It’s no surprise that Cuba has become one of the most popular destinations in the world. After the announcement of the first measures to end the economic embargo by the United States. Many people started to pack their bags and buy a ticket to visit Fidel Castro’s island blocked it was for the last 50 years. And if you want to do the same, hurry up, as things are really changing in Cuba. There are new cars on the streets, Wi-Fi in squares, and supermarkets with products on shelves, not behind counters. But it’s good to check out some tips about Cuba before you travel. After all, you will be going to one of the last socialist countries in the world.
Although it is much easier to visit Cuba today than it was just a year or two ago, tourists who come to the island still need to prepare themselves to face a series of limitations. It is almost impossible to use a credit card to make payments. Access to the internet is still quite complicated. It is only allowed to exchange certain currencies, there are no basic hygiene products in the markets, etc. If you’ve read all this and thought about leaving your trip for a few years, think again when everything is easier in Cuba.
We have five tips for you.
Cuba Tips 1 – Unified Currency
Until January 1, 2021, there were two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC). The locals used the first – each 1 euro was worth 25 Cuban pesos. The second was created for tourist use and was much more expensive – each CUC was worth about 1 euro. At exchange offices – Cadecas – and at ATMs, you only received CUCs. But this whole mess ended with the unification of the two coins of the island!
The convertible peso stopped circulating, giving way to a new Cuban peso with a fixed exchange rate. Now 24 Cuban pesos are worth 1 dollar period. This change makes life easier for tourists, but it could also make travel to Cuba more expensive, as it was accompanied by an increase in prices and wages on the island.
Cuba Tips 2 – Limited Exchange
Once on the island, you can only exchange dollars, euros, Canadian dollars, pounds, and Mexican pesos, so don’t leave Brazil with reais! Also avoid US dollars, as they are taxed at 10% due to the trade embargo that the United States lifted against Cuba in the 1960s. The rate is basically the same in all homes, even those at the airport.
There is a decent number of ATMs around the island, but sometimes you’ll have to walk a bit to find the closest one. All are from the same bank and only allow withdrawal from the Visa network. Credit cards are only accepted very rarely and in extremely touristy places, such as the famous Floridita bar.
Cuba Tips 3 – Entry ‘Visa’
Every visitor needs a tourist card to enter Cuba. This card is a kind of visa that the government of the island grants for visits of up to 30 days and costs US$ 20. If you are going to leave Brazil for Cuba, you must ask for the document at the embassy/consulate in person or via the post office, which makes the process more expensive. If you are departing from other countries, check if your airline does not sell the card at check-in.
All companies that fly to the island from Mexico, for example, do this. There is no bureaucracy, all you have to do is present a ticket out of Cuba within 30 days and pay the fee. The process via the embassy is more formal, and you will need to fill out a form, in addition to presenting proof of accommodation and international health insurance.
Cuba Tips 4 – Hurricane Season
Cuba is on the Caribbean hurricane route, whose season runs from August to the end of October. Of course, it’s very difficult for a hurricane to hit the exact city you’re visiting right on the date you’re there. But if you want to avoid risking it, it’s a good idea to plan your trip for another time of year. In addition to the strong winds, the island also has a long rainy season, which runs from May to October.
At this time, the heat is also stronger. Therefore, the months of August, September, and October are considered the very low tourist season on the island, when it is possible to find less crowded attractions and promotions at the Cuban beach resorts. The high season coincides with the dry and cooler period, which runs from November to April.
Cuba Tips 5 – Transport
Transport is one of the most complicated and expensive items for those who are visiting Cuba. This is true for visitors who do not want or cannot rent a car. To get around within cities, you can use taxis or collective taxis (old cars that take up to six people on a fixed route), but public transport is of poor quality, using buses falling apart and always overcrowded. Some public transports refuse to take tourists, especially at night, wanting to close a private race and earn more, but this has become rarer.
To go from one city to another, you can close a bus with other tourists or take Viazul buses, the only company in which foreigners are allowed to travel. Tickets can be purchased through the company’s website, which accepts credit cards, or directly at the bus station.
As for sightseeing we have another post coming soon on what to see.