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Gratuities and tipping in Cuba

With the circulation of two currencies in Cuba, gratuities in hard currency (CUC) are appreciated by all levels of tourism personnel in Cuba. Most workers are paid in national money, with which some local services and products can be obtained such as utilities, produce at farmers markets, monthly supplies at ration stores and more (but not much more these days!). Tips received in convertible Cuban pesos will grant the recipient access to a much larger variety of goods and services. If you are traveling from Europe, you should be aware of this policy when you select Cuba as your travel destination. We have encountered some tour operators and clients unaccustomed to tipping in their country of origin who resent the need for tipping in this part of the world. While some argue that salaries should be raised to eliminate the need for gratuities, the reality is that in Cuba for the time being anyway, gratuities go a long way to support day-to-day living, filtering down from tourism workers to support many other sectors of the local economy. International travelers are generally a privileged sector of society and part of responsible travel is to support the local economy of the country you have chosen to visit, not only with the purchase of a tour package or its elements, but also through meaningful interaction with local people and direct compensation for their efforts when warranted. We believe you will encounter many highly-educated, friendly, and down-to-earth professionals on your travels in Cuba. We hope that your interactions with them will be educational, memorable and fulfilling for both parties.

We include standard service gratuities on cycle tour programs accompanied by our company representative. Our rep distributes tips along the way to deserving staff, including restaurant workers, porters, chambermaids, musicians, and more. It is customary to tip tour staff directly in Cuba, so if you feel the services of your Havanatur tour guide, Transtur driver and WoWCuba/MacQueen’s Island Tours tour leader warrant recognition, gratuities are welcomed.

Another common misconception of travelers to Cuba is that tourism workers will be thrilled to receive their cast-off clothing, candy, etc in lieu of hard currency for their efforts. While in some rare cases this may be true, trust us that cash tips will be infinitely more valuable to Cubans and will provide them with the immediate choice of what to purchase according to their individual needs and wants, rather than (in many cases) first having to try to pawn off any unnecessary tokens in exchange for cash. Yes, some of the people you will meet may have specific needs for items that aren’t always easily accessible in Cuba, but if you’re not specifically aware of those needs prior to your travel, plan on setting aside a certain amount of CUC cash for gratuities.

For both independent travelers and group travelers, the following is a general guideline for what we believe to be fair when distributing tips along your travels:

Restaurants: Some restaurants in Cuba have begun including an automatic minimum 5% gratuity in your bill. This is always stated on the menu, if it is their policy. Our personal recommendation is a minimum 10% gratuity, providing service warrants. If meals have been included in your package, or if your hotel has buffet service, we still recommend tipping the restaurant staff at every meal. If you don’t know how to figure out how much to allot for each meal, at a typical 3* hotel in Cuba breakfasts average $5 CUC, lunch $10 and dinner $15.

Chambermaids: Minimum $1 CUC/night. It’s a good idea to leave the maid’s gratuity on a daily basis (if staying multiple nights in one property) in a clearly-marked area. Chambermaid = “camarera” in Spanish.

Porters: Minimum $1.00 CUC/person for check-in and for check-out, depending on quantity of luggage.

Bus Tour Guides & Drivers: $2.00 – $3.00 CUC/person per day (each, to guide & driver) for optional 1-day excursions purchased locally. Remember, if your group is small (less than 10 travelers), then this amount should be incrementally higher.

Specialized Tour Guides & Drivers: Weekly tips for small-group travel such as dive/cycling/sailing holidays typically range from $50-$100 CUC per person per staff member (tour leader, tour guide, driver, dive guide, captain, etc.).. For fishing trips which are often 1:1 or 1:2 guide/fisherman ratio, tips are usually somewhat higher.

Remember, on our cycle trips you can always ask our company rep for guidance on what he/she feels would be appropriate for the Cuban staff.

Drivers (taxi, transfers): $1.00 CUC/person is fine for short-haul transfers or taxis.

Musicians: You will find them around every corner in Cuba, in most restaurants at least at lunch, but almost always at dinner. They usually pass the hat, sometimes more than once, or offer you a CD of their music for purchase. We typically allow $0.50 to $1 per person for this type of entertainment. It’s totally discretionary and if you have a particular song you’d like to hear don’t be shy about requesting it to get your money’s worth!