Although Cuba is a developing country, visitors are often surprised to find that the costs of food and services there meet those found in any western ‘developed’ nation. This reality can be attributed to several unique factors: artificial restrictions on currency exchange rates; limitations on private businesses hindering local productivity and resulting reliance on imported goods; and an extended 60 year trade embargo imposed by the US government. Despite these obstacles, Cuba remains full of spirit – making it a worthwhile journey for travellers who come prepared!
How much money to bring on your visit to Cuba is a personal matter. It comes down to what you want to purchase (souvenirs, art work, cigars and rum – for the latter two you must know your import rules and limits upon your return), what is included in your tour already and whether you plan to have many big nights out. If you are on one of our tours, you can allow for 40-60 EUR a day on those days where meals and activities are not included.
What do our tours include?
- Airport transfers on arrival and departure
- Transport for the whole tour, where we have low numbers it can also be used for the optional activities
- Breakfast every day (apart from arrival day)
- English speaking local guide for the whole tour
- Activities – please check your itinerary. In most cases we include at least one activity a day
- Other meals – check your itinerary, there are a number of meals included in each trip
- Photography experts on our photography tours
What is not included in our tours?
- International flights
- Visa and passport fees
- Travel insurance
- Optional activities
What you may need money for in Cuba?
- Local payment, this is part payment of your tour in cash in Cuba, if it is required, see tour information
- Food on days there are no or limited meals included
- Drinks, alcoholic beverages
- Souvenirs, local art work
- Data/Internet connection
- Optional activities – you can see the options on each day on the tour itinerary with prices
- Taxi (for optional activity/free time)
How much do things cost in Cuba?
Given that Cuba has faced over 800% inflation in the last 2.5 years, prices have risen on the island rapidly. Gone are the 1USD mojitos… These days your cocktails will set you back around 5-8EUR a drink, soft drinks are about 2-5EUR. Meals are aroud 10-15EUR for entrees and small meals and around 20-28EUR for a main meal.
Paintings are from around 80-500EUR depending on the size, but you are bound to pick up some unique pieces!
Rum is actually pretty cheap, compared to Australian prices! You can pick up a bottle somewhere between 8-40EUR a bottle… And for Australians, it means you can bring back 3 bottles with you.. Considering that Havana Club 3 anos is AUD55, Havana Club 7 anos is non-existent, Havana Club especial is AUD55 and Havana Club Maestro Selection cannot be found… you’ve got choices! Havana Club 3 anos is about 6EUR in Cuba… bit of a difference. Unfortunately for US travellers, this is a banned item to return home with, so you will have to enjoy it in Cuba!
Cigars of course are also a lot cheaper here! For US travellers it is also a no. For Australians it is not much better with only 25g of tobacco being allowed. These rules change from time to time, so make sure that you keep updated.
Tipping in Cuba
If you’re happy with the service you receive, providing a tip – though not compulsory – is appropriate. Depending on what you are tipping for, you may wish to tip individually or as a tour group. General rule of thumb is 10%, in case you are wondering how to decide what is the appropriate amount, we have put together a guideline for you.
Local payment in Cuba
We may require a part payment for your tour to be made in EUR in cash in Cuba. This local payment must be handed to our tour guide in cash (EUR) at time of the welcome meeting. We would specify the details to you prior to departure and will only accept EUR in cash.
You may be wondering why we’d be asking for part payment in cash and why EUR? The reason you may be requested to take part payment in cash is due to the restrictions put on to send money over to Cuba to our providers.
Using EUR cash payment also means that we can get better prices for you from our providers, whilst we can provide them with a payment option that gives a better fee for them when they convert it for themselves. When we require a local payment in EUR cash, this goes toward the cost of your accommodation, drivers, activities.
And why EUR? It has the highest street value and is most commonly used in Cuba today. The next best thing is USD, whilst CAD and GBP may also be recognised as having value they aren’t as often used.
What currency is best in Cuba?
Euros (EUR) and US Dollars (USD) are the best currencies to bring to Cuba in the areas where our tours visit. These are the most widely accepted by locals therefore they can be used to pay directly to businesses or to exchange for CUP.
As of August 4, 2022 the government has set the foreign currency exchange rate at 120CUP = 1 USD. When changing USD, an 8% conversion fee will apply so the effective rate is 110CUP = 1USD. All other currencies have a 2% conversion fee. In the street market USD is currently 170CUP = 1USD. Funnily enough, EUR is the same value.
We strongly recommend only ever changing a small amount of cash to CUP.
How to access your money in Cuba?
Cash is king, but it is great to have a back up plan.
The ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) should work in Cuba for Visa, Mastercard, and American International Service (AIS). You will need a pin number for your credit card to be able to use the ATMs.
No Card issued by a US institution will work in Cuba, so it is important to check that your bank is not associated with a US financial institution. We do know that Visa credit or debit cards obtained through the following banks will NOT work in Cuba:
- Westpac (Australia)
- St George (Australia)
- Bank of Melbourne (Australia)
- 28 Degrees
Some rechargeable Travel Cards (Visa and Mastercard) may work in Cuba even though obtained through these banks.
Please check with you bank prior to your travel whether your card will work in Cuba. It is best practice to advise them of your travel plans in any instance.
Our Tips for your Cuba Travel
- Bring EUR or USD – small bills are the best
- Bring it in cash
- Always bring more than you expect to spend. You can always take it back home.
- Exchange only small amounts to CUP – 50-100EUR at a time. Get your guide to assist you with getting the best rates
- Don’t rely on being able to use ATMs. Sometimes they run out of money or aren’t working due to power outages or simply won’t accept your card for reasons unknown.
- Some ATM machines and banking facilities may not be offering the new exchange rate of 120CUP:1USD. Verify the correct amount before accepting the transaction.
- Private businesses will prefer to be paid in EUR – check with them their exchange rates prior to paying in their preferred currency tho to ensure you get a good rate.
- Some places – hotels, MLC stores, rental cars will only accept payments with cards, so make sure you have one that’s working.
- Cuban state owned businesses will expect payment in CUP, have small amount on hand.
- Never exchange money without the assistance of your guide, whether it’s at a casa or restaurant or otherwise.
- Never exchange money with strange people on the street.
- If you have smaller CUP bills, gather them in 500CUP bundles to allow quick payment.
- Rules and regulations change, make sure you keep up with them or ask us if unsure.
- Book a small group tour, that way most of your costs are already taken care of prior to your travel.