Cuba on budget
Replies: 28 - Last Post: Mar 12, 2012 7:17 AM Last Post By: ElCubanito
Feb 22, 2012 4:19 PM
Cuba on budgetHi everyone,
I'll try to travel around Cuba as cheap as possible and I have few questions for those one who maybe know.
1. I'll be traveling alone. Do you know how can I lover the price and pay per bad and not per room. If not, do you know if it is possible to find someone to share a room with? and where?
2. I heard it's much cheaper to pay in CUP, then in CUC. Do you know where I can exchange CUP (or Euros) into CUC and is it hard?
Tnx in advance.
Feb 22, 2012 4:29 PM
11. Try the couchsurfing cuba forum for finding potensial people to share rooms with, lots of people travelling on budget there or wanting to meet travel partners.
2. You can't just pay whatever you want in CUP, there are some places where prices are in CuC and some where they are in CUP.
For a tourist most places you will pass are CuC places. For a tourist CUP is usually used for buying food and stuff off the streets and some transportation, there exists several CuP restaurants but its not easy to find good ones and even harder to find the good ones that will actually allow you to pay from the CUP menu and not the overpriced "tourist" cuc menu.
Exchanging CUC to CUP is very easy, you can do it with local dealers who will take 1 CuP commision per CUC you convert to CUP (which is around 25 CUP = 1 CUC, so you get 24 when you use those) or to use a cadeca (a exchange / withdrawal office). Im not really to experienced in the last part, only done it once. So im sure others can give more detailed information about that.
Feb 22, 2012 4:49 PM
Feb 22, 2012 5:53 PM
3#1 "local dealers" generally charge the SAME exchange i.e. you receive 24 CUP for every 1CUC whether on the street or inside a Cuban bank. The 25 figure applies the other way - i.e.you pay 25 CUP to buy one CUC in a bank or wherever.
Inexperienced persons take a great risk of being ripped off doing this in the street with local dealers.
Excluding accomodation costs we spend about average 70% in CUP spending compared to 30% CUC.
Feb 22, 2012 6:28 PM
4Do you know how can I lover the price and pay per bad and not per room
Is it just me or did anyone else find it very hard not to respond to this phraseology with some snide response. Thanks goodness I managed to rise above it.
It has to be one of my favorite ever Freudian mistranslations of all time.
I have to suggest that "couch-surfing" is not possible in Cuba in anything like the sense you refer to. Individual citizens are not the arbiters of who can or cannot "surf" on their couch in Cuba. It is not, ultimately, their couch. It belongs to Fidel. Be clear. Cuba is a totalitarian police state. Whatever option you might want to pursue has to be "approved" by some bureaucrat agency or another. "Couch-surfing" is such an impossible option that you need to let go of it immediately. Fourteen govt agents will decide whether or not you can stay in anyone's home and they have a 99.9% probability of ruling against you.
Welcome to Cuba.
Feb 22, 2012 11:55 PM
51. Buying CUPs- I would simply buy some at the airport (or any other) cadeca together with your CUCs.
2. Places you can pay with CUP:
a. in Havana there are so called cafeterias - mostly windows in the wall through which you can buy snacks or coffee- the quality is not very good though.
b. there are also MONEDA NACIONAL restaurants but they are scarse, sometimes crowded, still you CAN at least try to use them
c. PANADERIAS- some open even 24 hours are a good option- you pay in CUP for bread, sweet bread and cookies, some are very good I have tried them many times
d. fruit and vegetable markets sell greengroceries in CUP, there are also carts in the streets, of course you won't make much use of a raw yucca but you can try bananas- a nutritious snack IMHO better than a so so pizza
3. logging- I haven't heard of any other option than casa particular, I think casa owners can't really go down with the price because of the tax they have to pay and because of other costs involved, I would suggest finding a casa for max 20 CUC and paying directly to the owner because any go- between will take extra 5 CUC a night
Feb 23, 2012 4:42 AM
6Other than casas. most transportation, and the "better" rum, you can live in the CUP economy but, in your case, you'll be limited to street food and fresh fruit in the markets (i don't see a tourist buying raw vegetables, electrical wiring to wire their casa...etc..) and peso bars (beer/rum).
