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) 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 spend 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 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.

  • 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 2018? 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 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 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, a 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 guidebook. 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.

 

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. Hey guys, great post. Heading to Cuba soon, lots of key info here. Just a small question, are all ATMs charging 10% to withdraw from UK banks in Cuba? I have a Royal Bank of Scotland card and a Natwest one. Will both get hit 10% in charges per withdrawal? Pretty steep!

    1. Post
      Author

      Don’t we know it. Unfortunately that’s the way it is. Takes lots of GBP with you and exchange it there is the best option. Annoying eh?! What’s your travel plans?

  2. Hey guys. Fabulous information. Question on money- we are from Canada travelling to Cuba in March. Can you only use ATMs or can you take travellers Chequers and exchange in banks or hotels? Thanks.

    1. Post
      Author

      We had no experience with travellers cheques but I’d assume cash only or ATMs. Here’s out guide to Cuban currency so you don’t get caught it. Also our travel guide which connects you to every article here at Two Scots Abroad (there’s lots!) Have fun.

  3. Hi Gemma and Craig, awesome post!

    Something important you mentioned is to try to find travel buddies. By far that is the most money saving strategy when traveling to Cuba and probably anywhere. That way you can share a room, a car, buy in bulk (though in Cuba buying in bulk not always saves you money), etc.

    I think I could add up some info, too.

    For instance, I know you checked TripAdvisor to look for rated restaurants. That is a good way to go. But now there is Alamesa (http://alamesacuba.com) that has a huge catalog of restaurants. It has grown with the years and it will allow you not to go with the bias for the top rated restaurants in TA 🙂 Awesome restaurants those you mentioned anyway!

    As of socializing, I would recommend going to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) in Havana. That is a rather newly opened space that has a great vibe for people all ages. Don’t miss that! In Trinidad Casa de la Musica and La Cueva are still the best.

    In transport not many things have changed. Viazul bus is still the cheapest option -locals don’t know the bus schedules because they don’t use it :). Also, collective taxis can often be found outside the Viazul bus station in each city, but normally these are old American cars with a lot of people inside (up to 14 sometimes), and you have to wait for them to get filled up to depart. I guess a better service is at PickoCar (http://pickocar.com). You can book ahead and looks great, and maybe you could have afforded going to more places with a service like this 🙂

    Oh and something else: Wifi is not that expensive anymore! It costs $1 an hour now, though if you go with resellers in the streets you will have to pay $3.

    So, there you go. Some updates hahaa.

    Keep up the great writting. I love your blog.

    1. Post
      Author

      I was just thinking about Cuba today! Thanks so much for all of this golden information. I did know this about WiFi, oversight not updating this guide, apologies! Genuinely happy to hear it’s cheaper for local’s sake. Please let me know if you ever need Scotland tips!

  4. Thanks guys. Such value from your detailed info here. Look foreword to getting into all of your travels abroad.
    Love from Canada

    1. Post
      Author
  5. I am a 68 year old female planning on backpacking Cuba for 3-4 weeks in March. Should I book Casas in advance. I am assuming that Cuba is still quite safe. I would like to spend the first week learning Spanish, any suggestiongs?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Sue,

      I would book night one and maybe night two then go with the flow after that. Casas often refer their friend’s casas [they have networks] so you’ll never be without. Did you see our post on casas here?

      No idea about learning Spanish in Cuba but definitely recommend trying. I would suggest starting at home. Will make backpacking easier.

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