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Cuba On A Budget: The Ultimate Guide On How To Visit The “Revolucion” Island.

Clelia Mattana AMERICAS, BLOG, CUBA, LATIN AMERICA, USEFUL GUIDES 61 Comments

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EATING AND DRINKING OUT IN CUBA:

 


Eating in Cuba is (almost) always a feast. With the exception of State owned restaurants – where the unreasonably expensive food (ok, unreasonable is a big word in Cuba, but you get the point) may taste like microwaved school cafeteria left overs – anything else you may have will be a feast for your taste buds.

 

Street food includes:

  • Pizzas: which are as cheap as 20 MN, that is even less than a CUC. It may not be the pizza you are used to, but it is made to order, warm, crispy and tasty.
  • Sandwiches.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Guarapo juice: sugar cane juice, but add some lime juice to break the sweetness.
  • Churros.
  • Fried platains and yucca.
  • Cucuruchu: a sweet made of candied orange peel, honey, nuts, coconut and what not, wrapped up in a banana leaf.
  • The good old ice cream.

cuba-street-food-churros-fried-platains-yucca-cucuruchu


Cubans have an obsession for Coppelia, a chain ice cream parlor where for as cheap as 4 cents you can have a bowl of tasteless ice cream.

If you want the real stuff, look for private places (follow around the people walking with a cone). Coffee tastes way stronger than your average espresso: be prepared to smell the roasted beans from a distance.

Let’s cut to the chase though, and imagine you have already had a good mojito and are ready to get stuffed.

WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT IN CUBA:

Go to a paladar and you can have a feast. Keep in mind that meat is not common in Cuba : cows are used to cultivate the land and are generally state property and horses are used to pull carriages.

You may have the odd chicken or lamb; at times pork. You can bet they will be free range: they most likely are the same chickens that will wake you up early in the morning, even in the Vedado in Havana, and that you can see scratching about in the main squares of a pretty city next to dogs (left free to roam most of the time, but they are normally well taken care of: Cubans love their pets).

Or the same pigs that the neighbors of your casa particular keep in their backyard in Trinidad, effusing a close to the nauseating stench in the entire area.

cuba-drinks-mojitos-happy-hour

Enjoying a Cocktail!

The good news is that if you love seafood you will have a feast: it is so tasty, that you will never miss meat anyways. If you are in Baracoa, do not skip the shrimps, octopus or lobster in coconut sauce: a sweet yet spicy and rich sauce, mix it with white rice, ask for extra bread on the side and you will leave Baracoa hoping you will eventually go back just to savor that one more time.

Prices for meals in paladares vary. From as little as 5 CUC for a great meal in Cienfuegos, to a more expensive meal (up to 25 CUC) in more touristy Trinidad or Viñales.

Drinks are good. No matter what. Ok, maybe you will be tired of having just that one kind of beer (which curiously states in the can: “best beer in Cuba” – of course it is the best! It also is the only one!).

But cocktails are of a different world. For as much effort as you can put, each day you will end up craving that delicious mojito, or that pina colada made from scratch, because really, that hierba buena is nothing like mint, and Cubans are not fussy about the procedure.

No matter what, you can be sure that your cocktail will be delicious. But watch out: don’t drink too much. Cubans hold their drink well. And they will take advantage of you if they see you are a bit tipsy and not 100% in control.

Read in: Italian German

Comments 61

  1. Was in Cuba a week ago and had the most incredible time. In Viñales, I really recommend the “Casa Dovales” amazing people, great hospitality, the rooms were perfect, and the food I ate in the house was very good as well. Definitely is a must go to if you go to Viñales.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion Marc! It’s always nice to have people recommending places they have visited themselves in Cuba!

    2. Hello! Thank you for your suggestion! Do you have e-mail address of Casa Dovales in Vinales, please? I would like to go there in 10 days. I am leaving to Cuba! 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Wow amazing post! I’ve been visiting Cuba on February and fell immediately in love. Also currently blogging about it. My first time solo travel ever and I’d do it again!!

