Cuba is a hot topic right now in the world of travelers, because it just opened up to us. In that way, it’s very new and we are all figuring it out. Here’s my experience on the things you should know before you go to Cuba and a bit about my own experience. Stay tuned for more posts this week about the art, food, culture there and top places to visit when in Cuba.
Anytime you visit a new place, there’s always a question about what you will need to do to be prepared for that specific place. Much of the fun in traveling to new places is that you don’t know quite what to expect, however, there are certain things you should know before you go to Cuba to ensure you have the best experience.
- The Money Question
Travel expenses are something we must all take into consideration when traveling. No one wants to arrive at their destination and be surprised about the cost or find out they got gypped. The Cuban currency is the Cuban peso, and the current exchange rate is $1 CUC to $1 USD. Yup, a dollar in Cuba is the equivalent to USD. Make sure you bring enough cash, (more than you think you will need) because getting cash in Cuba is quite a challenge. The last thing you want is for someone back home have to wire you money. Let’s save that time for extra mojito’s on the beach.
Make sure you bring enough cash, (more than you think you will need) because getting cash in Cuba is quite a challenge. The last thing you want is for someone back home have to wire you money. Let’s save that time for extra mojito’s on the beach.
2. Getting There
When you get to Cuba, you need to check in in person and purchase a Visa, which is $30, and when you go through customs be sure that they stamp your visa, not your passport.
3. Keeping Connected
WiFi cards will be your best bet for keeping connected online. WiFi cards can be purchased for cheapest at an “Etecsa”, but hotels also have them for a few pesos more. The “Etecsa” in Old Havana often has long lines and sold out by noon, so try to cruise over early to avoid a headache.
- Being Safe
Because Cuba just opened up, the safety question is also a hot topic. However, my friend and I (2 girls) went around at 11pm and didn’t’ feel unsafe at all. Although I’m not recommending you do the same thing, per sè, just know that traveling to Cuba is just like any country foreign to you; pay attention, be respectful and smart and keep your surroundings known.
4. Getting Around
Walking is always the best way to get the full experience, you never know what you might stumble into on your way. However, when you need to get someplace more quickly, Taxis are the most popular option. The standard fare from the airport to downtown is $20. Try to haggle on pricing before agreeing, because when you have long taxi lines you can usually get a cheaper fare if you try. Not to mention, the cars in Cuba are mainly vintage, so it can be a fun experience to cruise around in them.
- Where to Stay
I highly recommend staying at an Airbnb which is what I did. The hotels can be overpriced, and the Airbnb provides more accommodation, a more homey feel and can save you a lot of money.
Casa Particulars are similar to Airbnb, they are essentially the Cuban bed and breakfast, and they are also less expensive than most hotels.
- The People
Cubans are very friendly and were happy to help us around. Don’t be shy to asking the locals for recommendations, if you can. Cubans have a distinct culture, so try to embrace it. It is very similar to that of the Dominican Republic and the people enjoy a simple lifestyle with traditional food, art, and a rich history.