Experience Cuba for cheap. (55 eur a day for two)
The Basics: What we think you need to know
ATMs and Exchanging currencies: not many ATMS so better bring cash, dollars get a horrible change so remember to bring your money in euros.
Local Money: 1 Eur = 1,02 CUC (Convertible Peso) / 1 CUC = 25 CUP (Cupan Peso).
If you fin a place where they charge you in CUC its gonna be expensive, if you find one where they charge you in CUP is gonna be cheap.
How to give a hand: In Cuba everyone has something to eat, it ain’t a country of people starving on the streets, but many lack things that are basic to us. By talking to people we realized they would much appreciate: soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, clothe (the size or state doesn’t matter), shoes, the latest movies (with subtitles in spanish) in a hard drive and some food from your country.
What to pack: Cuba is hot and humid, it rains from time to time, people dress quite provocatively and mosquitoes are around the corner when at the beach or forest. This being said, be sure to pack a short and long pant, swimming suit, short and long sleeve shirts, feeling shoes, thongs, hoodie, sun glasses, cap, mosquito repellent, plug adapter (American or European outlets work), sun block, euros (money to exchange, ATMS aren’t reliable), a lot of clothe and things to donate to locals.
For short distances:
Hitch hiking: To hitchhike point your finger to the flore as a car approaches and if it stopes you are good to go.
Taxi Colectivo: You stop them as if you were to hitchhike, but you pay.
Guaguas: Urban buses that will take you around a city for less than 1CUP. Wait for them at the bus stops and asks locals which to take.
To do long distances you have a couple options:
Via Azul (Comfort Zone option): The most expensive option which consists of buses where only tourists are allowed. This is what we call the comfort zone option.
Astro (Illegal option): The cheapest option, which consists of buses only for locals. When wanting to board they will ask for your Cuban ID, which probably you won’t have, but this doesn’t mean you can’t catch a ride. Us, in particular, couldn’t board one of this buses, because my girl friend looks to “not Cuban” so is too risky for the driver in case he gets checked by the police. If you think you blend in, talk to security at the terminal and cut a deal to get on the bus.
Camiones Interurbano (Uncomfortable option): The second cheapest option, you pay in moneda nacional and don’t need a reservation. In Cuba they have trucks which have been transformed in to some sort of uncomfortable sweat producing bus. Is kind of a moving oven, but its a fun option to move around and to meet locals.
Taxis Colectivo (Our option): About half the price of Via Azul, and they go way more often, definitely the best way to experience Cuba for cheap. Locals usually take this option, so everyone knows where to find them. Always remember to ask for a shared taxi (colectivo) and to ask locals, beforehand, how much you should pay.
So you get an idea, from La Havana to Cienfuegos we payed 10 CUC, from La Havana to Pinas de Rio 5 CUC and from Cienfuegos to Trinidad 4 CUC. Another cool thing is that you get to ride the classic cars.
Where to go
The places we visited while traveling Cuba for Cheap.
Beautiful energetic city frozen in the old years.
Sleep: 20 – 30 CUC for a Casa Particular.
Eat: 10 CUP (street food), 40 CUP (restaurant for locals, comida criolla) 4 – 7 CUC (restaurant food), 1 CUP (cup of coffee), 1 CUPC(1,5 L of water)
Where to sleep
We stayed at friends of friends, but nonetheless we asked around for accommodation at local houses (the ones with a blue anchor on a white background). The price for a double room moves between 20 CUC and 30 CUC. They are all pretty much the same as comfort goes, so try find the cheapest.
Getting out of the airport (HAV)
It’s possible to take the local bus without any hustle. You have to options, you can either walk to the main road or take a taxi colectivo (outside of the terminal, on the road that goes to the main road). At the main road ask for the bus stop of P12 that goes in to town, the fair is 0,40 CUP per person. This bus (guagua) will take you all the wait to el capitolio, which is the old habana.
The other option is to take a 20-25 CUC taxi into town.
To move around you can either take a taxi, rent a car, rent a bicycle, rent a bike or walk and take “guaguas” (local bus). Us we did the last one which is the cheapest and the best way to get to know the locals. Each ride on a guagua is 0,40 CUP (USD 0,02) and you just got to ask the Cubans how to get from A to B and you are good to go. They will always be happy to help.
What to do
Sala de La Musica: Go dance la Salsa Cubana!! There is two spots (salas de la musica), one in the old Havana and another in miramar. We were told the one in Miramar y better. If you don’t have the time to go when in la Havana don’t panic, there is a great one in Trinidad.
Coppelia: Famous ice-cream restaurant at “La Rampa”. Very popular between the locals who line up for hours to eat the delicious and insanely cheap ice cream. If you are bold enough skip the queue, walk in and seat at one of the available tables and wait for the waiter to spot you and tell you you can’t do what you just did, but that as you already did it you might just as well stay. The “ensalada” (salad) of ice cream is just 5 CUP, its quite the treat.
Eat street food: You got to try the street pizzas. The best for us was in front of Caffe Paris, they are a little bit more expensive than your regular peso pizza, but they are worth a try.
Take “las guaguas”: Local city buses are called “guaguas”. They are real cheap (0,40 CUP) and you will get to squish in the crowd of Cubanos, and experience moving around like a local.
Small cozy city, easy to walk around, and with a cool peninsula with american owned houses.
Sleep: 20 CUC for a Casa Particular (Check where to stay for our personal recommendation).
Eat: 10 – 50 CUP
Transport: 10 CUC for a taxi colectivo with Cubans from La Havana to Cienfuegos / 4 CUC for a taxi colectivo to Trinidad / 1 CUC for a taxi colectivo to Cumanayagua.
