My first trip to Cuba was an unforgettable experience that taught me a lot about the culture. I am grateful to have gone at a pivotal time when politics and daily life is on the brink of changing if it hasn’t already.
Cuba is vibrant, timeless and inviting. It has always been a place that I was longing to go to. I was able to stay with an amazing family who taught me a lot about Cuba and their traditions. The people are friendly and helpful even if they don’t speak English and the food, although sometimes difficult to find, was a delight to my taste buds every time!
Here are my tips for your next trip to Cuba:
1. Change your money to Euros before exchanging your money to CUC in Cuba.
I was told that it wasn’t a big difference if you change your American dollars to CUC (the Cuban convertible peso), but I believe it was a big difference. Cuba charges a 10% exchange fee because of the embargo, so I recommend to go to your local bank and change your money to Euros or Canadian dollars first before exchanging your money when you arrive at the Cuban airport. In my experience the best exchange rate was at the Jose Marti International Airport.
2. Use offline map apps like map.me.
Wireless Internet can be difficult to find in Cuba and when you do find it you may have to pay a fee. For my trip there I didn’t use the Internet at all. I did, however, download a map of Cuba before I left so that there was some way I could figure out how to get from one place to another. Maps.me is a wonderful app that does NOT use Internet! It was extremely helpful when I wanted to explore the area by myself.
**Make sure to download your desired maps before you leave the country.
3. Stay with a family to get the ultimate local experience.
Casa particulares is like airbnb but specific to Cuba. Locals rent out rooms in their houses for a fair a very fair price. You can go to several websites to find a place to stay. Here are a couple that I found helpful: HostelsClub and TripAdvisor. Often times it is best to ask for recommendations from people who you know have already gone to Cuba.
I stayed with a very nice couple. They answered all my questions and they really did make us feel like we were home away from home. You can reserve a room with them here:
4.Go see the countryside or the beach.
I stayed in Havana, but was able to get away from the city to see a bit of nature. Sometimes it’s good to get away from one place and change the scenery. You also get a feel of the different areas and personalities of a country that way. My favorite place in Cuba was Varadero. The beaches were beautiful with clear, blue water and powder-like sand. I could have stayed there forever!
5.Travel like a local.
The cheaper and more interesting way of getting around Cuba is by bus. I was able to learn how to take the local bus to Old Havana, El Malecon and several other points of interest. It’s also less expensive to visit the countryside like Vinales by bus; however, it may take longer to get there. Even if you aren’t on a budget I would highly suggest taking the local bus even once during your trip. It’s an experience that I cherish because I get to see how the locals really get from one place to another. Plus, you meet many kind people on the bus.
Cuba is a wonderful place to visit and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. If you guys have been to Cuba at all, let me know what your favorite part of your trip was! And if you are going soon, be sure to tag me in any of your social media accounts so I can like and comment.
If you want see what I did in Cuba you can watch my video here.