Introduction to Traveling in Cuba
The Unique Allure of Cuba
In a world that’s perpetually fast-paced and forever evolving, Cuba provides an intriguing break from the norm.
Occupying the throne as the largest island in the Caribbean sea (by land mass and population), it abounds with unparalleled charm – largely owing to its unique historical and political tapestry.
Quintessentially Cuban symbols like the vintage ’50s Cadillacs and rundown yet mesmerizing Spanish colonial architecture lend an irresistible allure to this island nation that paints the picture of a place frozen in time.
So here are my Top 25 Cuba Travel Tips.
1. Understanding The Local Culture
As with any travel destination, being respectful and understanding of the local culture in Cuba is key.
Cuban society is characterized by its warm hospitality, strong community bonds, and rhythmic vitality tied closely to music and dance.
Appreciating this rich cultural tapestry can make your trip a more rewarding and meaningful experience. It’s important to approach interactions with locals in a friendly and open-minded way.
From the enthusiastic dominoe games taking place on street corners to the animated discussions about baseball, the Cuban way of life is an immersive experience brimming with spirited conversations and engaging community culture.
Pre-Travel Essentials and Preparation
2. Checking Visa Requirements Ahead of Your Trip
Traveling to Cuba requires travelers from many countries, including the US, to obtain a Cuban visa, also known as a tourist card.
This rule applies whether you’re entering the country as a tourist, on a business trip, or for family visits.
Visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. For instance, Canadians only need a tourist card typically provided by tour operators or airlines, whereas, for Americans, the situation is more complex due to certain US government restrictions.
Regardless of your nationality, it’s crucial to check and prepare for visa requirements well before your trip.
Use resources such as your local government website, your airline, or assistance websites to understand the specific visa requirements applicable to you.
Most travelers can usually purchase their Cuban visa at the check-in or departure gate of their flight to Cuba, although this process may vary.
It’s best to contact your nearest Cuban embassy if you need further clarification about Cuban visa requirements.
For visitors planning to stay up to two months in Cuba, a visa may not be necessary, but the specifics can depend considerably on your home country.
Always ensure you have a return or onward ticket, proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay, and documentation confirming your accommodation, especially if you are arriving with air-only tickets.
3. Packing Essentials for Cuba Travel
When you’re packing for a trip to Cuba, your list of essentials may differ from what you’d usually bring on other travels.
Given Cuba’s limited supplies due to its rationed economy, it’s vital to be prepared with items difficult to find or extremely expensive locally.
- First-Aid Kit: Packaging a compact but well-equipped kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any prescribed medication.
- Toiletries: While you should pack light, bring essentials like toothpaste, sunscreen, and insect repellent, as they can be expensive or hard to find.
- Portable Charger: Electricity is sometimes inconsistent in Cuba, so a portable charger can be a lifesaver for keeping your devices powered.
- Water Bottle With a Filter: Tap water may not always be safe to drink, so bring a refillable water bottle with a built-in filter.
- Food Items: Local stores may not have a wide variety of snacks, so bring any snack-related favorites or comfort foods from home.
- Misc Items: Remember to pack other necessities such as a Spanish-English phrasebook, travel guide, portable fan, microfiber towels, and a convenience kit.
- Adapters: For European travelers, don’t forget to pack a pin adapter, as Cuban power sockets accommodate US flat two or three-pin plugs.
Lastly, earplugs can be handy if dealing with street noise or lively local conversations during the night isn’t your idea of a peaceful vacation.
To sum it up, when it comes to packing for Cuba, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared!
4. Must-Know Tips about Cuban Currency
One of the essential things to know when preparing for your Cuban adventure is understanding the currency situation.
The Cuban Peso (CUP) is the only currency currently in use in Cuba, with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) being phased out as of January 2021.
As a predominantly cash-based economy, it’s important you always have cash on hand as very few establishments accept credit or debit cards.
