CUBA. Colorful taxi rides, tropical weather and plentiful piña coladas. With direct flights as low as $350, what are you waiting for? Get the scoop on everything I learned so that your experience will be even better than mine!
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN IN CUBA
- TAXI RIDES: Don’t be another tourist overpaying for a taxi ride. To and from Old Havana shouldn’t cost you more than $10 cuc each way. Don’t be afraid to bargain either!
- TOILET PAPER: Have wipes/tissue packs handy on your daily excursions. I found that most bathrooms in the city don’t have toilet paper or seat covers. Few have soap so it’s a good idea to bring hand sanitizer as well! Also to note, our Airbnb’s supplied toilet paper but were frugal about it.
- FOOD POISONING: I did not encounter any food poisoning during my stay but I did have some stomach issues after eating fried chicken! As you would at any restaurant, if the food does not look or smell fresh, pass on it. Aside from that, I found that many tourists tend to be weary about eating Cuban fruit but I had quite the opposite experience. With all of their different variations of tropical fruit, I had a heyday indulging in sweet guava, papaya, fresh pineapple and mango. The key is to go for uncut fruit or freshly cut.
- INSECTS: Bring bug spray! Especially if you plan on staying in Vinales (which you most definitely should) you will need to bring bug spray. Tropical heat means lots of sweating and bugs tend to be attracted to perspiration.
- WEATHER: During the month of April when we were there, it was very hot and VERY humid. Within minutes of being outdoors you will start to perspire. Shade is scarce and sunscreen and a hat will be your best friends. Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing ie. cotton, linen, shorts, dresses, etc.
- MONEY: If you plan on having a week-long stay in Cuba and have not pre-booked any transportation or excursions, you will want to bring at least $500 USD to exchange in Cuba, as well as $200 USD for emergency.
- MONEY EXCHANGE: Prior to travel, you should exchange your USD to Euro’s at your local bank. Euros get a friendlier exchange rate in Cuba as opposed to USD. Then again, this could change depending on when you go. When my friends and I went, the exchange rate was about $100 USD for $86 cucs.
- RESTAURANTS: Do your research ahead of time. I referred to Trip Advisor and planned out our groups dining itinerary for just about every day. This helped with sticking to a daily budget and also finding places that were better-rated and not just tourist traps.
- WIFI/INTERNET: Wifi and internet is extremely scarce and almost non-existent in Cuba so be prepared to go off the grid! If you are a wifi-hungry Instagramming addict, you can buy a cell phone plan when you are out there or purchase 30 min wifi passes which are offered at some hotels.
- ADULT BEVS: Beer costs $1-2 cucs. Pina coladas and cocktails go for $3-3.50 cucs. Most restaurants accompany your cocktails with a bottle of rum to add to your drink at your liking. This can be either a very, very good idea or very bad (ha!).
- EXCURSIONS: Whether you pre-book or wait until you are out there, I highly recommend doing an excursion of some sort. We did an amazing horseback tour of the valley of Vinales for $30 cuc. The tour lasted about 5 hours and in that time we visited coffee and tobacco farms, caves, saw plenty of livestock and rural houses. Read my post on what to do and where to go in Vinales!
- VISA: Need tips on the Visa process, lodging and airfare? Read my post on planning your trip to Cuba here!
Have any tips to share? Need advice, AirBnb recommendations, etc? Leave a question/comment in the section below!
**Thanks to my travel companions Mayra + Veronica for letting me share a couple of their sweet pics!