20 Cuba Travel Tips – Because We Know It’s On Your Bucket List!

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Cuba was always one of our “bucket list” just because there seems to be some old-fashioned romance linked to it. The way the US penalised its allegiance with Russia through sanctions over decades makes it even more appealing. With its ancient cars & buildings, due to the sanctions, it’s a bit like travelling back in time. The people are warm and friendly, if a little nervous (I’ll explain more later) and things are changing as Obama held out an olive branch to Cuba while he was in power, offering trade deals and a more friendly approach to them. I am hoping President Trump will continue the renewed friendship as I truly respect the Cuban people.

Cuba General Information:

  • Land Area = 42,847 sq miles
  • Dimensions = 744 miles long/between 22 & 130 miles wide
  • Global Position = East Caribbean 120 miles from Florida & 91 miles from Jamaica
  • Population = Over 11 million
  • Capital = Havana with 2 million inhabitants
  • Municipality = 14 provinces and 169 municipalities
  • Language = Spanish
  • Humidity (ave) = 78 %
  • Temperature (ave) 78 F (25 C)
  • Time Zone = Eastern Standard (with daylight saving March to October)

Here is our list of Cuban Travel Tips

Cuban Money Tips

1. The Money Complication

Changing your money for Cuba is quite a task. Mainly because you cannot change your money until you are actually in Cuba. The there is the fact that there are two different currencies, there’s the one which Cuban’s use called the Cuban Peso (CUP) which gives $24 CUP to $1 USD and then there’s the one that you use as a tourist called the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which is permanently linked to the Dollar, so that $1 CUC = $1 USD

So you need to change your Dollars for CUC, but there’s still a 10% surcharge if your changing dollars, so many tourists exchange their Dollars for Euros, Canadian Dollars or British Pounds before arriving in Cuba.

You can exchange for Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) at one of the many Exchange Bureaus. Ours was actually in the Hotel so very convenient. If your from the US you still cannot use a debit card or credit card in Cuba, so you need cash or maybe get a foreign debit card form Canada or Mexico before arrival.


I personally used cash everywhere. Cuba is very safe so you don’t need to worry about anyone stealing it.

You also need to exchange any surplus cash back into Dollars or whatever you used before you leave.

With relationships thawing between the US & Cuba, it’s possible that one day all this confusion for US travellers will ease, but I believe it still remains. I will update should there be any developments.

2. Tipping in Cuba

Service workers in Cuba earn very little compared to other countries, some as low as $12 -$25 per month. Although this sounds incredible, the standard of living is also very cheap. This means your tip really helps the low paid maids and bar tenders as the CUC is 24 times more valuable than the locals CUP.

I would usually tip 1 CUC per day for the service received, so for example, if I was at a bar, I would leave 1 CUC tip after service. But I did see people leave a 1 CUC after every round of drinks, which I felt was a bit much. 10 rounds of drink would equal 10 CUC.

There are lots of tipping advice on the web but the one I like best is from locallysourcedcuba.com  where you can find what tips to give where.

3. Tell your bank your visiting Cuba beforehand

This is very important because Internet access is very limited. When I HAD to use the Internet I had to book in advance. Once I was in the Internet Cafe, it was like being back in the dial-up ages it was so slow. I wouldn’t want to rely on it for important problems like banking etc. Also International calls are very expensive so you don’t want to be calling your bank from Cuba explaining your recent transactions.

By letting them know before your visit they will see Cuba Transactions as part of your vacation rather than an act of fraud. If they believe your cards are being used without your consent, they will cancel them leaving you stranded.

Cuba Documentation Tips

4. Getting Your Cuban Visa

cuban visa & passport

A Visa or Cuba Tourist Card as it’s commonly known is a must for most nationalities. It’s usually included in the price of your flight, but you will still need to collect it from either the Cuban Embassy in your local area or before checking in from the Cubana Air desk at the airport. You will not be allowed entry into Cuba without this Visa so please remember to collect it before your flight.

Here is a list of the nationalities that will need a Visa

5. Do I need a passport to visit Cuba?

Yes, you also need to have at least 6 months left until expiry calculated from your departure date

You also need travel Insurance to visit Cuba

You will be asked to produce your travel insurance at customs and if you don’t have it, they will demand you buy one from them

Cuba Flight Tips

6. Your Flight To Cuba

Cubana Airways likes its passengers to arrive 3 hours before flight, and to be checked in an hour earlier than many other airlines. Planes can be overbooked, so the extra hour is also for your peace of mind.

