In Cuba, there is a big variety of places to eat, which can be extremely expensive, as well as surprisingly cheap. For low-budget traveler in Cuba, as well as people who simply want to experience Cuba from the point of view of the local people, the best option is street food. In Havana there are many cafeterias, and the cheap street food is very easy to find, if you know where to look. A budget of $ 5 CUC per day can easily cover the food for a whole day for one person, including three meals, and maybe a couple of snacks. All you need to know is what food to choose if your goal is to save as much money as possible. Below there is a list of the best budget food choices to help backpackers and other travelers stay well-fed in Havana.
Street food in Cuba
All the street food in Cuba can be listed in a short menu which is more or less the same in every point of the country: pizza, sandwiches, burgers, coffee, juice and cajitas, which are going to be explained below. The prices are always in CUP (Cuban Pesos), and range in the following way:
Cuban Pizza / (Pizza)
10-18 pesos (CUP) (depending on size). The most popular one is the 10 peso pizza, but other toppings may cost you more.
Spaghetti with cheese / (Spaghetti con queso)
10 pesos. Its not the best Italian pasta you’ll have ever had, but its good enough.
Usually 5-15-pesos, but it depends on the size and the content of the sandwich. The most popular and cheap ones include the ham and cheese sandwich (sandwich de jamon y queso) and pan con croqueta (bread and croquette), which is exclusively Cuban. You can also find croquettes sold independently for 1 or 2 pesos.
Comidas / (meal)
The price for the comida depends on what it has inside. You can also sit down and eat the same meal for not much more (30-60 CUP/ 1-2 CUC). Mainly it has pork or chicken, rice (white rice or congris, which is very delicious and a must-try for Cuba travelers – rice with black beans) and a vegetable salad, French fries or another side dish.
Cajitas are a comida in a box. This is take away, and their quality ranges depending on where they are being offered (and for how much).
If you want to fully enjoy the variety of fresh natural food in Cuba for an affordable price, you should visit some of these markets, which Cubans call “agros”. Thee they sell all kinds of goods like fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, meat, ham, among many others. There are private agros, as well as state-run ones, and while the latter are usually a little cheaper, the former offer goods of a better quality. Here are the addresses of some of these markets located in downtown area (Vedado):
- Calle 19 between A and B
- Corner of Calle 19 and K
- Corner of Calle 21 and J
- Corner of Calle 27 and A
For a good and cheap dessert in Havana, go straight to Coppelia, which is located on the corner of the streets 23 and L in Vedado. Coppelia is a legendary ice cream parlor, known for the flavor of its ice cream. It may seem incredible that Cubans will wait for hours in long lines just to try the Coppelia ice cream, but this is due not only to the quality of the products, but also to how cheap ice cream is in Coppelia. It is 5 pesos for an ensalada (ice cream “salad”), which is just 1 or 2 pesos a scoop. There also is a shorter queue for CUC paying customers and tourists, but the ice cream will cost you much more, so it is not the best idea for a budget traveler.
What to drink
Juice / (Jugo)
2-5 pesos, and a great choice of tropical fruits from which these natural juices are made.
Coffee / (Café)
1 peso. Cubans love coffee, and for a tourist it is a must-try to drink authentic Cuban coffee from a street food spot.
Water / (Agua)
Water is not usually sold in cheap street food spots, and a 500 mL bottle will never cost you less than 0,45 CUC (9 pesos). This is why some experienced travers advise to bring water purifiers with yourself in order to save money.
Alcohol is not as cheap as any of the items listed above. For example, a can of beer will cost you at least 1 CUC. However, if you still want to include alcoholic drinks in your Cuban low-budget menu, the cheapest option is rum.