Travel Guide: Cuba
I am back from CUBA! I had such an amazing time traveling to the island. I couldn’t wait to get back and share my experience with you!
In short, here’s a handy dandy check list of what you will need before you travel:
- Bottled water
- Toilet Paper / Sanitary Wipes
VISA: You will need a visa to travel to Cuba. I went to the Island through a cruise. For $75 per person Carnival cruise line provided my mom and I with a visa. All we had to do was show all of our identification and fill out all of the necessary paperwork ahead of time. The 75 dollar fee was added to our onboard account.
PASSPORT: I applied for a passport several months before I left for Cuba. I knew mom and I were planning to go in the fall so we decided to get out passports that Spring so around April/May. I put in my application and paid the money for it, It was under 100 dollars for it all. I want to say my passport was mailed to me just a couple of weeks later, it didn’t take long at all.
Going through customs: When you get off the ship to go into Cuba you will have to show your VISA, PASSPORT, and your set and sail card or better known as your “room key” on the cruise. All three items will be given to the person at customs, they will take your picture, and let you go if you clear. You have to go through customs when you go in and out of Cuba, no way around it!
MONEY IN CUBA:
- Cash is the main way of purchase in Cuba. There are a few ATM machines in Havana (for tourist) but to save yourself the worry, i’d say bring cash to convert because US credit cards do not work.
- Cuba uses two currencies — the Cuban convertible peso, known as a CUC, and the Cuban peso, known as the CUP.The CUC is 1:1 with the U.S. dollar. Meaning when you change dollars in Cuba, the Cuban government issues a penalty of 10% because you are changing dollars. With USD you pay the standard exchange fee (2 to 3%) PLUS the 10% extra (government law). So you lose 13% automatically. Even though the Cuban dollar and American dollar are a 1 for 1 exchange, when you go to exchange 1 American dollar into Cuban CUC, you’ll only get about 87 cents back. But remember, that 10% extra fee is not charged to any other international currency. That’s why some travelers take Euros, British pounds, or Canadian dollars to Cuba. I brought USD and did the exchange that way.
- It was once illegal for any U.S. visitors to bring purchased goods from Cuba or to even contribute to the Cuban economy. But now, you can spend money in Cuba, you can bring home up to $500 in goods (including up to $100 in Cuban rum and cigars).
Here’s a conversion website that you might find helpful when deciding on how much cash to bring along on your trip:
— > www.xe.com/currencyconverter
Internet in Cuba? Being that I traveled to Cuba through a cruise line, I only got a solid internet connection when I was on the ship. I don’t recall bringing my cellphone with me to tour the Island because it went from 3 bard to “no service” ha ha .
But no internet, no problem, you’re there to explore and interact right? Most Cubans don’t have Internet but some have access to what they call a government-controlled Intranet. Hotels that have frequent business travelers, mostly likely have Wi-Fi similar to what we have in the US — BUT.. it’s much slower than our high speed internet in the US and you have to re-enter your username and pin every 10 to 15 minutes and you pay-per-hour.
Transportation in Cuba? The cool classic cars you’ve seen online that give Cuba its postcard vibe are actually taxis. Think of them like a shuttle that can carry up to five passengers on pre-determined routes. You can hire a private taxi to take you from place to place but they are more expensive than a “share taxis” and typically aren’t the “cool classic cars”.
ALWAYS REMEMBER to ask for the price of a car ride before you get in.
What can you eat in Cuba? In Cuba you’ll find private restaurants “paradors” and there’s also state-run restaurants.
One night mom and I went to a restaurant inside of Hoteles Habaguanex called La Habana Vieia and I’ll be honest, I’d give the food a 2 out of 5 stars. Dinner was 25 dollars a plate. But it came with an appetizer, main course, and salad, which to me sounded like a good deal right? But the food was over cooked in our opinion. But the atmosphere was great and the wait staff were friendly : )
That next morning we decided to wander the Island and found Restaurante’ Cafeteria where we ate breakfast. Mom got her hands on cuban coffee that she couldn’t stop raving about. So I will say when it comes to finding “good food” to eat in Cuba think of it like a game of hit or miss ha ha
The owner was so sweet and noticed mom and I were taking pics, he decided to hop in ha ha
Safety in Cuba? During our excursion tour, an educational tour that was set up for us through Carnival Cruise Line, the tour guide was a native and told us that crime rate is low in Cuba. I cant agree or disagree because I haven’t seen any official reports released on the subject. But before and after the 5 hour tour I honestly felt safe walking to the market with mom, we walked to the restaurants to eat, we walked across the streets all with no problem. Often times people will come up to you to try and sell you something. But in regards to safety overall, we felt at ease on the Island during the day and at night.
Feel free to leave any other questions you may have in the comments below and I will be happy to reply back to you personally.