Knowing roughly how much things cost when you travel to a foreign country gives you a huge advantage when it comes to budgeting. You don’t want to arrive in an exotic new destination, live like a king for the first week, and then be forced to buy a can opener and some plastic forks before having to survive on canned vegetables for the rest of your stay! There are some countries where things are just as expensive as you thought (Denmark, Japan); countries where stuff is weirdly cheap (Germany, Portugal), and places that you thought were cheap but are not (G’day Australia).
But how much does it cost to travel to Cuba?
This place often inspires some debate amongst those who have already been. Some swear it’s possible to live a reasonably high life on a moderate budget, and then there are those who say it’s on a par with other holiday destinations, with some things being pricier. This is hardly surprising, since some people don’t do the research that is necessary in order to work out how much things cost, thereby discovering their options for saving a bit of cash. It can be a little more confusing in Cuba too, since they actually have two currencies. But you are in luck, since we’ve done all the research for you.
Please remember that prices are subject to change.
The Two Currencies of Cuba
Let’s clarify one of the main points about how much does it cost to travel to Cuba – the two currencies of the island nation. Firstly there is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC), which is something you will quickly become familiar with. It’s often referred to as dollars, simply because its value is pegged to the US dollar.
Many goods and services will be purchased with the CUC, and when you withdraw cash from an ATM, you will receive CUC. Next up is the Cuban peso (CUP). The CUC is worth 25 times more than the CUP, and this is where the use of Cuba’s two currencies becomes evident.
The two currencies are clearly marked with their designation, and it’s a good idea to double check your change when making a purchase. It’s not a common occurrence, but sometimes you might be given your change in CUP after making a purchase in CUC; change that is worth 25 times less than the amount that you should be receiving.
Accessing Your Funds
Let’s make sure you’ll actually be able to access your funds while in Cuba. Check with your bank to make sure your card will be accepted. This is not possible with US banks, or even international banks with strong US affiliations. Cuba has a closed currency, so you can’t actually get any pesos until after you arrive.
If you bring foreign currency to exchange, bring British pounds, EU euros, or Canadian dollars. US dollars can be changed to pesos, but there will be an annoying surcharge. Whether withdrawing cash from an ATM or exchanging cash in person, you will receive CUC.
The Double Standard of How Much Does it Cost to Travel to Cuba
When buying things in Cuba, you might notice that some businesses will offer different prices, offering the same product, sometimes with a different standard. Havana’s iconic Coppelia (a rather endearing ice cream parlour) is a good example of this. There’s a separate area for foreigners using CUC, whereas the locals paying in CUP use a different cashier. The cost in food in Cuba is where the different values of the two currencies becomes rather distinctive. Lunch in a basic eatery on Calle Obispo in Havana’s Old Town will set you back around 40 CUP (roughly $1.30 USD). If you pay with a 3 CUC note, this will not be an issue. Smaller businesses might not be able to give you change.
A street vendor selling slices of pizza for 10 CUP (around 50 cents) will not be able to change anything other than the smallest CUC note. It’s of course easier to take advantage of the cheaper CUP prices by using this actual currency. When making a smaller purchase, ask to receive your change in CUP. Not all businesses will be willing to do this, but it’s not impossible. Just have a rough idea of how much you should be receiving in change, since it will be in a different currency to what you have used for the purchase.
Using Both Currencies to Your Advantage while in Cuba
How much does it cost to travel to Cuba?
Not much if you can avail yourself of both currencies. You can get fresh juice for less than 10 cents, an ice cream cone for less than 5 cents… all these remarkable bargains that are possible when using the CUP. For more substantial purchases, such as shopping and dining at a more formal restaurant, you will still use CUC. Even this doesn’t have to be all that pricey. Naturally some places are more expensive than others, but it’s not unheard of to get a serving of lobster with some side dishes for around 10 CUC.
Accommodation will also be paid in CUC, and naturally this cost will vary depending on the standard of the place where you’ll stay. A room in a casa particular (Cuban bed and breakfast) will set you back approximately anywhere from 20 CUC to 30 CUC per night. An actual hotel can be anywhere between 25 CUC up to 190 CUC (if not more) per night. People who opted for this type of accommodation are the ones when asked, how much does it cost to travel to Cuba, will be of the opinion that it’s not the cheapest destination.
But it really doesn’t have to be this way, just as long as you are fully aware of the disparities between the two currencies in use in Cuba, and know how to use it to your advantage.