Updated January 2020
Visiting Cuba is an exciting adventure with Havana at the center of the country’s urban community. The city is a wildly photogenic destination with a remarkable history and welcoming locals. But before you hop on a plan check out my list of Do’s and Don’ts, you be glad you did.
UPDATE: The recent changes to approved travel categories by the U.S. Administration currently bans the most commonly used: “People to People Travel” making the everyday traveler’s only option “Support of the Cuban People.” This means any travel done within the country precludes spending money at government-owned establishments including multiple accommodations and shops. Travelers must stay in local homes called casa particulars and have full itineraries that include Cuban-owned businesses and activities with locals. (What you want to do anyway.) Here is a list of businesses banned under the new restrictions
What You Should DO in Havana
Do appreciate that Havana operates on “Cuba time”: a kickback, laissez-faire attitude which means it can take 10 minutes before a waiter shows up to your table let alone takes your order. (As a New Yorker with a type-A personality, I thought I would go nuts with the lack of urgency for pretty much everything, but after a couple of days of detox I learned to embrace the slower pace….. sort of.)
Do bring cash and lots of it. American credit cards don’t work there which also means ATMs are not an option, and you’ll want to buy a few things to commemorate the trip. Keep the bulk of your money in the hotel safe and pull what you need for each day.
Do understand the local currency. The most used tourist currency is the Convertible Pesos, also known as the C.U.C. (Kook). A C.U.C is worth approximately $1.25. There’s also a national peso which is about 5 cents the U.S.. Most goods and services in the cities will require C.U.C but out of the way places and local haunts may expect the national. Admittedly, it’s a bit confusing. The best places to exchange currency are at the airport, hotel or a number of government-controlled exchanges. People may offer to exchange dollars on the street but you exchange at your own risk.
Do stroll along the Malécon, the city’s oceanfront esplanade where Havana Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet. On stormy days, huge waves crash on over the rocks of the El Morro lighthouse across the channel in a spectacular display. On nice days, you’ll find men fishing, couples strolling, and at sunset, locals of all ages gather to enjoy the spectacular view.
Do try the Coco Glasé. If you see a street vendor serving ice cream in coconut shells, buy one! It’s only a couple of C.U.Cs (The Cuban Convertible Peso, about $3.00), and it’s DELISH!
Do take time to get to know the locals, even if you don’t speak Spanish (I don’t). Exploring Old Havana I met wonderful people, most notably an old couple who serenaded me for nearly an hour and a sweet old woman who invited me into her modest home. These were experiences I’ll never forget.
Do visit Plaza de Armes—Havana’s oldest square. You’ll find a market filled with thousands of second-hand books, revolutionary knick-knacks (pins, hats, paraphernalia), as well as old watches and posters. My favorite finds were vintage, Cuban and Russian cameras. I bought a wonderful 1930’s Cuban Roloflex for cheap, and I could kick myself for not buying more. The area can get touristy—a fact that usually has me running in the other direction—but it was worth it. If you want to avoid the crowds, hit the Plaza early. (Open daily except Sundays).
Do give yourself plenty of time at the airport when leaving the country. With multiple security checks and customs lines, you may end up sorry if you don’t.
Do keep your small change with you. In Cuba, tipping bathroom attendants—the nice people who hand you the paper products you’ll need for a successful venture—is customary. The equivalent of $25 cents will do. (Speaking of TP… bring travel toilet paper with you for the times there’s no attendant AND no paper. Having my own stash was a lifesaver.)
Do bring snacks with you if you get peckish. The litany of options we have in the United States just doesn’t exist in Cuba. I brought a handful of granola bars that came in handy.
Do try the finger-length bananas you’ll find at small markets around the city. They’re delightfully sweet and tangy and the best bananas I’ve ever had.
Bring candy, pens, aspirin packets, travel toothpaste or other small everyday items that you can give to people. Many of the products we take for granted are not in Cuba or very hard to find. Anytime someone went above and beyond—gave me directions or their time to make a portrait or invited me into their homes—I gave them a little something for their time. Depending on the situation, I might also give a few C.U.Cs along with it. It wasn’t about charity; it was a thank you for their kindness.
Wander down the Paseo de Marti that runs in front of the capitol building. Across the street, you’ll find a line of sherbet-colored historic buildings that scream iconic Cuba. Stand in the median (watch out for traffic) and within a few seconds, spectacular classic cars will roll by creating a scene you’ll want to hang on your wall. Do in Havana
What Not to Do in Havana
Don’t expect many people to speak English. Most Cubans do not.
