Cuba's Tips and Tricks: Before you go!
Cuba is unlike any country I have ever visited & there are a number of things I wish I would have known before visiting... Some of the important items are listed below!
- Bring Euros instead of American dollars - You will be charged an extra 13% exchange rate if you bring American dollars. Save yourself the money and bring euros with you!
- Tourist card - You can fly directly from the states, but the tourist card is $100 at the booth by the gate or $110 if you buy it online. If you fly from Mexico it is only $20. Be sure to get one before you go or you will not be let in to the country. (I heard if you fly Southwest you get it for $50, but there are no direct flights offered from LAX to Havana.)
- Affidavit (general license) - Flights out of the USA require you to have a general license to visit Cuba. Educational - people to people is the most expansive general license allowing people to learn more about the Cuban culture by speaking to locals & experience daily life in Cuba.
- Return Flight - You will not be allowed into the country if you do not have a return flight home. They will ask you when you enter the country to show proof of a flight out.
- Book accommodation for Havana & other areas in Cuba during high season (October-January) - Havana is a big bustling city. If you plan to explore the area I recommend booking something on Airbnb or Hostelworld because places in Havana do fill up fast even in low season. During low season in the other areas of Cuba, such as Vinales and Trinidad, it is not a problem to just show up and knock on all doors with a blue anchor to see if they have any beds available. The blue anchor signifies a casa particular, families that house visitors for a small fee. You can find entire homes, apartments or just a single bedroom offered by casas around Cuba. Average 15 CUC per night.
- Bring snacks - The food in Cuba is nothing to write home about and many a times you will find restaurants are out of what you want to order. It's not a bad idea to pack a backpack full of snacks to eat on the go or if you get in a bind. I wish I had brought more myself.
- Get breakfast or dinner at your casa particular - The best meals I had in Cuba were prepared by the owner of the casas. They are a bit more expensive, but you'll get so much food and its going to be the most delicious meal you'll find.
- Bring a lock - Many accommodations in Cuba provide lockers, but you need your own key lock. Cuba is one of the safest countries I have visited, but you can never be too careful!
- Book your buses before your get there or you can take taxi collectivos when you get down there - Viazul.com is where you can book a bus in advance but it is more expensive online then it is in person... Be aware the buses do take a lot longer for only a small savings. The taxi collectivos can be booked on the street just be sure you do your research on how far and long it will take because they will try to charge you more than the average. Below the are the prices & times I was able to barter down to for taxi collectivos:
- Havana to Vinales - 20 CUC per person - 4 hours
- Vinales to Varadero - 30 CUC per person - 5-6 hours
- Varadero to Trinidad - 25 CUC per person - 5 hours
- Trinidad to Cinfuegos - 6 CUC per person - 1.5 hours
- Cinfuegos to Havana - 25 CUC per person - 3 hours
- Barter for everything - The average monthly wage in Cuba is 30 CUC. You should be paying no more than $15 per night for a casa particular.
- Wifi card - You can buy one hour and five hour cards to be used in public parks or areas around Cuba. Just look for an area where there is a bunch of locals on their phone. Can be purchased at Museo de Telecommunications in Havana or at any Ectesca store - 5 hours is 7.50 CUC
- Cuba is hot! You will sweat a lot so pack accordingly!
1 CUC = 1 Euro (as of June 2017)
I hope you like dancing cause you'll be doing a lot of it! Viva Cuba!