One of the hardest things about traveling to Cuba is figuring out how much money to bring to Cuba. For anywhere else in the world, you would just take a credit or debit card and use those. Not for Cuba. Americans traveling to Cuba can NOT use a credit card or an ATM to get more money out. You have to figure out before you’re there how much money to take with you. In Cuba, you’ll pay for everything with cash. So I’m going to go over the exact costs we incurred during our 1 week stay in Cuba.
The Cuban Peso
Cuba once had two different currencies: the CUP and the CUC. The CUC, or the convertible peso, was once used for things like homes, meals, and luxury goods. The Cuban Peso, also known as CUP was used to pay wages to the Cuban people and was also used to buy food and pay utilities. The CUC was also known as the Cuban tourist currency and was what tourists used to buy everything. 1 CUC was equivalent to 1 US dollar. This dual currency was in operation for nearly 3 decades.
In 2021 Cuba decided to phase out the CUC and today the CUP is the only Cuban currency in use. This makes it much easier to figure out your budget for Cuba! You’ll have paper notes in denominations of 1, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000. We were in Cuba in January 2024 and never used any coins the whole time we were there.
How much money to bring to Cuba
In Cuba you’ll have to pay cash for everything. This includes food, taxis, and souvenirs. Without knowing how much things cost, it kind of makes it hard to budget for your trip to Cuba. And the idea of traveling with several thousand dollars in cash is a little scary but it’s just the way it is. You definitely don’t want to be carrying that much cash around every day. Luckily, most casas particulares have small safes where you can lock up your valuables. You can also lock it up in your suitcase when you go out for the day if there isn’t a safe in your room.
Other currencies used in Cuba
As if it weren’t confusing enough, in Cuba you will find a lot of people and businesses DO accept American Dollars and the Euro. Sometimes it’s preferred over the Cuban Peso. Most restaurants will accept all three forms of currency and will even put down how much to pay in all three currencies. They also consider dollars and euros to be equal so you won’t have to try to convert between the two.
How to convert pesos to dollars
To figure out how much you’re spending, you’ll need to do some simple math. As of January 2024, most people and restaurants considered 1000 pesos to be equivalent to about $4.00. To get to that amount you take 1000 and divide it by 250 (the currency rate). A 100 Cuban peso note is about .40¢ (100 divided by 250). You’ll find people will use anywhere between 240-260 as the currency rate. So at 260, a 1000 Cuban peso note would be around $3.85. We found that taxi drivers liked to use 240 for their currency rate which means it ends up costing you a little more. Take this into consideration when you’re trying to decide how much money to bring to Cuba.
How to exchange your cash to pesos
To get Cuban Pesos, you’ll need to exchange your money. You can NOT get Cuban pesos outside of Cuba. All of this will need to be done in Cuba. There is a currency exchange right outside the José Marti International Airport when you arrive but DO NOT EXCHANGE THERE. You will lose a lot of money if you do that because the rate they give you is horrible. And besides the bad exchange rate, they will charge you a 10% fee to change your dollars to pesos. This will definitely cut into your Cuba budget. They do not charge that fee for exchanging euros.
Chat with your host before you arrive (through a messenger) and ask them if they can exchange your money to pesos. They usually can and you will get a much better rate. You will also see a lot of people on the streets of Havana asking if you need to change money. You probably won’t get the best rate but it will be better than the airport. But double and triple check the math before doing so. You don’t want to get scammed.
What we spent in Cuba
We paid for our airfare and accomodation with our credit card before we left for Cuba. Some people don’t book their accommodation until they are in Cuba and if you choose to do the same then you will need to bring extra cash with you for that. One of the things that can affect how much things cost is when you visit Cuba. If it’s a busy time of year, things will cost a little more.
Travel to Cuba: $788.50
We booked our flights to Cuba with American Airlines, about 5.5 months before we left. We paid $788.50 for the two of us to fly from Austin to Miami, Miami to Havana and then back home on the same route. This was paid with our credit card.
We booked our accommodations online through Airbnb before we left using a credit card so we did not have to budget for this with Cuban Pesos. Cost of accommodations vary and you can find some places much cheaper than what we paid. But we do like a little comfort (we are not 20 years old anymore!) and location was key for us so we paid a little more.
We booked our stays about a month before leaving for Cuba. We also went on the trip with friends and so I’m only showing OUR costs for the trip, not for all four of us. Because there were two couples we had to find places to accommodate all of us.
We arrived in Havana and stayed there for 2 nights. We found our place online on Airbnb and it was located in the heart of Old Havana. We LOVED the place we rented and it was so convenient to get to all the main sites by foot.
