Cuba Travel PlanThis travel information will help you plan your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not a big country and can be covered in only 2-3 weeks, but planning your trip ahead is essential.
This page includes general information and tips for Cuba.
Cuba travel destinations pages (see navigation menu) include travel tips, what to see and do, recommended casas particulares and much more.
The capital of Cuba is a mixure of old and new,
where Cuban culture such as art and music thrive.
Here you can enjoy the best Cuban music shows in the country, visit museums and learn about the history of Cuba.
- Vinales -
A small village in the middle of a beautiful valley.
Here you will enjoy the tranquility of the region, and see up close how Vinales' Tobacco is turned into the famous Cuban cigars.
- Trinidad - A beautiful colonial town with many travel opportunities.
- Camaguey -
A quite city in the middle of Cuba.
Don't spend here too much time, use Camaguey as a stop point on the way to more interesting places.
- Santiago de Cuba - This southern city is the gate to Africa, and you will notice it wherever you go - great African-Cuban music, Rumba dancing and food.
Accommodations in Cuba
Hotels in CubaThe first options is stay at hotels, which is less reccomented. The hotels in Cuba are relatively expensive, and more than that, if you stay at a hotel you miss the experience of mingling with the locals.
A room for two costs 20-25 CUC per night. They are not allowed to have more then two persons in one room (government law that is strictly enforced), so if you are a group of three, it will be a little more difficult for you to find a house that have two rooms for rent.
I advise you to follow these guidelines when making a reservation to a Casa:
1. About two weeks before your travel, send email with the following info:
Specific dates, number of people, full name of each traveler
2. Ask the reply to be in both English and Spanish
3. Print out the reply, you may need to show it to immigration officials when you arrive to Cuba.
For recommended Casas Particulares that I enjoyed the most when I traveled in Cuba, go to my Cuba travel destinations pages.
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Transportation in CubaUse the buses of Viazul, they are comfortable and not expensive. Pay attention that in Cuba the bus leaves one to three times a day, and only between the big cities or tourists favorite locations. Check out Viazul's website for more info.
If you miss a bus, you can always find a local with a car that will take you wherever you want for the same cost of a Viazul ticket (and it will probably be a better experience, as well as faster than the bus).
Check out my Cuba travel destinations pages for the best ways to get from one place to another in Cuba.
Eating at the CasaThe best way to eat good Cuban food for reasonable price is at the Casa. Let your host know in advance that you want to eat breasfast and dinner with them, you will even be asked for your preferences (If you don't do so, you may be kindly asked to... this is another income for them and they prefer to rent to those who will also eat at their house).
Breakfasts are based on eggs, vegetables and great cold fresh juice (mango, papaya, guava or whatever they have at that day). Dinners usually include chicken/fish/other sea food(not in Havana), rice, black beans and some vegetables. Expect richer food at the country side (Vinales) and less in the main cities (Havana and Santiago).
The costs are 3 CUC for breakfast and 8-10 CUC for dinner.
Eating OutsideDon't go to restaurants because they are expensive and not all that tasty. In addition, I don't recommend buying food at street stands, you might get a stomach ache.
Cuba Currency SystemThere are two different currencies in Cuba
1. MN (Monedo Nacional). It's for the locals use only, although you will be able to use it for buying ice cream or pizza at street stands, for example.
2. CUC - Cuban convertible peso. This is the currency for travelers.
The ratio is about 1 CUC = 24 MN, where 1 CUC = 1.1 USD (On the street is it easier to consider 1 CUC as 1 USD or 25 MN)
Visit the Central bank of Cuba website for the daily exchange rate.
The main difference in the two currencies is that products and services for tourists are much more expensive, and are marked in CUC. In addition, sometimes the same product or service has two different prices - cheap reasonable price for Cubans, and expensive price for tourists (sometimes even 50 times more!).
Turism-based businesses mark their merchandise in CUC, and pay a significant government tax of their convertible pesos income.
US dollars and other currencies are not acceptable, and you must exchange them to pesos.
Don't mistake pesos with the terms used on the street. The Cubans call the convertible peso "dollar" and Cuban peso "monedo nacional".