Your cash should primarily be in smaller denominations for ease of transactions.
Although US dollars, Euros, and other foreign currencies are not generally accepted at state facilities such as hotels, airports, and restaurants, some private businesses do accept them.
So, to ensure a smooth experience, it’s best to exchange your currency for CUP at official currency exchange offices (CADECA), airports, banks, hotels, and resorts.
Remember that while Cuba is a safe country overall, as with any travel, sensible precautions to keep your cash secure are always recommended.
Also, note that ATMs can be sparse or non-functional in smaller townships and outside of standard banking hours at other locations, so it can be smart to withdraw enough cash early during your visit.
Finally, some all-inclusive hotels and resorts won’t accept cash for non-covered services or products. In such cases, you’ll need to pay with your credit card and take on the currency conversion fees.
Understanding the Cuban currency scenario and its associated challenges ahead of time can help ensure your journey is free from unnecessary financial stress.
Accommodation Tips For a Pleasant Stay
5. Staying at Locally-Owned Casas Particulares
Casas particulares, or private homes, are a unique and popular form of accommodation in Cuba, reminiscent of homestays or B&Bs.
This unique form of accommodation provides you with the phenomenal experience of living with local Cuban families, often in charming colonial houses, fostering direct interaction and cultural exchange.
Most casa particulares are authorized by the Cuban government, evidenced by a mandatory sticker with a blue anchor on their door. This indicates not only legitimacy but also safety for foreign visitors.
These establishments are owned and operated by private Cuban citizens who often live on the premises and are keen to make you feel as welcome as possible in their homes.
Staying in a casa particular offers the unique opportunity to observe Cuban life up close, including the chance to consume delicious home-cooked meals for an additional fee.
With both private and shared accommodation options available, casa particulares come in various sizes, from small 2-3 room establishments to larger ones with 5-7 rooms, catering to solo travelers, couples, and even larger family units.
As an alternative to the more conventional hotel experience, casa particulares are not only the best way to gain a more authentic Cuban experience but also go a long way in supporting local Cuban households directly.
Booking your initial casa particular online is suggested, with platforms like Airbnb offering many options.
However, for continued stays, you may get better rates by talking to the owners directly or using the network of your first casa particular host to find subsequent stays.
This not only allows for a more seamless trip, but you also get to interact more deeply with local families while supporting their businesses directly. A truly rewarding and culturally enriching experience indeed.
6. Pre-Booking Accommodation vs Spontaneous Booking
When considering whether to pre-book your accommodation or opt for on-the-spot booking upon arrival, both have their own advantages and considerations.
Cuba’s unique socio-political scenario and internet access restrictions can make online booking an appealing choice.
This ensures you have guaranteed accommodation waiting for you – a piece of information that might be necessary to show at airport customs upon arrival in Cuba.
However, the spontaneous approach offers its own charm. One-off, quirky casa particulares or last-minute deals at high-end resorts aren’t often listed online and require on-the-ground scouting.
Countless travelers have found hospitality and charm in stumbling across such hidden gems.
Additionally, casa particular owners usually own a network connecting various towns, which you can leverage to secure accommodations at your next destination.
This gives you a chance to discover local recommendations and enjoy an authentic Cuban experience.
Regardless of whether you choose advance booking or spontaneous exploration on arrival, ensure that the place is a legal rental by looking for the blue anchor sticker on the door authorizing it to house tourists and is, therefore, government-approved and safe.
In conclusion, you can use a hybrid approach to get the best of both worlds: pre-book accommodation for the first few nights of your stay or in high-demand areas and leave the rest of the trip open for spontaneous bookings based on local recommendations.
The experience can be more enriching, and who knows, you might end up discovering some of the best-kept secrets of Cuba.
Keep in mind that being flexible, having a healthy sense of adventure, and a basic proficiency in Spanish can make this process a lot smoother.
