In Cuba there are two curencies. The CUC and the CUP. Be sure to read this article about money and expenses in Cuba. Also, keep in mind that in Vinales you can not use Mastercard to pay or to withdraw cash. Visa normally works.
If you only have a Mastercard you have to withdraw money in Havana (or any other big city) in an international bank.
Stay – Booking in advance is now a possibility in Cuba, but still you have a very limited choice when booking through internet. With AirBNB you can book a casa particular in advance already, a kind of bed and breakfast that is very typical in Cuba.
If you sign up through this link at AirBNB you will get over $20 free credit for your first booking.
Through AirBNB you will most likely only find expensive casas. If you’re traveling on a budget, I can tell you that you can find casas for only 8 CUC per person (or 15 CUC for a double room). You can not see photos in advance so you have to decide on the spot whether you like it or you rather continue your search.
Another option is to book a government hotel. This should also be done while in Cuba. These state hotels are often very expensive and you often pay too much for what you get.
Eat – Viñales is quite touristy and therefore more expensive than certain neighborhoods in Havana. The center is not very big and you don’t have a lot of choice to pick where you want to eat.
In the city center you can find food between 5 and 10 CUC per person. If you stay in a casa, the price will be similar. For breakfast in your casa expect to pay between three and five CUC per person.
Transportation – To get into Vinales, you have to take a bus. Most likely you’ll do that from Havana, but other major cities have regular buses to the city as well.
From Viñales you can either use the tourist buses (organised by the government – Viazul bus) or a taxi collectivo. The latter are small buses or cars owned by locals who pick you up and drop you at your hotel or casa.
The Viazul buses pick you up at the bus station in Havana and drop you off at the bus station in Vinales. For the Viazul buses you often have to book in advance. If all Viazul buses are prebooked, you can always fix a taxi collectivo. They are slightly less comfortable but slightly faster too.
Both cost 12 CUC per person.
In Viñales itself, you do not need transportation because the town is so small. You can walk through the valley but a guide will know the most important spots which would be more efficient. Besides, a guide only costs five CUC for a full day.
If you want to ride a horse you can do that for 5 CUC per hour per person. When I was in Cuba, we managed to reduce the price for 3 CUC per hour.
Arrange your casa through another casa – Do you sleep in a casa particular? Try to arrange the casa you will go to next through your casa mama. They can often arrange a slightly cheaper price for you than what they would arrange it yourself.
At the station where the Viazul buses arrive you can often find cheap accommodations as well. If you search a little, you’ll find rooms of 15 CUC (or 8 CUC per person for two people).
Do not buy souvenirs – I noticed that the souvenirs of Cuba were most expensive in Vinales. In every big and small city you will find markets which offer exactly the same souvenirs (hats, cigar boxes, jewelry …). Viñales was one to two CUC more expensive on average.
Haggle – Vinales is touristy and the residents know this. Therefore, they often charge a higher price. Instead of paying 3 CUC for a cigar, I paid 2 CUC. Instead of 5 CUC per hour for the horses, I paid 3 CUC.
You can save dozens of CUC’s when trying to haggle.
Pay no entrance for the mountain mural – The famous mural de la prehistoria is a familiar sight in Viñales. To get close to the wall you have to pay 3 CUC (including drink).
The wall is huge and you can see it perfectly from the street. There is a road (the Mirador trail) that runs next to it and it gives you a magnificent view over the painted mountain for free.
Horseback riding – Viñales can be explored either on foot or horseback. If you do not want to sweat too quickly or be tired soon, I recommend riding a horse. You can do a greater distance and see more. And well… it’s fun to drive through this western-like landscape with your trusty steed as well!
If you’re not used to riding a horse, I recommend taking no more than four / five hours. Your bum will be quite sore after a few hours …
The cost for a horse ride is between three and five CUC per hour.
Smoking cigars – Viñales is the place in Cuba where cigars are rolled. It is also the place where you have to smoke one! If you do a guided trip, you’ll automatically go to a tobacco farmer. There you will be able to smoke a cigar, and if you like them you can also buy some. Per cigar they ask two to three CUC.
Head up, up, up! – A bit out of the center you can walk all the way up to get some splendid views over the valley. You’ll soon find yourself in a more local area but from there you will do the best sightseeing in Viñales. If you have the opportunity to rent a casa there; certainly do. Waking up with such a view is amazing!
Drink tap water – Tap water in Cuba is not purified. If you prefer to not have diarrhea, I advise you to buy bottled water. Often you can also buy them at your casa.
Staying too short or too long – Everything really depends on what you prefer. People who love nature can easily spend a week here. People who love to travel a little faster and see some more cities should be okay with one or two days.
Make sure you have a full day to explore the valley.
Visiting with allergies – Of course you can bring Viñales a visit if you have certain allergies, but make sure you bring enough medication. There are a lot of animals (dogs, horses and other livestock) and pollen in the air.