How much does it cost to travel in Cuba for two weeks?

Quanto custa viajar por Cuba por duas semanas?

Reviewing expenses after a trip is always a good practice. Even if just to have an understanding if we will have to eat noodles the rest of the month… In this article I will detail how much I spent in this trip, so that you can have an idea of how much does it cost to travel in Cuba for two weeks.

Keep in mind that when I went to Cuba, the exchange rage was almost 1 for 1. This between the currency for foreigners (CUC) and Euros. Therefore the values are very close to Euros, even though they are represented in CUC.

Booking.com

This article is structured by sections, accommodation, food, transportation, activities and others. This way you can have a better picture or how much does it cost to travel in Cuba, and then you can have an idea on where you can save a bit more.

Expenses with transportation in Cuba

Let’s start by the transportation, but excluding the flights. I didn’t think it would be relevant to specify the cost of the flights, considering I flew from Ireland. If it was from Portugal I guess it would make more sense to specify it, but considering I live in another country this doesn’t make that much sense.

However I would like to highlight how important it is the visa to Cuba. The price of the visa depends on how you get in the country, by this I mean, the last stop before you get in Cuba. If you are flying from the United States to Cuba, then the price of the visa can reach almost 3 times more than if you fly directly from Europe to Cuba. Therefore, keep this in mind!

How much does it cost to travel in Cuba by bus?

One of the most used means of transportation in Cuba are the buses. Yes, there is a railway network in Cuba, but even local people highly recommend not to use the trains. They are ridiculously slow and uncomfortable. However, if I had more time to explore probably I would try them…

This was one of the expenses I had even before I arrived in Cuba. I got a bit scared with what I read, a few blogs mentioned there is no internet in Cuba and that we should book everything in advance. This isn’t exactly true, but yes, if you are visiting Cuba during high season or with more people you should be prepared in advance. But if you are traveling solo or during off season, then you can make bookings the day before (and probably even cheaper).

Beach chairs in Playa Girón
Beach chairs in Playa Girón

The only trip that I did not book in advance was from Havana to Viñales, and this by the recommendation of the Cuban Embassy in Dublin. Besides that I booked everything through the Viazul website. But there are other options, maybe even better.

Through the Viazul website I paid everything in dollars, and the amounts were:

  • $32 – from Viñales to Cienfuegos
  • $7 – from Cienfuegos to Playa Girón
  • $12 – from Playa Girón to Trinidad
  • $20 – from Trinidad to Varadero
  • $10 – from Varadero to Havana

The prices must be by kilometer, as I haven’t noticed any major difference between touristic sites. In fact, the longest trip was from Viñales to Cienfuegos, and the shortest one from Cienfuegos to Playa Girón. I spent a total of $81 in buses even before I left Ireland…

The cost of my taxi trips in Cuba

We should differentiate between collective taxis and the local ones. There is a big difference of prices and business, and here is where you notice the biggest discrepancy on the price per kilometer. The collective taxis have pre-defined routed and we need to book it in advance. Usually you can get nice deals through the casas particulares, and they will be the ones making the booking. Regarding the other taxis, they basically work alike anywhere else in the world.

I only booked a collective taxi, from Havana to Viñales, and I paid 20 CUC. Considering I didn’t have to be squeezed inside a bus, and I still had the chance to meet another couple and have a chat, I’d say the price was really good comparing to a bus trip. If I was aware of this, I would have had just used this mean of transportation in Cuba.

But there’s a catch, and that’s for the taxis to and from the airport in Havana. I think they have a fixed tax, as I paid exactly the same amount both ways, 30 CUC. Keep in mind this is a 30 minutes trip, while the trip to Viñales took a few hours and it was way cheaper. You can take a bus to the airport, but those are city buses and overcrowded (and if I am not mistaken, you also need CUP which is the local currency).

Then in Viñales I also used two taxis, one by horse which just cost me 1 CUC. And later another “excursion taxi” that cost me 10 CUC.