7. Safety Considerations for Your Stay
While Cuba is considered among the safest countries in Latin America for tourists, being alert and mindful of local conditions is crucial.
- Always secure your personal belongings. Cases of theft, pickpocketing, and purse snatching occur mainly in Old Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, and Baracoa. Pay close attention to your belongings at all times, particularly in crowded areas and when using local public transport.
- Avoid isolated areas, especially at night. Stick to well-lit and populated areas, particularly if you’re a solo traveler or a woman traveling alone. As a general rule of thumb, never accept invitations to visit homes or remote areas unless they are licensed businesses (like casa particular or paladare).
- Fraudulent transactions are worth watching for. Be vigilant with currency exchanges on the street, which can sometimes involve counterfeit bills or confusing the two local currencies.
- The national resort areas of Cuba, such as Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cayo Santa Maria, Guardalavaca, and Varadero, are generally safe and tend to experience fewer instances of crime. However, this should not lead to complacency on the part of travelers.
- Follow local news and stay updated with governmental travel advisories, as situations can change swiftly.
- Healthcare services may not be up to the standard you are used to. Thus, it is advisable to pack a comprehensive travel health kit and get health insurance that covers medical evacuation.
It’s important to note that personal safety is a subjective matter and can vary greatly based on individual experiences and circumstances.
However, by taking caution and employing common sense alongside these general-key safety guidelines, you can ensure that your experience of Cuba is both safe and enchantingly memorable.
Navigating through Cuba
8. Utilizing Shared Taxis for Smooth Travel
One highlight of Cuba’s transportation system is its fleet of shared taxis or colectivos – a convenient, cost-effective, and remarkably authentic way of getting around Cuban cities.
Colectivos are often classic American cars from the 50s and 60s, adding a nostalgic charm to your travel experience.
They generally have a fixed route and are shared with other patrons, creating a vibrant ride filled with local conversations – a unique way to absorb Cuba’s upbeat spirit.
Despite the inherent old-world charm, do note that these vehicles often lack modern comfort features, making long journeys a bit uncomfortable.
However, for shorter trips around the city, they are an authentic and economical choice.
Bookings can be made on the street or through your casa particular. It’s customary to negotiate the fare before you start your ride because the first quote usually starts high. However, remember that while negotiating is a part of the Cuban culture, a fair price isn’t always the cheapest one.
A typical colectivo trip is quite efficient as Cuban highways aren’t very congested.
They offer point-to-point convenience, picking you up from your casa particular (or a designated common point) and dropping you off at your destination.
While shared taxis may appear confusing to first-time travelers, they’re a remarkable blend of convenience, practicality, and cultural immersion, making them one of the best ways to travel around Cuba.
These taxis play a significant role in shaping your authentic Cuban experience.
Remember: Colectivos are just one of the many options to commute in Cuba. Evaluate your preferences, timings, and comfort levels to choose the best commuting option for you.
Regardless of your choice, colectivos surely add a charmingly Cuban flavor to your commute experiences in Cuba.
If you like exploring, here is a Complete List of the Best Beaches in Cuba.
9. Deciphering the complex Bus Routes in Cuba
Traversing Cuba by bus is an economical and practical way to experience the country.
Viazul, Cuba’s state-run intercity bus service, is the most reliable and widely used by foreigners for its comparatively comfortable and clean buses, albeit slower due to frequent stops.
The Viazul website provides detailed information about their bus routes, time schedules, and fares for planning your trip.
Make sure to note down all the details as the website may be inaccessible during your trip due to spotty internet access throughout Cuba.
Viazul bus tickets must be purchased at the bus station a couple of days in advance, which might take up a chunk of your time as the queues are long and slow-moving.
Booking in advance is crucial as buses tend to sell out quickly, especially during the peak season.
There’s an option of a second bus service, called Conectando, run by Cubanacán, that also operates along popular routes during the peak season.
Bus journeys in Cuba can be long, and the air-conditioning is notoriously cold, so it’s smart to bring a sweater or jacket.
