How Much Does Cuba Trip Cost
When it comes to the list of exotic tourist destinations around the world, perhaps the one place that remains to be both estranged and familiar to the United States is the neighboring island nation of Cuba. Many Americans and other Westerners can say a lot of things about the Caribbean country, especially in line with history and politics. However, the genuine understanding of that place that goes beyond the confines of contentious stereotypes seems meager at best.
Everyone (at least, assuming those who are educated) knows that Cuba has been a bitter adversary of the United States in the late 1950’s and onwards. Previous generations are aware of the epic stand-off that was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Governed by Fidel Castro for more than three generations, it is one of the fewest nations on earth that defiantly disproves the argument being fought in the Cold War – that a communist state cannot maintain a functional society on a long-term basis. Just like North Korea, Cuba has built its reputation as a global pariah.
Until the recent loosening of sanctions against Cuba by the Obama administration, both countries have reaped positive outcomes. These changes are being felt especially in terms of its thriving local tourism industry. In February of 2017, Huffington Post reported that the United States and Cuba have signed an aviation agreement that admits 110 flights per day.
The recent development (and other forthcoming promotions) encourages more Americans to ask, on a more positive note, ‘how much does it cost to go to Cuba?’
Convertible or Peso?
Politics aside, one of the most useful information about Cuba that tourists should remember concerns its dual currency. For travelers who know relatively little about this exotic Caribbean nation, it is important to take note that there is a significant difference between a ‘convertible peso’ (CUC) and the national currency (CUP).
The exchange rate between a CUC and American dollar is 1=1. Anyone who is careful with their own money would appreciate the importance of knowing the difference between the two, which is a particular nuance local scammers are very happy to exploit. The next most crucial question is, ‘how can anyone tell the difference between the CUC and CUP? According to Rough Guides, one should examine the clues based on the illustration on the banknotes.
CUC: a mosaic of national monuments, plus the inscription ‘pesos convertibles’ in small font below the numerical value.
CUP: a mosaic of Cuban heroes printed head-and-shoulders between each other.
Knowing the currency is particularly crucial in Cuba simply because this country rarely accepts credit cards. Just like Peru, hard cash dictates every possible transaction. If one should accept CUP as change, it is important to remember again that $1 = 1 CUC = 24 CUP.
Best Times to Visit Cuba
When it comes to the overall Cuba vacation costs, one of the key approaches to ensuring the best return on investment is to know exactly when to schedule the trip. The most compelling factor that affects that decision is the season. The geographic area covering Florida coast and the Caribbean Sea has been historically rife with storms and hurricanes.
The months between June and November comprised the season for bad weather in Cuba. Apart from a heavy downpour, storms also plague the island (especially the coastline). Although April and May already host frequent rains, these months are relatively safer for travelers compared to the succeeding trimester.
Considering the less-than-favorable climate, there are certain factors that do not deter travelers from visiting Cuba during these wet months. The July Carnival is a prestigious national festival. Many adventurous travelers consider witnessing these events as a unique vacation highlight – one which somehow gives them a keener insight into a more genuine collective identity of the locals.
From a regular tourist’s standpoint, the best time to visit Cuba is around December to February. December is a distinctly special time of the year due to the huge Jazz Festival celebrated in Havana. It comes to no surprise that prices also marginally increase during the peak months of December to February. These months also welcome tourists with a pleasant tropical summer climate, conducive for outdoor escapades along the beaches.
Regardless of when a traveler would schedule the trip to Cuba, it is always best to stay throughout the entire week. According to the month by month guide presented by the Responsible Travel, weekly art festivals also occur in Cuba all-year round. These events include literature seminars, dances, theater shows, music festivals and visual art openings usually featured in both Havana and Casas de Cultura.
USA to Cuba Flights
So how much does it cost to go to Cuba? Prior to the unprecedented move of the Obama administration, the only way Americans could visit Cuba is through chartered flights often included in the Caribbean tour packages. In effect, direct flights to Havana were rare (if not particularly exorbitant). Nowadays, airline providers like Frontier, American, Spirit, JetBlue, Southwest, and Delta Air are available for tourists. Here is a cost projection of a one-way flight per economy passenger by Rome2Rio:
Miami to Havana: $65 to $290
Fort Lauderdale to Havana: $70 to $430
Average Daily Cost
One of the effective ways of determining the overall trip to Cuba cost is to know how much anyone is expected to spend per day. It is important for travelers to know, however, that allotting a surplus is very helpful considering the unpredictable variables (e.g. the mood to shop for more souvenirs).
