Is Cuba Expensive Detailed Guide to Cuba Prices

Is Cuba Expensive? Detailed Guide to Cuba Prices

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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. 

Cuban Currency


Cuba Budget Planning Prices 

Before you leave for Cuba there are some things you need to invest in:

  1. 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
  2. Cuba Travel Visa – this can cost anything from $15-35 and must be secured before you fly into Cuba
  3. Vaccinations – check with medical professionals that you are up to date with vaccinations required for Cuba 
  4. 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
  5. Cuba travel book – I rarely say you need one but you do need a detailed guide for Cuba. Why? Limited WiFi 
  6. Spanish phrasebook– it is likely that only your tour guides will speak English 
  7. 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
  8. Bug spray – like OFF! or deet-free Avon So Soft
  9. Pack snacks – there are no grocery stores 
  10. Don’t bother buying additional data from your phone provider – just buy a WiFi card when you arrive
  11. 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 Visa Tourist Card

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! 

If you’d prefer to see what you are getting use Airbnb or Booking.com and you can read reviews at TripAdvisor, for example, this casa, La Villa Teresa in Havana. Gorgeous. 

→ New to Airbnb? Sign up using our referral code to receive money off and we’ll get money off our next booking too – gracias!

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 

Casas Particulares I Cuba

Casa in Viñales


Food Prices in Cuba

Budget Food

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. 

Snacks 

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 

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:

Havana

  • 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

Trinidad

  • Taberna La Botija: nice atmosphere, live music – tapas for 2 / 2 drinks: 23 CUC

Viñales

  • 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

Food in Cuba I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

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 

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

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 

Havana I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

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:

What do you recommend? Tell us in the comments below 

  • Activities in Cuba Total: 324 CUC

Octopus Club Dive House Playa Larga Cuba

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

The total budget for 3 weeks in Cuba: 1903.50 CUC. 
Our Cuba daily budget was 90 CUC per day for two people with limited activities and one week in an all-inclusive resort. 


Havana Malecon

Malecon, Havana 


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

Havana churros snacks

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.

Final Words

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. 

Varadero I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

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

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 58

  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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      Our room in Viñales was more like a dorm though so maybe that’s why it was cheaper. Airbnb? I never knew!

  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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      Thanks Marta, be sure to check out the location posts under Cuba too. We’ll be working on the advice ones shortly.

  5. Love the detail here. Very handy for somebody trying to budget a trip. The antique-ish looking cars always make me swoon. So pretty!

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  6. Whoa..Thanks for such a clear explanation..have never been to Cuba, but whenever I do, will refer to your blog:)

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  7. This is great! We’ve only ever stayed at all-inclusives in Cuba and have talked (a lot) about going back and travelling around on our own. This is exactly the info we need! This seems like the best way to see Cuba (price and all!)

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      You just a had a wee taster then! Definitely try and see the mogotes in Viñales and if you are in to diving, go to The Bay of Pigs!

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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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  8. 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.

  9. Nice photos really! They remind me visiting Cuba in the good old days, via Canada. I spent 3 months there and felt like home.

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  10. 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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      I know, I didn’t believe Goats on the Road when they advised us how much to budget but it was true! Far more expensive than Peru, Bolivia and Colombia which is where we travelled around before Cuba.

  11. 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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      Hi Mike, glad you found us! We booked through Sunwing.ca (we ended up booking in Trinidad using hotel WiFi over a pricey hot chocolate). Hopefully you can find something cheaper on that site?

      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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          I know, we had a ‘mare too. I was just speaking to an American who told me you can’t book any hotels in advance through booking systems!

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      For 2! I’m make that clearer in the article, thanks. Are you planning on going to Cuba? Don’t miss our extensive coverage of the island! The highs and the lows… Cuba travel guide (just checked, it says for two in the first paragraph, I’ve made it bold).

  12. 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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  13. 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.

  14. 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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