Updated: May 28, 2020
1. Cuba is Safe
Cuba is absolutely safe for foreigners who wish to travel alone or with a few friends! You’ll notice that many people are happy to help should you get lost, or if you want to know where to find the best mojitos! I had second thoughts about traveling to Havana as a solo female, but I was at ease almost immediately after getting settled in. I arrived in Havana just after sundown, and I was comfortable enough to walk a few blocks from my hostel to the nearest cafeteria to grab dinner. When it comes to exploring the city, I downloaded an offline Google map of the city and I was good to go!
2. There are two different currencies.
Cuba currently uses two types of currency. CUC which are (Cuban Convertible Currency) and CUP (Cuban pesos) It’s important to know the difference because the value of each is different. CUC is almost always used by tourists while CUP is used exclusively by Cuban residents. For American tourists, 1 USD is equal to 1 CUC. I would advise you to confirm that you receive CUC back after every transaction. Most importantly, if you are an American citizen make sure you withdraw enough cash prior to landing in Cuba! American bank cards do not work anywhere in Cuba under any circumstances. Once you’ve decided how much you’ll need, add a little more for incidentals! I made the assumption that I could simply withdraw more cash for my taxi to the airport and missed my flight! Don’t be like me! 😉
3. The food is...
Cuban food is certainly worth a try! The best way to describe it (and Cuba at-large) is a fusion of African, Latin American, and Caribbean influences. Cuban food may be underwhelming for some palettes and perfect for others. Overall, I think food is a great and exciting way to understand Cuban history. Many traditional recipes call for meat so if you are vegetarian or vegan, make sure to do some research ahead of time. If you are a food enthusiast like me, Airbnb Experience offers a couple of inexpensive cooking classes organized by local people! I took one myself and found it to be the most personal experience I had. It gave me the opportunity to fully converse in Spanish, and it taught me a lot about what life is like in Cuba from a local standpoint.
4. Use Taxi Collectivos
Cuba offers several methods of transportation around the island. If you plan to visit cities outside of Havana or take a trip to la playa, you can easily catch the bus for 5-10 CUC or a taxi collectivo for about the same price point. A taxi collectivo is exactly what it sounds like, a collective taxi. An old school version of Uber Pool if you will. I would advise against taking a personal taxi unless you are with a larger group. You may be overcharged and saving money where you can is key.
5. Learn some basic Spanish!
Some countries are more navigable without learning the local language but Cuba is not one of them. Time to dust those Spanish cobwebs in your brain because basic Spanish skills are the only way to navigate this beautiful country. From ordering a refrescó de naranga (orange soda) to purchasing a WiFi card, you’ll need to know some basic phrases! Check out my list of useful Spanish phrases specific to Cuba.
Due to resources available in Cuba, information may not be as easily accessible. Just remember to stay open-minded and light-hearted. If you keep a “can do” attitude, you will leave this beautiful place with nothing but great memories. As soon as I left, I could only think of the people and things that I plan to see once I return.
If this article inspired you to begin planning your trip to Cuba, be sure to read up on the process of traveling to Cuba as a US citizen.
Until next time,
The Pint Sized Traveler