7. What is the best time to visit Cuba?

20 cuba travel tips

March, April, October & November have the nicest weather and least rain

Peak season is December, January & Febrauary (Canadians)

Hurricane season is 1st June to 30th November

8. Can US citizens travel to Cuba these days?

There is a new license called a General License which makes travelling to Cuba easier. There are 12 categories

  1. Family visits
  2. Official business for the US government, foreign government and certain intergovernmental organizations
  3. Journalism
  4. Professional research
  5. Religious activities
  6. Public performances
  7. Support for the Cuban people
  8. Humanitarian projects
  9. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
  10. Exportation, importation or transmission of information or informational materials
  11. Certain export transactions

For the twelfth category you must travel with a licensed tour company based in the US:

12. Educational activities and people to people travel

I believe you still have to provide a detailed itinerary to customs before your flight, listing everywhere you intend to visit, but it is becoming easier to visit Cuba.

Travel Safety Tips

9. Learn Some Spanish

cuban travel tips

Most Cubans I met spoke English, but I always feel it’s nice to learn some of the local language, simply out of respect for the country and people you are visiting. There are many apps that can help with the basics, Hola, Buenas Nochos, Gracias etc, all helps! Especially with safety. It’s nice to be able to say the basics in an emergency

10. Take your prescription drugs with you

Cuban Doctors are renowned for being among the best in the world and any treatment you need will be excellent I’m sure, but as in many poorer countries, drugs and medicines are in short supply. There are “Tourist Pharmacies” that stock some medical products, but I wouldn’t want to risk they stock what you might desperately need!

11. Cuba Is very safe for lone tourist

Even lone female travellers are safe in Cuba. The sexual assault rate is very low and it’s quite rare for any female to be attacked, but obviously, try not to endanger yourself by entering the sort of areas you wouldn’t enter at home. No hitch-hiking, that sort of thing

12. Be Careful Swimming on beaches – There are sharks!

Yes, it’s true, there have been shark attacks of the coast of Cuba. Reports of the last one can be found here at Travel Adviser

There have only been 11 in around 450 years and the previous one was in 1958, but has this latest one happened in 2017 we can presume we still need to be on our guard!

Best Cuba Destination Tips

13. Best destination for scuba diving

Is Maria De Gorde in western Cuba

Best for scuba diving

14. Best Destination for beaches

Varedero, Jardines del ray & Guardalavaca

15. Best Destination for Vintage Cars & Buildings

havana in cuba


General Cuba Travel Tips

16. You can rent Cars in Cuba

If your going for an adventure holiday, why not hire a car. You’ll see so much more than the average tourist stuck up in a packaged holiday hotel. And, the old vintage cars are great fun to drive!

Car rental In Cuba

17. Book Cuban Tours before leaving

You’ll find it difficult to book any tours once you’ve arrived. The Internet is improving in Cuba but you may still find problems using it to book tours or excursions. It’s a good idea therefore to book before your flight. For example, your hotel might have a tour to Havana, but then again, it might not, and now it’s too late for a once in a lifetime visit!

Try Cubangrouptour.com for great looking tours!

18. Try Salsa Dancing

cuban salsa

Everyone in Cuba knows how to Salsa, so you might look out of place doing your “big box, small box” 80’s routine. Take some Salsa lessons before your vacation and impress the locals!

19. Internet is hit & miss- So Take your smart phone or Tablet

There are WiFi spots at Hotels and Internet Cafes but it’s a bit hit & miss and certainly not as widespread as other countries. You can still use your smartphones, tablets or lap tops, though you may have to pay using a Cuba Internet Card which usually lasts for 1 hour.

20. Try the food and just have fun

Don’t forget to try the traditional food, there is some dispute as to Cuba’s national dish, but most oldies think it’s Chicken & Yellow rice (Arroz on pollo)

cuba national dish

Some younger Cuban’s think it’s the Ropa Vieja pictured below, but whichever, they are both gorgeous to eat.

ropa vieja cuban food

Just try them and have lots of fun!

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