In Playa Girón I also used three taxis, two of them on a bicycle. Yes, a bicycle taxi to which they call it bicitaxi, with the price of 1 CUC each. With my luggage, it was quite handy to reach the house of my host. And the third taxi was simply to take us to the beach, for which I paid 5 CUC.

How much does it cost the accommodation in Cuba?

The accommodation was another thing I took care before leaving Europe. Once again, fearing that I wouldn’t find internet and therefore not being able to find a place to stay. Of course this can happen anywhere in the world, but in Cuba there is a really good network of casas particulares. In almost any casa particular you can book the accommodation for the next destination, they take care of everything and it might even end up being a nice deal. But if you are traveling during high season then you should book in advance, at least for the most touristic areas.

The first casa particular where I stayed was a deal made at the embassy itself. Yes, one person from the staff at the Cuban Embassy in Ireland gave me a reference for a casa particular right there… And for a night I paid 41 CUC. A really nice place, with a colonial style, in a district that seemed to be really safe.

Horse Taxi in Viñales
Horse Taxi in Viñales

All the remaining bookings were made either via airBNB or Booking.com. In Viñales I had one of the best experiences of the whole trip, I highly recommend the Casa Omar y Mayra, where I paid 48,88€ for two nights.

I only stayed on night in Cienfuegos, just passing by, and considering it was just for one night I paid 20,37€. But a very central and nice place. And in Playa Girón, which was my selected destination, I stayed for 3 nights which cost me 76,38€.

The last casa particular of this “series”, but not the last one of the trip, was in Trinidad. Where I stayed for two nights, to enjoy the gorgeous town and surroundings. For the accommodation I paid 50,91€.

A small break from the local accommodation, and I decided to play tourist and go to a resort, which didn’t end that well… All inclusive, but of a really poor quality. I even tried to leave a review on Booking.com, but it “never worked”. Oddly this was the only experience that I didn’t enjoy, and the only one I couldn’t leave a review… I paid 142€ for the two nights at a resort by the sea.

Booking.com

And the trip ended where it started, in Havana. This time I looked for a more central place, where I paid 47€ for two nights. More central, and half the price of the first accommodation. Not always the recommendations from other casas particulares are the cheapest ones, it is always a good idea to research before you go.

In total I spent 432,54€ in accommodation. For two weeks, I don’t think that’s too expensive to travel in Cuba.

How much does it cost the food while traveling in Cuba?

Regarding food, the options are simple. Either street food, restaurants or home cooking. In some casas particulares we can even cook at home, and that’s a way to save some money. But since I was traveling alone I ended up never doing that. If you travel with more people, this should be an option to consider, and it might end up in a fun way to socialize with the family that will be hosting you.

For the street food, the prices can vary in an absurd way. And here having the local currency as the meal can be up to 70% cheaper! Yes, the difference is huge! There are two reasons for this to happen, like taking advantage of tourists (which always happens, anywhere in the world) or because the division of the currency for tourists is much less than for locals. This means, that for the sellers it is much easier to charge everything at 1 CUC because it is harder for them to have cents of CUC to give as change. While the local currency is much more common, therefore easier to charge a fair price and give change.

How much does it cost to travel in Cuba for two weeks?
How much does it cost to travel in Cuba for two weeks?

I had access to a few CUPs and I didn’t even took advantage of that. It was a mix of ingenuity and personal values. If I can pay the price for tourists, which is already cheap, I don’t think it makes sense to try to save even more when maybe those extra cents could help greatly a family. So I ended up using just CUCs by option. But I don’t judge those who think otherwise, I met a few visitors using CUPs daily. It is up to each one.

Another detail about street food in Cuba, the menu is what they have available on that day. In Playa Girón I ate pizza a few times, and as an example, some days they only had tomato and cheese pizza (and the cheese would be whatever they had available), other days they also had ham. The price? Always 1 CUC. It is in these places where you can feel up close the struggles the local population feel. What for us is easy to acquire, for them can be quite challenging and expensive.

Regarding restaurants, there you can expect another kind of menu, but I never encountered a case where the menu was “what’s available”. Of course, the prices were much closer to the European ones.

