10 Things To Know About Cuba Travel
A little preparation prior to your stay in Cuba will be time well spent. Cuba has its nuances and most International travelers need to understand that when you set foot in Cuba, you will enjoy your stay more if you simply decide to see Cuba the Cuban way. Usually, that means adjusting your mindset from the mindset you bear in your native land to the mindset Cubans enjoy. “When in Cuba….”
By understanding these basic principles of travel in Cuba, your experience will be that much more enjoyable.
1. Time in Cuba is “Cuba Time” – The pace of life is most likely a bit slower in Cuba than in your native land. Wait staff take their time. Tour guides are late. Buses and trains are never on time and if your plane departs at the scheduled on local flights, you have won the lottery. Things do not take place at appointed hours, they take place according to Cuban time and Cuban time is best described as, “When someone gets around to it.” Relax, be prepared for delays, enjoy the sights and sounds and interact with the natives and time will fly by.
2. Panhandling – Cuba is marked by poverty. Cubans will pose for photos, etch a caricature, beg for money or try to sell anything they can. If you are traveling in Cuba, expect to be approached by someone peddling their wares. At first, this can seem a nuisance but as you grow accustomed to the panhandling, you will see that the natives are simply trying to squeeze out a few extra pesos, which goes a long way in a country where average income is $20 per month.
3. No Condiments – Cuba has no condiments which can make meals seem tasteless. Experienced travelers take condiments to Cuba and carry a few to restaurants where they expect to eat. You might be surprised how plain Cuban food can taste but it is not for lack of preparation, it is for lack of condiments. Ketchup, hot sauces, pepper, jams and cinnamon can go a long way toward making your meals taste great.
4. Oops! Power Conversion- The electrical outlets at every hotel and every bed and breakfast will be 2-pronged 220V outlets. If your devices, alarm clocks, hair dryers or other mechanisms require three prongs, the device will not fit into a Cuban electrical outlet. You can either bring power adapters or purchase them in country.
5. Donations – Cuba has a general lack of most things that many internationals would consider basic staples. This includes soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and the like. Gifts or donations that are along the lines of personal hygiene are truly appreciated. Leaving a tip for the hotel maid and any hygienic items you choose to leave will make someone’s life better.
6. Departure Tax – Be sure to save enough money to pay the $25.00 cash departure tax that is due before you leave Cuba. Airports can only accept payment in cash so be prepared in advance.
7. Internet is Luxury – Internet access can be hard to find and expensive to use when you do find it. Many upscale hotels offer Internet access in their lobbies but don’t linger. The hotel will charge an hourly rate and it can be expensive. Plan ahead, get online and off as efficiently as practical. You will need a special permit to access the Internet. This can be arranged at the hotel.
8. Do Not Drink the Water – You will see that while Cuba’s infrastructure has deteriorated and often seems antiquated that the country is clean. However, tourists will enjoy their stay more if they do not drink the water. To avoid an upset stomach or worse, only drink bottled water.
9. Tipping – Remember to follow our guide to tipping. Tipping is a reward for good service and Cubans will strive to earn your trust and your gratuity. If a person deserves a tip, pay according to our guide and only pay in Cuban Convertible Pesos.
10. Bring Dancing Shoes – You might suddenly find yourself in a dance fest at any time of day or night. It’s okay. By Cuban time, It is always dance time! Be prepared and give it a chance. Very few travelers visit Cuba and do not depart knowing they are better dancers than before they arrived!
If you follow these travel tips while in Cuba, you will be able to adjust to your surroundings and truly enjoy the unique Cuban experience. There is so much to see and do that you need to get in the swing as soon as your feet hit the ground. Enjoy!
Travelguidecuba.com is not a licensed People-to-People tour provider but works closely with licensed providers to help interested travelers enjoy the magic of Cuba. Complete Cuba People-to-People tours are licensed (CT-2013-299822-1) by the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to engage, organize and conduct authorized people-to-people travel to Cuba that engages participants in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba. If you have any questions about travel in Cuba, contact Dave or Yordi at Info@travelguidecuba.com.