The country that wears vibrant colors, smells like history and tastes like a fresh cigar. That’s Cuba!
It has everything to make you fall in love. The people, the culture and the cars! Cuba simply takes you to a different time in a modern life.
This beautiful island is located in the Caribbean Sea, close to the U.S and Mexico. We found flying from Cancun, Mx the easiest and fastest way to get there, we didn’t research enough about the island though. So we learnt a few things along the way.
Cuban pesos. Cubans have two types of currency: COP and CUC. The only difference between them is that one is exclusively for locals and the other one for tourists.
Take cash with you. Towns usually have ATM’s, though some smaller places like Viñales don’t. Some foreign debit/credit cards are not accepted.
Call your bank. Most banks will notice your card is been used in a foreign country and will try to protect your personal account by blocking it. Make sure you tell them about your travel plans.
Avoid US dollars. US Dollars are actually penalty fined 10% of the total amount. I don’t think anyone wants to receive less money even if they are not travelling on a budget. Also most ATM’s do not accept american credit cards.
Take Mexican pesos, GBP Sterling or Euros. These get the best exchange rate
Where to get money. Eventhough ATM’s charge a fee to foreign cards, they usually have a beter rate than a bureau de change.
You might need a visa. Most of the countries in The Americas and Europe require a visa to travel to Cuba, and you can buy it at the front desk of the airport from which you are departing.
In this link you can check which countries need visa for Cuba.
No wifi. Cuba is an island where the wifi is not free like the rest of the world. Internet in Cuba isn’t available everywhere. It’s possible to find wifi in some spots of the island, like main squares, hotels and some private houses.
Let someone know you are travelling Cuba. When and for how long you are planning to stay. It could be hard to stay in touch but it’s also a refreshing experience.
You’ll feel lost and will get lost. If you are not a very ask-for-directions-type person I recommend to bring a map of the country with you. This way you can familiarise yourself and navigate the island.
Offline maps. No wifi, no problem. Offline maps like Pocket Maps Lite, Galileo offline Travel and Maps.me will do the work for you.
Print your travel documentation. As it might be a little difficult to access tech services on the island, a good tip is to take copies of your personal travel documents such as passport, ID, flights and tours itinerary.
Luggage reclaim will take hours. If you can, travel light or at least pack your hand luggage under the weight limit, it’s just not worth waiting for a couple of hours at baggage collection.
Remember where you are staying. Hotel or casa particular? Knowing the direction and area will speed your entry process to the island and help greatly with cab rides etc…
Take a tour. This island is full of beautiful old cars but with so much history. Try both and let the locals do the rest. Ask for the prices and negotiate them. Try to include the places you’d like to visit.
Book your tours in advance. It could be hard to contact a tour agency once you arrive to Cuba. Buy them online, compare prices, get the best deal.
Stay with locals. It is an experience you must live. Definitely the best decision we made. We had a private room w/ bathroom, shared kitchen, a free fresh homemade espresso every morning and a free guided tour courtesy of our host.
Do not buy cigars on the steets. Its not just cigar piracy, but the cigars being sold on the streets are not as high quality as original ones. Try a local store selling brands such as: Montecristo No 2, Cohiba Behike and Romeo y Julieta Churchill.
La fiesta. Mojitos, Salsa, Huaracha, Repeat. Can’t miss any of these.
Learn Salsa. From children to the very old, everyone in Cuba knows how to dance salsa. It is in their blood. Take some lessons while you are on the island, you will definitely enjoy it.
Enjoy the Cuban life. ¡Que viva la Cuba libre!