Hipmunk: How to Visit Cuba on a Budget

This post was originally published on Tailwind by Hipmunk on April 12, 2016.

Now that Cuba’s tourism industry is up and running, we’re doing everything we can to educate our readers about how to make the most of their Cuban vacations. From knowing which cities to visit to learning how the country has changed and prepping for your trip, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re ready to visit but worried about finances, we’ve still got your back. Simply implement the following strategies in order to enjoy a budget-friendly trip to Cuba.


It helps to know Spanish.

Overwhelmingly, travelers to Cuba report that you’ll be more accepted if you speak Spanish—and that means you’re more likely to be offered lower prices and to haggle successfully. Even if you don’t have time to become fluent before your visit, learning a few key Spanish phrases will surely make the trip a little easier.

Don’t withdraw or exchange cash in Cuba.

Cuba currently uses two types of currency: the CUC, which is designated primarily for tourists, and the CUP (the peso national), which is civilians’ primary currency. (The government has announced plans to eliminate the dual currency system, but has yet to do so.) For the most part, tourists will be dealing in CUCs, but budget-friendly travelers may want to keep a few CUPs on hand (more on that later). In either case, it’s smart to exchange your money before arriving in Cuba—otherwise you’ll incur a 10% penalty to exchange dollars to CUCs. Similarly, avoid using credit cards whenever possible, as fees are quite steep.

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Plan for exit and entry.

You’ll be charged $25 CUC to enter Cuba, and another $25 CUC when you fly out of the airport. Go ahead and set aside $50 CUC before your trip so you aren’t caught by surprise on the way in or out of the country. While you’re at it, set aside another $20-$25 CUC for the taxi ride from the airport.

Take advantage of cheap eats.

Want to save money on food? Then seek out local establishments that operate on pesos (namely, street food vendors and peso restaurants). This can be a serious money saver—think the difference between paying $0.80 or $8.00 for a sandwich. If you’re staying in a casa particular (aka a private homestay), this is also a good place to eat cheaply—meals tend to be huge (meaning you can split one dish between two people) and less expensive than meals at touristy restaurants. Or hit up hotel buffets for a meal that will fill you up for around $8 CUC.

Pack your own snacks and toiletries.

Basic toiletries and medical supplies—think sunscreen, Aspirin, and contact lens solution—are either very expensive or totally unavailable in Cuba, so don’t assume that you can pick up supplies once you’ve arrived. Instead, bring along any toiletries that you can’t go without. Same goes for your favorite snack foods.

Get mobile like a local.

Cuba has designated tourist buses, and (not surprisingly) they can  be a bit of a money trap. You’ll save on transportation by taking public buses, camiones (i.e open-backed trucks), or shared taxis. As an added bonus, local transportation tends to operate on a more flexible timetable than the tourist buses.


Entertain thyself.

Cuba has a vibrant nightlife scene, and you can drink for change if you stick to local establishments. (A good rule of thumb: Avoid any club that charges an entrance fee.) If you’re not sure where to go, ask your casa hosts or local street vendors for suggestions. If the club scene isn’t your thing, you can still find cheap entertainment in the form of museums, which typically charge only $1-2 CUC for entry. Just be aware that many museums charge an additional fee for anyone who wants to take photos.

While Cuba may not be the cheapest destination around, there are plenty of deals to be had for the frugal traveler. Just remember: When in doubt, act like a local.

Hipmunk Hotels: The Best California Destinations Along The Pacific Ocean

This post was originally published on Go 4 Travel Blog by Lauren Davidson on April 15, 2016.

Let’s face it. There’s no denying the warmth, beauty, and good weather in California, especially the parts of this awesome state that overlook the Pacific Ocean. What draws so many eager tourists to California each year is that it’s fantastic as a vacation destination, simply because there is so much to see and do. Whether you’re planning your trip to Cali or you’ve just got the travel bug and want to know more, here are the best California destinations to visit along the Pacific Ocean. 

Best California Destinations Along the Pacific Ocean


Situated between Pasadena and Los Angeles, Glendale is a one-of-a-kind vacation destination without the year-round crowds of Los Angeles and San Francisco. In fact, there are several fun things to do for all sorts of travelers. Head to the Glendale Galleria, a 3-storey mall with plenty of well-known shops and boutiques, or learn something at the Autry Museum of the American West. If you’re traveling with children, the Universal Studios Hollywood Park provides a fun-filled day out. Book a room at the Hilton Los Angeles North/Glendale for an affordable stay.