In total I spent 211,50€ in food, waters, etc. The most expensive meal was a dinner that cost me 22€, everything else was below that bar. It isn’t that expensive to travel in Cuba, you can save a lot of money if you are willing to eat street food a bit more often.

How much do activities cost in Cuba?

If there is something that I won’t even be concerned about money (of course I will always) is with the activities. Whenever I travel, my priorities are the activities I will do. Food is important, of course, in my opinion it is a way of traveling by itself. But exploring and having a few adventures is what I remember best whenever I travel.

Cuba is a big island, and with a few gorgeous places to explore. But what a lot of people have no clue about is what lies under the cuban sea. So much to discover. My dream was visiting the Jardines de la Reina, but considering this is a protected archipelago, getting there is also tricky. I only found excursions of 5 to 7 days for diving, which would be a dream for me. But 5 to 7 days on a boat with the same “strangers” put me off a bit, besides the price was really high. That’s when I opted for research other diving sites where I could easily get to. And that’s where I spent more money. With 4 dives I spent in total 100€, which is really cheap considering the prices in other parts of the world.

Swimming next to a waterfall at the Natural Park El Cubano
Swimming next to a waterfall at the Natural Park El Cubano

Another activity where I spent some money was with an excursion through part of the Natural Park El Cubano in Trinidad, where I spent around 40€. To note that I made this booking via airBNB. If you didn’t know, you can also book activities via airBNB, not just accommodation. However, it is way cheaper if you book an excursion through a casa particular, or even via the countless people trying to sell you that on the streets.

Just the diving was half of my investment in activities, which in total was 200,08€. And I had some really active holidays, I even did horse ridding in Viñales! 200€ in activities isn’t that much, with expenses like this it doesn’t cost that much to travel in Cuba.

Other expenses in Cuba

At the Others section I put all those expenses that can be easily avoided. Like gifts, internet and tips.

Even though, I spent 125€ with “other things”. Excluding the gifts, where I spent the most was at an international pharmacy. In Cuba the medical service is really good and cheap (or free), but of course that’s almost exclusive for citizens. For tourists it can be really expensive, and I had to go to a pharmacy to buy paracetamol. Just that costed me 18,50€

In internet I spent 11€, you can buy cards that will give you 1 hour of internet, which means, that probably I wasted around 11 hours on the internet in Cuba… And looking at this I already have a feeling that this was money really badly spent…

Seagulls in Varadero
Seagulls in Varadero

Another thing I added to the Others section was the nights out and drinks. It is an unnecessary expense, but at the same time it is part of the experience. I was not sure if I should have added this to the Food or the Others section, but technically this isn’t food, so I added it to this section. But in total I just spent 15€ with drinks, so it wasn’t that much anyway.

To add another detail, I only noticed now that I added a few entries as “WC”, I completely forgot about that. But in certain situations I had to pay to use the toilet.

How much does it cost to travel in Cuba? Summary of the expenses

To resume and as a conclusion to organize the expenses, here’s the summary of how much my trip in Cuba did cost.

  • Transportation: 99€ + $81 (total de ~166€)
  • Accommodation: 432,54€
  • Food: 211,50€
  • Activities: 200,08€
  • Other expenses: 125€

In this total of expenses, excluding intentionally the flights, it made 1135,12€. Yes, it sounds like a lot of money for two weeks traveling in Cuba. But does it cost that much to travel in Cuba? All depends on your personal management. Keep in mind that before my trip I had already most of the transportation and accommodation paid. Of course I would have to spend this money one way or another, but I did this in advance, in a way that once I arrived in Cuba I wouldn’t have that as a concern.

The money I had available was for the extras, I had a root assured for all towns I visited, and I also had the transportation to get there assured. All the other expenses would simply contribute to an even better experience.

There are those who like to better plan their trips, and those who prefer adventure. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, but in the end it is up to you what’s the best for you.

By Gil Sousa

Portuguese expat in Cork, traveler and food enthusiastic.

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