How Much Cash to Bring to Cuba
By Sydney Tong on February 07, 2017. Read time: 4 mins.
Traveling to Cuba is tricky for Americans because once on the island, access to cash is difficult.
As I've mentioned in other articles, U.S. issued bank cards will not work and the Western Union is only available for Cuban citizens. Setting a budget and being aware of all possible expenses is extremely important, otherwise, you will run out of money without access to more.
On our trip, we ran into other American travelers who also mentioned that they were running low on cash. Since this is a common problem, we hope that by posting our budget and expenses you will be aware of how much money you need for your trip.
We spent $1,856 USD for two people for 14 days in Cuba. This figure includes all flights, bus rides, visas, accommodations, food and any other expenses. Solo travelers will not be able to divide the cost in half because casa particulares are sold by room, not by bed, and hosts rarely give out discounts to solo nomads.
Cab rides to and from the airport will not be cheaper if you are traveling solo. If you are on a budget we recommend traveling with a buddy to help cut down on costs. Our goal is to be completely transparent with our readers and we want people to really know how much it costs to travel.
This friendly man sold the best pastries. Neptuno Street, Havana
Getting from one place to the next is typically the biggest expenditure on a trip. We did pretty well despite some minor hiccups. Via Azul is the cheapest way to get from city to city.
- $598 - Flight on JetBlue from SLC to HVA ($299/person)
- $81 - Taxis
- $3.16 - Buses & Colectivos (They're really cheap -$0.04/ride)
- $10 - Tourist Bus (This was only once)
If booking a bus with Via Azul make sure to do so at least 3 days in advance as they sell out quickly.
Bicitaxis are so much fun.
We spent $462 on accommodations for two weeks of travel. We booked casas via Airbnb so we were able to pay using a card. If you don't want to use Airbnb then plan to bring enough cash to cover the cost of accommodations.
In Cuba, we noticed that price does not always indicate quality, our most expensive room lacked hot water. You will expect to find a room for $20-$35 a night. Room cost can be split between 2-3 people depending on the size of the room, the number of beds available, and rules of the host. We spent an average of $17/night/person. If you are planning a trip solo then expect to cover the whole cost of a room.
We spent $355 for two weeks of meals and it was not sufficient. About halfway through our trip, we were unsure if we would have enough cash so we drastically cut down on our eating expenses. We ate a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches near the end of this trip and I could go the rest of my life without eating another one.
A bocadito is a ham and cheese sandwich and local places are better than the tourist restaurants.
Rice and banana chips
Chicken and rice
Espresso with a Cuban peso
Streets in Havana
We purchased our visas for $50/person at the gate before departing to Havana. This can be purchased with a credit card.
When exchanging USD to CUC you will lose 13% of that money and there is no way around it. Believe me, I checked. We lost $104 dollars in this process. When deciding how much money to bring you will need to factor this into your calculations because it is a large chunk of change to unexpectedly lose.
We incurred other miscellaneous expenses on the trip including laundry, museums, internet cards, rum, and cigars.
- $10 - Bella Artes Museum
- $13 - Internet cards
- $10 - Laundry
- $75 - Rum
- $75 - Cigars
Keep in mind, when exchanging USD to CUC you will lose 13% of your money.
Laundry in Havana
We really enjoyed our time in Cuba and when we do it again we will bring sacks full of cold hard cash. We needed a bigger budget for food, transportation, and activities. If we had more cash on hand we would have been able to visit one more city and fit in a diving trip.
We knew that we weren't able to get more money so we played it on the safe side. CUC is not recognized as a formal currency outside of the country so it is best to either exchange it before you board the plane (you will lose another 3% in the exchange) or spend the remaining CUC at the Duty-Free store in the airport.
In total, $1,856 was spent between two people for two weeks in Cuba. Around $800 of that was cash, each person was roughly budgeted $29/day. If you want to go on tours, side excursions, more museums, and eat better than we did then we recommend budgeting at LEAST $50/day per person. Cash is King in Cuba and you don't want to get stuck without it. Bring more than you expect to use.
I hope that our experience gives you an idea of how much cash you should bring on your trip.
Don Pepe Beach
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