Another thing to be prepared for is the likelihood of people approaching you with various offers, especially if you are traveling solo.
Understanding local bus routes in Cuba can be challenging, especially for first-time visitors, due to unreliable public transportation and the thick Cuban accent that can make communication difficult, even for Spanish-speakers.
However, with a bit of homework and patience, you can navigate the Cuban bus system effectively.
Alternatively, the more budget-friendly and flexible option could be shared taxis (colectivos), depending on your travel style and preferences.
Remember, despite the challenges, navigating the local bus network can offer unique insights into the local ambiance and people’s lives.
It’s an experience that adds depth to the diversity of your Cuban adventure.
Here are all the Most Epic Things to Do in Cuba.
10. Know the Pros and Cons of Renting a Car
Before deciding to rent a car in Cuba, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons. Indeed, having a vehicle at your disposal can provide you the freedom to explore the island at your own pace.
However, several challenging issues might arise. The number of available cars for rent is often limited, especially during the peak season, making it necessary to book at least three months in advance through travel agencies such as Cuba Travel Network or Holiplus.
Besides, the roads in Cuba are not often well-marked, and some are in disrepair. Gas is pricey and not conveniently accessible everywhere.
Plus, if the car breaks down, repair options are not readily accessible.
Considering these cons, many travelers recommend other local transportation options over renting a car.
Hair Tools Travel Bag
Cultural Etiquette and Social Norms
11. How to Respectfully Address Locals
When it comes to addressing locals in Cuba, it’s key to respect their customs and preferences.
Most Cubans use the informal “tu” form of address instead of “busted”. If you’re unsure or meeting someone for the first time, it’s safer to call them señor or señora.
Cubans are also known for their friendly colloquial terms like socio (partner), hermano (brother), papa (guy), chica/o (girl/boy), and asere (friend).
However, use these terms, especially asere, judiciously as they have regional contexts and connotations.
For most tourists, general Spanish greetings like hola (hello), buenos días (good morning), or buenas tardes (good evening) can suffice and are less likely to cause misunderstandings.
12. Basic Spanish Phrases for Easier Communication
Cuba’s official language is Spanish, and while many in the tourism sector speak English, mastering a handful of Spanish phrases can go a long way, enhancing your travel experience.
Here are some useful phrases:
- “Por favor” (Please)
- “Gracias” (Thank you)
- “¿Cuánto cuesta?” (How much is it?)
- “Está bien” (It’s OK)
- “Me gustaría…” (I would like…)
Also, familiarize yourself with numbers and common food items. Websites like Duolingo and apps like Memrise can be handy tools in learning basic Spanish.
We advise travelers to download Spanish in Google Translate before leaving for Cuba for instances when an Internet connection is unavailable.
Carrying a Spanish-English phrasebook specializing in Cuban dialects can also be beneficial.
13. Discussing Politics - A Topic to Avoid
Cuba’s political landscape can be a sensitive issue for many locals.
Though some might express their political views openly, others – particularly state employees such as tour guides and hotel staff – might hesitate to take part in such discussions.
The potentially heated subject of Cuba’s politics, coupled with a culture of being secretive and cautious when talking openly about the regime (even when chatting informally with tourists), makes this topic one best to avoid.
If you’re curious about Cuban politics, it’s better to research from independent sources rather than putting locals at discomfort.
Should you find yourself in the midst of a political conversation, be understanding and try to steer the topic towards something less contentious.
Remember, you’re a guest in their country, and respecting their cultural norms, including their political sensitivities, is a crucial part of responsible traveling.
Above all, under no circumstances should you participate in political demonstrations as this is not only disrespectful, it is also considered illegal by local authorities.
Health and Safety Measures in Cuba
14. Bring Your Own Medicines and Essential Health Products
While Cuba has a good reputation in the field of medicine, it suffers from severe shortages of basic medicines.
