Tips for First Time Travel to Cuba

Are you thinking about travel to Cuba? I never thought I would be able to go as an American, and here I am back from our trip with my perception completely shifted.

Our taxi driver told us how it’s impossible for Cuban citizens to even leave their country because their government won’t allow it, and there I once was thinking about my limitations for being unable to visit just one. Imagine not being able to travel to any?!

Time traveling!

Tips Before You Go:

  1. ATMs, credit, and debit cards do NOT work so you have to bring all cash for your entire trip! Budget accordingly.
  2. There are 2 currencies in Cuba: Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourism and international trade, and Cuban Peso aka Moneda Nacional (CUP). The CUC is pegged to the dollar, while 1 CUC = 25 CUP.
  3. Exchange USD to CAD or EUR before your trip. There is a 10% penalty for exchanging USD to local currency CUC, so do your best to avoid it. I recommend converting to CAD because their rate is slightly better. Bring some USD just for backup, even if you don’t end up exchanging it you can just bring it back to the US without having to convert again.
  4. Bring toilet paper! Or portable Kleenex tissue packs like I did, fits conveniently in your purse. Many public areas will not have toilet paper available!
  5. Download the app maps.me and download Cuba’s offline map. Google maps does not work in Cuba, but this app does! It is a lifesaver when trying to find museums, restaurants, attractions etc. I suggest you save and pin all locations before leaving the country.
  6. Do not freak out if you’re an American going through immigration. There were no questions asked in and out of the country!
  7. Haggle, haggle, haggle! We originally were quoted 120 CUC for an air-conditioned taxi from Havana to Varadero, but brought that down to 80 CUC. A taxi from Havana airport to Old Havana should be no more than 30 CUC.
  8. Cuba has no public wi-fi due to their lack of infrastructure and technology. To get an idea of what connecting to the internet is like, read this.

 

We spent the first half of our trip in Havana:

Salsa dancing,

1, 2, 3… 5, 6, 7

Visiting Fusterlandia, an artist’s imaginative playground,

Creativity!

Eating at the cutest restaurants,

Cuban birthday dinner!

Exploring the colorful streets,

Our AirBnb

On our way to Varadero, we stopped at Penon de Fraile for the best piña coladas in Cuba!

Mi favorito!

Water sports for Okay’s birthday in Varadero.

We love being active!

 

What I Wish We Had Known:

  1. If I were to adjust this trip, I would have booked a one way flight from NYC into Havana, and our returning flight out of Varadero. There is an airport closeby, and you save yourself not only money but also 2.5 hours!
    See: All-Inclusive Resorts in Varadero
  2. Wear sunscreen even when you’re not at the beach and wear a hat, or else you’re going to get some very unattractive tan lines!
  3. Fabrica de Arte Cubano is only open Thursdays-Sundays from 8pm-3am. Check the hours of all your attractions before going!

First time in Cuba travel tips. What to know, where to stay in Havana and Varadero, what to do, and what I wish I knew earlier

I would strongly recommend Cuba to any American (or anyone else!) thinking about going, and make it your next trip. Our diplomatic ties are clearly strained, and I am honestly not hopeful that it will get better. Don’t miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime!

 

 

 

 



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