Havanna on a Budget: How to save money in Cuba

Filed in Cuba by on September 19, 2015 • views: 1092
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Cuba was always a beach-filled, retro dream for me. Sipping daiquiris by the pool, twirling in full, vintage skirts on the cobblestone streets, and rocking my cat-eye sunglasses from the passenger side of some 1950’s hot rod was a recurring vision in my travel head—and once I’d stepped into Havana it didn’t disappoint.

But like many people, I knew going to Cuba couldn’t break the bank and so I did a little planning to make sure once I touched back down home I wasn’t shocked by my travel receipts. So whether you’re heading there for the first time or making a repeat trip, try my tips for saving the big bucks when you visit the capital city of the Pearl of the Antilles.

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Get the whole deal

Package deals are the way to go if you want to get a great deal and not have to worry about planning any of your trip. Think it’s a weird way to go about a vacation? It’s just like going on a cruise except you’re not boat-bound, so it’s really just all fun and no stress. TripAdvisor has great ideas on how to get a package deal without the hassle of making too many choices, or you can build one on their site with all your favorite things to do, eat, and stay for optimum savings.

Take a group

It’s definitely holiday tradition to take the immediate family, but why not save more and take the whole clan? When you’ve got a big group of people, you’ll get better deals at the resorts like this one, and with activities like scuba diving, hikes, and tours. If you’ve ever tried to plan a dream destination wedding or hold an awesome family reunion, what better way to do it then have Havana play host?

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Visit the farmer’s market and cook dinner.

You can save a lot of money by eating out only once or twice a day, so depending on which meal you’re willing to stay at home for, I suggest hitting up the local farmer’s market in Havana and making an adventure out of grabbing groceries. Since the communist ties are loosening in the city, there’s never been a better time to head to the 114th Street Market toward the edge of the city. It’s the largest in the area so take your camera, hang out, and get a good deal going!

Pack traveler’s checks.

You know what’s expensive? Taking cash out of an ATM on the regular. You know what’s dangerous? Carrying around a whole lot of cash. You know what’s super easy? Traveler’s checks.

Sure, it may seem like something out of another century. But don’t underestimate how safe traveler’s checks are. If lost or stolen they are replaceable, they’re redeemable at the current rate of exchange, and most hotels, restaurants and businesses accept them. It’s a great way to keep your money from becoming someone else’s money either through currency exchange, atm fees, or pickpockets.

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Ditch your global roaming plan.

The smartest thing I ever did when I started traveling was give my yearly data plan a break by deciding to get local SIM cards wherever I go. I picked the first one up in an airport at a phone kiosk in Stockholm and just haven’t looked back since. The only thing you have to do to get going with the great local rates instead of your international data plan is to unlock your phone and slide your new SIM card into your phone. After that, everything else is easy! Then you don’t have to worry about spending a fortune every time you upload to Instagram with a to-die-for sunset, or delicious dinner.

Research the free deals

There are always a million free things to do in Havana, and the key to getting in on them is to do a little research! Outside of spending your day lounging at the beach (that’s always free), you can also take a walk along the Malecon as the sun rises (or sets) for a quiet relaxation that won’t cost a penny and is the city’s cultural heart with fisherman bringing in their daily catch and parties at 23rd street after dark. If a city scene is more your style, don’t forget to check out Old Havana and it’s picturesque Spanish colonial architecture. Want more than a walk? Pull the pennies out of your pocket and catch a game at El Latino Stadium from the bleachers. Sure, it isn’t free, but it’s definitely worth the loose change to catch a game of Cuba’s favorite sport.  

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Use your credit card cashback deals.

Whenever I fly, I always charge the tickets to my credit card account. Not only does it give me flexibility with paying a particularly hefty bill, but it also means points or cash back, and that’s always a good thing. Ditto for buying groceries or dinner for the whole family; most monthly deals change every thirty days so give your card company a call and see what’s up for the next few months. Not only does it mean you get what you want while you’re away, but it also means you can help your purchases pay the bill and doesn’t that sound nice?

While you’re calling your provider, don’t forget to tell them your travel plans so they won’t halt service on your card–that could put a damper in your holidays for sure!

Whether it’s your first time in Havana or your fiftieth, there are always great ways to save and have a great time simultaneously. I’m a big believer in not having to choose one over the other so take these hints to heart and you can feel guilt-free while you’re on holiday! ¡Buena suerte!

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About the Author ()

I'm Claire - a self-confessed travel nut. I've been travelling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven't looked back since. You can read all about my adventures through 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents on my blog Traveltio.com.

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