Cuba Budget Travel Itinerary: How to Spend a Week in Cuba for Under $900
I think the question I get asked the most after coming back from a trip (especially an International one) is “How can you afford it?”. The magic trick? Well there is none. Just a lot of planning, research and years of travel experience (and misfortunes) that has allowed me to embark on frequent international trips without breaking the bank or selling my kidney. Haha--travel obsessed much?
When I decide that I want to go on a trip, my first and most important order of business is how can I accomplish that trip in the cheapest, most college student budget friendly way possible. This means researching the cheapest everything from flights, accommodations, food, excursions, transportation (once I get to my destination), etc. Cuba was no exception.
I had been dying to visit Cuba for ages and after spending months contemplating if it was worth it, let alone even possible, I finally bought the ticket, jumped the hoops I had to and hopped on a plane to the home of Salsa Dancing (among other things).
This guide will mainly break down the costs of my trip and how I was able to do it for under $900.
*Note: I keep a detailed list of my expenses during my travels to keep track of exactly how much I am spending and if I am following the set budget I gave myself at the start of my trip!
[Day 1] Saturday - December 16
Arrived at around 2 and struggled to find RJ and change money until ~3:30. Read about my airport experience in my Cuban Diary.
-Taxi to Airbnb: 15 CUC
The Taxi people will try to charge you 40 CUC. Make sure to negotiate!
The most you should be paying is around 30 CUC. If you find someone who is going to the same area as you, share a taxi with them! My taxi ride cost 15 CUC because I split it with my friend
-Late Lunch/Dinner at El Chanchullero: 15 CUC
This is actually a lot for Cuba. For 15 CUC I got two drinks (mojito y piña colada), a bunch of appetizers and a pretty large serving of my entree
-WiFi: 3 CUC
Cost for one hour that we bought from our Casa Particular
-Airbnb: 38,30 CUC
Our Casa Particular was smack dab in the center of Habana Vieja. 10 minute walk from El Capitolio and 10 minute walk to Plaza Vieja. Our balcony had an absolutely stunning view of the capital.
Day 1 Total: 71,30 CUC
[Day 2] Sunday - December 17
Woke up early (7 am) before breakfast and walked to Plaza Vieja to catch some cute pictures before all the tourists arrive. Lucky enough, it was a Sunday so most businesses did not open until 9 am meaning we arrived to an empty, tourist-free Plaza Vieja--my favorite!
-Breakfast: 5,50 CUC
Served at my Casa Particular
-Drinks at La Floridita: 10 CUC
La Cuna del Daiquiri (the birthplace of the daiquiri and Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar--must visit!). Warning: This place is swarming with tourists as it is one of the most popular places in La Habana Vieja
-La Dichosa: 11,50 CUC
This is the cost of a 3 course meal + an alcoholic beverage (I chose a pina colada). Feel like you’re living in the wrong country yet?
-Helado (Ice Cream): 1 CUC
Got it at an ice cream cart on Calle Obispo--I do not recall the name, but the main road is swarming with them!
-WiFi: 4 CUC
Found cheaper WiFi at Mercure Sevilla Hotel 1 hour = 2 CUC. Also stopped here at Mercure Sevilla Hotel for an hour to see the cute pink patio and honestly this hotel had the best WiFi connection!
-Tour of Havana in a (Pink) Classic Car: 15 CUC (this is with tip included)
This is the BIGGEST scam that they try to play on tourists in Cuba. Some drivers will try to charge you 50 CUC to ride the car (some people who do not know better will actually pay for it). DO NOT pay 50 CUC, that is an obscene amount of money especially in Cuba. I ended up bargaining it to 25 CUC (my proudest accomplishment of the trip) and tipping my driver 5 CUC because he was amazing!
How do you get to 25 CUC? Patience. Lots and lots of it. Don’t rush it. If they don’t give you the value you want keep bargaining and if they don’t budge move on and walk away. 25 CUC may be a little difficult to get (I’ve had lots of practice from living in Spain haha), so 30-35 CUC is actually a pretty reasonable price to pay!
Additionally this is a must do while in Havana. We got to see A LOT of major landmarks in Havana because of this tour. Places included: Plaza de la Revolución (something I was dying to see--big Che fan!), drove down the Malecon, El Morro, Centro Habana, and basically all the major must sees in Havana! It is an hour tour.
-Bathroom: 0,40 CUC
Yes you have to pay to use the bathroom at some places
-Water: 2,50 CUC
Can’t drink the tap!
-Dinner at El Del Frente: 16 CUC
This was not exactly my favorite place. It is pretty pricey food for Cuba, I shared with my friend so that we wouldn't break the bank on our travel budget. I will say though that the seafood pasta was amazing!
-Airbnb: 31,88 CUC
(Use this code: www.airbnb.com/c/pcastro179 for $40 off your first booking).
