Tips For Saving Money in Cuba and Making A Budget
As many of you have heard, Cuba is one of the top cheap vacation destinations in the world. This is especially the case if you book an all inclusive vacation from a discount online travel agency in Canada. On off peak times of the year (November to February (excluding Christmas) and July to September) you can reasonably expect to book a 1 week vacation, at a 3.5 to 4 star resort, for under $600 per person, flight included. Two week all inclusives can usually cost as little as 450$ per week, per person. If you are looking for an all-inclusive vacation option, I strongly urge you to check out some of the leading travel agencies in Canada, such as Sunwing, Transat, and WestJet.
In this article I will focus more on telling you how to save money when taking a vacation to Cuba, but NOT in an all inclusive resort. The information is especially pertinent if you are planning to spend time in Havana or in any other major city in Cuba.
How Much Money Will You Need?
Obviously, budgets can vary dramatically from one person to the next. The Cuban government recommends that all tourists entering the country have with them at least the equivalent of $100 USD per person, per day of their stay. I would recommend that you bring approximately this much currency with you as well. This will help you to avoid any problems, and to ensure that you have enough money for any foreseeable situation. If you have a credit or debit card, and are certain that it will function in Cuba, you can bring this too, in place of some of the hard currency. Nevertheless, I recommend bringing a good supply of cash, so you can easily convert some to CUC, rather than having to search for an ATM immediately upon arriving in Cuba.
If you are staying at an all inclusive, you will certainly not require this much money. You can easily get by with spending just a few dollars per day, or less. The main expense at an all inclusive is tipping (which is recommended, but optional), and spending money to buy non-essential goods like souvenirs, or to spend extra in order to take guided excursions off the resort.
If you are visiting a Cuban city and will be booking your own accommodations and purchasing your own food, then it is a good idea to bring about $100 USD with you, even if you will likely need far less. Note: $100 USD = 100 CUC (Cuban Convertible peso currency)
Average Prices and Expenses to Expect
- Accommodations – You should factor spending about 20 to 30 CUC per night for a casa particular. Hotels can be more expensive. If you are staying longer than 2 weeks, you should be able to negotiate the nightly rate considerably.
- Food – You can easily get by with eating cheap and readily available food sold at street side shops. Estimate about 10 to 20 pesos (MN) per meal. This equates to about 2 to 3 CUC per day. For a more healthy approach, you might consider having a larger evening meal in a restaurant. Under this plan you might expect to spend a total of 5 to 6 CUC per day on food.
- Alcohol – This category is highly dependent on the individual. Estimate that most cans of beers cost 1 CUC or less.
- Transportation – You can easily walk around most of the city. Although this is time consuming, it is great exercise and the best way to meet locals and learn the culture. If you anticipate using taxis particulares a few times per day, budget to spend about 50 pesos (MN) or 2 CUC daily. For state taxis, estimate 5 to 6 CUC daily.
- Entertainment – If the ideas presented in this guide appeal to you, then you should be able to find a great deal of fun in Havana for next to nothing. If you plan to dance the night away in bars and discos, estimate spending an additional 10 to 20 CUC per evening.
A Summary of Average Budgets
Cheap: If you are budget conscious and traveling solo, you can expect to spend about 30 to 40 CUC or less, per day. A couple can easily get by with 50 CUC per day (25 CUC each). This includes the price for accommodations at an inexpensive casa particular. A low cost casa particular can easily be had for under 30 CUC per night. You can easily eat well on about 5 to 10 CUC per day, per person, even if you are going out to restaurants and bars for each meal.
If you are really tight on money, you can prepare meals at your casa and save a few CUC, but generally this is not recommended. If you are in Cuba for only a short visit, you would probably not want to waste too much time each day trying to buy low cost food ingredients at the market, and then preparing your own meals. If you are truly looking for a cheap vacation, then Cuba should be your top choice!
Moderate: If you want to live like a local Cuban while also enjoying a few extravagances per day, such as having a few more drinks, staying at a fancier casa, and making greater use of taxis, you can expect to spend about 50 CUC per day (solo) or about 70 CUC for a couple (35 CUC each). With this budget you might be able to find a slightly better casa, or perhaps one that is located closer to a prime area. The balance of the budget can be used for entertainment or for dining at higher end establishments.
Anecdotally, I think most tourists in a major city in Cuba will stick to this moderate budget, as it is enough for them to enjoy the city thoroughly, while not breaking the bank on unneeded extravagances.
High: If you really want to go all out, by renting a luxury casa or hotel room, exclusively using state taxis, eating fancy dinners, and partying late into the night at discos, you can expect to pay considerably more. Likely at least 100 to 150 CUC per person, per day. Compared to many other travel destination, this is still relatively cheap.
A high budget is not too common for tourists in Cuba. If you are truly looking to live in the lap of luxury, Cuba is not usually the first travel destination on your list. You would probably get more bang for your buck by visiting Mexico or other Caribbean destinations. There are not too many establishments in Cuba which cater to high end clients. While you will have no problem spending money in Cuba, you might see that you do not get as much in return as you might expect.
At it’s heart, Cuba has developed a reputation for offering quality, cheap vacation options. This is true whether you are planning to stay on an all inclusive resort or just plan your own vacation in a Cuban city. Your best bet, in either case, is to plan on sticking to a low to moderate budget plan. While you should estimate on bringing about the equivalent of $100 USD per day, you should budget to spend only about a third to half that much. If you are expecting to spend considerably more than $100 per day and want to live in luxury, you should thoroughly plan your trip and adjust your expectations. In many cases, for people with a high budget, looking for extravagant vacations, Cuba might not be the ideal destination. It’s more of a budget friendly country.
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