My advice is to arrive in Cuba with Euros or Canadian dollars and not US dollars because the government collects a surcharge of 10% if you exchange USD to Cuban convertible pesos. Exchange at the airport only a small sum, say 50 pesos so you can pay for the taxi from the airport (15-20 CUC) and for the first day or two, and exchange the rest of your money at the local CADECA exchange counters or banks, where the rate is better. In any case, the best way to buy Cuban peso in Cuba is at the CADECA offices.
Accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard.
You can also use travelers cheques of Visa, American Express or Thomas Cook.
Is Cuba expensive to travel?Cuba is definitely more expensive than travel destinations in central or south America. If you follow my tips, you will save money and find that your Cuba trip is not that expensive.
- Transportation - Use the buses. If you want to take a taxi, look for locals (not registered taxis) that will take you wherever you wish for a lot less than a formal taxi.
- Casas - It is best to travel in pairs, because each room is rented for two people. If you travel by yourself expect to pay the same for the room as a couple (simple bargaining can get you $5 off if it is off-season).
- Try to buy using MN instead of CUC - It may work for you, for example, if you buy food at a street stand.
- The Cubans always ask for very high prices,
but don't forget that each CUC that you pay is a lot of money for them.
Bargain at the market! I managed to bring down souvenir prices at Trinidad from $20 to 7... and still the seller was fairly happey about the sale.
Prices in CubaOn the average, expect to pay around 50 CUC a day.
Here are a few examples of prices in Cuba (in Cuba Convertible Peso, unless stated otherwise). The prices vary a little according to place and season.
- Casa Particulare: 20-25
- Breakfast at the casa: 3
- Dinner at the case: 8-10
- Flight (Havana - Santiago): 100
- Bus: 13-55 (3-12 hours)
- Taxi (30 minutes ride): 8
- 5 hour hourse trip (with a guide): 20
- Motor bite rental (half a day): 25
- Jeep and a driver for a day trip: 60
- Entrance fee to national part: 5
- Ice cream on the street: 1 MN
Cuba Travel Tips
WeatherHot and humid, you can't escape it. If you don't like this climate, don't go to Santiago around August! Generally, On other times and locations you should be fine.
Visa - tourist cardYou need to buy a tourist visa document (also called tourist card) before arriving to Cuba. It is available with the airline at the airport, and I got mine for 17 USD at Mexico City airport, just before the check in. Your Passport is not stamped, they stamp the tourist card, and when you leave Cuba they take it. Make sure that you fill out the address where you plan on staying at for the first night (accommodation tips follows).
Music and DancingThe Cubans are known for their love to music and dancing.
The mixure of Spanish and African cultures created on this island a colorful variety of rhythms that can be heard and seen everywhere.
If you are alreay familiar with Cuban music it will enrich your visit. If not, you may want to consider taking a few salsa dancing lessons before your trip.
- Check for upcoming music shows in Cuba
Personal SafetyCuba is safe to travel, but especially in Centro Havana, don't go alone at night.
FoodDon't buy food on the street, unless you want to get a stomach ache. Eat at your casa or hotel.
"Cuban Time"Don't rush from one place to another. Get into the "slow-motion" mod of Cuba, you will enjoy it much much better this way.
Airport TaxWhen you leave Cuba you need to pay a tax of 25 CUC. Pay it before checking in with your airliner.
ArtYou are not allowed to take art outside of Cuba, unless it was bought from a formal place (that pays a lot of tax). I personally was not searched for art when I left Cuba, but don't take your chances because if art is found and you don't have a legal certificate from the store/galley where you bought it - it may be confiscated.
Cuban CigarsDon't be tempted to buy Cuban sigars from strange guys on the street (mainly Havana), most of them sell sigars of a very low quality.
The best Cuban sigars can be found at the factories in Havana, or at the farms of Vinales.
Be aware that officially, you are not allowed to leave Cuba with more than 23 cigars, and in any case it is advised to get a certificate from the seller (same as with art pieces).
Travel InsuranceHaving a decent travel insurance is a good practice, and in Cuba is it a necessity because the Cuban health services for tourists are minimal.
It is best to carry insurance from your local company. Otherwise, it can be obtained in Cuba from Asistur (Cuba's official travel insurance company).