While it is practically impossible (not to mention imprudent) to tailor individual travel expenses on projected estimates, knowing the average cost for each necessity gives prospective tourists a realistic assessment. These are the following aspects that comprise the average $72 daily expenses according to Budget Your Trip:
- Accommodation cost per night: $51
- Three meals for one day: $7.24
- Bottled water for one day: $1.24
- Entertainment & live shows: $27
- Local transportation: $6.25
- Travel between cities: $13
- Cost for guides and service providers: $1.15
- Alcoholic drinks for one day: $8.15
As one of the important aspects of the inclusive Cuba vacation cost, finding a place to stay in this country is a crucial task for every tourist. A very important fact that all unfamiliar visitors should take note is that Cuba has no functional internet accessibility. The chances of connecting online are very bleak, even if one is using a broadband signal in Havana’s prestigious 5-star hotel.
One must remember that regardless of how fast the positive transition occurred since the lifting of the US embargo, this change only transpired less than three years ago. Restrictions on the streamlining of information are practically still in effect. Travel bloggers who recount their Cuban tour often have a more retrospective ring into their accounts.
Aside from the absence of internet accessibility in temporary lodgings, accommodations in Cuba are not necessarily lacking basic necessities and comforts (as compared to a typical homestay in West African countries). Speaking of travel blogs, many travelers have recommended staying at a casa particular. This Cuban version of a ‘bed and breakfast’ offers the opportunity to experience a part of the everyday life of the locals by temporarily joining their household. An article published by an American travel blogger named Karisa Klee at Flirting With The Globe describes the average cost of a ‘socialist Cuban Airbnb’ to be no lesser than $30 per night.
However, anyone who wishes to stay in a hotel for a more private living arrangement could choose a number of lodges for no more than $100. These are the list of 11 highly recommended hotels by Booking.com available as of May 12, 2017:
- Hotel Porto Santo: $94
- Villa Cayo Saeta: $94
- Starfish Las Palmas: $91
- Sercotel Caribbean: $87
- Hotel Sercotel Paseo Habana: $98
- Hotel Sercotel San Alejandro: $74
- Sercotel Lido: $61
- Hotel Los Helechos: $80
- Hotel Maria la Gorda – Diving Center: $74
- Hotel La Habanera: $56
- Villa Caburni: $64
Another aspect worth discussing in terms of the overall trip to Cuba cost is transportation. Taxis in Cuba are quite unique. For one thing, there are three types of cabs any tourist can choose from. These are the types of vehicles commonly described according to Gencuba:
- Taxi Particular: modern sedan usually owned by private local motorists
- Classic Taxis: vintage American and Russian cars, charging $25 per hour
- Bicycle Taxis: pedal-powered tricycles, charging 80 cents per kilometer
- Coco Taxis: enclosed three-wheeled yellow scooters, tourist-oriented novelties charging 50 cents per kilometer
Anyone who wishes to travel to Cuba with relative ease (especially in terms of avoiding the hassles of price negotiation) is better off renting cars. The actual cost for reliable car rentals with insurance is roughly $60 per day. An additional $40 entails rentals that include a local driver. One must understand that the process of renting a car practically goes along with the paperwork involved in hotel check-ins.
Dining in Cuba
Anyone looking for an excellent dining experience in Cuba should try the flourishing family-run restaurants called paladars. Among the many good things that result from the somewhat renewed friendship with the capitalist USA is that severe restrictions against innovative local chefs and restaurateurs are also beginning to fade away. As of May 2017, these are the following top 16 restaurants nominated by Authentic Cuba:
- El Litoral
- Corte Principe
- Dona Eutimia
- Rio Mar
- San Cristobal
- El Atelier
- Bella Ciao
- Café Bohemia
- Otra Manera
- Casa Miglis
- El Cocinero
- La Calesa Real
- La Fontana’
- El Templete