The next place we traveled to in Cuba was Trinidad. It’s about 4 hours by car east of Havana. We stayed there for 2 nights as well and also booked it using Airbnb. Again, location was key for us because we like to be within walking distance to the sites.
Next, we traveled from Trinidad to Vinales Cuba which took around 7 hours to drive. Again, we booked our stay on Airbnb and it was just a little ways from the center of town but only about a 5 minute walk. We had an amazing view of the mountains too!
After Vinales we headed back to Havana (a 2.5 hour drive) for our final night. We stayed at the same place we stayed at the first two nights.
Transportation in Cuba: $311.15
Our transportation costs were a little higher because we traveled outside of Havana to both Trinidad and Vinales. If you are only going to Havana or to just one other place then your costs will be lower.
Airport Taxi: $60
First transportation we encountered was getting from the airport to our Airbnb in Havana. Rates from the airport to Havana are set at $30 per car, not person. So we paid $30 to get to Havana on day 1 and $30 to get to the airport from Havana on the day we left. A total of $60.
Transportation between towns: $244
We used taxis to get from one town to another (very common) and found it to be fairly reasonable. We didn’t always go with the first price quoted and either negotiated or found someone else.
Havana to Trinidad: Taxi was $37 per person so $74 for the two of us.
Trinidad to Vinales: Taxi was $50 per person so $100 for the two of us.
Vinales to Havana: Taxi was $35 per person so $70 for the two of us.
Other transportation costs: $7.50
The only other time we took a taxi was on day 3 when we were leaving Havana to travel to Trinidad. We had to get a taxi to take us to the bus station (also where taxis and shuttle vans are) to get a ride to Trinidad. The total for all 4 of us (in a classic car) was just $15, or $7.50 per couple.
Food & Drinks: $353.33
Here’s where things will really vary. You can definitely eat cheap in Cuba or you can eat at more pricey places. We ate all of our meals out at restaurants except for our 2 breakfasts in Trinidad and our 2 breakfasts in Vinales. Those were just $5 per person and it was a LOT of food! We also had one dinner that our hosts in Vinales made and that was $26 per couple. It was a 5 course meal!
I would say that we mostly ate at places that fell in the middle of cheap and pricey. We did not eat anything from the street vendors.
I’m not going to separate all of our food costs by restaurants because that would be way too much. I will say that we didn’t always have breakfast (not a big breafast eater) but we had brought some breakfast bars with us so we ate those if we were hungry. Our costs consist of restaurants and bars.
Souvenirs, tips, miscellaneous: $631.40
There weren’t receipts for every little souvenir that we bought but we didn’t spend much.
We didn’t purchase a whole lot of souvenirs (I’m running out of room in my house!) but we ended up with about 4 postcards, a tile, a bracelet, a necklace, some beads, a ceramic cup, and some Cuban moracas.
In Havana we rode in a classic car for two hours that took us around town, up the Malecon, to a park where we stopped for a drink at an outdoor bar, and a cigar shop (we didn’t buy anything). Our total for the car ride was $100 per couple.
In Trinidad we went to Disco Ayala which is a club inside a cave. It was very cool and you should definitely go. That cost $2 to get in and came with a small drink. We also paid to climb the bell tower in Trinidad and that was around .40¢ each.
In Vinales we took a small tour with our hosts to the Prehistoric Mural and the Vinales Valley. That was $20. We also took a tour of the Tobacco farm and went to the Indian Caves. The total for that was $40. It did cost us .60 each to get into the Mural and $1.20 each for the Indian Caves.
Tips & Miscellanous items: $225
Here’s where it gets fuzzy. I didn’t keep track of every single tip or every single little soda or water we bought. We’d “pay” (tip) when we had to use the restroom (not all places make you tip), and a lot of times we rounded up on costs to give extra money for tips. So I’m just putting the rest of our expenses in this category.
Cuban Tourist Card: $200
We purchased our Cuban Tourist Card at the departing gate at the airport. That was $100 each and we paid cash for those. We did have the option of putting this on our credit card but we decided to just pay cash.
Total Budget for Cuba
We spent $788.50 on airfare to and from Cuba.
We spent $286.18 on our accommodations for 7 nights.
We spent $311.15 on our transportation costs. We used taxis the entire time.
We spent $353.33 on our food and drinks.
We spent about $631.40 on souvenirs, tips, and miscellaneous items.
Our grand total that we spent on our trip to Cuba for one week was $2370.56. We took $1400 cash with us and we came back with around $100.