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Beginners Guide To Traveling Cuba

Now open for Americans to visit, Cuba is a great destination for dining, culture, and experiences you've yet to see.

Now open for Americans to visit, Cuba is a great destination for dining, culture, and experiences you’ve yet to see.

 

It’s an exciting time for Americans: we can now travel to Cuba! With an exotic, beautiful country waiting, there’s more to explore than you can possibly imagine.

But before you go, there are some things you should know. Since Americans are new to Cuban life and culture, it isn’t the same as booking a trip to Mexico or Canada. Locals aren’t accustomed to Americans, and it’s important to be sensitive and aware of their traditions and customs. This beginners guide to traveling in Cuba will help you with your future endeavors to this tropical island.

Before You Book Your Trip

Determine the Best Time to Go

Just like all other countries, there are better times to visit Cuba than others.

Similar to how you wouldn’t want to visit Buffalo, NY in January or New Mexico in July, the best time to see the tropical island is mid-May to April, and prices may be even cheaper between January and February. Summertime is hot and sticky – plan your trip during other seasons if you can.

Consider How You’ll Get There

We can now fly to Cuba! Los Angeles, Houston, and New York City are all popular places to fly out of.

Other options for getting to Cuba is by a cruise out of various ports. There are also ferries that depart directly from Florida.

Explore Living Accommodations

Cuba is a very diverse island, with most of the island safe for tourists and travelers to visit. Instead of automatically booking a hotel room at a resort, consider the many other options available.

Check out small bed and breakfasts or Airbnb rooms for rent. These types of accommodations can provide a much different experience for adventurous travelers.

Before You Leave for Cuba

Notify Your Bank

Since this is a new country Americans can travel to, it’s important to let them know you’ll be there. Without notifying them, they might think your card has been stolen or fraud has been committed.

Notify Your Phone Company

If you plan on bringing your phone, it’s important to notify your carrier where you’ll be and when. There’s a good chance there might be an international plan that would work when you’re abroad. Don’t forget to utilize free Wi-Fi for your phone and tablet whenever possible.

Get Your Documents Ready

In the case that your phone doesn’t work in Cuba or you don’t have access to the proper technology, it’s important to have all of your documents ready and in order before you leave. Print out plane tickets, hotel reservations, car rental information – anything you’ll need during your travel.

When You’re In Cuba

Visit the Right Places

Don’t waste your time in this great country with touristy spots that thousands flock to. There are many great places in Cuba that don’t compare to anything else in the world. Make sure to visit all the right spots – beaches, museums, restaurants – that will create meaningful, lasting memories.

Get Your Money Straight

There are two types of currencies in Cuba. Bring some cash along to exchange over. CUC, or Cuban dollars, are what tourists must use. CUP, or Cuban National Pesos, are what the locals use. Certain restaurants or taxis will only accept CUC from tourists.

Speak Spanish

The locals will appreciate your use of Spanish, even if it isn’t great. Speaking Spanish here or there will go a long way when you’re seeing the country.

Tipping

Tips are expected in Cuba, but not at the same rate as in America. Plan on tipping around 10% in most situations. Great service can be appreciated with an extra 5%. Tipping for services such as hotel room cleanings and car valet is also appropriate. Tipping in cash is very appreciated.

Getting Around

Busses are a popular way of getting around in Cuba, both in inner cities as well as long-distance travel on the island. Uber hasn’t arrived in Cuba yet, so don’t plan your travel through those quick, cheap rides. Traditional taxis are available and not too expensive, but just remember – the closer you get touristy areas, the more expensive your ride will be.

Bartering

Bartering is welcomed in Cuba. Be aware that as a tourist, it may be easy to spot you as a simple target in busy areas. American and Canadian dollars are often highly-desirable items by Cubans.

Food and Dining

The best places to eat and drink aren’t at the resorts. Even if you’re staying at an all-inclusive, make sure to get out and see what Cuba has to offer. Fresh food, savory dishes, and traditional drinks await you in small restaurants and paladars.

Cuba is an unexplored, exciting adventure awaiting many Americans who haven’t had the opportunity to experience it. With the proper preparation, your first trip to Cuba will have you coming back year after year.

flickr: Angelo Domini