Day 2 Total: 97,78 CUC
[Day 3] Monday - December 18
We woke up early (7 am) to catch a quick picture in front of these colorful buildings right by El Capitolio (we called them the painted ladies--kudos if you get the reference). We dashed back to our casa just in time for our taxi to pick us up.
-Taxi to Bus Station: 10 CUC
Bus station is in the outskirts and not walking distance--unless you’re really trying to walk that far.
-Taxi to Vinales: 20 CUC
We did not buy our bus ticket ahead of time so when we arrived there ~15 minutes before departure it was sold out. The ticket to Viñales is typically 12 CUC, so if you want to save a couple dollars buy it ~2 weeks before your trip or get to the bus station ~30-40 mins early. We opted to take the taxi instead of waiting for the next bus because it was way faster and dropped us right in front of our Casa Particular. Plus our driver was a hot Cuban Papi! *Note this cost includes me tipping the driver, the actual taxi cost was 15 CUC (which is not bad for getting there an hour and a half earlier and getting a personal driver).
-Vinales Horseback Nature Tour: 30 CUC
(includes tour of coffee + tobacco plantation and free Criollo lunch) This honestly has got to be my favorite part of my Cuba trip. I love horses and to be able to ride it around such a beautiful stretch of land was magical. Plus all the added perks? Was such an amazing experience!
Our private tour guide Pupito was such an amazing guide. Extremely patient and made sure we were enjoying and having the absolute best time. You can book his tour through this link: Tradicionales y La Naturaleza (note Pupito conducts his whole tour in Spanish and can speak very little English, he is willing to speak slower if that is what it will take for you to understand. I would not suggest this tour if you do not understand or speak some Spanish)
(Use this code: www.airbnb.com/c/pcastro179 for $40 off your first booking).
-Coco Loco at Lunch: 3 CUC
MUST try. Coco loco is regular coconut with its juice but they add pineapple juice, honey and Rum...lots and lots of it!
-Snacks at El Bily: 6,18 CUC
Price for 2 servings of croquetas and 2 drinks (mint daiquiris called daiquiri rebelde)
Honestly the best, most amazing Airbnb I've stayed in to date. We were welcomed with "Welcome Cocktails" and the space itself was just outstanding. The showers were extremely luxurious and the backyard area was a whole different world. Plus you have access to the rooftop that overlooks the Viñales Valley.
Day 3 Total: 78.93 CUC
[Day 4] Tuesday - December 19
I woke up early to watch the sunrise on the rooftop. It was honestly so beautiful. It is a must do while in Viñales Valley. We spent more than half of the day driving to Cienfuegos which is pretty far from Viñales.
-Taxi from Vinales to Cienfuegos: 35 CUC
Longest car ride of my life. From North Cuba to far far down South. ~8 hour car drive and will be longer by bus. We took a taxi colectivo (shared taxi) which is exactly as the name states. You share your taxi with other people. Essentially they fill the car up with as many people as can be seated and you only pay for your own seat.
-Taxi from Cienfuegos to Trinidad: 7,50 CUC
All busses and taxis from Vinales only can go until Cienfuegos, after that you have to find a taxi yourself into the small town of Trinidad. Lucky, we politely asked our driver to wait an hour and a half for us (and he did!)
-WiFi (in Cienfuegos): 1,50 CUC
WiFi was cheaper and easier to come by in the tiny town of Cienfuegos for some reason. WiFi only cost 1,50 CUC per hour.
-Lunch: 4 CUC
Grabbed quick bocadillos (snacks) in the center
-Palacio del Valle: 3 CUC
Amazing architecture, however I was a little underwhelmed because it looked a lot nicer in photos.
-Dinner at Restaurante El Dorado: 15 CUC
Honestly one of the best restaurants of the entire trip. Our server was such an angel and gave us a private rooftop terrace all to ourselves.
-Airbnb: 10 CUC
This is the price for a house literally steps away from Plaza Mayor (the main plaza aka the center of town). Trinidad was a very very cheap place. I definitely wish I spent more time here.
Day 4 Total: 76 CUC
[Day 5] Wednesday - December 20
(Trinidad + Topes de Collantes + Playa Ancon)
Spent the early morning exploring Trinidad, making friends with locals and climbed up the highest tower in Trinidad
-Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco Tower: 1 CUC
It is quite a climb and the stairs are steep but if you’ve climbed any tower stairs in Europe before or don’t mind a climb, it is well worth the view!
-Breakfast at our Casa Particular: 5 CUC
Most casa particulares provide a very extensive and filling breakfast that is freshly prepared for you each morning. My favorite part of these breakfasts? Fresh Juice!
