Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Cuba

March 30, 2018 Havana, Cuba

Below I have included the video I made going in depth on all of my little tips and "must know" info. before visiting Cuba, so be sure to give that a look! In this post, I will just leave some bullet points regarding the general topics I cover in the video, without going into too much detail, to keep things nice and concise. 


1. Money

- there are 2 forms of currency in Cuba: CUC & CUP
- CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) the currency used by tourists
- CUP (Cuban Peso) national currency of the island, used by Cubans
- money can only be exchanged for CUC once in Cuba, your local banks/currency exchange booths will not be able to do it
- if converting USD to CUC, there is a 10% penalty tax (check out my video to see how I bypassed this!), but when changing CUC back to USD, there is no penalty
- 1 CUC = 1 USD
- 1 CUC = approx. 25.5 CUP (this is constantly fluctuating


- State taxis' prices are regulated by government w/ their rates being between 25-30 CUC (a trip should not exceed 30 CUC)
- private taxis or tourist hired vehicles are allowed to charge whatever they like
- know what kind of taxi you are getting into by looking at the letter on number/license plates 
- main ones to note: P (private owned), B (government owned), T (tourist hired),  K (foreign owned)
- always try to get a rate before getting in the taxi, most will overcharge so get an idea of the cost to travel to your destination so you don't get ripped off
- unless you have a very long drive ahead, most regular taxis should cost between 5-10 CUC


- you can get extremely sick from the tap water, take imodium just incase because the water will give you diarrhea 
- purchasing a case or 5L jug of water can be difficult (you will not find them in grocery stores), I bought mine from a restaurant/bar (5 CUC for two 5L jugs)
- be careful of local state owned bars/restaurants because they may be using tap water to make ice cubes which can also make up very ill!


- as a tourist, you should support Paladares (private owned businesses/restaurants) not only to support the Cuban people, but they are typically much more sanitary and serve better food than state owned spots
- you won't see much chicken or beef on most menus & many times they may be out of quite a few dishes on the menu
- food shortages are a real and quite frequent thing in Cuba & even though they are surrounded by water, there is not an abundance of seafood available to the public (the state is extremely strict about allowing frequent fishing out of fear that people will flee the island, literally.)
- you will have some of the best mojitos while in Cuba, but have a taste of all of their national drinks while you're there!
- food is also not too costly for tourists: most tapas are about 2-5 CUC, with main dishes in most places being less than 12 CUC (dishes can get much more expensive at "fancier" paladares, but I will save that for another post)
- the cheapest drink I had cost 2.50 CUC (a mojito), but every other place charged more for the same drink
- tip minimum 10% if gratuity not included


- if you can, maybe avoid using public restrooms, most are pretty unsanitary
- most toilets have seats & lids removed, so be prepared to squat
- take your own roll of toilet paper and hand sanitizer & keep it handy when you're out & about, most restrooms do not provide toilet paper or soap to wash hands
- they do not flush toilet paper because it can clog the toilet, in turn causing water to be cut, instead dispose of your tissue in a bin (typically right in front of the toilet)
- if there is a restroom attendant handing out tissue before you enter, they typically charge 25-30 cents, or they simply expect a little tip (there may even be a tray with toilet paper left outside of the restroom, you can just leave some change as a tip if you took any tissue)

These puppies were being sold for 40 CUC each. That literally made me gag.


- Yes. 
- on my trip, the only 2 people who spoke any English were the 1 guide I had for a tour & my host who I only saw once 
- understanding & speaking a little Spanish will be a great help, even if you just have to memorize a couple key phrases before your trip
- being able to communicate w/ locals is extremely important
- it also benefits you when you understand what is being said, so that you don't get scammed the entirety of your trip (locals thought I was Cuban, which played in my favour & I did not let anyone 'bust out' ridiculous prices on me because I knew better & communicated that clearly


- if you have an international phone plan, double check w/ your provider that there is coverage while in Cuba
- you can purchase a Cuban sim card to be able to make calls while on the island
- wifi is limited to hot spots & hotels: locate one relative to your location
- you need to purchase ETECSA cards which give you internet access for 1hr at a time (most cost 2-3 CUC, but I wouldn't pay more than 2 for it)
- download or print maps & directions or utilise offline apps to navigate (I have no app recommendations because I didn't use one)
- general layout of cities are pretty straight forward: horizontally, street names are numbers (ie. Calle 23, Calle 27, Calle 21), vertically, street names are letters (ie. Calle N, Calle M) with everything in numerical & alphabetical order!


- avoid hotel shops, they are overpriced
- walk around your area or ask locals what is nearest to you (I went to the corner of Calle 21 y L)
- do not buy the first thing you see, find best deal before spending ANY money
- Haggle. I negotiated everything & paid very little per item, sometimes bundling items & letting them know what I was willing to spend (so I pretty much gave them MY price & ignored whatever nonsense price they were trying to tell me. Do not get taken advantage of.


- Cuba is pretty safe & I had 0 problems during my stay
- you get scammed before you would get mugged, so do not worry
- many locals sit outside their home at night & talk, smoke, this is normal: don't be alarmed
- you only get bothered by taxi drivers asking you if you need a ride, but that's about it
- streets running through neighbourhoods & not main roads are poorly lit, so avoid those if weary about walking down them at night


- Sunblock. And reapply every 2 hrs.
- pack hats, comfortable shoes & sunglasses
- light breathable clothing is ideal
- double check the predicted weather during the time frame of your stay (incase of expected rain or colder temperatures)
- if near the ocean, take extra hair & skincare products to nourish & rehydrate (sea breeze can be a b****)


- almost everyone smokes cigarettes (locals & tourists) there is no escaping the smoke
- get Visa in order a good bit in advance incase of any hiccups
- pack bug spray (I didn't & didn't even need it, but that is relative to location)
- double check that power outlets where you will be staying are compatible with your plugs (mainly applies to non-US travelers)
- double check you will be provided with towels & a decent toilet during your stay (many homes also have the seat & lid removed from the toilet, this wasn't the case for me, but it is very common)
- verify there is a Safe to store your personal belongings while out (especially if you are traveling with lots of valuables & large sums of cash)
- if preferred, double check your room will have air conditioning 
- if at all possible, eliminate the need to take a suitcase & fit everything you need in your carryon & backpack (checked luggage gets lost often & no one in Cuba is in any rush to get your stuff back to you)

Well that just about wraps things up! I hope you guys found this post helpful. If there is anything I failed to mention or if you have any further questions that I didn't already answer in this post or my video, feel free to ask. Also, don't hesitate to share your own tips and things you've learned or discovered from your travels to the island! 


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


© Hannah Ra. Design by Hannah Ra | Coded by FCD.