Don’t carry your passport around the city, you may lose it. If you copy it at 70% and laminate it you’ll have a wallet-sized duplicate that’s easy to carry.
Worry about exploring Old Havana on your own, it’s very safe at night and one of the best neighborhoods to stay in if you want a taste of history. Be a little more cautious in Havana Central to the west of Paseo de Marti. I didn’t feel afraid, but I’ve had other travelers tell me it’s wise to be cautious late at night.
Become frustrated when things change unexpectedly, don’t go as planned or don’t live up to U.S. standards. That’s Cuba. It’s a country with outdated infrastructure and limited resources. Chalk it up to adventure.
Drink the water. Some of the bigger hotels the Iberostar, Inglaterra, and the Saratoga among others have decent filtering systems for showers and brushing your teeth, but for drinking go with bottled. The concern is less about nasty bacteria and more about sediment from outdated pipes that might upset your stomach.
Sleep in every day. Yes, I know it’s your vacation but Havana is worth a little early morning exploration.
After breakfast, the world is already in full swing but at dawn, you see the city as it prepares to meet the day. You’ll see street vendors prepping their wares; local produce markets setting up shop; tiny hole-in-the-wall bakeries selling loaves of bread to passersby; flower sellers arranging display bouquets; sleepy taxi drivers tweaking 50-year-old engines, and people spotting on the balconies, coffee in hand, greeting their neighbors. And if that’s not enough, sunrise over the Malécon, alone, is worth dragging yourself out of bed.
Bother bringing your credit cards, they aren’t accepted and the few ATMs that exist aren’t connected to banks in the U.S. For Americans it’s all about cash. It’s easy to exchange dollars as a guest in many of the hotels—and I did so every couple of days as needed—but if you’re staying in a room in someone’s home or an Airbnb rental, you’ll need to go to a bank.
Don’t forget to tip. 10% is standard on meals where the service is reasonable, but to check first to see whether it’s been included in the final bill. For bellman, 2 C.U.C per bag is a sound estimate and I plan on tipping the housekeeper at least 2 C.U.C per day.
Don’t be afraid to take portraits of the people in the streets, but ask first, it’s only polite. (If you like to take travel portraits, here are a few tips from my visit.)
Don’t forget to negotiate your fare upfront if you plan to take a bici-cab (a Cuban pedicab), coco cab (a vehicle that resembles a Pac-Man on wheels) or a traditional taxi. There are no meters, so agreeing before the journey is better than disagreeing after. Budget 10% of the fare for a tip. If you want to tool around town in a vintage automobile they’re easy to find. Many of the cars are taxis while the most beautifully preserved charge 30 C.U.Cs or more for an hour’s ride.
Don’t be surprised when you spend most of your trip off the grid. A few of the larger hotels have common areas with wi-fi you can buy but it’s not cheap. I will cost you 5 C.U.Cs /hr, it’s turtle slow and often unreliable. The Saratoga is the only hotel with wi-fi in your room. There are several public parks that are wi-fi enabled but you’ll have to compete for the so-so connection with everyone else.
Don’t freak out that the Wi-Fi is less than fabulous, though a fellow writer Ayngelina Brogan who is based out of Havana and pens the Bacon is Magic blog, says the internet is getting better all the time. Cuba has 4G service but it’s still, she says ” …not the cheapest or fastest.” You’ll find wifi available in parks and hotels. They’re hard to miss. Just look for crowds of people. Expect $1 CUC/hour for wifi cards. For information here’s a list of hotspots.
If you’re one of those people that go crazy being off the grid or need to IG story your every move, Cuba probably isn’t your dream destination. (FYI – Cell service is a pretty penny too.)
Don’t get caught in what I like to call “The Bubble”. That place in your head—whether traveling solo, with friends, or on a tour—where you watch, you enjoy, but you don’t truly engage with the world around you. Don’t be afraid to chat up street vendors, store owners or cab drivers. Even the simplest interactions will enhance your experience 10-fold, and the Cubans are more than game.
If you’ve been to Cuba and you have something to add, please do so in the comments section.
*I took the images above while an invited guest of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The writing and sentiment are my own.