Where to sleep
As in all of Cuba is easy to find a welcoming local house, we stayed at Bertha & Rolando at Avenida 58 3991. A night for two was 20 CUC, breakfast 4 CUC each and dinner 7 CUC each. Bertha is awesome!
Where to eat
E. Cafe (El gran cafe): 40 CUP for a big plate of rice, chicken or pork, and some vegs.
Pizzas Italia: Good pizzas for 10 CUP
What to do
El Nicho: National park with natural blue water and 18m waterfall. The entrance to the park is 9 CUC for tourists but if you wish (at your own risk) you can talk to the people who work at the paladars (restaurants) and see if they can get you in for a lower price. To get here from Cienfuegos you have to options, the tourist’s way (15 CUC) or the local’s way (2 CUC or less). To go the tourist’s way ask the taxi drivers if they already have a group and tell them you are willing to pay no more than 10 CUC or 15 CUC per head. To go the local’s way take a bus to Cumanayagua (1 CUP) and from there a camion to El Nicho (1 CUP), this last camion doesn’t pass very often, maybe twice a day, so I recommend to get going early.
Walk around: you got a beautiful boulevard and colonial architecture at the old city. Punta Gorda, which is at the far end towards the ocean, I recommend visiting for sunset.
Terminal de omnibus: In contrast to La Havana you can ride the local buses. To catch one go to the local terminal and wait in line. If you are looking to go to El Nicho, take a bus to Cumanayagua (1 CUP) and from there a camion to El Nicho (1 CUP).
As are host told us, you can’t stay only one night!
El Nague (Eduardo 53832121 / 2 CUC to playa ancon): the coolest taxi driver there is, tall us if he was a basketball player and full of stories us if he this was his second time alive. Tell them Marine and Miguel sent you (the Chilean and the French).
Eat and drink
La Cecilia: The name of this place is the name of the 6 year old daughter (who know’s how old she will be when you go visit) of a delightfull Cuban couple. La Cecilia is their particular bussiness and they serve delicius natural home made fruit juices at local price. Fin them at Maceo 514, tell them the Chilean and the French sent you!
Comidas Criollas donde La Lady: Want to eat home made food for 2 CUC? This is your place. Ask the locals where to find “Comidas Criollas de la Lady”.
Where to sleep
We stayed with a very cool couple at Perdo Zerquera 582 (old calle Aguacate). The name of the Casa Particular is Miguelina and Pastor, the rooms are simple but the hosts are awesome, we spoke about everything with them, while enjoying delicious home made juice, Miguelina speciality is Piña (in case she makes you guess the flavour of the juice) and Pastors is lemon (juices, as they always insisted, were complementary). If you need to buy local cigars ask Pastor, he will get them for you for 1 CUP each from his neighbor.
Cayo Coco – Cayo Guillermo
Beautiful beaches of white sand and cristal clear water, the fake Cuba just for tourists.
Sleep: 25 CUC at Sitio La Guira. Beware that mosquito’s are fierce, and if you don’t have mosquito repellent or long sleeves they will take care of covering your skin in uncountable bites.
Eat: 5 CUC for an exquisite piece of grilled chicken with rice and vegetables. Everywhere prices are the same, no matter if you are at the beach or at your accommodation. The state rules this lands.
Transport: 5 CUC go and back to the beach on the tourists two floor red bus, which you catch at the main road. Another options is taking the guagua de los trabajadores (worker bus) that will pick you up at the door of your house and drop you at the beach for as low a price as you can bargain with the driver.
How to get here
Getting here wasn’t easy, as we had challenged ourselves to only take local transport and never a Via Azul, we had to push to make it all the way from Trinidad. Our journey was as follows:
8:00 AM Guagua from Trinidad to Santi Spiritu – 5 CUP (ask locals where to catch it).
10:00 AM Taxi colectivo from around the Santi Spiritu bus terminal to Jatibonico – 1 CUC.
11:30 AM Taxi Colectivo from Jatibonico to Ciego de Avila – 2,5 CUC.
13:00 PM Camion from Ciego de Avila to Moron – 5 CUP.
14:30 PM La Guagua de los trabajadores, which is the bus that transports workers from Moron to El Cayo during the day, we gave him 10 CUP for taking us from el hospital (you can also take it from La plaza) to the toll that guards the entrance to the Cayo.
15:30 PM We hitchhiked a ride from the toll to “El Sitio La Guira”, the cheapest accommodation in the island.
What to do
The Cayo has no locals living on it, except for the one who are working at the hotels (who usually live in Moron) and the ones who come from la Havana to work and sleep at the hotels. So there is no colonial area or constructions to visit. This being said, beaches are amazing, as nowhere in Cuba and just a few places around the world. All around the island you have beaches, the most beautiful one is supposed to be playa Pilar (when we went it was cloudy but we can vouch for water being cristal clear and the sand thin as flower), the other interesting ones are playa prohibida (nudist beach), playa flamingo (where you can see flamingos) and many others.
Beautiful landscape, of mountains and tabaco plantations. Although every day more touristic.
Us we didn’t spend the night, we just went for the day from La Havana. We ate in Pinar de Rios for 40 CUP and the taxi from La Havana to Pinar de Rios was 5 CUC (1:30 hr drive) and the taxi from Pinar de Rios to Viñales was 1 CUC (30 min ride).
What to do
You have many attractions at Viñales, because of a matter of time we could only visited the view point, where you get the magnificent view of the valley, and the tabaco plantations, where they show you and teach you about the cigars.
At the tabaco farms we bought 33 cigars for 20 CUC.