Cuba is such a fascinating country. Rich in history yet very mysterious, Cuba is a beautiful country located in the northern Caribbean. With streets filled with colourful buildings, old fashioned cars everywhere, and music throughout the streets Cuba is a dream destination for many travellers. I loved the time I spent in Cuba however there are a lot of things I wish I knew before traveling there to make my experience a bit more smooth. Here are some tips you need to know before travelling to Cuba.
BRING LOCAL CURRENCY
Buy some local currency before you arrive in Cuba. This was the biggest difficulty after arriving into the airport in Havana. The only way to get out of the airport is to get a private car or taxi and since credit card is not accepted by most businesses you will need some cash. If you’re expecting to just take some money out of the ATM’s be aware that a lot of credit and debit cards won’t work in the ATM’s in Cuba, particularly any cards that are associated with American banks. I attempted to use all of my Australian cards with no success, and the only thing that saved me was my old Canadian debit card. Cuba has two types of currency but it’s the CUC that is most widely used.
BE PREPARED FOR RESTRICTED INTERNET
Access to the internet in Cuba is restricted and controlled by the government. You won’t find free WiFi anywhere and can only access the internet by purchasing internet time cards. The internet time cards are only accessible in public areas which are mostly parks. To purchase the internet cards you need to line up at a store that sells them and show them your passport. The lines are long, we waited two hours, so prepare for some waiting time.
HAVE A PLAN BEFORE YOU GO
Due to the limited internet I highly suggest going into Cuba with a plan. Plan what you would like to see and the locations all ahead of time. This will save you a lot of time and maximise the time that you have in Cuba. There is not much public transportation available so when taking a car around it’s best to have an idea of all the sights you’d like to see within the area. For ideas in Havana check out my list of The Best Things To Do in Havana.
LEARN SOME SPANISH
Spanish is the national language of Cuba and knowledge of other languages are quite limited. Speaking some Spanish came in very handy during my time in Cuba! Learn basic Spanish for asking directions, ordering food and a bit of general conversation with the locals. Learning the basics of Spanish will be very helpful when visiting Cuba.
BOOK AND PAY FOR YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ADVANCE
For accommodation in Cuba it’s best to book and pay in advance. I book all of my accommodation on booking.com which allows me to pay ahead of time. If you’re staying in Havana I suggest staying in the old town – Habana Vieja where most of the interesting sights are located. Staying in Old Havana will save you money and time to get transportation. Get $30 off you next booking with this link.
RESEARCH THE HISTORY
When I was walking around Havana discovering all the beautiful architecture, I wished I had known more about Cuban history. Cuba truly is a fascinating country and it has a lot history both good and bad. Since the Cuban Revolution happened Cuba has remained a pretty removed country from the world remaining pretty mysterious and very different to any country I’ve ever visited. Brushing up on your Cuban history ahead of time will shed a lot of light on what you see when you’re there.