First Trip to Cuba: 6 Travel Tips

Cuba is vibrant and captivating! It constantly feels like you’re on a the set of a movie. Unexpected and amazing sights are around every corner and flowing from the streets.  Always have your camera ready because you never know what you’ll be seeing next!

Hotel Ambos Mundos - Calle Obispo, Havana, Cuba
Hotel Ambos Mundos – Calle Obispo

1. Money/Currency

The most expected and accepted type of payment is cash. Credit cards can be used at ATM’s but it’s not very common for businesses to accept them. And NOBODY wants to miss out on fresh churros from the push cart on the street! So carry cash!

Cuban Currency CUC Havana Cuba
Cuban Currency – CUC

Local banks exchange Euros at a reasonable rate. I wouldn’t recommend arriving with US dollars, it will be more difficult to exchange. The local people use CUP which is a different currency than used by tourists, who use CUC’s.

Cuban currency conversion chart 2016
Cuban currency conversion chart

2. Water

It’s not advisable to drink the tap water. Bottles of water are fairly easy to come by and typically sold for a low price. Carrying a water bottle with you at all times is a pretty good idea, you never know when water won’t be available and the last thing you want is dehydration and sickness while traveling!

Beer vending machine - Havana, Cuba
Beer vending machine

3. Restrooms

Carry tissues or toilet paper. Seeing a restroom with a supply of toilet paper was a rarity. Many public restrooms have attendants at the door charging to use the facilities. Your payment typically includes a rationed amount toilet paper of a few squares.

Bring hand sanitizer. Just like I mentioned the lack of toilet paper, the same is true for hand soap. Most public restrooms do not supply it. High end hotels usually have nicer bathroom facilities, including soap and toilet paper.

Prado Street, Havana, Cuba colorful classic cars
Prado Street, Havana, Cuba

4. Cell Service & Wifi

One cell service provider is available in Cuba. I came with AT&T and wasn’t able to use my phone at all. A friend was using Verizon, she was able to send and receive calls and texts the entire time.

There is only one cell service provider, Ectesa. Sim cards can be purchased at the Ectesa store. The line was always out the door to get in. My wait was about an hour which included a lot of pushing and standing my ground, not to let others cut in front of me. The Sim Card was around $10 US and a passport was required in order to purchase the card. $10 credit gave me 8 minutes to call the US.

Wifi was a bit confusing. A local guy directed me a bit and showed me where to purchase a WiFi card. The card was $3 CUC which was Internet access for 1 hour.

Wifi Hotspots were located at some hotels and parks. Access was good, but it wasn’t strong enough to load/upload Snapchats.

Floridita havana cuba nights
Sitting in the park using Wifi

5. Passport/Identification

You never know when a passport might be needed. For example, some museums and attractions require passport information to enter.  In Cuba, passports are required to exchange money or buy a SIM card. Not to mention the safety reasons of carrying identification.

6. Travel Insurance

Travel programs and agents will highly recommend purchasing coverage before traveling to Cuba. The program I went with, Jakera Cuba, was adamant that I needed it.

It was around $8 for a week of insurance. Ironically, my friend had an allergic breakout while we were there and had to be treated at the hospital. Good thing we purchased travel insurance!

Man walking with parrot - Havana, Cuba


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