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Cuba travel tips: Start planning your next holidays!

by Pilar Dujan | August 9, 2023
Discover the best Cuba travel tips

Cuba is an idyllic island in the Caribbean, a special place full of history and natural landscapes you won’t find anywhere else.

But to enjoy your trip to Cuba, you will need to know some important advice. Discover the essential Cuba travel tips that will make your journey a lot easier. 

Remember: you will need a Cuba tourist card to enter the country

Are vaccines required to travel to Cuba?

To travel to Cuba from most countries in the world it is not necessary to get vaccinated. However, it is always better to go to the international vaccination center in your home country for local advice.

Connectivity travel tips for Cuba

As with almost everything on the island, the internet works differently in Cuba. For starters, it’s not easy to get. At all. It’s not widely available (nor of good quality), and less so for free: that will only happen if you stay in a hotel or a large resort, although the government has made the network expansion a priority.

One of the essential travel tips for Cuba consists of knowing how to connect yourself to the internet without being at a hotel or resort. 

You will need to buy a prepaid card: the Nauta Etecsa card. That card grants a certain amount of hours of internet connectivity, a number that will get lower the more you use it. Just like a scratch card, you will need to scratch it for a code. These cards can be bought at any of the Etecsa shops, the only official internet provider in the island.

Don’t miss or damage your card or you will lose the remaining minutes! With that card you will be able to connect to the WIFI available in the nearby hotspots.

You will know easily where the hotspot is in the town you’re visiting: there’s usually a small crowd sitting around on their phones. 

Keep in mind that there are some websites and apps that won’t work while you’re in Cuba due to its complicated relationships with other countries.

Another of the important Cuba travel tips for connectivity is to be aware of the fact that, if you need to contact a possible accommodation (or even one that you already booked), they will likely have limited internet access as well. Make sure to communicate with anticipation to avoid having to wait for any last-minute confirmations. Also, try to use your Etecsa card before moving from one city to another: if there are any problems with your reservation, this will be the only way to find out before arriving at the hotel or private house.

Castillo del Morro in Havana, Cuba

What is the currency of Cuba?

As of 1 January 2021, the Cuban Convertible Peso will cease to exist as legal tender, unifying the two currencies into one, the Cuban Peso. The Cuban peso is now the only legal currency in the country, and the exchange rate is 24 Cuban pesos to one dollar.

Tips for traveling to Cuba: is tipping common?

Yes, Cubans expect citizens and tourists to leave tips. You should have small bills of your own currency or small amounts of Cuban pesos prepared for tipping.

The preferred foreign currencies for tipping are euros, Canadian dollars, US dollars, pound sterlings, Japanese yen and Swiss francs.

How to travel around Cuba 

Cuba is a relatively small country and should be easy to travel around, but sometimes due to infrastructure your journey can be delayed. It is best to organize transport before your trip, so if you need more information on how to get around, check out our article on how to travel to Cuba.

One of the most useful travel tips for Cuba is that the cost of transportation can be quite high. If you travel in a group, the best thing you can do is rent a car. You will gain a lot of flexibility and will not be exposed to the prices of private cars or buses. 

Cuban dolphins

Packing tips for traveling to Cuba

Cuba has less availability of certain products that you may be accustomed to. Bring all your essentials, including sanitary products like shampoo or conditioner. Having your own tissues will also come in handy. You won’t be able to replace anything you lose or forget easily, especially in smaller cities. 

When heading to Cuba it is best if you pack basic medicines and a first aid kit, as sometimes they can be in short supply. 

Carry with you a portable charger. Your phone will be the only source of internet available to you, so it’s a good idea to keep it charged at all times. 

No matter what time of the year you pick, a rainproof jacket is an essential packing item. 

Obviously, Cuba is a tropical island famous for its beaches and beautiful landscapes. You need to be protected against the sun: pack a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. Another key item is mosquito repellent, don’t forget it!

Last but not least, comfortable walking shoes are also essential packing items. You will have to explore a lot on foot so you need the best footwear you can get! 

Cuba travel tips: learn how to haggle

It’s common for Cubans to try to take advantage of tourists. Be prepared and learn how to haggle. You can expect all the products they sell to be overpriced, so first offer half of their asking price. Then try to reach an agreement beneficial for both the seller and you. 

One of the best Cuba tips for haggling is to first explore other markets or stands to get a better idea of the common asking prices.

Traveling tips for Cuba: what’s the best time to go?

Cuba is a tropical island in the Caribbean, and as such it is at risk of Hurricanes and Cyclones during the months of May to November. The summer spans from June to August and is very hot, so it’s not ideal if it’s not your preferred weather.

If you’re wondering when the best time to visit Cuba is, check out our guide.

Cuban dance

Safety in Cuba

Due to its particular history and the sanctions in place, most tourists ask themselves: “Is Cuba safe to travel?”. Yes, Cuba is quite a safe country to travel to. There is little crime, but travelers should always be aware as there might be pickpockets, muggings or scams, particularly in Havana. 

The risks in Cuba are more related to unsafe water or insects, such as zika or dengue, so make sure you carry a first aid kit on your trip to Cuba.

Other Cuba travel tips 

  • Avoid resorts and stay in a Casa Particular. These are authorized family homes where you will be provided with your own room, usually breakfast and sometimes dinner. By staying with locals you will have a much more authentic experience and can also save some money. 
  • Do not drink tap water in Cuba. There is a risk of contracting a waterborne disease as public water facilities are not properly sanitized. Make sure you buy bottled water or take water purifiers with you. 
  • Due to Cuba’s infrastructure, electricity blackouts are common. Make sure you pack a flashlight just in case. 
  • The famous Cuban Health care system is free for Cubans but not for foreigners, so plan ahead and be sure to buy travel insurance for Cuba. It’s one of the mandatory requirements to travel to Cuba.
  • One of Cuba's main charms is its music. We recommend that you visit one of the many places in the country with ambient music so that you can enjoy the local culture to its fullest.
  • Even if you don't intend to smoke, a Cuban cigar is a common souvenir to take home.
  • Cuban museums are plentiful, frequently open, and usually charge only one or two CUC for admission. You may get a guided tour from one of the staff members, which is useful even if your Spanish is rusty.
  • Cubans as a whole are generally friendly and helpful people, and they are genuinely curious about foreign visitors and cultures so don’t be intimidated and join in on the conversation.