10 Helpful Tips for Travel to Cuba
Cigars are a main draw for those looking to buy but don’t get tempted by the allure of cheap cigars on the street. Chances are you’ll either get fakes or stolen cigars which can be confiscated at the airport.
Renting a car in Cuba is one of the best ways to see the island but there are a few things to consider. Before you head out, get a GOOD map and make sure it’s up to date. Don’t let the gas get too low before filling up as you may find a lot of gas stations are either out of gas or closed. A great way to get insight into the island is to pick up a hitchhiker as it is both safe and one of the main ways the locals get around.
Donations in the way of basic daily necessities such as clothes, soap, shampoo etc… are always in demand however; drop these off at either hospitals or churches and avoid using them in lieu of monetary tipping at resorts.
Food in Cuba tends to be quite bland as there are not a lot of spices and while the water is generally safe, bottled water is advisable. This is not to say the food is inedible, but if you like basic tastes like salt and pepper or hot sauce, I would recommend packing your own.
Currency in Cuba is the (CUC) Cuban convertible peso and the (CUP) Cuban Peso. Exchange at the hotel only and avoid changing money on the streets. ATMs are next to useless so get enough money for the day. Credit cards are accepted however, any American credit cards such as American Express are not. American currency is not accepted but some places will exchange for about a 20% premium.
Accommodation throughout the island range from 5-star all inclusive resorts to budget apartments and for the most authentic Cuban experience, a Casa Particular. These Cuban versions of a bed and breakfast are not only cheap but it is an excellent way to get the Cuban culture, atmosphere and friendly hospitality of living with a family in Cuba.
Beggars and street vendors are more common in the larger cities such as Havana and Santiago de Cuba and are more of a nuisance than anything. While not overly aggressive, use what I call the “seagull rule”. If you either say no or ignore them, eventually they will go away. However, if you even give one of them any money you will quickly be surrounded and they will be very persistent.
Crime and personal safety is much like anywhere in the world, if you keep your head about you and be sensible, you’ll be fine. Crime in Cuba is generally very low and Cuba is considered to be a very safe destination. I have seen it written many places about how women will feel safe at night even walking alone and although I don’t disagree with that statement, I do find it a fairly irresponsible way of describing the safety of a destination no matter who it pertains to.
Internet in Cuba is still quite in the early stages and is not only hard to find but can be very expensive. Some of the larger resorts have internet access but really… you’re on vacation in Cuba and shouldn’t be on the internet anyway.
Pack necessities such as sunscreen, bug repellent and other sundries ahead of time as most of these items can only be bought at the hotel and since they know the tourist with sunburn is desperate, you can expect to pay upwards of $30 just for sunscreen.
Overall, Cuba is a pretty laid back destination that really doesn’t disappoint, any problems that may arise on vacation can generally happen anywhere but by using these 10 tips, you can cut down on any unforeseen problems and spend more time enjoying the fantastic resorts and beaches of Cuba.