If you are coming to Cuba and you have only a few days, you might need some help to figure out what to do and where to go. Follow our Cuba Travel Tips to get the most out of your trip.
Cuba has a very long history and everywhere you go, everywhere you look, you will see tributes to Che Guevara, Hugo Chavez, Jose Marti and Cienfuegos as well as quotes and messages from Fidel Castro and his brother Raul. From billboards with photos of Castro with Fidel and the words “Our best friend” to ones saying “thank you Che for your example”. You will also see messages painted on walls such as “socialism is the only way”. In this post Cuba Travel Tips we give you some essential information to be prepared.
Cuba relies heavily on tourism and it is its number 1 source of income. It is blessed with postcard white sandy beaches, blue calm seas and let´s not forget the sun, salsa, rum and cigars!
Having travelled to Cuba and spoken with other travellers, here is our list of Cuba Travel Tips and the places we recommend:
- Cayo Largo (You have to fly from Havana or Varadero to get here)
- Santiago de Cuba
- Santa Clara
- Playa Larga and Playa Giron
- Viñales (The tobacco area)
Currency & Banks
There are 2 currencies in Cuba so as part of our Cuba travel tips, we strongly recommend becoming familiar with these before arriving here.
- The national currency is called CUP (Cuban Peso) and it’s used by locals.
- CUC is the Cuban convertible and is the currency they apply to foreigners.
The currencies are very similar so it’s easy to get fooled. For example, a product has a price of $2 (remember this could be 2CUP or 2CUC. A local may pay 2CUP for it and as a foreigner you will be charged 2CUC – that is 4 times more than the local paid. This happens a lot.
You will only be able to withdraw CUC from your bank account. The exchange rate is 1 CUC = 1 US DOLLAR. There is also another thing to consider, each time that you withdraw money from the ATM, you will be charged 3USD for every 100 CUC.
The main cities will have a few ATMs, but they will not be as widespread as you are used to. Be sure to have enough cash just in case you can´t find a bank.
Consider exchanging some CUC to CUP to use in local establishments.
Websites for accommodation
When it comes to finding a place to stay, it is not as easy as heading to Booking.com or Hostelworld etc. These websites do not host any Cuban properties as they are based in America. One of our Cuba travel tips when it comes to finding a place to sleep are to either arrive and look for accommodation yourself by going door to door or by asking a tour agency to book for you. However, if you are used to planning your own trips and want to be organized before you leave home, check out the below websites.
Websites for transportation
Cuba is a big island and there is a lot to explore. There are only a few bus companies that move around the island. We found Viazul the best. Alternatively, why not rent a car and follow your own timetable!
- Viazul. The main bus company in cuba http://www.viazul.com/
- Transtur. Rent a car and travel on your own. http://www.transtur.cu/
Be sure to take something warm for the bus as the A/C can be quite high.
As part of our Cuba travel tips, we suggest reserving your bus tickets at the terminal the day before or from a tour agency to secure your place. It is not essential but will be less stress!
Tips for Internet
The only company on the island offering internet services is ETECSA – the national telco company. You will need to go to an ETECSA shop to buy an internet card, or you can suss out who is selling these on the street. On the card you will see ETECSA on one side, and on the other side you will have a password. There are only few places with internet on the island.
- If you are in Havana you can go to Avenida Italia between Calle San Rafael and Calle San Miguel. Read more about this in our Havana Post.
- If you are in Trinidad you can go to Parque Cespedes
- If you are in Varadero you can go to Centro Commercial Hicacos in Calle 44
One of the most important Cuba travel tips is sorting out a visa. Anyone wishing to enter Cuba, be sure and research the Visa requirements for your country. See the below link for all you need to know.
We purchased our Visas at the airport in Cancun, Mexico for 580 MXN pesos for both.
Always ask for a price first
This is one of our Cuba travel tips that will save you some money Always enquire and be sure about prices before you agree, for taxis, accommodation etc, if not you will most certainly be charged more than you should be.
Fresh fruit and veg
We were shocked upon arrival in Havana at the lack of fresh fruit and veg available. Never have we craved an apple or a banana so much. Be sure to find out what days the local markets are open and stock up on your nutrients!
Just like the fruit and veg, we found it almost impossible to find a bottle of water in Havana. Some shops simply didn’t have any, other shopkeepers keep it hidden and will decide whether or not to give it to you.
Medication and Hygiene
For all the girls, this is another essential on our list of Cuba travel tips. If you will have your period while in Cuba then be prepared and bring some tampons and sanitary supplies with you as you will not find anything in the supermarket and will have to settle for the one type of sanitary towels from the pharmacy which are outdated and you will not be able to purchase tampons anywhere on the island.
Regarding medications, the pharmacies in Cuba are not well stocked. The owner of a Casa Particulare that we stayed at, with chronic back pain was unable to get her hands on painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication from the pharmacies and ended up having to call neighbours and friends to no avail. Don’t get caught with this and stock up on some essentials.
Be aware that the Cuban people are the friendliest people we have met. They will stop you on the street to shake your hand and ask where you are from. At first, we were sceptical about the friendliness but it soon became endearing and we were happy to stop and chat!
Last but not least on our list of Cuba travel tips is this: Cuba doesn’t have to break the bank, for our 9 nights/10 days in Cuba, see our cost breakdown below. It includes 2 return flights from Cancun to Havana and the Visa to enter Cuba. It works out at about 568 euro each. Not bad!
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The best website to find all the information you need about Cuba is definitely this one so be sure to have a look for more Cuba travel tips: http://www.cubaabsolutely.com/index.php and if you need anymore information on Cuba or want to enquire about more Cuba travel tips, be sure to contact us via the Contact us page, or find us on social media.