa in Havana. They are plentiful!

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  5. Hiya, I’m a solo female traveller, where Cuba is the first stop of my trip (next stop Mexico). My friend is joining me for 2 weeks in Cuba and i’m not sure whether to stay a extra two weeks to cover the west side- from your article i’m a little worried about prices in Cuba. What would you recommend? Thanks

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      We had three weeks to travel around the whole island and that was doable time wise but not budget wise for us. We had just spent two months in South America and felt that it wasn’t worth to keep travelling cash wise.

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  6. Great info. I am a bit shocked about the food situation but I cannot wait to finally visit Cuba (hopefully this year). So thanks for all the posts, which I need to read to be well prepared.

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  7. Hi, love the site. Just planning a three week trip and were hoping to end with a few nights at an all inclusive. How did you book this? The online prices seem really high and wouldn’t seem to work in your budget!!!

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      1. Thanks for the Sunwing tip! We nearly abandoned finishing our trip with three days all inclusive as anything we could find online was both grossly expensive and got awful reviews!

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  8. Hi,

    This is by far the best info I’ve found while planning a 2 week trip to Cuba for Christmas 2017. We’re not sure where to go.. We are starting in Havana 2 nights, then onto somewhere else, maybe Playa Giron/Larga for 2 nights, Trinidad over Christmas for 5 days and Havana for the last 4. I’m wondering if 5 days is too long in Trinidad? And would we be missing out on a lot if we don’t do Varadero? What would you recommend?
    Cheers
    Ruth

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      Hi Ruth, thanks for asking. There’s a few days trips from Trinidad – Playa Ancon and hiking to waterfall so that could take up 2 days if you fancied it. It’s a small place but there quite a few restaurants. Have you seen our guide to Trinidad? You don’t have Vinales in your itinerary? It’s very different to the rest of Cuba, mogotes and very green (check out our Vinales article). Unless you are diving I would skip Giron personally. Playa Ancon was by far the most superior beach. We never went into Varadero centre (checked into an all inclusive as we were burning through too much of our budget and had another year to go!) but I’d reckon it’s set up for tourists since that’s where many of the resorts are. Hope this helps? A few more articles you might want to consider:

      Our money guide
      WiFi in Cuba
      Scams (it’s very safe but there are chancers, you will come across at lease one of these)

      Here is our overall guide with links to destinations and those mentioned above.

      Come back with any questions 🙂

      1. Thank you! I’ll check out your other articles and may come back to you with more questions (you might regret saying that). Yeah Vinales looks nice but is just a bit too much in the wrong direction and while we want to see and do as much as we can, we also want to minimise time spent travelling around since we only have 2 weeks to relax. Wish it was a longer trip 🙂

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    2. Hi Ruth, I just got back from a seven day trip from Cuba two days ago. I took the viazul bus from Havana to Trinidad and arrived around 1:30. Got to our Casa (which was wonderful, although a 20 minute walk to the city center (but our host would drive us in and pick us up at night) and spent the afternoon exploring Trinidad. We spent the night at Casa de la Musica on the city steps and had a great time. The next morning we left at 9:30 for the waterfalls and after a hike got there near 11:00. We spent two hours there while hiking back. At 1:30 our taxi driver took us straight to the beach, where we stayed till 5:30. We went back to the city center that night and left the next morning. We only had seven days, so 1.5 in Trinidad worked well, but another full day would have been ideal. Beyond that might be a bit too long.
      Hope this helps!

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  9. Hi,

    I am a Canadian planning on cycling Cuba in December 2017. I’ve done these types of trips around Greece and France but I am afraid I might have problems with getting food in Cuba after reading different articles. I usually carry a tent, so I don’t need to look for accommodations, and my own kitchen stuff to make meals. It seems hard to find groceries in Cuba and I am starting to wonder whether I should just eat out instead of making my own meals. I am just curious how hard is it to even find food vendors as I cycle around the island?

    Thanks

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      Audrey, that sounds like an excellent way to see Cuba and I have heard of companies that do this but personally I couldn’t see how this would work independently unless you planned to eat meals in restaurants. The shops don’t really have much in them (no supermarkets like in the West), in the main shop in Trinidad you could buy Nestle ice cream (it wasn’t nice) and crackers. Our casa owner ran out of margarine one day as the shop had none, not a problem for us but an example. There is a market in Havana that sells fruit and veg. There are the pizza holes in the walls in Havana and Trinidad but it’s pure grease. I’ve never heard of anyone camping I’m afraid. Please keep me up to date with how you get one and do check out our full Cuba guide here.

  10. Cuba is amazing I had the chance to be one of the places that I stay in my mind was Varadero with its beautiful beaches, this place is accompanied by wonderful people.

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