I recently went to Cuba on an incredibly short trip. It was last minute as we were close (ish) and had always wanted to go. We were completely unprepared and should have looked into it more before we went, that’s not to say that it wasn’t still an awesome experience! So here are 10 things I wish I had known, before flying to Cuba!
You can only get CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) in Cuba. There is a small kiosk at the airport where you can exchange your money – it is extremely busy and probably took us about 20/30minutes to get ours changed over. You can apparently also get your cash changed over at some of the more upmarket hotels. Banks can be hard to come by, or find, so try and take enough cash to change over until you can find the bank.
Hepatitis A and Tetanus are highly recommended for Cuba, both of which we got before heading to Cuba. They also recommended Typhoid and Hepatitis B, we didn’t have enough money to get them in the states and we survived, but they are suggested.
A visa or tourist card is needed before you can enter Cuba. You can get them in England from the Cuban Consulate in London for 15 quid. We got them at the airport for $30.
Accommodation was slightly tricky. The hotels are ridiculously overpriced so if you are on a budget like we were, your best bet is a ‘casa’. We booked one on AirB’n’B and it was really nice. It worked out about $30 per night for two people. We did end up paying $5 for breakfast at the casa too, which was really tasty! I would suggest getting a casa from AirBnB for at least the first night, so you have somewhere to go once you arrive. After that there are cases all over Havana that take in tourists. They will have a sign on the building and a doorbell, you can ring the bell have a look and check the price and take it if you like it. You just have to walk around and find them!
There is no wifi anywhere! Ok there is wifi in some of the hotels, that you have to pay for. However aside from a handful of hotels there is no internet, so make sure you do anything you need to do online before you go! Take a guide book with you so you can find places and activities easily.
I would have no clue where to find a car to rent, but I wouldn’t want to drive in Cuba! If you are a really confident driver maybe, but some of the streets in Havana are incredibly narrow and filled with people. Taxis are everywhere and reasonably priced. Our taxi from the airport to the casa was $30CUC and he offered to take us to Finales (2 hours away) for the day fro $140CUC.
I was told by a flight attendant we happened to bump into while using a snazzy hotel’s wifi, that Fabrica was a good night out. Unfortunately as we had no money left by this point to go out partying, we never made it. But if you are in the area it looks really cool. It is an art gallery, cocktail lounge and restaurant. Apparently get there before 10pm otherwise it gets busy.
Another spot to check out is La Floridity. We walked past there in the afternoon and it was absolutely packed. It is Hemingway’s old stomping ground, so gets a lot of tourists!
It is super hot in Cuba! I expected it to be hot, but it was a different type of heat than we had been experiencing in the US. It was really humid. Don’t wear grey cotton, it is not very sympathetic to sweating!
Plug sockets we experienced, used US plugs. Which luckily we had just come from the US and had some travel adaptors on us.
The people were incredibly friendly and helpful. Most of them spoke very good English, but our hosts at the casa only spoke a little English. This meant I got to bust out my GCSE Spanish, which I had been waiting to use since 2006! You will get asked to buy everything under the sun, they can be quite pushy sometimes but generally they will just leave you alone if you say no.
These are ten things I wish I had known before I went to Cuba! It was an amazing experience and one I won’t forget, but if you are heading there make sure you research where you want to go and what you want to see, because I’m sure I missed so much. Definitely going to have to go back again for longer!