Welcome to our ongoing series that asks: How Much Does it Cost to Travel?
The goal of this series is to provide you with real budgets people have used for trips they have actually taken. This could be anything from a long weekend in Miami to 6 months backpacking around South East Asia. It’s our hope that by shining a spotlight on what people are actually spending- and the value they get for it, you will have a better idea of what it really costs to travel.
All of the travel budgets will live on this dedicated page.
Today’s budget is from Rowena of A Nomad on the Loose.
Where did you go?
Cuba (in March 2017)
Briefly, what was your itinerary? We spent a week in Cuba. We started off in Havana, with a day trip to Viñales, and then went south to Santa Clara and Trinidad before looping back to Cuba’s capital. We had 8 full days in Cuba, plus 2 flying days.
How much money did you spend overall?
$1500 per person
How much did you spend on transportation during your week in Cuba?
~$600 on flights from the West Coast. Transportation in Cuba was 172.29CUC per person for all our buses, taxis, and bici-taxis. The exchange rate is 1:1, but you’ll pay ~3% commission to get the Cuban currency. If you bring USD, you’ll get another 10% taken out, so make sure to travel with Euros or British pounds.*
*This penalty policy keeps on changing, so make sure to check for the latest reports from travelers.
What kind of accommodation did you stay in?
Airbnbs in every city. They were fantastic experiences as we were able to interact with locals and see what their living quarters are like. Our hosts all offered breakfasts for an additional 5CUC per person. Each place had a different style but all of the meals were incredibly delicious.
What sort of activities did you do?
We tried to mix in educational and cultural experiences with more active outdoors trips during our week in Cuba.
In Ha, ana we did a classic car tour, went salsa dancing, and generally just visited various landmarks and museums and people-watched in the plazas. Viñales combined horseback riding and hiking with drinking rum and smoking handmade cigars with a local farmer. We focused mostly on Che Guevara landmarks in Santa Clara and enjoyed the natural beauty of Trinidad. Cuba isn’t as cheap as you might think, so take advantage of the free cultural and outdoors options as you can.
What did you splurge on during your week in Cuba? Was it worth it?
Our single biggest expense in Cuba was a day trip to Viñales, which cost 112CUC per person, inclusive of transportation, lunch, and tips. It was beyond amazing and absolutely worth it. In fact, it was probably my favorite part of our week in Cuba.
We also ate at some fancy restaurants in Havana and Trinidad. While the meals were delicious, I would’ve been just as down to eat at local spots or try more street food. Our favorite meals were in fact at local paladars in Santa Clara and cost ¼ of the fancier meals.
What did you scrimp on? Are you happy with that decision?
To be honest we didn’t scrimp much on this trip. If anything, we scrimped on time. We wish we had more than a week in Cuba!
Did you purchase any special souvenirs?
I bought quite a few nice cigars as gifts since they’re a Cuban speciality, but in hindsight, I wish I only bought a few for those that I knew would actually enjoy them. Otherwise it just becomes a symbolic gesture.
The more special item was a terra cotta canchanchara cup, which allows us to make and enjoy the Trinidad speciality cocktail back at home. How can you not love rum with honey and lemon?
Did you do anything special to save up for this trip?
Travel is such a crucial part of my life, I don’t actually budget separately for it. Instead, I try to move $1000 into savings every 2 months so I have a solid pile there wherever I travel.
Do you have any regrets regarding how you budgeted this trip? Would you do things differently next time?
We had to take some personal considerations into account, but we probably would’ve been able to save some money on flights if we’d chosen a non-spring break period to visit, since most flights to Cuba are via Florida and Mexico. Next time we’d chose to go during a less expensive time.(But do be cautious about booking a trip during hurricane season!)
Anything else to add?
If you want to bring Cuban rum home but don’t want to check your bag, wait until you get to the airport to buy it. The duty-free store has all the options at basically the same prices as stores outside.
If you’re American, make sure to plan out your trip more carefully so you know how much money to bring. Our credit and debit cards don’t work there. And don’t forget to account for the currency exchange commissions.
My Cuba planning guide includes additional tips and suggestions.