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153 thoughts on “A Helpful List of Havana Do’s and Don’ts”
I’m a Canadian travel blogger based in Havana and you have some fantastic tips. I just wanted to let you know that internet has changed dramatically and there’s also 4G internet and Cubans have data on their phones.
Internet is $1/hour and many of the hotels charge that or 1.50. Only a few are sticking with $4-5 an hour.
Happy to help answer any questions you may have as I know internet is a huge concern.
Thanks for taking a look at the post.
I really appreciate the update on the internet. Where is the 4G located? Is it available in the parks still or cafes, or both? What are you recommending to your readers?
4G is an indication of mobile data speed, not wifi. However, both wifi speed and mobile data speed have increased significantly in the last two years.
Wifi is still in parks but there are much more of them. Tourists now have two options for SIM cards but I still think wifi is the best bet unless they are staying more than 2 weeks.
I update this post month as things have been changing quickly and there’s a number of ways tourists can access internet.
Thank you so much, I’ll quote you and link. I appreciate the up to date info. : )
Helpful to know, I’m going in March, thank you both!!
Have a great time.
Those multi colored buildings you mentioned were NEVER typical Cuba. I was born there, and raised there, and that was never part of any archstyle or even the traditional colonial themes.
What tourists see now It’s more like Jamaica, etc.
And that’s because they’re playing to tourist ideas of what a Caribbean town looks like.
And the typical Cuban is starving and poor. Average wage is between $12 & $20 per month. So they’ll be really nice to you because they want the American dollar, to be able to feed their family.
If you are willing to overlook and ignore the Cuban people’s poverty, hunger, misery, and oppression, you’ll have a great time!!
Annie Ruiz I have few questions in regards to travel to Cuba, can you help and provide your email address?
Hey Annie –
I can answer basic questions about Cuba but I have not been there since Covid and that has changed things a lot. There is some unrest according to the news.
I would be happy to suggest a Cuba specialist if you feel that would be helpful.
After talking with a travel agent he informs me you cannot access Havana alone,without a tour guide. He says you will be fined due to the embargo. Is this correct?
Unfortunately, with Trump’s new stricter policies, things have changed. From the NY Times: “Under the new regulations, individual Americans travelers will no longer be able to visit the island on what are known as people-to-people trips, a popular mode of travel introduced as part of Mr. Obama’s historic thaw. People-to-people trips will now be permitted only for groups and must be organized by a licensed tour operator.”
A little proofreading would have made this an more enjoyable reading.
I thought the article was informative and great. Sharing your experiences with the world was a wonderful and kind gesture. Thank you for sharing.
So glad you liked it! Thank you.
Mr. Gil, you should have proofread your comment and used the word a instead of an. Personally, I found the article informative and helpful. Thank you.
Stunning photos, and great tips/information! It makes me all the more excited for my upcoming trip to Cuba. I feel this article is especially helpful in that I only have a few days there–I think what you’ve given will help me maximize my experience!
Thank you very much, Rebecca! I’m so glad you found the article helpful. Have a fantastic trip to Cuba. I know you’re going to love it. 🙂
I’m heading back to varadero in September, the people are so happy & helpful although they don’t have much they will still share with you.
So true. I hope to go back soon!
Thank you for this post! You said: DO bring candy, pens, aspirin packets, travel toothpaste or other small everyday items that you can give to people when you’re out and about.
Do they need some clothes too? Cuz I want to bring some (what I don’t wear anymore)
Hi Naima – I need to ask some folks that are there a lot to see if that makes sense. My gut reaction is that it would be better to drop clothes off at some kind of facility as opposed to doing so while you wander the streets.
Thanks for taking time to read the piece. I hope you return. You can sign up for my updates if you’d like the posts to come directly to you. 🙂
Naima–I packed some extra clothes and I lightened my suitcase by leaving behind tee shirts, *new* unopened underwear, and a few pairs of cargo pants in my hotel.
Great tips! I just got back from a trip to Cuba last month. In regard to the internet access, I would add that many hotels in Old Havana have wi-fi spots, but you need the card to access them. I stood in a line for about an hour at a telecom store to buy a couple (about 4 CUC for 2 hours of internet access). I later found out that those same upscale hotels will sell them to tourists (for a little bit more but it saves you so much time!). If people are looking for a quick break, consider stopping into Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana. You can buy an internet card from the front desk, take the beautiful iron elevator up to the rooftop, and enjoy a mojito overlooking Old Havana (while you check in with your social media accounts or folks back home!)