-Roundtrip Taxi from Trinidad to Topes de Collantes and Playa Ancon: 37 CUC
So we hired a taxi to take us around all day. We were on a time crunch so this really helped us do everything we really wanted to do and see everything we wanted to see. Topes de Collantes is this beautiful hiking trail with a huge waterfall and a natural springs. It is pretty far away and the roads are pretty dangerous to drive up to (read: very windy, steep and lots of sharp turns) so a lot of people do not like going (so we went anyways...oh that adventurous soul). Tour companies usually charge 55 CUC. After hiking Topes de Collantes we had our driver take us to Playa Ancon.
-Topes de Collantes National Park Entrance Fee: 10 CUC
You will have to pay this at the entrance! We chose the Caburni Falls trail because we wanted to see the natural springs as well as the waterfalls, but there are many other trails you just have to figure out which one you want to take so you can be dropped off to the right entrance. Be warned this hike is beautiful but the hike back from the Caburni Falls is tough. It is a continuous uphill path, so be ready for some exercise!
-Lunch at Playa Ancon + Cuba Libre: 10 CUC
Cuba Libre is rum and coke--very popular in Cuba!
-Dinner: 6,50 CUC
I don’t remember the name of the restaurant it was just a random one we walked into near Plaza Mayor. It was insanely cheap for being so close to the Plaza Mayor.
-Discoteca Ayala: 5 CUC
This is the cost of the entrance fee at the “Las Cuevas” club (it is called “Discoteca Ayala” and “Las Cuevas” interchangeably). This is a MUST. When else will you get to say you danced the night away in a Cave?! Also a drink is included with this cover charge.
-Airbnb: 10 CUC
Marlen was a great host, our casa particular felt like we had the whole house to ourselves because we had the whole second floor.
Day 6 Total: 84,50 CUC
[Day 7] Thursday - December 21
Our bus left early the next morning (7:30 am). So after a long night out at Las Cuevas we made it back home at around 4:30 am (read about it in my Cuban Diaries) and took a quick nap before waking up at 6 to get ready to head back to Havana.
-Bus from Trinidad to Havana (Viazul): 25 CUC
We spent about half the day on the bus and arrived at the Viazul bus station at around 1 PM.
-Taxi from Viazul Bus Station to La Guarida to Casa Particular: 10 CUC
We found a nice taxi driver that was willing to take us to La Guarida (famous restaurant that Beyonce ate at) so that we can take some pictures and then take us to our casa. Most taxi drivers are pretty nice and willing to help you out if you ask nicely. Our taxi driver waited for us outside La Guarida while we took photos.
-Pre-Dinner Ice Cream at Mango (located in Plaza Vieja): 1 CUC
I got a cone of Tres Leches right before dinner, because why not right?
-Dinner at Don Eduardo’s Alegre: 15 CUC
One of my favorite meals in Havana. Our restaurant was in the Plaza Vieja so it had a beautiful balcony that overlooked the plaza. It was such a perfect way to end our Cuba trip and watch the sun as it set on the beautiful, rustic buildings.
-Helad'oro: 2 CUC
I know we already ice cream, but this is a pretty famous ice cream place for having the best mojito and rum flavored ice cream so naturally dessert loving me HAD to go. I’m glad I did. The street to get here was a bit of a sketchy walk at night, but the ice cream was definitely worth it. Best Mojito and rum ice cream I’ve ever had. Oh did I mention ice cream is 1 CUC a scoop!
We explored a lot around Havana Vieja after this ice cream cone, but we were so full we just didn’t spend anything (until we found the churros at least). We checked out Hotel Ambos Mundos (where Ernest Hemingway lived), La Bodeguita del Medio (birthplace of the mojito), La Catedral and just walked around La Habana Vieja--which is such an amazingly beautiful place.
-Churros: 1 CUC
A gift sent from above. We stumbled across a churro relleno cart and just HAD to have it. These were Spanish style churros. Not as amazing as the ones in Madrid, but still so yummy.
-Airbnb: 38 CUC
We stayed at the same Casa Particular with the stunning balcony views
Day 7 Total: 92 CUC
[Day 8] Friday - December 22
My flight left at 9:50 am, but in Cuba they ask you to arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight if it is an international flight. I did not have much time to do anything in the morning, but I did have time for one last Cuban sunrise!
-Taxi to the Airport: 15 CUC
Day 8 Total: 15 CUC
Total Cost of My Trip: 515,51 CUC
Roundtrip Flight: $353,32
(bought through American and Jet Blue)
(conversion is $1=1 CUC)
Grand Total: $868,83
Now, I understand that in the greater scheme of things $900 is still a lot of money. However, keep in mind that this cost includes my roundtrip flight, accommodations for ALL 7 Nights, transportation, food, excursions and other miscellaneous items. I have traveled on an extremely tight budget before so this is actually splurging for me. Not once throughout this entire trip did I feel like I was being cheap or not experiencing everything that I wanted to. So I would say this was a very comfortable budget in my book!
I cannot wait to start regularly publishing itineraries for you all to make your trip planning easier. As always, do not hesitate to email me or comment below if you have any questions. Hope this helps you!
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Till Next Time,