The best of the peso food are the cookies, imo, and Ron Corsario, if you can find it. I've eaten in some peso restaurants but they are, mostly, inedible (this coming from someone that will eat anything). The vegetarian ones are acceptable but, I would imagine, are limited to the big cities.
If you will be in Havana and want to get a taste of what is and isn't available in the peso economy, take a walk on Monte, in Havana... sort of the main drag for CUP stores.
Changing money on the street. Be careful.... counterfeit CUC and retired CUP's (they've changed them over the years) can be slipped in with the good currency. I would just go to a Cadeca. There is no advantage of changing on the street.
Feb 23, 2012 7:39 AM
Feb 23, 2012 8:00 AM
8Neptunian: you will find that paying in CUP will not turn out to be a magic bullet to lower the cost of your trip. Most of us have both currencies but eventually find that 95+% of what we pay for must be paid in CUC. You will find that a very small part of your total spending goes for collectivo taxis, buses, ice cream, cookies and street pizza. Yes, some places sell Mayabe beer for 20 CUP. But you can buy a Cristal or Bucanero for 1 CUC in most places.
Feb 23, 2012 8:29 AM
Neptunian: this is one of those HUGE Cuba myths that I consistently try to dispel. I think people are very confused in general about the double economy and how it works - as I say in the blog post: ANYONE can use both currencies, it's what each currency can PURCHASE where the difference lies. . Peripherally, I also think it has to do with language barriers and comfort zones while traveling.
Feb 23, 2012 10:39 AM
I think it is true that 'most people don't do it'. Partly because of the urban myth Connerg is trying to dispel: people THINK it is impossible. Actually in most Cadecas it is dead easy and normal. Another thing is that a Cadeca clerk might try to discourage you from changing into CUP- it happened to my husband in Varadero 2 weeks ago (a specific place, also, we landed there because it was a cheaper option and not because we wanted to spend our holiday there ;) the' exchange woman' told him she will only change 10euro for CUP because otherwise 'he will come back angry and change it back on return', he smiled and promised he won't blame her if he won't be able to spend it and he won't be angry! After that we changed into CUP again and again in Havana :)
Having said all that, honestly, just like #9 said, 'CUP world' is not a parellel 'cheaper world', it would be too beautiful, : most Cubans HAVE TO buy things in CUC to SURVIVE. Cuba IS a poor country but it is NOT CHEAP, it is good to know it from the start in order not to get frustrated.
You never said if you spoke Spanish, THAT would help while traveling on guaguas and colectivos, if you don't, it might be difficult (but not impossible :)
Cinema and theatre are the things we spent most of our CUPs on (and it was worth every CUP a 100 times!), but, again, it also has to do with the language (anyway I will be posting about theatre plays that can be GREAT to see even if you don't know the language soon)
Feb 23, 2012 1:16 PM
11No casa owner I have ever heard of will give you a cheaper room rate because you are alone. In fact, it's usually just the opposite--they prefer to rent a room to two people, because there is an assumption, or a hope, that their guests will eat at the casa, and they would prefer to sell meals to two people rather than one.
The way to do Cuba on the cheap is:
1- Find a roommate and look for casas that are not listed on the intenet, since they tend to be a tad less expensive. Also, if you are willing to stay a week or longer and pay in advance, they may bring the price down a bit.
2-Take a bike and get where you want to go on it, rather than by taxi or bus, since the only buses where you can pay in CUP are in the city. If you leave Havana by bus or car, you'd have to pay in real money.
3-Eat only street food, which can be purchased in CUP. You won't like it, but you won't starve.
4-Drink only tap water. It might make you sick, but it is free.
5. DO NOT try to save money by hanging out with Cubans who promise to take you to a cheap place. They may do that--but they expect you to return the favour by paying their way. Cuban's do not bargain, or if they do, they hate it. They believe in reciprocation; they do you a favor, you do them one. And it goes without staying that the favor expected should be somewhat related to ones financial situation. The very fact that you can afford to travel to their country and they can't afford to travel to yours means that you are far more well off than any Cuban you are likely to meet.
Cubans do not much care for foreigners trying to get a cheap vacation on their backs. Neither do I.
Feb 23, 2012 1:17 PM
Here read this from one of the old guard who did it:
Feb 23, 2012 2:32 PM
Feb 23, 2012 2:59 PM
(4 star Hotel)
From US$633.97 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$357.38 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$295.03 per night