Fantastic information. Thank you so much for such thoughtful commentary! So appreciated.
Loved your photos and tips I’m there in 3 weeks and very excited- thanks for sharing 😃
Have a great time! I love it there. Let me know how it goes. 😊
Just got back from Cuba yesterday truly a lovey country. I found converting US dollars to Euros then to CUCs you get a better rate.
Great tip! Thank you.
Good to know!
Glad you found it helpful!
Thanks for the input! Do you remember how much was the value change from us dollars to euros?
Awesome post! I look forward to visiting Cuba soon!
Nice Post. Thank You.
Thanks for sharing this! I am planning a family trip to Cuba so this is really aiding my planning process!!
I’m so glad you found it helpful. :))
Your photos and blog are great. I loved seeing the pictures of Cuba. I have heard it is beautiful and it is on my bucket list!
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled you loved the photos. 🙂
Great post! I am planning a trip to Cuba. Do you recommend changing my currency in the US before flying to Cuba? Also, toiletries are not easy accesible in cuba?
If you can, it definitely wouldn’t hurt, however, I wasn’t able to when I went, a year ago. The banking system wasn’t reciprocal and I don’t think its changed but it could have. I would call your bank first so you don’t waste a trip. If you’re staying at a hotel like the Parqué Central, The Saratoga, etc., it’s easy and efficient to change your money there. However, if you are staying at a Paladar (with a Cuban family, sort of like a B & B) or an Air B & B, you may want to get the majority of your money changed at the airport before you head into Havana as it’s not the easiest at the banks there.
Assume you can’t buy anything in Cuba. Toiletries are practically non-existent. Bring everything you think you’ll need. Don’t assume you’ll find it there.
Hello, I went to Cuba with my parents and boyfriend last Sept 2016, for the first time and loved it!
I found that there were plenty of stores that carried toiletries.
From soaps, shampoo, lotions, razors deodorant, etc.
What you won’t find are hand soap in a pump or hand sanitizer. We brought those things with us, as my brother suggested we do so. (He’s been 3 times)
Over all a Beautiful place and we are planning are return!
That’s great Martha.. can you tell me approximately where? I was up and down old and Central Havana.
We just got back from Cuba yesterday. In addition to Havana we visited Vinales, Trinidad & Cienfregos. The food scene is really hopping in Havana. Also the organic farms have some great restaurants.
Wow.. that sounds amazing. I wish I’d had an opportunity to explore more of Cuba. Next time I hope. Thanks for the info! Welcome to the blog. I hope you return.
Tady Saczkowski – Photos – Google+ enjoyed your pics… been to Cuba 45 times. always enjoyed Cuba … If you do your homework read up on its History there are so many places to go .. enjoy its beauty Take care Tady
45 times! I envy you. 😀
Super helpful! We are going in November with our two children. I would love to bring them on bikes (they are great on trails…but around cars….I don’t know). However, I love all the little tips. I am definitely pinning this!
I wouldn’t bike in Havana, the roads can be terrible, lots of potholes and ruts. It’s not an easy walk let alone a bike. I guess it depends on how old they are I guess. Thanks for pinning it. I appreciate the share a great deal. I hope you return. 🙂
Thanks for the very nice post! One more idea from my Side: DO try to rent a bike, it gives you all the possibilities to see a lot of havanna in a very short time frame and you do not get the taxi offering everywhere anymore! Okay the crazy Dutch bicycle experience helped 😉
Thank you! Yes, that would have been great idea
Thanks for such an informative page. It has made me feel really excited for my imminent trip. It sounds like real back to basics style of travel, pre- 2000. Your do/ don’t section is far more informative than lonely planet ! As with your photography, I am looking forward to some inspiration for writing more poetry
Hi Alex! How exciting. I envy your trip; I’d go back in a second. You’ll have an incredible time I’m sure. Plus, I’m really glad you found the piece helpful. When you get back, let me know how your trip was and if you have any additions to that list I should consider. If you’d like to see more about Cuba before your big adventure, check this out. https://theinsatiabletraveler.com/category/cuba/
THANKS FOR SHARING!
your photographs always create a good emotion, ciao
Thank you! That’s very important to me and I am glad you think so.
