We Knew Cuba Would Get More Expensive, But Not Like This

Aug 25, 2016

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley can list expensive destinations, none of which might surprise you.

“New York, London, Paris, any large city in Scandinavia,” he said, “Sydney, Singapore, Shanghai, and Seattle hotels in the summertime.”

Ha.

But lately there have been some surprises – places Brumley has known for years that have seen spikes in how much it costs to visit. That includes Havana, Cuba.

“Hotels that were $250 a night … are now charging over $550 a night,” he said.

The crown jewel of Havana, the Hotel Nacional, is even charging money just to enter and have a drink in the bar. Maybe that’s not a surprise in Cuba, where renewed relations with the United States have opened up the economy to more commerce than at any point in the last 60 years. But Brumley says it’s gone beyond any expectations.

“It’s being totally mismanaged,” he said. “They’ve shot prices up past New York, London and Sydney.”

He also says the crowds are already there – so if you were hoping to see it before the big crush, you’re too late. That said, Brumley expects Cuba’s prices to moderate. The mystique of visiting the formerly off-limits island will wear off, and people will start going elsewhere.

Getting Around The Cost

Instead of a big-name hotel, look for homestays, vacation rentals, and Airbnb stays. And yes, it will work in Havana, eventually.

“Airbnb is just setting up shop,” Brumley said. “You can do a homestay or stay in a small apartment in Havana for one-fifth the price of the Nacional, and it’s in the same neighborhood.”

OK, But Where’s Cheap?

There are still some good deals out there. Brumley says try Thailand, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

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"Going Places" is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KPLU.