Thus, if you take prescription medications, it’s crucial to bring enough to last throughout your stay.
To avoid complications at customs, keep your medication in its original container and carry a paper and electronic copy of your prescriptions.
In addition to prescribed medication, consider bringing over-the-counter medicinal products such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, or antibiotics, as they may be hard to find.
Same with other health essentials like sunscreen, insect repellant, antiseptic wipes, and feminine hygiene products. These items are either very difficult to obtain or non-existent in Cuba.
Also, pack a basic first-aid kit that includes bandages, aspirin, anti-diarrhea meds, and bismuth.
15. The Importance of Travel & Medical Insurance
In line with the Cuban government’s regulations, it’s mandated for all international travelers to have travel insurance with medical cover before entering the country.
Proof of insurance coverage may be required upon arrival, failure of which may result in the need to purchase a policy from the Cuban insurance company Asistur at the airport.
Also, as your home insurance might not extend coverage to Cuba, ensure that you have a policy that particularly covers you for visits to Cuba.
Ensure it includes comprehensive overseas medical cost coverage, including medical evacuation, as these can skyrocket rapidly in emergency cases.
Travel insurance will also guard against trip cancellation, delays, lost luggage, and other contingencies, providing peace of mind throughout your journey.
Keep in mind, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel, a rule that applies to all irrespective of their health or fitness levels.
If you’re unsure which policy to choose for a reliable travel insurance provider, check out SafetyWing.
16. Food Safety Precautions to Ensure Healthy Travels
Traveling to Cuba opens a world of unique culinary delights to explore, but potential foodborne illnesses may turn your experience sour if you’re not careful.
Many illnesses, including travelers’ diarrhea, typhoid, and salmonellosis, can follow from consuming contaminated food or water.
Here are some tips to ensure a healthy trip:
- Practice safe food and water precautions: Opt for food that is properly cooked and still hot when served. Avoid undercooked or raw food, including fruits and vegetables, unless they’re peeled.
- Consume bottled water: Tap water might contain bacteria or viruses. So, it’s best to purchase bottled water when possible. Remember the rule: “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!”
- Avoid street food: Street food in Cuba might expose you to contaminated or undercooked foods, leading to diarrhea or other illnesses. If you do try street food, ensure it’s well-cooked and served hot.
- Pack rehydration salts: Travellers’ diarrhea is the most common sickness affecting travelers. The most important treatment is rehydration, so it’s wise to carry oral rehydration salts.
Remember, if you fall sick, seek medical assistance immediately.
Savoring the Cuban Cuisine
17. Dining at Paladares - Private Restaurants
Cuba’s restaurant scene has bloomed in the past few years, chiefly due to the emergence of paladares, privately owned restaurants often based in family homes.
These paladares offer a vibrant alternative to state-run restaurants, serving up not only authentic Cuban cuisine but also a unique travel experience.
Most paladares offer a menu range from homely, hearty Cuban dishes to gourmet meals creatively blending Cuban and international influences.
Here, you can expect to find plates loaded with chicken, pork, fresh seafood, and sometimes lobster, albeit overfishing concerns may deter some from ordering this option.
As beef is somewhat scarce and expensive in Cuba, it’s not commonly found in menus.
- One standout paladar is ‘El Cocinero‘, set in a converted cooking oil factory adjoining an art gallery.
- Another one to visit is ‘San Cristobal‘, where Obama famously dined during his visit.
- You should also plan to drop by ‘Dona Eutimia‘, tucked away in a tiny alley off the Plaza de la Cathedral.
Booking reservations weeks in advance is recommended as sought-after paladares fill up fast.
18. Tipping Etiquette at Cuban Restaurants
While tipping is not mandatory in Cuba, it’s a significant part of the local culture and can supplement the often low wages earned by servers.
If a service charge isn’t added in the restaurants in the cities, then a 10% gratuity is standard.