I am off to Havana in mid-August and cannot wait to get there! We’ll be there for 8 days. Should we stay put meandering around the city or go out and explore other parts like Cayo Jutia, etc.?
Definitely meander around Havana…. I did it every day for 7 days and was still wanting more. If you can go out and see other cities, by all means do it. I mainly stayed near the city. Went to Bejucal, Cojimar and briefly, Casablanca. I have stories about Bejucal and Cojimar on the blog if you want to see. The Cojimar story is entitled: On the Heels of Hemingway. The other has Bejucal in the title. I’m so excited for you. I really hope to go back. Also, check out the Malecon at sunrise. It’s awesome. 🙂
I have a lot of images of Havana too under “Havana’s Colorful Streets and ‘Happy Souls'”
Informative…thanks for the tell-tale! 🙂
Nice and interesting tips…..
Don’t forget about looking down…you’re not kidding. I took a stumble when backing up to take a picture. Being on two blood thinners at the time ( now on one, thank God), two scrapes led to a bloody mess. And that leads me to another suggestion; bring your own emergency/ first aid supplies. It is not like there is a CVS right on every corner.Fortunate for me, there was a nurse with our group who was smarter than I, and she shared some of her stash.
Oh man, how awful! Glad it turned out alright. Best advice about the first aid kit. Thank you for sharing.
Wonderful memories of a place thatI’d like to revisit. Thank you.
You’re most welcome!
Nice tips and great pics….
I am watching President Obama’s Press Conference with R. Castro in Havana right now. They are both ducking any comment about Donald Trump as a possible Presidential elected.,I cringe at the thought of Trump’s hawkish racism as an answer to the Cuban/American problem.
Can you imagine? I shudder to think.
This was a comprehensive analysis on Havana. Thank you.
My pleasure. I’m glad you found value in it. 🙂
When did you start this entrance into the world of photography and travel and what drove you to do so ?
Hi there.. Happy to answer the question but on a bit of deadline. In the interim, in the interest of getting back to you in a timely manner. Here’s some info: https://theinsatiabletraveler.com/about-the-insatiable-traveler/
Cool! great suggestions.
You’re welcome 👍
Thanks for the suggestions! I, like many people, are eager to go! Beautiful pictures too!
You are most welcome. 🙂
So useful..thank you so much !
Great read! Cubans are among the friendliest people I have encountered on my travels. Unfortunately I only had a day tour in Havana in 2006 as it was my first ever trip I went on by planning myself. I can’t wait to go back, but from what I’ve learned while travelling since is go off the beaten path, talk to people and try the food the locals actually eat.
Thank you very much!!
You’re so right. It’s worth exploring and connecting with the locals and doing what you can to learn more about culture authentically.
I’ll do just that Susan, thanks
This really takes me back to my time in Cuba and makes me want to visit all over again. Thanks for sharing, PIE
Hi Pie- Glad you like the post. If you really want to skip down memory lane, please check out my earlier posts. They’re photo-essays from Cuba. I think you’ll like them.
Your photographs are truly stunning!
Very Nice Post, I like it
This is a really helpful post. I’m going to Cuba in June so I’ll make sure to take note of your tips! – Thanks! 🙂
Yay! I’m glad you find it so. Let me know what you think when you get back!
I will do 🙂
Hey! I simply love this blog post and you have given such realistic suggestions. Keep up the great work and I’d love to read more of you. I hope you do visit Tanzania some day 🙂
Hi! I’m so glad you liked it and found it helpful. I actually have been to Tanzania but it was before I started my blog. 🙂
sooo nice, thank you for letting know what’s better to do and not to do!! I just want to buy a icket now!!!
Glad you liked it. Thank you!
I like Your Post,I would still be careful when walking around Centro Habana.It can be dangerous, even at daytime.
That’s interesting.. I spoke to a lot of Cubans who felt it was ok during the day. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in any way. Is there are particular area or streets within Central Havana you might suggest avoiding? Do you think a couple or groups could still walk there without fear?
I Like You Post,The Picture is Amazing
i like the content and the pictures are amazing for those of us who would like to travel we sure have beautiful idea of Havana.
Thank you so much. If you have some time, please check out my other posts on Cuba. I think you’ll like those even more.
Terrific imagery and advice.
Of course, one size hardly ever fits “all,” but for those who have not visited Cuba – an excellent staring point.
