Cuba is a wonderful country, although a little more complex than others to travel. But that does not stop you from going to discover it, to enjoy it and to know its people who are very nice. And just as before traveling I read Cuba travel guide, blogs and received very useful tips from friends who had already gone; today it’s my turn to share all those practical tips based on the experience I had. I hope they serve you!
As everyone knows, not everyone can travel to Cuba yet, if you are an American, if Obama has gone to the island or if cruises are already arriving, it does not mean that you are fully allowed to travel. Although they are more flexible, you only have to see the requirements to travel and if you enter any of the allowed categories.
To enter, you have to buy a visa that costs 250 Mexican pesos – I give the example of Mexico, because we flew from Cancun -, they give you a paper that seals you at the entrance to the country and you have to keep that piece of paper because it is the one that They also seal at the exit of Cuba.
Where to change money
There are two types of currency, the CUP, which is the currency used by Cubans and the CUC, which is the convertible peso for tourists (when we went there was a parity of 1 CUC = 1 USD).
Upon arrival at the airport, you will need money; there is one of the official Cadeca exchange houses, which is the best option to change money. If you want to avoid doing the queue that will surely be very long, you can ask the taxi driver to take you to another Cadeca, they are everywhere.
You can also change hotels, but they do not have the best exchange rate. And never NEVER agree to change money with people on the street, you can touch a scammer.
Credit card, machines to withdraw money or carry cash
Preferably take cash and change money little by little. But there are machines to get money, only American cards do not work.
With credit cards it is the same, they do not accept cards in many places and in those that accept, you cannot pay with US cards. We only on this occasion, we prefer to carry cash.
There’s the Internet?
It will seem strange to see many people sitting outside the hotels or public squares with their phones and tablets to use the Internet. You can buy a card that costs around 2 CUC per hour and use it in hotels and/or places.
Stay at home or a hotel?
The experience at home is much closer, more beautiful, especially if you want to live more with the Cuban people. As for some years, it is already allowed that the citizens rented rooms, they have dedicated themselves to improve their houses, to condition well the rooms to be able to rent them.
Even if you stay in a house, you have your room with private bathroom and even air conditioning. They also know the importance of “being in the book”, as some of the Lonely Planet told me, and above all, they are very concerned to appear on Tripadvisor and have good reviews.
When a house is already full, because usually they only have 2 rooms to rent, the same owners of the houses help you get another one with acquaintances. Houses that have the same level of cleanliness and attention to the guest. I advise you before traveling find the houses and the comments on Tripadvisor and write an email to reserve. In case there is no availability, ask for another similar house.
And most importantly, if you stay in a house, you are directly helping the local economy, the economy of that family. Hotel or house? It is your choice.
There is everything. New taxis, which are vehicles that belong to the State (they are those that have a blue strip on the plates and the only ones that are really new). Then there are the old taxis, the classics of the photos that are good for the experience and for traveling at very short distances.
There are also old cars (not classic), but at least they have air conditioning. These are the collective taxis that are usually used for longer distances.
There are also modern buses such as Víazul and Transgaviota, which are air-conditioned and where you can comfortably travel between cities. If you stay in a hotel, you can use the Transtur line.
We try to make reservations online days before traveling, in the Víazul company, but they only leave a small percentage of seats for Internet reservations, so we could not. Thanks to the advice of a friend and also following the advice in the houses, they told us that it was better to take a collective taxi because it was a little faster.
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not that collective taxis are super comfortable, but I found it more interesting to travel like this because you talk to the driver and share experiences with other travelers. Also, as with the houses, you are supporting the family economy.
You can rent a car, but it is much more expensive and according to other travelers, the rental process is a nightmare.
To tour Havana, there are modern tour buses, tour in precious old cars, old and new taxis, taxis, buses, Cocotaxi, and bicycle. Of everything!
What month is best to travel
Tips for girls … Try to travel when you do NOT have your period. Why do I write about this? First of all, because it is something natural and I have to say that it must be very difficult to travel those days. You cannot put paper in the toilets, it’s all a mini trash can; There are lovely activities like horse riding, which must be super uncomfortable in those days. And it’s hot and humid that you die.
I also share this comment, based on what other travelers – of different ages and nationalities – told me. They felt very annoyed all the time with the harassment of men. Not that it was dangerous; simply that it was an annoyance.
Is it a type of trip for any traveler?
No. It is a trip where you will not have all the comforts that you may be used to. And in which maybe, if you do not speak Spanish or do not read before traveling, you will not understand the reasons for many things that seem so different to you. I think it’s a country that is even more enjoyable if you speak the same language.
For example, I saw a group of tourists complaining about everything and saying that they had been shocked by Cuba because it was not as they thought it was, they spoke to a Cuban family – quite unpleasant and rude tourists. On another occasion, a couple was upset by a blackout that occurred in the city, obviously not the fault of the owners of the house. Others did not understand why they did not put more toilet paper in the bathrooms.
Before traveling you have to understand that it is a beautiful country, but also with many shortcomings. That the owners of the houses really go out of their way to serve you well and they really do badly when they get a bad review for something that is not in their hands.
If you are planning to travel to Cuba, do it with an open mind, read about the country before traveling and talk with the people, which is the most beautiful experience you will ever have.