Situated in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is Cuba, a country renowned around the world for its music, cigars and sugar-white beaches. From the mid-1980, Cuba has significantly grown in popularity among tourists from all over the globe, and it’s easy to see why. From Havana to Varadero and Trinidad, the island as a whole is often regarded as the friendliest and safest island in all of the Caribbean, which is music to any traveler’s ears.
And Cuba will be unlike any other country you’ve visited before. It sets you up for a magnificent adventure, but there are a few things you should know before embarking on your trip to Cuba to ensure you experience minimal hiccups along the way. Here are a few points you may find useful.
If you hope to visit Cuba, even for a short period of time, you’ll need to ensure you have all of the correct paperwork prepared for your trip. Although preparing documentation for a holiday sounds daunting, it is thankfully not as complicated as you might think. First and foremost, you will need to obtain a visa to allow you to legally enter the country. Visa checks are rigorous, so trust us when we say that it is better to be safe than sorry. The appropriate visa can be purchased from your holiday provider, or you can simply pay for it upon arrival in Cuba. You’ll be happy to hear that, for tourists, purchasing a visa is relatively cheap and won’t leave you out of pocket (under $20).
Cuba also requires all visitors to have valid health insurance for the length of their stay, whether it be long or short.
In Cuba, cash is king. Although it is gradually becoming more commonplace, few establishments will accept payment in the form of credit or debit cards. It also really goes without saying— but don’t try to pay in any foreign currency. Either it will not be accepted, or could have bad exchange rates on top of having to pay an extra fee every single time. With that in mind, exchange your currency for Cuban money. You might be surprised to learn that Cuba actually has two currencies— the Cuban dollar and the Cuban national peso; the majority of tourists tend to use the Cuban dollar. You can exchange your currency ahead of your trip, or you can exchange your money upon arrival. Many hotels and resorts will have a bureau de change, and there are also banks.
One big downside to Cuba, for many travellers, is the fact that the island has notoriously bad internet. Although there are Wi-Fi hotspots to be found in Cuba, the internet connection is tediously slow, not to mention expensive. It’s something to keep in mind when planning your trip, as it won’t be so easy to simply book an Uber or to navigate your surroundings on Google Maps. You might want to download your walkli sightseeing maps ahead of time!
That’s not to say tourists cannot access the internet at all, but you will be required to purchase what is known as a Nauta card. These are scratch-off internet cards, where you scratch off the login and password on the card and gain access to the nearest Wi-Fi network. However, do keep in mind that the queues to purchase one can be extremely slow, so you might want to buy multiple at once.
On the subjects of money and internet access— you’re going to want to notify your bank that you plan to visit Cuba. Although many frequent travellers think to do this upon every instance of leaving their country anyway, Cuba can be a particularly tricky destination if you are not adequately prepared, so be sure to put this on your to-do list. Due to the fact that the internet access is as limited as it is, coupled with the fact that international calls are notoriously expensive, iit will be hard to contact your bank if they think your cards are being used fraudulently. You don’t want to be left stranded!
This is something to keep in mind when packing for your trip, as well as for when you head home again. Cuba has very strict customs regulations for both entering and leaving the country, and so if you want to avoid being stopped and rigorously searched by customs officers, you should adhere to them by avoiding packing any prohibited (items which are strictly not permitted) or restricted items (items which may only be permitted in certain quantities) in your luggage. From drones multiple cameras, there’s a lot to consider, so be sure to set aside time to thoroughly research this before packing for your trip.
Without a doubt, one of the very best things about Cuba is Cubans. Generally speaking, most Cubans are extremely friendly, and welcome visitors from all around the world with open arms. They are also renowned for their helpfulness— you’ll quickly learn that many Cubans will go above and beyond when asked for help, whether it be with directions or otherwise. It really goes without saying that one of the best things about travelling the world is the people you meet on the way, and for this reason, Cuba is a one-of-a-kind destination.