My first visit to Cuba was in 1957 – just a lad of 19 serving aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. Did not have a “clue” that whilst moored in Havana, it would be one loooooooong tine before any U.S. military vessel would be in that port!
Over my career, I “visited” Cuba 5 times and surely would have loved to travel the hinterlands. Who knows? Perhaps one day.
Nevertheless, your impressions of life there in the present-day brought back many memories of what I recall from back then.
By the by, I do agree with Rob (Sydney, Australia) regarding currency. Canadian dollars are no problem in comparison to ours (so-called service fee).
For those of us appreciating rail travel – one can find some rather vintage equipment still on the rails from long ago.
Very true. If I tried to write a primer for any and all readers it would be a collection of posts that would rival Harry Potter. LOL
Thank you, Miriam!
I disagree about the ATMs, Cashpoints etc.
In 2011 and 2012 there were several that I found in Habana . Often with long lines, but they worked. They did, however not work for the kind of Ttravel Cash Card that you load up with cash before you leave your country.
You would not want to rely ATM’s being in the suburbs or provincial areas though.
Take Euros or Canadian Dollars and change at Bank or Hotel, or cash advance through the ATM.
Do not take American Dollars as they attracted, in 2012, a 10% extra “service fee”. Perhaps with the thawing of relations, this has been stopped.
If staying for longer periods and self catering, you will have to operate in both currencies so you can buy fruit and veg etc at the markets which operate on the peso. ” Moneda Nacional”, not the CUC.
But be very careful as Moneda Nacional is worth approx 1/25 of CUC. I forgot and paid CUC for Mangoes which ended up more expensive than if bought in Sydney.
Hi Ron- thanks for the help! I didn’t see any ATMs at all but I certainly could have missed them. Irregardless, American banks are not affiliated with Cuba as of yet so an ATMS card would not work. Good thoughts on the foreign currency.
Great advice. Thanks a lot fot this post.
My pleasure. Thanks for checking it out 😀
woow good advice.
Looks and sounds like such an exciting place to explore! Definitely adding it to the list, and thank you so much for these tips! I will keep them in mind. The Coco Glasé sounds lovely! Any other Dos in the food department you’d suggest?
The Museo de Chocolate is very cool…near Plaza Viejo – don’t remember the exact street unfortunately but you can Google it.
Thank you so much! I just checked the place out online and it looks amazing! Looks like a place I will be spending more than just a while at.
Lol… The service is terrible but the chocolate is great. For dinner, AL Carbon is great. Not cheap but good food.
Haha anything can be forgiven by great chocolate! 😀
Ah okay, will keep that place in mind too! Thank you so much again!
Thank you very much. I got some commens:
About ATMs: This is just for US citizens/ clients of US Banks. My (German) VISA Cards works fine at every ATM in town. Friday night however most ATMs run low on cash and it can be a problem to get money 😉 Master Cards don’t work at ATMs just at the CADECAs (Casas de Cambio, can be found all over town or in the hotels) It is always useful to change some CUC for some CUP (1 CUC = 26 CUP) This comes in handy if you buy food on local markets or if you take a maquina (taxi colectivo on fixed routes)
WIfi: Melia Cohiba has Wifi in some rooms as well. (Slow and not cheap though)
Nightlife: Check out the digital monthly LA HABANA MAGAZINE http://salsaexpress.de/tl_files/bilder/Downloads/WhatsOn_Havana/whatson_cubarealtours_latest-edition.pdf?utm_source=theinsatiabletraveler.com&utm_medium=LINK&utm_term=WhatsOn&utm_campaign=WhatsOnHAV
Can a citizen from the U.S. exchange CUC for CUP?
I’m not sure if the banks or hotel’s will give a foreigner pesos. I’ll have to ask. I didn’t try when I was there. On the average, most businesses in the main areas will want C.U.C.s because hey have higher value. There’s also a tax on the exchange so the Cuban gov’t likes Americans to use C.U.Cs. There’s something like 24-26 per C.U.C. It’s a bit confusing. However, the side streets and more local markets etc., operate in pesos and will give you that in change even if you use C.U.C.s.
When I was there I would use my (Canadian) Visa card to take out money at the Cadeca and at some of them I was able to change my CUC right away for CUP, otherwise you’ll have to go to a Casa de Cambio to change your money’s over. But if you know how much they are in relation to eachother (1 CUC = 25 CUP) then you can use either to pay at most places.