    1. Thanks Asli! Glad you like it and you couldn’t have chosen a better place to travel solo, what an experience !

  3. Such a great guide! I went to Cuba in 2014 and am glad I did. It was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to (my photos don’t do it justice).

  4. Hey Hey,

    we really liked your report on Cuba. It is an amazing country that is totally unique in the world. Everybody seems to be afraid of the change that the open politics will bring to Cuba. But we believe that the Cubans and their country will stay as they are – authentic and outgoing 🙂
    We have also been to Cuba for a couple of weeks and mostly stayed at casa particulars. Only there, you will get the inside information and get to know this country 🙂
    Maybe you would also like to read about our experiences:
    https://weareleavingtraces.com/2016/04/25/havanna/

    See you!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Glad the article was useful for you and that you had an authentic stay in CUba 🙂

  5. Hi Clelia, completely agree with your guest poster’s recommendation to stay in casas particulares, for exactly the reasons stated – cheaper, better, more authentic, friendlier! I also noticed that your guest poster says “What can be tricky about casas particulares is the booking system. Cubans mostly work via phone. They hardly use emails and internet to sort their business”. This is exactly why our small company exists – to simplify the booking process for independent travellers and to make managing the casa easier for the hosts. Please feel free to check us out and embed a link to us in your blog if you think our services might be useful for others

    Cheers!

    Admin Comment: Please note that adding links to the comments is not allowed as per our terms & conditions. Thank you for your understanding! Clelia

    1. Hi Clelia, not a bother, hadn’t realised that was part of your T&Cs. Would be good to provide your readers with a convenient means of actually booking casas though, so maybe worth linking in the main body of text?

      1. Hey Matthew, being this my full-time job, I usually have a paid service for the companies (or private) that want to promote their properties/business. If I had to add every link people ask me to, there wouldn’t be an article anymore, just a long list of links, plus (and this is even more important), I prefer to link to companies that I have either tried for myself and can personally recommend or that are somehow well known or someone else have tried them, hence I am sure I’m giving my readers some added value.

        I hope this clarifies the terms & conditions of my website.
        Kind Regards

        Clelia

  6. Amazing Cuba blog post! Going there in February! Can’t wait! Thanks for useful tips especially for sharing some casa particulares 🙂

    Kristina

  7. This is an awesome Blog. Wish I found it before I visited Cuba. In December of 2016 myself, my wife and 10-year-old daughter traveled to CUBA from Atlanta on Delta Airlines for 1 week. We stayed at a different hotel every night and traveled to a different location every day. I struggled gathering recent information when organizing our trip, like this blog, I wanted to help as many future CUBA travelers as possible by creating 15 short videos.

  8. Hi, greetings from Estonia!
    I wanted to ask about accomodation in Cienguegos: how did you get touch with Olga and Eugenio? I cant find they contacts anywhere… any email would be very helpful 🙂
    BR Andres

  9. Pingback: (Recipe) Natilla from Cuba – travelandlipsticks.com

  10. So if the internet connection is Cuba is not as good as people say what would you recommend? do you think my local verizon would be more reliable during roaming mode then the service that they offer there, I plan to attend and I want to constantly send pictures to my family and friends so is important forme.

    Great post by the way.

  11. Wow Claudia! Now that I’ve booked my tickets to Cuba next month I read your article. WOW, WOW, Super-WoW. You spent a lot of time on this and it has a ton of juicy, useful info. Particularly the contacts for the Casa Particulares.

    I’m so psyched about this trip! Thank you so much for writing this.

  12. Thanks For all the great information Claudia. Myself and my teenage daughter are travelling to Cuba from Ireland at beginning of May and as 2 women travelling you’ve reassured me and we cant wait to go. Cuba just looks fantastic we’re going to stay in Casas and travel around. You’ve included loads of helpful information. Many Thanks and happy travelling 🙂

  13. Great post Claudia with nice image. After read this post I experience that you have been very closely touch with the Cuba cultures and their peoples. However next year I have a trip planning for Mexico and no doubt those we included the Cuba in our trip map. Already booked a private vehicle for our trip from a transport agency as “Dtourscancun”. Hope we would have an unforgettable trip from there.

