Cuba is a beautiful Caribbean island with an interesting culture and unusual dual currency system. There are basically two versions: the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals, and for visitors the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which can only be obtained inside Cuba. Cash is definitely king here, so don’t count on using your credit or debit card unless you’re staying at a major hotel.
Take currency in sterling to exchange. You might be able to withdraw funds from ATM machines but it’s worth checking before your bank before you travel. Remember to spend or change any leftover CUCs before you return home, as you won’t be able to use or exchange them once you’re back in the UK.
Dining out in Cuba
State-run tourist restaurants are relatively inexpensive, and you can expect to pay from £16-£20 for a three-course meal, depending on the type of restaurant and what you drink. Recently the island has embraced the growth of paladars, small privately-run restaurants usually with around a dozen or so chairs. They’re set up in people’s homes, gardens or living rooms and can offer an authentic dining experience from around £6 per person.
In Cuba, fresh fish is always a good choice with lobster available at a fraction of the price you’d pay in the UK. The cuisine on the island is a mix of African, Caribbean and Spanish. Dishes to try are picadillo, made with ground beef, potatoes, olives and raisins cooked in wine, and devilled crabs – fresh crab meat sautéed with enchilada sauce.
When it comes to desserts, Cubans like it sweet, so try the delicious flan Cubano made with custard, cinnamon and sometimes served with caramel sauce. Cake de ron is another one to try – this moist rum cake is delicious with a cup of coffee. Expect to pay around £1.05 for a cappuccino, or slightly less for a regular coffee.
The price of drinks
When you’re in search of refreshments a bottle of water will cost you around 80p with a beer in a bar costing between 80p-£1.60, depending on whether you go for a local brew or imported lager. Cristal and Bucanero are two locally produced beers popular with tourists, although the locals prefer Cacique and Mayabe, which are a lot cheaper and just as nice. If you’re after a Coke or Pepsi while you’re out and about, you’ll pay around 95p.
No trip to Cuba is complete without sampling a mojito, the iconic cocktail made with white rum, lime juice, soda water, sugar and of course, plenty of fresh mint. Enjoy one at one of Havana’s numerous bars for around £2-£2.50.
Cuba is not renowned for its wine, although you might find some Spanish imports and well-known brands in the large hotel chains they do tend to be on the pricey side. As a rule, it’s wise to stick to beer or some of those fabulous rum cocktails, which are often free-flowing and plentiful in many All-Inclusive hotels.
Out and about
Many attractions in the capital Havana are free, with the UNESCO old centre a delight to explore. The cathedral is also worth exploring and won’t cost you a penny. If you want to visit the Museo de la Ciudad, a fantastic museum which gives a great insight into Cuba’s history, is well worth the entrance fee of £3-£4.
If you’re looking to try your hand at diving and it’s not featured at your hotel, expect to pay around £110-£120 for five dives in resorts such as Varadero.
Cuba is famous for its cigars, so if you’d like to take a tour of one of the factories, you can expect to pay from around £10 to see how they’re made.
How much spending money should I take to Cuba?
Many visitors to Cuba opt for a twin-centre deal which usually includes a week at the beach, usually Varadero or Guardalavaca, with time in the vibrant capital Havana. Most hotels are All-Inclusive so all your meals, drinks and locally produced alcohol, as well as some non-motorised water sports are already paid for in the upfront price of your trip. However, as a general rule it’s worth taking spends of around £20-£30 per day, so around £140 to £210 per week.
Tipping in Cuba
Many restaurants now add a service charge of 10% to the bill, but if they don’t, it’s important to leave between 10-15%. It’s good to tip bellboys and other hotel staff too – aim for between 50 cents or 1 CUC. If you’re staying in a hotel it’s appropriate to leave the maid around 1 CUC each day. If you take a tour you should tip the guide around 2 and 5 CUC per day (between £1.50 and £3.80). Taxi drivers will also expect a tip of between 1-2 CUC, on top of the agreed fare.
*Prices correct at the time blog was published and are subject to availability. T&C’s apply.