Yet the service quality in Cuba varies enormously, with the propensity to tip depending on personal experience and satisfaction with the service.
For excellent service, it’s common for tourists to tip more generously. It’s also frequent for Cubans to leave small loose change, demonstrating that tipping is not an obligatory practice restricted to visitors.
Interestingly, a significant element of Cuban culture associated with tipping is tipping for restrooms.
Most public restrooms have an attendant collecting small change to access the facility, generally a very tiny fee, yet a must-know part of Cuban travel etiquette.
Note, it’s also advisable always to carry coins to tip local staff like waiters and taxi drivers, as they often rely on tips to boost their income.
In the poorer country of Cuba, tips can stretch a long way in helping the people.
A piece of practical advice is to be mindful of the exchange rate before deciding on the tip. A seemingly small amount could convert to a generous tip in the local currency.
Remember, being generous while observing local customs associated with tipping can add on to your cultural immersion and travel experience in Cuba.
19. Street Foods – To Eat or Not to Eat?
Navigating Cuba’s street food scene can be exciting but challenging for two reasons – the risk of food-borne illnesses and the penchant for rich, fatty food.
That said, many street vendors offer scrumptious delights that can be savored if approached cautiously.
- Firstly, prioritize freshly cooked hot food over cold or reheated ones, which can harbor harmful bacteria. Steaming hot churros, empanadas, and pizzas are common street food options that fall into this category.
- Secondly, avoid raw seafood like ceviche, which might contain harmful bacteria or, in some cases, toxins. Some local fish from Cuba’s southern shore may have poisonous substances (siguato) as they feed on toxic sea vegetation.
- Thirdly, opt for recognized street vendors over unregulated ones to ensure the quality and handling of food.
- Finally, always wash hands before eating or carry hand sanitizers for times when water and soap aren’t readily available.
Having these measures in place will allow you to indulge in a slice of Cuban street food culture without compromising your health.
Responsible Budgeting and Spending
20. Managing your Daily Budget in Cuba
Cuba, for a visitor, doesn’t come cheap. From accommodations to transportation, prices often equal or exceed those in the US, Europe, or Canada.
This factor makes budgeting a crucial part of planning any trip to Cuba.
Based on research, a rule of thumb is to plan for around $150 – $300 per person per day. This figure, albeit generous, allows a cushion for unexpected expenses like last-minute tours or souvenirs.
It might seem a lot, but prices for foreigners are unusually high due to Cuba’s dual currency system.
This budget should ideally cover:
- Accommodation: Castro-style rentals or Casa Particulares can range from $40 to $100 per night for a private room.
- Food: Dining at Paladares, private home/restaurants can range from $7 to $15 per meal. Remember, meals at high-end restaurants or hotels can easily exceed $30.
- Transportation: Taxis in Havana start at $5, with a half-hour ride costing around $40. Most taxi drivers don’t own their cars; they rent them from the state, which makes cab fares rather pricey.
- Attractions: Most museums and attractions charge entrance fees of $10.
- Other: Emergency expenses, souvenirs, tips, or unexpected costs.
The key to managing your daily budget in Cuba is cash flow. Bring a mixture of small and large bill denominations for ease of spending and to tackle possible scarcity of change.
Remember, your bank cards might not work in Cuba. Thus, bring enough cash to last your entire trip, keeping safety measures in place.
21. Supporting Local Businesses Responsibly
One of the most fulfilling aspects of travel is the opportunity to support local businesses and contribute to the local economy.
In Cuba, this could mean choosing to stay in a ‘casa particular’ (private house) instead of a hotel, dining at paladares (private restaurants), or purchasing handcrafted souvenirs from local artisans.
Try to use local services as much as possible. For example, take dance classes, hire local guides for your excursions, or attend performances by local musicians and artists.
These interactions not only support local livelihoods but also foster cultural exchange and understanding.