I just returned from Cuba and it was unnecessary to exchange CUC to CUP. We covered 1600 miles of the country and had a great trip. As a US citizen, our ATM and credit cards are not accepted. I took Euro (make sure the bills are pristine) and whatever Canadian dollars I had lying around (no Loonies – coins not accepted). The biggest frustration was trying to get 1 CUC coins for tips. They must be in short supply, as most of the banks and change houses were reluctant to give us many.
Great list, Susan. Every item is good advice. I also agree with David, who suggested getting out of Havana to see other parts of Cuba. Possible suggestions include Vinales (or other parts of Pinar del Rio) to see the famous Mogotes,the beaches in the Varadero area, historic Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba (Moncada Barracks, where Castro’s revolution started) and if you have the time Isla de Juventud (Modelo Prison where Castro was imprisoned after the Moncade Barracks attack). Plus, if you want to avoid bottled water, they have great beer.
Totally agree with you about getting out of Havana but needed to keep the story focused. It would make sense to call it Havana Dos and Don’t if I planned to talk about other towns. Lol
I would still be careful when walking around Centro Habana (the area beyond the more touristic Habana Vieja). It can be dangerous, even at daytime.
I know it’s not great late at night but I didn’t find it threatening during the day.. Perhaps further West? Or am I being naive?
This is great, thanks so much!
Thanks Susan, great post which I will keep, as we are thinking of going there either next year or the year after
Glad you like it Jane!
great advice!!! i love it! i’ll be in Cuba soon, you’re making me want to be there already!
Oh.. I’m envious.. I would love to have a trip to Cuba to look forward to.. I just didn’t get enough. Let me know how it goes when you get back.
I certainly will! xoxo
Wonderful advice! I’ll be there soon and will definitely be looking for some Coco Glase.
It’s SOOOOO good. Let me know how your trip was when you get back. 🙂
Absolutely! I’ll update my blog when I get back and will gladly share it with you. Yours is very inspiring!
Great and thank you!
Great post and lovely pictures! How long were you in Cuba?
Thanks! Only seven days but besides a few side trips to nearby towns, most of it was spent wandering the streets and visiting with various organizations like the National Ballet. I really don’t feel like I had my fill. I’d love to go back.
Sounds like you had a fabulous time. I’ll be waiting to see the rest of your posts on Cuba!
Cuba is on my bucket list for sure. i see peoples photos from there, and I so want to visit. Thanks for the tips and tricks.
You’re most welcome!
Terrific advice, and important for future visitors (espec. re credit cards), Susan. And your photos here are really lovely — you captured the spirit well.
Thanks a million, Jet. I really appreciate your kind words! Have a great day. 🙂
Nice piece, Susan! Havana is a gorgeous city, full of history and culture. I hope to get back there. I would add another DO – do get out of Havana! You can easily spend a long time there but hit the road and see the rest of the country. Trinidad would be a great place to head for but there is revolutionary history, natural history and culture everywhere.
Oh yes, David.. I agree with going elsewhere, and I hope to be able to explore more when I go back (hope that’s sooner than later). It just didn’t fit into the overall theme.
Good advice! I found the people almost embarrassingly accommodating. To understand the Cuban point of view, I recommend reading Wendy Guerra’s marvelous novel, EVERYONE LEAVES (Todos se van). Cubans are a paradox with a deep love of country accompanied by an intense desire to get away. I can’t wait to go back!!
That’s perfectly said…” Cubans are a paradox with a deep love of country accompanied by an intense desire to get away.” So so true. I really want to go back as well.
That’s certainly an interesting paradigm. Loving your home but also wanting to flee due to the lack of opportunity and mobility.
That’s also part of the human psyche being comfortable with the norm ? No?
Good advice for one as an independent traveler. If you are not proficient in Spanish, how can you proactively cope with this problem in an extended stay of a month or so.
Hi- Is there a particular problem you’re speaking of or just getting around in general?
Thank you for sharing these tips…very helpful. I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba and one of these fine days I will. You make me want to drop everything I’m doing and go there NOW lol x
Hi Sóla! It’s my pleasure to share these with you. I hope you do go to Cuba. I think you’ll love it. 🙂
IF you are from Mexico – live in Mexico – are used to Mexican lifestyle, there will be VERY FEW ‘do not’s’ left…