Before you arrive:
Activities: American credit cards don’t work in Cuba so the more things you can pay for in advance the better. I recommend booking excursions directly with the Cuban people prior to going, I used Airbnb to book a walking tour with pictures and a day-long trip to the mountains. The walking tour was a serious disappointment (more on that in my travel diary recap) but the all-day trip to the mountains was amazing. Outside of Airbnb I also looked at Travel Advisor. Whichever way you decide to book your activities be sure to read a lot of reviews and try to find someone with a good track record.
Visa: Prior to coming to Cuba you will need a travel visa. There is an option to get your visa ahead of time but I don’t recommend it. It cost $100 to have the Visa sent by mail, however, it only cost $50 to pick it up at the airport. The in airport process is extremely quick and easy. For most people, the “Support for the Cuban People” will be your reason for the visit. This is the easiest option to travel under and does not require you to go with a tour agency which is why it may be a better option than the “People to People Exchange”.
Money: Before you leave for Cuba you should take out cash and convert it to Euros or Canadian dollars. Prior to even going to the airport go to a Western Union or bank and convert your cash. Once you get to Cuba you will be able to convert that into the local currency for tourist, the CUC.
- Apps: Last but not least, there are a few apps that work without wifi that are great to have. Prior to arriving download the Maps.me app and then make sure to download the offline map of Cuba. This app was amazing in Cuba because you can use it without internet excess. The second app I would download is the Google Translate app. Before you leave for Cuba download the offline version of Spanish.
While in Cuba:
- Eating and Drinking: The food prices ranged from $8-15 CUC everywhere we went to eat. The cheapest was $8 CUC at Paladar Dona Eutimia which also happened to be probably the best meal. Paladar is the name for any privately owned restaurant (so make sure you are going to the right one!) This restaurant is located near Cathedral square and is a popular place for tourist. It is a popular restaurant with tourist so you should make a reservation in advance. Drinks were also very reasonably priced, especially the “Classic Cuban Cocktails” which are Mojitos, Cuba Libre, and Ron Collins. At most places, these drinks seemed to be about $2-3, and other cocktails were only slightly more expensive. It’s quite easy for two people to have a meal and a cocktail for $40 or less.
- WiFi: So here is the deal with WiFi. Cuba has WiFi in designated areas (think of them like hotspots) and in some of the hotels. In order to access the WiFi, you need a passcode which can be purchased at various locations. Within our hotel, we received WiFi for free as Preferred Members however it varies by hotel. WiFi cards to use outside of hotels are separate and cost $1 CUC. As a rule of them expect not to have WiFi available when you leave your hotel. WiFi zones are not everywhere so even after purchasing an access code you may still not be able to find a convenient place to use it.
- Getting Around: Outside of lodging, taxis and transportation is the largest expense you will likely incur. Taxis can be quite expensive and add up quickly. Depending on your itinerary you can expect to spend upwards of $30-50 per day. If you are staying at a hotel find out if they have free shuttle services available and use that when possible. If you are trying to get around Havana and site see, there is a tour bus that does a loop around every 20 minutes stopping at many major attractions around the city. The bus cost $10 CUC and is good for travel the whole day until 6 pm. I highly suggest this if you plan to travel around Old Havana and other parts of Havana one day. Another option is to hire a driver to use throughout your trip. Overall make sure you always negotiate with your taxi in order to get the best rate possible.
These are my top tips for traveling to Cuba in 2019. Comment below if you have any questions or tips of your own! Do you plan on traveling to Cuba?