Cuba Tips for Travel to Make Sure Your Trip is NOT a Disaster
Cuba’s an amazing destination with the colorful streets of Havana and the beautiful beaches, but there are some pitfalls you’ll want to watch out for! I’ve included some useful Cuba tips for travel so you can avoid disaster. And don’t miss my absolute favorite activities in Cuba.
For the first of my travel tips for Cuba, it’s all about the paperwork. On your medical form going into Cuba don’t mark tourist put other and write in education. This was announced to us on the plane “wink wink.”
Bathrooms in Cuba
My next Cuba travel tip is one that I’m always concerned about, the bathroom situation in foreign countries. Bathrooms at the airport in Cuba do not have seats so be ready to “hover” if you have to go upon landing. They do hand you toilet paper as you enter. Generally speaking though most restaurants we went to in Havana had bathrooms with toilet paper and toilet seats. There was one bathroom that came with peacocks!
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Checked Luggage in Cuba
DO NOT check luggage your for your trip to Cuba. This Cuba travel tip will save you so much time. We rarely check luggage on short trips like this one to Cuba, but one person in our group did. She was at the airport forever while we were already drinking mojitos on the street! Not only did it take her an hour to get her bag, but by the time she got to the money exchange booths, there was a huge line there too. Whereas when we left the airport there was no one exchanging money, so no line. The crowds were all waiting for their bags!
Money Exchange in Cuba
Don’t miss the money exchange when you exit the airport in Havana, Cuba! The booths are inconspicuous with no sign, we almost walked right past them, except I stopped to ask. The booths are right before the exit of the airport, don’t walk out without exchanging your money! The exchange fee was 15% when we went, I had read it was 10% before we went.
Map Where You are Staying in Havana Cuba
Wifi is iffy at best in Havana, Cuba, so I’ve included in this list of travel tips to Cuba the need to have a map of where your casa particulares, hostel or Airbnb is because it may not have an address. Even with the Beautagrapher’s poor planning skills, he did get a map of where our Airbnb was in Havana, Cuba before we left using the Maps.Me app. The pair that got stuck at the Havana airport, not so lucky. They had an address that was the whole street, so none of the cabs knew where it was!
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Cuba is Cheaper than Expected
Don’t exchange too much money Cuba was cheaper than we thought, I would say about $500 USD is more than enough for a 4 night 5 day trip. I had read from other tourists that they thought it was expensive. Not the case.
Exchanging Money Back into USD
If you do exchange too much, don’t worry you won’t lose any more value when you exchange back with this tip. Go to Cuba Duty-free after security. We bought a pack of cigars there and they offered to exchange all our Cuban Pesos back to USD at a 1 to 1 exchange rate. If we had known this we wouldn’t have tried to use up all our CUC!
Hotel Roof Tops Have Amazing Views for Free
Sneak into hotel rooftops for the best sunset views. We didn’t even sneak. We walked into a hotel straight to the elevator, found the top floor and off we went. We had the rooftop all to ourselves! There was staff at the restaurant but no one even batted an eyelash at us. For the best rooftop views check out this post.
DO NOT EAT AT LA FAMILIA
Usually, locals recommend the best restaurants right? Well in this case, wrong. I had already read about the scam, a local recommending his friends family restaurant. But I was not prepared for this, EVERY LOCAL we spoke to recommended La Familia. Normally I do a ton of research on where to eat, but this time the Beautographer was going to do the research. Well, he never did!! He wanted to fly by the seat of his pants! That resulted in the most expensive and worst meal of our whole trip. Which also got me sick by the way, which leads to the next tip.
DO NOT EAT RAW VEGETABLES
I know I know. I’m a seasoned traveler and I never eat raw vegetables. I took one bite of lettuce at La Familia and instantly regretted it. I’m Asian I eat a lot of vegetables on the regular and I hadn’t seen one in two days! That one bite of lettuce killed me for an entire day, I straight puked out water for an entire day. Just don’t do it!!!
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Bring Stomach Medication
Bring stomach medication, we all got sick people. After the throwing up that 2 of us did, the rest had bathroom issues towards the end of our trip, and also for a good portion of time after we returned. There’s nowhere to buy over the counter medication so bring Pepto chewables and Imodium. Even the people who didn’t eat any raw foods got sick.
