Daily Travel Costs in Cuba on a Shoestring Budget
US$35 | 35 CUC
Cuba’s economic and political climate makes it a strange country to visit in many regards and its two-currency system only complicates matters (more on this below). On average Cubans earn just $25 per month yet our suggested shoestring Cuba backpacker budget is $35/day which can take some time to get your head around.
One reason is that locals have an awful amount of basic necessities provided for free via the state, which leaves them with relatively little they need to buy. They are also paid in Cuban Peso rather than the more valuable Cuban convertible peso which is what foreigners use for virtually all transactions, which results in higher prices for visitors. As a result there are almost two separate economies in Cuba and most of your business will be in the pricier tourist-orientated one.
Hostel dorm-type accommodation doesn’t really exist in Cuba so renting private rooms in the homes of people who have a special licence to run what is effectively a small guesthouse (casa particular) is the best value you can really find. As a result paying for accommodation will take up a sizeable chunk of that budget. If you’re travelling solo that can be a real pain but couples or groups travelling together may be able to get by on less than $35 per day by sharing rooms and splitting costs.
Food and drinks are pretty good value and if you speak decent Spanish you might be able to travel on the local buses as opposed to the tourist ones and you’ll make a big saving if you do that. Overall though travelling in Cuba is certainly more expensive than many countries in thee region such as Nicaragua and expenses are roughly similar overall to the cost of travel in Panama with accommodation cheaper in Panama but other things being more expensive to balance it out.
See where Cuba ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.
More Comfortable Cuba Backpacker Budget
US$45 | 45 CUC
Cuba’s travel industry is still in its relative infancy but it is growing quickly and there are lots of different trips and excursions you can do in almost all the main travel destinations now. While it’s not quite North Korea, it’s not that easy to have a totally independent travel experience in Cuba so you will find yourself having to pay for more organised trips than in other countries. By upping your budget to $45/day you’ll have more freedom to take up these options on a virtually daily basis and it’d be a wise option anyway if you’re travelling alone given the lack of hostel/couchsurfing options.
Sample Prices in Cuba
Transport by Astro Bus (mostly for locals) – $2/hour travelled
Transport by Viazul Bus (mostly for tourists) – $4-5/hour travelled
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant – $5
Meat & rice at a peso place – $1.50
Cuban Libre or Mojito in a bar or restaurant – $2-3
Private twin or double room in a casa particular – from $20/night
Entrance to Museum of the Revolution in Havana – $8
Horseback riding tour in Trinidad (3 hours) – $15
These prices are as of December 2016. All figures are the same in Cuban Convertible Peso.
Compare Cuba prices to the cost of travel in Mexico.
Currency – Cuban Peso (CUP) /Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC)
£1 = 33.37 CUP / 1.26 CUC
€1 = 28.10 CUP / 1.06 CUC
US$1 = 26.50 CUP / 1 CUC
(All exchange rates are correct as of December 2016)
Cuba’s two currency system can be quite confusing for newcomers. The Cuban Peso is designed for use by locals while the convertible peso, which is pegged to the US Dollar is aimed at foreigners and the tourism industry. Most of your transactions in Cuba will be in the latter although you may be able to get some basic goods and foods in Cuban Pesos and it’s completely legal to do so. If you speak good Spanish it helps and by eating/shopping regularly in the local places, you can probably get by on a fraction of the budget listed above.
Note that when exchanging US Dollars for CUC at a Cuban back, you will be hit by a 10% conversion fee so Euros, Pounds or Canadian dollars are better currencies to bring.
No matter where in the world you go, getting travel insurance is highly advisable! We suggest using World Nomads, who specialise in providing cover for backpackers.
street art in Havana, Cuba
Share your Travel Costs!
If you’ve been to Cuba recently, help your fellow travellers out by sharing your typical daily costs in the comments section below 😉
This article was published in December 2016.