Important information to plan your trip to Cuba:
When should I visit Cuba?
Cuba’s climate can be enjoyed year round. Although, you might want to avoid visiting Cuba during the summer when it is hot and rainy and instead visit Cuba between November and March.
Do I need a Travel and Medical Insurance to travel to Cuba?
It is required by Cuban law to have a medical and travel insurance as well as a tourist card and a round trip ticket to entry the country. Most flights and tours to Cuba already include these insurance in the ticket price, but it is good to verify in advance.
Is Cuba safe?
YES! We have been robbed several times including in Ecuador and Sweden, so for us to feel comfortable in a place means a lot. In Cuba it honestly surprised us how safe we felt.
Crime rates are low and Cubans will remind you of that every single day as they are proud of that fact. Locals are super friendly and will come and try to talk to you on the streets. It is normal for them so do not be afraid just careful.
The Most 7 Useful Travel Tips To Visit Cuba
Cuba has become one of our favorite places in Latin America, as one of the few remaining communist countries in the world. It is a total different experience than most destinations making it a unique and interesting place.
Keep in mind that it is quite new that Cubans can run their own business and have in home access to the internet. Even though it is a magical place you can find yourself in frustrating situations, so just go with the flow and enjoy Cuba.
We hope these seven travel tips for Cuba help you enjoy this wonderful country and make for a fantastic trip.
1. Purchase a Cuban Tourist Card
Almost anyone traveling to Cuba needs a Cuba Tourist Card. It is a visa that allows you to be in the country for up to 30 days. Depending where you are coming from you can purchase this tourist card at a tour agency, Cuban Consulate, online or at the departure airport through your airline. If you come from the United States you will need a special Cuban Tourist Card that can only be bought in the US.
2. Contact the Casa Particulares on your own
Even though we a frequent users of online accommodation websites like Hotels.com and Booking.com, it is best to contact the Cuban hotel you want to stay directly to get the best rate possible and also help the local family get more of money from of your stay. To be honest, we paid almost $20 USD more per night just because we used Booking.com instead of booking directly.
We recommend to stay in Casas Particulares, which are privately owned Cuban guesthouses, as all the hotels are run by the government directly or indirectly. Normally it is a just a room in someone’s house, which was a highlight of our trip to talk to locals, enjoy the friendly hospitality and ask all the questions we had about Cuba.
Make sure to print your reservations in advance as internet access in Cuba is not reliable. Another important thing to keep in mind is that because of the internet restrictions you might be unable to book accommodations online while in Cuba.
3. Arrange your transportation before hand
Renting a car in Cuba is not the best option as it is quite expensive. There are different options for you to travel across Cuba including shared taxis, busses and private taxis. We opted for the bus as it is the cheapest way and also we only heard good things about this form of transportation.
Viazul is the government run bus company for foreigners. They have an extensive and convenient network across the island of Cuba. We do suggest you book your ticket in advance as the buses almost always fully booked.
4. Download Google Maps offline of each Cuban city
Getting on the plane in Fort Lauderdale, we remembered that our frequent usage of Google Maps will be impacted by limited internet access in Cuba. It really helped me navigate Havana and Trinidad. If you save the cities on Google Maps on your phone you will be able to find any place in Havana or the rest of Cuba without internet access.
If you want to save our walking maps click on the star to save them to your device. Once you have the map on screen, head to settings > offline maps > custom maps to save the data to your phone.
The people in Cuba are super friendly and always ready to help but somehow when asking for directions, you will find yourself with different answers from every person you ask, making it easier to get lost!
5. Cuba is a Cash Only Economy
It is super important to understand that Cuba is not like most countries you will visit. In Cuba you have to use cash as there are only few places that accept credit cards. Almost no restaurants, hotels, taxis or tour operators accept credit or debit cards. Even if credit cards are accepted, it is mostly just Visa as there are some issues with MasterCard.
Cuba has two currencies; the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) which is used mostly by tourists and the CUP (Cuban National Peso) used by locals. The CUC is fixed 1 to 1 with the USD and the CUP which equals 1 CUC to 25 CUP.
Even though the CUC is fixed to the USD, it is best to bring and exchange Euros to avoid a 10% penalty surcharge with USD. You can exchange currencies at the banks, CADECA (government currency exchange centers) and large hotels. If you have a debit card from anywhere besides US you can use an ATM to withdraw money and only pay a 3% fee.
If you are coming from the US or have an US card please be aware that there is nowhere in Cuba that you will be able to use your credit card due to embargo regulations.
6. Double Check you Packed Everything for Cuba
Cuba is the only communist country in the Americas, where you you are less likely to find anything you might have left at home. Even if you can find what you are looking for it might be extremely expensive. Bring all the essentials you might need with you – toiletries, sun block, snacks, insect repellent, camera cards etc – as finding these items will be impossible of the major cities.
7. Buy Internet Cards for 1 CUC
Internet in Cuba is not cheap but it is doable! We recommend to buy as many internet access cards as possible when you find someone who sells them for 1 CUC, otherwise you will end up paying 2 or 3 CUC per card. The internet only recently came to Cuba and the government has a complete control over.
ETECSA is the state-run monopoly providing internet. To access the internet, you need to buy single use ETECSA cards. Each cards is good for 1 hour of internet connection for CUC 1. You can buy the cards from hotels, ETECSA offices or people on the streets.
To access the internet you need to go to a place that has WiFi and then scratch off and enter the username and password to connect.