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  15. Nice, Claudia! Cuba is on my list of must-see. Couple of months ago we went to St. Petersburg with Travel all Russia to see Mother Russia and how people are living there. Eastern Europe, Cuba and few other countries should be seen by everyone, they’re very different to our mainstream attractions! You can feel the charm of the past, it really is something special. Glad you’re visiting countries as such!

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  17. Great post! Cuba seems like an amazing destination. All the history there, it seems very interesting. And seeing your pictures make me want to visit and know more about this place! 🙂

    Best,
    Julie.

  18. Gah! Clelia, I’m so jealous. I want to visit Cuba so bad. I was in Haiti recently and I was planning on going but there were such infrequent flights from Haiti (only Mondays and Fridays at a certain time) and it just didn’t fit my budget or timeline. I need to go. It’s been a top pick of mine forever.

    1. I also want to go there one day, this massive guide is from another Italian girl who’s an expert of South America. I saw your pictures of Haiti…not bad at all! We are definitely lucky people!

  19. Cubans proudly wear hot rollers to curl their hair while going to work in the morning and prepare amazing meals by using simple ingredients.

  20. Hey guys, I have been planning a honeymoon to Cuba, and my wife and I purchased some attractions tickets, for the BonAppetour dinners (a dining experience with locals: here is the link: http://www.bonappetour.com)
    If you guys want it, please let me know, I can sell them to you for a cheaper price!

  21. Claudia-What a great comprehensive guide you’ve put together and certainly helpful for anyone traveling to Cuba-not just budget travel! I am going in February and was thinking of a visit to Las Terrazes as I write about sustainable living and thought it looked interesting. Could you expand on your comment. Feel free to email me directly if that makes more sense. Thanks so much.

    1. Well, there isn’t much ecology in there altogether. The place is strikingly at odds with the surrounding environment and clorex is used to wash everything – surely not environmentally friendly!

  22. Wow, Claudia, you certainly did put a lot of energy and love in this extremely complete guide to Cuba. I’m so inspired by it and I’ve been wanting to visit Cuba for so long, this might be the final push I needed!

    Thank you so much for such detailed info! You rock!

    1. It is a country of many contradictions. It makes you exhausted while you are there, but you can’t help falling in love with it. Anybody should go, and I want to make sure that backpackers have the best experience ever!!

  23. I knew about bringing cash but didn’t realize that there isn’t ANY wi-fi in Cuba! I’m going in early April so I guess this means I’ll have fewer things to recharge and will have to wait to do social media sharing until I get home! Thanks for the scoop.

    1. I’m a Cuban American who left the country 45 years ago, I’ve been back several times visiting family. It’s a unique country and the people do whatever they can to survive. Havana is nice but it’s not the real Cuba. It’s the capital city. To really experience the real Cuba you have to stay in the small towns. Like Remedios or Placetas. I’ve done a few write-ups about Cuba. Here’s one of them: http://carmensluxurytravel.com/2014/04/remedios-cuba/

    2. Thanks Kay, I will ask Claudia if this internet thing is 100% true everywhere… I guess that maybe you could work with social media in some places (like in the big cities?) but I need Claudia to answer as I have no idea!

      1. You do get to log onto social media. But why even waste your time to do that? Internet is SLOW. You won’t have wifi at all. You can only access internet at ETECSA places as a travellers, or some state owned hotels may have a computer but internet is slow. Just don’t waste your time: enjoy it now, post later!

    3. You can get on social media from ETECSA centres. But why on earth would you waste your time on it, when you can be sociable with the locals? In Cuba, do as the Cubans 😉

      1. Claudia you are right. Internet access is useless in Cuba. In October 2015, I spent 10 days, travelling to Habana, Vinales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santa Clara. I talked to many Cubans, in particular the wonderful chicas, they gave me a lot of insight views. I had a fantastic time in Cuba without internet access.

        1. Hello Wolfgang,
          We are looking to do the same route in Jan 2016, how did you travel between towns? transport is my biggest concern at this time and don’t know if it’s ok to leave until we arrive and rely on taxis,
          Any advice is appreciated
          Cheers

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