When you are traveling to Cuba you can feel the culture; the music, the food, and the people! The experience can be other-worldly...if you prepare in advance and don’t let the little things ruin your adventure. Here is a list of 8 tips for traveling to Cuba to ensure an amazing trip:
Tip 1: Don’t run out of cash
Cuba is all in cash! You cannot use credit cards, debit cards or checks most anywhere you go. Additionally, ATMs do not accept US debit and credit cards and lines at the bank and western union can be huge. There is a Currency Exchange at the airport after you clear customs about 50 feet from the exit doors (in Dec 2016, we received 173 CUC for $200 USD). Make sure to plan accordingly and don’t be like us and left with only 1.30 CUC the night before our departure.
Expenses to plan for:
- Exit visa if not purchased during departure from the US – $25 per person
- Cab ride to Jose Marti Airport to/from Havana – 30 CUC each way
- Any meals, drinks, and souvenirs you want to purchase throughout your trip
Tip 2: Buy or bring a map
Your phone carrier will likely switch to Cubacel when you arrive and your US Carrier will charge an exorbitant amount of money per minute/text. The service will be available sparingly to make calls but you will not have data – hence the ever-so-dependable google maps will not be available. Prepare in advance and purchase a map before you depart or at one of the kiosks in Havana.
Tip 3: Wear comfortable walking shoes
There’s nothing like sore feet that can ruin a trip. Wear shoes that’ll withstand the cobblestone roads of the bustling city. It’s a great place explore on foot, with the right shoes, of course!
Tip 4: Pack your meds or first aid kit
There is no corner between happy and healthy in Cuba. Those prone to headaches, like me, may be at the mercy of a gift store within a major hotel to purchase grossly overpriced Cuban branded medicine.
Tip 5. Bring the juice
Your normal US power cords will not fit into the standard Cuban outlet! I recommend the following power converter/adaptor which has been extremely useful on our international trips to the UK, Iceland and now Cuba.
Tip 6: Stay hydrated
Even in the middle of December, Havana temperatures soared to a high of 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the heat with several hours of walking a day and you’re likely to go through a few shirts, so keeping hydrated is a must. (Hydration does not mean the delicious Cuban coffee you can get at every corner!) You can buy bottled water for around 1 CUC at any store or restaurant. If you are checking your bag in at the airport, it wouldn’t hurt to add a few water bottles of your own.
Tip 7: Pack Bathroom Essentials
If there’s one thing I learned from Cuba, it is that we take basic toiletries for granted. We learned the hard way that if you stay in an Airbnb, you may not be provided with basic toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash…etc (as you would in the US or Europe). Luckily, toilet paper was provided by our host. However, if you go out to public restrooms, it is NOT always available. As you explore the city, make sure to bring toilet paper, body wipes, and sanitizer with you.
Tip 8: Helping Humanity
Though we may share a similar skin color as the Cubans, we were spotted as a tourist from miles away. The locals and the homeless were not shy to approach and plead for basic toiletries such as soap and shampoo. I wish someone had told us to bring some extras to give to anyone that was in need.