Take a Day Trip to the Beach
Havana can get quite hot in the middle of summer during the day, so I’d suggest taking a nice trip to a nearby beach. We went to Playas del Este and it was a fabulous time. The cab ride there was about $20 CUC each way. There’s also a bus, but since we had 6 people it was about the same cost as the $5 per person bus.
Go to Morro Castle for a fantastic view of Havana
It’s across the bay through a tunnel, I’d highly recommend taking a classic car there!
Do the Classic Car Ride in the Morning
If you are going to Havana during summer aim to do the classic car ride early in the morning so it’s not hot and less likely to be raining. It rained most nights we were there, but every morning was gorgeous.
No They are NOT CATCALLING YOU, a Special Note to Women and Asians
I had read that catcalling was relentless in Cuba and Asians were pointed at and laughed at. Well I’m Asian and my Husband is Asian, no fuss was made over us, if anything we were targeted less by the scammers because they didn’t think we spoke English or Spanish (see above). And the catcalling? What could be mistaken as catcalling is just the locals communicating with each other down the street. There was lots of shouting and whistling, but none of it directed at us. It was the locals “talking” to each other. Many people made kissy faces at me, BOTH MEN and WOMEN! It’s just how they greet and say goodbye! These are the cultural differences that can be mistaken as catcalling when it’s just standard greeting and communicating for the locals.
Wonderful thoughts and tips indeed. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for the tips!
You are so welcome, thank you for stopping by Jennifer!
This is great, thanks for sharing these tips! Cuba is definitely on my travel list and I’m always on the lookout for tips from people who have already visited.
Cuba is so close to Florida- I’d love to check it out for a weekend. I got caught out on salads in India & Africa, so I can sympathize with your lettuce-run-in. Thanks for sharing these insider tips!
Interesting tips… Not eating raw veggies is a good tip at any place you are unsure of :)..
Thanks for the tips! Will definitely keep in mind if I go.
I’m so sorry to hear you got sick. Feeling so lucky we didn’t get funky after eating vegetables in Cuba. 🙁 Great tips on Cuba, though. I agree with all of these after spending 5 days in Cuba, especially about not checking bags and Cuba being very cheap. I don’t think we spent more than $300 for our entire 5 days!
OH MY GOD, thank you for these. Short and simple, but literally priceless advice.
Some really good tips to know! Visiting Cuba is definitely on the bucket list <3
That’s super interesting they tell you to lie on your immigration form, oh gosh. Hope they don’t catch on to that!
As a vegan, not eating raw veggies is like… a cardinal sin I break all the time. I always carry charcoal with me now, prepping for the inevitable haha.
Lots of really good tips here! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thanks for sharing your tips. It’s been a few years since my last Cuba trip, but I very well remember the waiting time for the luggage at the airport…
Not eating raw vegetable is the most important while traveling.
This post is really helpful!Thanks for sharing:-)
Great post. I had been to Cuba 3 times – the first time I went was about 10 years ago and I got sick off of the veggies or dairy and it was horrible. I love Havana, but was only there a day. It’s really pretty. I always bring an extra pack of tissue for bathrooms there. I didn’t hear about the local restaurant scam and dollar exchange, but that’s good to know for next time I bring my husband with me, who’s never been. I always prefer to pay in USD even if they have their foreign currency, but don’t know if that’s changed in the last 3 years. Good to know where to exchange before I leave if I must!
Oh this is really good information! My sister and her hubby went to Cuba late 2016 and had a fabulous time, but could have used this info prior to their trip. Sister is a nurse and she also got deathly sick – not sure what she ate but she reports that it was an ugly outcome (literally) so that is great advice on the meds. She did pack her own but used it up. The same advice should be taken for travel anywhere, but especially in emerging economies, rural travel in first world, or any tropical climate. Other things to note: do not expect that the Cuban Internet and WiFi will be available or speedy. Think dial up in the early 2000’s, according to my sources 🙂
I’ve never heard the raw veggie thing! Thanks for the tip!
Great tips. I am hoping to travel to Cuba soon.
This is such a great informative post! I would love to go to Cuba someday.
How interesting! Such a great tips and thanks for sharing!
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I had no idea eating raw veggies was such a big No No! Thanks for the tips.
Wow the colors in these photos are beautiful!!
I do hope to get to Cuba one day! It looks amazing in photos.
Great tips Diana! I really enjoyed this article. I would love to head to Cuba one day!