LA Glendale Galleria Trolley TracksLA Glendale Galleria Trolley Tracks by Ed on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Napa Valley

Napa Valley, or Napa County, is located north of San Pablo Bay in Northern California. Renowned for its vineyards and wine tasting, Napa Valley welcomes visitors to attractions like the Castello di Amorosa and the Napa Valley Wine Train. If wine isn’t really your thing, catch a show at the Napa Valley Opera House. When you stay in Napa Valley, the Kenwood Inn and Spa is the perfect choice of accommodation. Here, guests can sample the local food at the popular restaurant or take a dip in the pool after a long day exploring.

Dusk, Napa Valley Dusk, Napa Valley by Deb Harkness / CC BY 2.0


Although the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive areas to visit in the U.S., it’s also one of the best. Without the hustle and bustle of nearby San Francisco, Oakland is a stunningly low-key destination that still offers plenty to see and do. Take the kids to the Oakland Zoo or Children’s Fairyland, and catch some live music at the Fox Theater. For accommodations in the center of the city, stay at the Oakland Marriott. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, the Rodeway Inn & Suites is a good option.

Oakland SkylineOakland Skyline by Jesse Richmond on Flickr CC BY 2.0


It’s safe to say that Roseville is California’s hidden gem. Located 20 miles north of Sacramento, this small city offers numerous activities and attractions for visitors. Mix things up by visiting the eccentric Roseville Telephone Museum, or savor the area’s history at the fascinating Maidu Museum & Historic Site. The Courtyard by Marriott Roseville provides its guests with trendy rooms, a 24-hour fitness center, an indoor pool, and a convenient location in Roseville.

Trees in Roseville, CaliforniaTrees in Roseville, California by mitzume on Flickr / CC BY 2.0


Also known as wine country, Sonoma attracts a steady number of tourists each year. Situated in Northern California, Sonoma not only has its own Museum of Art, but it also boasts beautiful Victorian architecture and a vast selection of vineyards. The El Dorado Hotel is just a 15-minute drive away from the stunning Quarryhill Botanical Garden.


Quarryhill Botanical GardenQuarryhill Botanical Garden by Jessica S on Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Writing Retreats in North Carolina

As a writer, I am always looking for the perfect place to write. Every year, I carve out a long weekend to escape the real world and get some uninterrupted wordsmith time in. A quality writing retreat must have three things. It must have an awe-inspiring setting. The place must have several options for sustenance, and if the words aren’t there, I need some activities to distract or sustain me until the creativity comes.

Resort in Asheville

When you think of a resort, you think of a one stop destination. Everything you want to do in one spot, but for a price. I typically look for resorts for my retreats, and the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, North Carolina is every bit the resort, but with budget rates. The aesthetics of the place are natural and beautiful. Each room offers a full kitchen and separate living room. I don’t have to leave the room if the muse is speaking to me. And, if she isn’t, Asheville is a great little town with a fantastic music scene and entertaining venues. All are worth exploring for those rock star romances I love.

Image provided by Jason Kenagy via Trover.com.

Style in Greensboro

The O. Henry Hotel has all the in-room comfort I need in a writing retreat hotel. The decor in the rooms is stylish, clean and interesting. The beds are big and fluffy. The spacious bathrooms feature both a shower and a separate soaking tub — super important to get my mind right. The hotel is inspired by the ’20s and ’30s vacation spots. The locally owned hotel is a three diamond venue, which translates into impeccable service and style, the perfect mix of retro and modern romance.

Romance in Greensboro

This romantic retreat in Greensboro, North Carolina, is a modern and unique destination. The comfortable decor has a clean and stylish big-city flair. Outside, the hotel features several beautifully maintained gardens and outdoor areas that offer comfort and inspiration. The on-site restaurants offer award-winning, tasty, hip food. The Mussels, Wine and Music Wednesday’s are perfect for feeding those creative juices.

’60s Inspiration in Blowing Rock

The Cliff Dwellers Inn is the perfect setting if I’m working on a period piece. Inspired by the ’60s, both in its decor and in the staff’s enthusiasm for serving their guests. Located in Blowing Rock North Carolina, Cliff Dweller’s Inn is small with only 21 rooms. It gives the place a bed-and-breakfast type feel. However, this hotel isn’t open in the winter months, so I’d save a visit for a great springtime retreat.

Serenity near Boone

Image provided by Gary-Heather Kobza via Trover.com.

Located just outside of Boone, North Carolina, The Inn at Crestwood offers a quiet and serene setting in the mountains. I love the outdoor terraces and patios with picturesque views of the mountains in the distance. A perfect inspirational setting for my next small-town romance novel. When I can’t write, it’s usually because I’m thinking too much and I need to relax. The Inn offers a full-service spa with massage, facials and body treatment.

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