The music and art of Cuba are as vibrant as ever. Its private culinary scene is expanding and evolving to meet the rising demand from its millions of visitors from around the world. If you are thinking about visiting Cuba for the first time here are a few tips that will prepare you for your trip.
1. Go with the flow.
Taking a trip to Cuba is like traveling back in time and offers a once in a life time connection to America's past - circa 1950s. But travelers need to understand that Cuba’s 1950’s charm isn’t designed to meet today’s fast-paced service industry standards. So take it slow, kick back and relax and leave that fast paced mentality behind. Take time to enjoy your meal, and have patience with your taxi driver. Take that extra time to slow down, enjoy yourself and really appreciate your time in Cuba. There is nowhere else like it in the world.
2. Bring more money than you’ll need.
You must bring cash to Cuba. U.S. credit cards and ATM cards still do not work. Credit and AMT cards from Europe, Canada and countries other than the U.S. may be functional, but ATMs and establishments that accept credit cards art not accessible or reliable. So, plan on bringing more cash than you’ll think you’ll need. We always recommend bringing at least$500 for a 5-day 4-night stay. Remember you can always bring home what you do not spend.
Also remember that Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (for locals) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (known as CUC, equivalent to the US dollar, for foreigners). While the US dollar is equal to one CUC, the exchange rate is 87 cents on the dollar, meaning visitors receive 87 CUC for every $100 they exchange. This is due to the extra 10% tax on American dollars, due to American sanctions placed on Cuba. For comparison, the Euro’s approximate rate is 1 Euro to 1.11 CUC. If you have the ability to get Euros before your trip to Cuba then you’ll have a little more to spend on that extra Piña colada.
3. Always negotiate clearly.
You are welcome to negotiate prices for taxis, artwork, and street food, but make sure to be very clearwhen negotiating. You want to make sure to settle your negotiation before you receive any goods or services. So before traveling to Cuba, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Spanish numbers and negotiation phrases. However, you cannot negotiate in restaurant or hotels. Your guide can be a big help in negotiation situations.
4. Always buy cigars from state stores not on the street.
For all the cigar lovers out there, beware of buying your tobacco products on the street because they can be fake. Nine times out of 10, travelers will come home with fakes (such as banana peels) and not the real thing. So, we encourage you to buy all of your cigars from a state store.
5. Don’t spend all of your time in Havana.
Two million live in Havana, but over 11 million Cubans live on the island. This means that there is much to see and do outside of the capital city. You can visit the tobacco farms and go hiking in Viñales, see the sugar fields and cobblestone streets of Trinida, witness history at the Bay of Pigs in Matanzas, or even go scuba diving off the Isle of Youth.
Cuba has so much to offer! If you have questions about travel to Cuba please reach out to us and one of our Cuba travel specialists contact, you right away.
A message from FAME Traveler Erin Branham - “Cuba is mysterious for US travelers, but FAME helps take the concerns away and allows you to really enjoy the incredible culture, architecture, art, food, and of course music on every street that Cuba has to offer. It was the best trip we've had in a long time.”