Shopping in the Rodríguez Fuster Gallery, where you can buy unique, colorful art pieces, or visiting the San Jose crafts market for souvenirs helps support local craftspeople.
Remember to respect fair-trade practices by not engaging in bartering or haggling too forcefully, as it undermines the living wages of these entrepreneurs.
Ensuring your economic impact goes directly to the people who need it most contributes to responsible and sustainable tourism.
22. Avoid Illegitimate Vendors to Protect Your Finances
While supporting local businesses is encouraged, it’s critical to be aware of potential scams and illegitimate vendors.
Whether it’s currency exchange, souvenirs, or even cigars, engaging with unlicensed traders can lead to exorbitant prices, counterfeit goods, and other fraudulent activities.
The allure of getting a good deal on Cuban cigars might entice you, but purchasing from street vendors will likely result in buying counterfeit goods.
Instead, it’s recommended to buy cigars from official shops, such as Havana’s Casa del Habano, to ensure their authenticity, quality, and legal transaction.
When looking to exchange currency, avoid dealing with unlicensed traders on the streets. They may offer tempting rates but often result in forged notes scams.
Stick to official money exchange counters (CADECAs), hotels, or banks to avoid such risks. Remember to check the coins and notes handed back to you after every transaction.
Hiring services like tour guides and taxis should also be done through reputable sources.
Independent street vendors may offer low prices, but these services are often unregulated and can lead to overcharging or personal safety risks.
Being aware and cautious about illicit vendors is key to protecting your finances and ensuring a hassle-free travel experience in Cuba.
Additional Practical Tips
23. Coping with Limited Internet Access in Cuba
As a visitor, you should know that Internet access in Cuba is not as readily available or as speedy as you might be used to.
Cuba is among the world’s least connected countries, with limited places offering Internet connectivity, and even then, the available connection speed is usually slow.
State-run telecom company ETECSA offers Wi-Fi spot access via scratch-off cards that provide an hour of service each.
These cards cost about $1.50 each and can be bought at ETECSA offices or kiosks around cities and towns. But note that long queues and limited supply might make the process a bit tiresome.
Given the spotty Internet coverage, it’s recommended that you download map data, travel tips, and any crucial information beforehand. Offline apps like Maps.Me can be handy for navigating the place without Internet.
Consider your time in Cuba as an opportunity to unplug, enjoy the local culture, scenery, and embrace the ‘unwired’ experience.
Also, Cuban Internet does not allow the ability to connect to servers outside of the country, meaning Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and video calls will not work.
24. How to Get Wi-Fi in Cuba
Given the state-controlled internet landscape in Cuba, gaining online access may seem like a daunting task.
However, here are three primary options for connecting to the internet:
- Purchase a NAUTA Card: The most common option by which Cubans access the internet. Purchase a card from ETECSA outlets (the state-owned telecommunications provider) or in hotels, which allows access at one of the many Wi-Fi hotspots, typically located in public parks or plazas.
- Stay at a Tourist-Oriented Hotel: Some upscale hotels and resorts offer internet access and even sell internet cards to guests. However, prices can go up to 10 CUC for an hour’s use. Also, remember to check whether a hotel offers internet before making a reservation.
- Purchase International Roaming Data: This option is pricey but the most convenient. Major carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile offer roaming coverage in Cuba. Just be sure to turn on your roaming data and purchase a roaming package before arriving in Cuba.
To align with ETECSA’s pricing, rates have fallen to about $1 per hour. But keep in mind, the connectivity remains mostly slow and crowded.
Hair Tools Travel Bag
25. Dress Code and Packing Clothes for Cuban Weather
Wondering what to bring to Cuba? Dressing patterns in Cuba usually align with the weather, with lightweight, breathable clothes being ideal for Cuba’s tropical climate.
Here are some recommended clothes to pack for both men and women:
- Light summer dresses (for women) or T-shirts (for men)
- Skirts (for women) or Shorts (for men)
- Tank tops
- Sneakers & Walking sandals
This list keeps you confident and comfortable despite the hot and humid weather.
