Budget traveling is not everyone’s cup of tea (or mug of beer, as is more likely when you travel). There are certain places where backpacking and budget traveling is easier, and parts of Asia seem to be swamped with curious foreigners making their way around without needing to worry their bank manager.
It’s even fairly easy to make your way around Europe without spending too much cash.
Let’s take a look at a few things you need to know in order to make those Cuban pesos go as far as possible.
Sleeping in Cuba on a Budget
Cuba doesn’t have backpacker hostels in the same way that other countries do. The cheapest way to rest your head in Cuba is to stay at a Casa Particular. These are the Cuban version of a bed and breakfast. Prices vary significantly, and of course you will pay more if you stay closer to the center of a city or town.
It might be worthwhile to save some cash by staying a little further out, just so long as you can still walk to places of interest (even if it takes a little longer).
Try to book your Casa Particular as far in advance as possible, well before you arrive. Don’t be tempted by touts who might approach you at airports, bus stations or train stations once you’re in Cuba. The “great deal” they offer on a Casa Particular is generally not so great, since the inflated price they quote will include the commission they receive for finding you. There are occasional bargains to be found in upmarket hotels, but these are such a rarity that it’s not usually an option when going to Cuba on a budget.
The US-owned Starwood Hotel group (who operate the Westin and Sheraton hotels, among others) are set to expand to Cuba, which will make them the first US hotels to operate on the island for more than half a century. This might result in more competitive pricing, so it pays to hunt around.
A Casa Particular is still the best bet, since it includes a hearty breakfast. And speaking of food…
Eating Without Spending a Lot
Take advantage of the breakfast on offer at your Casa Particular. It’s one of the obvious tips when you’re taking a vacation, but you should always fill up on breakfast if it’s included in the price. This makes it less likely that you’ll need a snack later in the day, and you might even be able to skip lunch if you’re full enough from your breakfast. When you’re out and about, look for street food carts. They’re a fairly recent development in Cuba, since it was difficult to get permission to operate such a business on the island until fairly recently.
The food is not fancy, but you can expect to find freshly cooked corn on the cob and basic fried food. You will also not have to spend a lot to enjoy street food.
Just like the food carts, there are more restaurants than ever before (thanks to the changes in legislation which made it easier to open one). The quality varies rather a lot, as do the prices. You can find top-of-the-line restaurants with prices that wouldn’t look out of place in Paris or New York.
But if you’re going to Cuba on a budget, then these places are probably not what you’re looking for. Ask your hosts at your Casa Particular if they know of any decent nearby peso restaurants.
These are the places where the locals eat, and they are incredibly basic (although the food can be surprisingly good). They can be hard to find unless you know where you’re going, since they often resemble a group of friends who have come together to eat. It works in the same way as a regular restaurant, although there is usually a set menu.
Special dietary needs generally cannot be taken into consideration either. You might also ask your Casa Particular hosts if they provide dinner (which can cost extra, and yet is still shockingly cheap).
You might also have the option of using the kitchen at your accommodation, so you can then buy your own supplies from the supermarket (even though the selection is not great) and cook for yourself.
Stuff to Take with You (or Else You’ll Pay a Lot Extra)
When going to Cuba on a budget, you’ll probably want to travel light. This is fine, but there are certain supplies you definitely need to bring with you. You probably take these things for granted, but in Cuba these basic items are not basic at all and are often considered to be luxuries.
Things such as band aids, condoms, female hygiene products, beauty products, sun block, mosquito repellant, hair care products, and so on should be brought with you.
Even if you can find them in Cuba (which is not always so easy), you will end up paying a lot for these essentials!