Eight must-know things before planning a trip to Cuba.
Ah, Cuba. A stunning, old fashioned island that’s bursting with history and character. Although Cuba’s backwards charm is definitely going to win you over, there’s a few things to know prior to your arrival in the country. What to know, you ask? Well, here’s a few things I learnt (the hard way) during my time in Cuba.
One: Drones are a no-go
The first thing I wish I read about what to know about Cuba is that unfortunately, drones are not allowed in Cuba. I found this out the hard way, having mine confiscated at customs and all. Ok, this might have been my fault as I should have researched prior to my arrival in Cuba, so here’s hoping I’ll save you guys the trouble. Some countries don’t accept drones, and Cuba being in the current state that it is should have been a no-brainer. In efforts to avoid departing ways with anything that’s valuable to you that might be off-limits, just don’t take it to Cuba, as you might never see it again. To read the whole story on what happened to my drone, click here.
Two: Get your Visa
You need a visa/tourist card to enter Cuba. In order to get one, you need to complete an application in the Cuban embassy in your country. This shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks to be ready. In some cases, you’re able to purchase a tourist card directly from your airline or travel agent, but not all airlines provide one. Furthermore, this will grant you access to Cuba for 30 days, and you must have a return ticked booked. You will not be granted permission to board the plane, nor enter Cuba without one of these.
Three: Lost in Translation
Most of the people living in Cuba only speak Spanish, and although this contributes to one of Cuba’s biggest charms, it can be a little frustrating for tourists like me who don’t speak their primal language. I was able to get by (hardly) on some occassions thanks to my binge watching Spanish telenovelas, however, I would suggest you learn a few important words and phrases so you can also get by. Here’s a link to a page! You’ll thank me later, trust me.
Four: We all have some Baggage
If you’re planning on going shopping and buying an excess amount of souvenirs, bare in mind that buying an extra luggage or having to pay for extra weight is very pricey. Furthermore, if this happens, don’t purchase your extra luggage online as their online systems are not really in sync. Some airlines don’t even offer the opportunity to purchase additional luggage! So try taking as less clothes as possible (don’t overpack) to have more space for later!
Brace yourselves millennials, as there’s hardly any WiFi. You pay to purchase tickets with a code for an hour of internet, and this is only in certain places such as your hotel. On the bright side, it only costs a dollar for an hour and if you’re out and about all day, you won’t need it. You’ll also get the chance to disconnect and enjoy your surrounding, something that we hardly get the chance to do nowadays.
Here’s what to know about Cuba’s local currency! It’s Pesos or CUC (convertible peso), which is valued exactly like the US Dollar. In some cases they accept dollars or maybe even Euros, but not all the time. I suggest to exchange some money once you’re there. Here’s something I wish I did whilst I was there. As mentioned earlier, there’s no internet, so if you find yourself in a situation where you need to pay in a foreign currency such as Euros (and are bargaining your way through an item) print screen the exchange rate on your phone so you can properly pay what the item is worth. Finally, some places don’t take card payments, therefore always have some cash on you.
I personally was not very fond of the local food in Cuba. I am a little picky with my diet, and would suggest taking some snacks with you in any case you get hungry and don’t have the opportunity to grab a snack on the road. Trust me, take cereal bars, nuts, and whatever is your go-to snack, you’ll thank me later. Oh, and tap water is not drinkable, so be cautious to only drink bottled water. Try to avoid adding ice to your beverage from sketchy places otherwise you might get food poisoning.
First things first, Havana has only two pharmacies available for tourists. Although their health care is very good, I suggest you take some precautions to avoid dealing with any medical situations. Take some medicine supplies with you for food poisoning (anti-emetic and whatnot), and anything you think you should need in any case something should happen to you. Oh and one last thing, they don’t really talk Western medicine since the embargo hasn’t allowed any outside medication to enter the country. Everything provided in Cuba is made in Cuba, hence explaining what you need might be kind of a debacle.
Thank you for reading this blog post! I hope this has helped you with planning your next trip to Cuba. I hope you enjoyed it!