Since our country’s relations with Cuba have improved, travel and tourism to that small island just 90 miles off our coast have increased. There seems to be a curiosity about Cuba, and the best way to scratch that itch it to take a trip there. As you all know, we recently spent two weeks there, and you can read about it here and here. I promised a third post with some tips that can make your visit there a little easier. I think that learning about a place from someone who has been there makes traveling easier or more pleasurable.
1. Getting There – Not all airlines are flying into Cuba right now. American, Delta, and Alaskan are the largest carriers with regular flights, and you don’t have to fly to Havana to start your trip. At least 15 other cities have small airports that are receiving US airlines. This website has more information on flights. And by the way, when you land, be sure to check out the uniforms worn by their local version of TSA. Let’s just say very tight and very short and many with lace stockings.
2. Booking Your Room – Consider using a Canadian travel agency to save money when booking your room. Canadians have been traveling to Cuba for years and years, and they have a good working relationship with the government. We used an agency out of Toronto and saved 25 per cent on our room.
3. Take Cash – American credit cards are not accepted in Cuba so take plenty of cash. Save enough for any exit fees you might encounter. They like large bills that are nice and new, and you will exchange your US money for Cuban money.
4. You Need a Visa – All Americans traveling to Cuba need a visa to enter the country. The process is different depending on the airline you use, so, be sure to check with them when you book your tickets.
5. Rent a Convertible – Cuba is loaded, just loaded with vintage cars that are in very good condition. Somehow, the Cubans are able to fix motors, exchange motors, and overhaul motors to keep these wonderful cars from the past on the road. Do yourself a favor and hire one with a driver for a day or more. You can have a hard top or a convertible, but I recommend that you go all out and go with the convertible.
6. Food – The food in Cuba tends to be on the basic side, but the pina coladas are divine. (; Expect a lot of fish, rice, plantains, and salad. They don’t have a lot of snack foods, candy, soft drinks, etc. for sale, so if you are into these things, take them with you (except the soft drinks.)
7. Travel within the Country – No matter where you go, be sure to join a tour or hire a driver for the day to take you somewhere else. The country is beautiful and has a lot of variety in what there is to see and do. If you are staying in a city, be sure to get to the beach for a day. If you are staying in a small town, go to Havana for a day.
8. Vaccinations – There are no mandatory vaccines required to travel to Cuba, but there are a few that are recommended. Check with the CDC and then decide if you will get them.
9. Souvenirs – We stopped by several markets in both Havana and Varadero, and they all sold pretty much the same things. There were a lot of carved items, and some were marked “made in China.” I was lucky enough to buy two small paintings, but there weren’t many things I was interested in bringing home.
10. Safety – We always felt very safe in both the city and in the country. The Cuban people are very laid back and peaceful. Also, we were never approached for money or harrassed to buy something.
There are plenty of books about Cuba out there so be sure to buy one or two before you go. Also, there’s a great Netflix series dealing Cuba and its history up to the present.