Peso street food in Cuba is arguably the cheapest in the world – find out how you can easily eat for less than $1 a day!
Peso street food is not mentioned anywhere in Lonely Planet but it’s essential for any shoestring traveller to know about.
You can find peso food & drink stalls everywhere in Cuba – there’s little variety but this is how the locals eat.
Peso street food might not be the tastiest or most nutritious but it’s very cheap & you can certainly fill up on many pizzas & juices for almost nothing.
Cuba has a dual currency system – the convertible pesos (CUC$) & Cuban pesos (moneda nacional, MN$).
Essentially, CUC$ is used for anything to do with tourists & the tourism industry, while locals almost solely use the Cuban peso.
- CUC$1 = 25 peso (or MN$25) or US$1
- 1 peso ($MN) = US$0.04 or CUC$0.04
For more information on cheap eats, see our posts Budget Food in Havana: Where & What to Eat and Government, Private & Tourist Restaurants in Cuba.
So as a DIY budget traveller, eat as a local in pesos & your money will go extremely far.
When discussing prices, confirm which currency is being used. For example, coffee (café) is usually 1 peso on the street but you could easily assume it’s CUC$1 – 25 times more! After awhile, you’ll quickly get a sense of prices, but there could always be that odd hustler trying to take advantage of tourists.
Keep in mind that you can buy a lot for 1 peso (US$0.04 cents) & a hell of a lot for 25 pesos (US$1).
You can easily eat 3 meals a day with snacks & drinks for less than $1. Go crazy for $2-3 a day!
We happened to be travelling with a pack of oregano (from when we would cook when travelling around Mexico). This proved to be really handy & a good addition to Cuban spaghetti & pizza – see cover photo!
* Top tip: buy a 1.5L bottle of local soft drink for 25 pesos & refill this bottle time & time again, with refresco for 7 pesos! You can also refill it with juice for the equivalent of 7 glasses, beer too!
Mix-up your peso food diet with occasional government restaurants – to find out more, see out post Government Restaurants in Cuba.
Peso Street Food is more expensive in Havana – for more information, see our post Budget Food in Havana: Where & What to Eat and Government, Private & Tourist Restaurants in Cuba.
Before travelling to Cuba, familiarize yourself with these very predictable staples that you’ll find on every peso menu…
Peso Drinks in Cuba
A shot of coffee is always 1 peso
- Refresco / Gaseosas
A glass of refresco, cold flavoured drink, similar to a soft drink, is usually 1 peso.
You can also get Gaseosas, which are home-made soft drinks.
Never pay more than 2-3 pesos. A glass is around 232ml – this throwback to the times of austerity during the Special period is listed on most menus.
Ice-cold sugar cane juice was our favourite drink in Cuba! Slam ‘em down for 1 peso each – you’ll get a big sugar high before coming crashing down!
A glass of fresh juice is 2-3 pesos & one of the best bargains in Cuba.
Flavours include tamarind, sugar cane, guayabana, pina, grapefruit & mango.
Freshly shaved ice with flavoured syrup for 2 pesos each.
Look out for vendors pushing their snow cone carts, there are many flavours to try!
Batidos are Cuban milkshakes made with water, milk or condensed milk, fruit & ice – it’s similar to a smoothie.
We didn’t really like them but they usually cost 3 pesos.
Look out for local beer dispensaries that sell cups for 6 pesos each. Every town in Cuba should have one but they’re hard to come by – we found them in Havana, Trinidad & Guardalava
Local bottles of beer cost 10-15 pesos. Bucanero is a popular brand – it’s strong at 5.4% but we didn’t like the taste at all (25 pesos).
Peso Street Food in Cuba
- Pan (con tortilla)
You can get very cheap bread with egg, ham and/or cheese for around 2-5 pesos. Pan con tortilla was our favourite, we usually paid 3 pesos – sometimes the cheapest isn’t always the best.
Don’t expect it to come with any margarine, butter, salt, pepper, ketchup or mayonnaise – on peso menus, what is listed is exactly what you get.
The most common varieties of pan are with:
- Tortilla = egg omelet
- Jamon = ham
- Queso = cheese
Sometimes you’ll find pan with:
- Chorizo = chorizo
- Guayabara = fruit jam
- Huevo frito = fried egg
- Minuto = fried fish
Pizza is the most filling food you can get at a peso stall. Salt is sometimes available, go crazy on it as this adds a lot of flavor to the otherwise bland pizza.
Pizza con queso (with cheese) is the cheapest, don’t pay more than 5 pesos.
Pizza con jamon (ham). chorizo or hawaiiana costs a little more, around 7-10 pesos.
Spaghetti is good for lunch or dinner. There are usually only 2 varieties offered:
- Spaghetti con queso (cheese) – 5 pesos
- Spaghetti con jamon or chorizo (ham or chorizo) – 10 pesos
Peso Snacks in Cuba
- Ice cream
Soft serve ice cream can be found for 1 peso
Chocolate, strawberry & coconut ice cream is usually 3 pesos – never pay more than 5 pesos. Other flavours are available.
- Cookies & cakes
We found freshly-baked cookies in Vinales for 1 peso each – we bought 20 to take on a hike! They were absolutely delicious!
It’s common to find cookies & cakes for sale in town for 1-3 pesos each.
You can get 2 croquette balls (small breadcrumbed fried rolls) for 1 peso – these ones are filled with jam, better fillings cost more.
Other snacks you can find in Cuba are popcorn (5 pesos), hot dogs (10 pesos), empanada (1 peso) cacao chocolate fudge (2 pesos) & churros (3 pesos).
- Cuban cigar
You can’t eat it but it does go well with food or drinks! Did you know that you can buy local Cuban cigars for 1 pesos – that’s 4 cents! We aren’t cigar connoisseurs so this was perfect for us!
FYI: you can bring in 25 cigars a person to Mexico 🙂
*** The Final Word – For extremely cheap eats & the best value food & drink, head to the nearest peso stall! ***
Where else in the world can you eat for $1 a day?!
Super easy DIY travel around city centres
Tasted in May-June 2016