The first thing you should know before traveling to Cuba is that this destination is like no other place you’ve been before. It is a unique Caribbean Island with a heroic history and a very different culture with cities that will gather surprises for you … this and much more is waiting for you in Cuba!
Because in Espíritu Travel we know firsthand the peculiarities of Cuba, on this article we will solve all the questions you might have before traveling to Cuba.
Things to know before traveling to Cuba
Can I Travel to Cuba legally
The first thing you need to know if you are an American citizen is that you need to pick one of 11 categories of authorized to travel legally to Cuba. You need to plan your trip to Cuba based on activities inside this category.
It’s very, very rare that anybody will ask for this, but going through immigration you’ll want to be prepared just in case but don’t worry Espíritu Travel can easily help you organize a legal trip to Cuba under this category.
Read more here.
Do I need a visa to travel to Cuba?
The answer is yes! Although it is actually a “Tourist Card” that must be processed in advance of your trip. Cuban authorities require to have a Cuban Tourist Card that can be purchased at the airport, during the check-in for your flight. Your passport must also be valid for at least six months from the date of entry.
Should I purchase Health insurance?
Another thing to consider when traveling to Cuba is the health insurance, which is required by the government. Flights originating from the US include this mandatory insurance. Don’t forget to check with your airline!
Is Cuba a safe country?
The sympathy of its inhabitants and the low crime rates make the country a safe destination for solo travelers, couples or families.
Your best accommodation option: casas particulares
Casas Particulares are private houses licensed by the government under strict conditions to rent en-suite rooms to foreigners. A sort of micro bed and breakfast that has been set up in people’s homes.
Staying in a casa particular is without a doubt one of the best ways to get to know the real Cuban life, know their culture and experience the warmth of its people. Cuba is a country that has much to tell and the greatest strength that the island has, is the spirit and the stories of its people. So, don’t be shy and sit down to the table and ask your Cuban hosts about life in Cuba!
Click here to learn more about Cuban “casas particulares”
Where to eat in Cuba? Paladares
Typical Cuban cuisine is called Creole and it is very simple. The base of this cuisine, which is a mixture of Spanish and African, is based on local products such as pork, cassava, rice, black beans, chicken, fried plantains, lobsters, prawns and fish.
These private restaurants are usually family houses that have been converted into inviting places to eat. You will find every type of ambiance, from vintage to sophisticated to homier.
You have not come to Havana to try the same food that you could eat on the corner of your street at home. Try Cuban food! Learn more about Cuban gastronomy here.
Before traveling to Cuba read about its history
Cuba is a very peculiar place, with a big personality marked by the historical events that have taken place in the near past. To really enjoy your trip to Cuba and understand the culture, I recommend that you read about its history beforehand. You will be surprised how much Cuba has changed in a short time and you will better understand its current situation. Travel guides like Lonely Planet are a great choose.
What kind of currency do you use in Cuba?
There are two currencies in Cuba, the CUC or convertible peso and the national currency or Cuban peso. Tourists only pay in CUCs so it is important to know how to differentiate both currencies.
Normally the change is usually 1CUC = 1 $ and 1 CUC is equivalent to 24 Cuban pesos. CUC coins are always silver, and the “convertible peso” label appears on the bills, so you will have no problem differentiating them. Always check the change!
How to move around Cuba?
There are various modes of transportation in Cuba, Coco Taxi, convertible taxi, shared taxi, trishaw and bus. The best way to get around Cuba is using one of the famous old cars that Cubans call “almendrones”.
You can also get around by taxi and you will recognize them because they are all yellow, but the experience is more spectacular when you travel the streets of Havana in a classic car from the 50s, don’t you think?
Tip: Do not use internal flights it is always better to use a private transfer/taxi or rent a car.
Best Month to Travel to Cuba
The best months to travel to Cuba are from December to April since it is not as hot as in the months of summer.
Don’t forget to pack a small first aid kit in your suitcase! Products are scarce in Cuba and medicines more so. Check out our article Best time to travel to Cuba for more information.
Cuba with kids
Cuba with kids is a fun destination and offers a wide variety of experiences to every family’s taste. Cuba is a fantastic destination to spend your family vacations, whether you are traveling with young children or adults, fun is guaranteed.
Read more about traveling to Cuba with kids here.
The internet in Cuba is not very accessible
Since you will not have internet at your disposal at all times, we recommend you download the map of Cuba in the maps.me app. It works offline! If you need internet in Cuba there are WIFI cards that you can buy by the hour. You can get your WiFi cards at WiFi shops or telcom booths.
You will fall in love (and you know it)
We have said it, and we will repeat it: Cuba is like no other country you have been to before. Life in Cuba is difficult, yes, and the country can be frustratingly slow, too. But if Cuba knows anything about resistance, it is about overcoming and learning to take advantage of every situation. A conversation over the heat of a Havana rum and a sunset on the Malecón is enough to know that, inevitably, Cuba has enchanted you forever.
Planning your trip to Cuba with Espíritu Travel is warranty for a genuine and culturally inspiring experience in the Pearl of the Caribbean. Havana is a very peculiar place, with a strong personality. Cubans are the greatest treasure of Havana: talk to them, be kind, ask and respect! Just open your mind, enjoy, dance and eat.