Also, keep in mind to pack an umbrella or light poncho for summer months, when brief but intense showers are common.
Cuban dress code is casual, but they value neatness, clean attire, and sophisticated style. So for evening activities, at restaurants or cultural venues, men should wear long trousers and shirts with sleeves, while women can opt for simple dresses.
Lastly, consider packing essential personal hygiene products, as they are challenging to find in Cuba. These essentials include sunscreen, deodorants, and feminine hygiene products.
To help on your next trip, here is my Complete Cuba Packing List.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cuba
Is travel to Cuba allowed right now?
Yes, Cuba is currently open for travel.
However, the entry requirements vary depending on your nationality, and it’s advisable to review the latest travel advisory.
For American citizens, direct tourism to Cuba is technically illegal, but travels can be legally done under any of the twelve categories authorized by the U.S. Department of Treasury, including family visits, journalistic activities, or religious activities.
Visitors should consult with their travel agencies or embassies and must present a Tourist Card and visa upon arrival in Cuba.
Last-minute changes are common, so always check the current situation before finalizing your travel.
What are some must-try Cuban dishes?
Cuban cuisine offers a blend of Spanish, African, and other Caribbean cuisines.
Here are some traditional dishes you should savor during your visit:
- Ropa Vieja: A shredded beef dish slow-cooked with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and a blend of spices.
- Tostones: Twice-fried plantain slices served as a snack or side dish.
- Arroz con Pollo: A one-pot chicken and rice dish typically cooked with beer, wine, or saffron.
- Lechon Asado: Traditional slow-roasted pork, usually marinated in a mixture known as Mojo Criollo.
- Moros y Cristianos: A comforting and filling dish of black beans and rice.
- Picadillo a la Habanera: A ground beef hash served with raisins and olives over white rice.
Cuban sandwiches and breakfasts featuring eggs, bread, tropical fruits, and aromatic coffee are also worth trying.
Don’t miss out on the chance to try these flavorsome dishes when you visit Cuba.
Can I use my credit card in Cuba?
Yes, you can use credit cards in Cuba, but it’s important to factor in certain limitations.
Most internationally-issued cards, except those linked to American banks, are accepted. However, due to sanctions, credit cards issued by US banks cannot be used.
Therefore, visitors who only have cards issued by American banks should bring enough cash for the entire trip.
Credit cards might attract commission fees and can be used mainly in state-run businesses, while only a few private businesses accept cards.
Note that due to an inflation crisis currently affecting Cuba, it’s advisable to bring a sizable amount of cash.
Also, keep Euros along with USD, as USD transactions incur a hefty 13% transaction fee.
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Conclusion: Cuba Travel Tips
In conclusion, Cuba is a captivating travel destination with its unique allure, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. Before visiting Cuba, it is essential to prepare and equip yourself with the right knowledge and resources.
Here are some key takeaways from our discussion on Cuba travel tips:
- Understand the local culture and embrace the traditions and social norms of the Cuban people.
- Check the visa requirements ahead of your trip and ensure you have the necessary documentation.
- Pack essentials for Cuba travel, including clothing suitable for the Cuban weather and any necessary medications and health products.
- Familiarize yourself with the local currency and know the best ways to exchange money in Cuba.
- Consider staying at locally-owned casas particulares to experience Cuban hospitality and support local entrepreneurs.
- Try must-try Cuban dishes like Ropa Vieja, Lechón Asado, and Cuban sandwiches to savor the flavors of the local cuisine.
Remember, each traveler’s experience in Cuba will be unique, and it’s important to approach your journey with an open mind and embrace the vibrant culture and beauty of the country.
By following these travel tips, you can make the most of your trip and create lasting memories in this enchanting Caribbean destination. Enjoy your time in Cuba!
And if I missed anything, let me know in the comments below!