Planning a trip can be quite overwhelming and stressful. But planning a trip to Cuba requires even MORE work, research, and preparation. I usually feel overly prepared for my trips but this time I felt a little lost. No worries, though! I learned along the way and I am here to share my knowledge so you can plan a trip to Havana, Cuba hassle-free.
– Cuban Visa –
You have to book your flight with an airline that provides Cuban visas. Not all airlines do. Be sure to double check by calling your choice of airline. I booked mine with Alaska Airlines. They have direct flights from LAX and they’re the cheapest I found. You can buy your visa at the designated kiosk located at the airport. An employee can point you in the right direction, but, usually, visa purchase will be after check-in and before going through security. I paid $100 USD for mine. You can also purchase it online with with cubavisaservices.com. If you choose this method, make sure you order it, at least, two weeks in advance so you can receive it on time.
– Affidavit –
You must fill out an affidavit explaining the reason for your visit to Cuba. Traveling from the US for tourism purposes is illegal. But, they have recently added an option to travel for educational purposes or “people to people.” Which means you can visit if you plan on learning about the Cuban culture, history, lifestyle, and people. Make sure you check off this option.
– Debit and Credit Cards –
American bank cards are NOT accepted in Cuba. You must withdraw the entire amount you plan to spend beforehand. I planned on spending $50 – $60 USD per day and that was more than enough for me.
– Currency Exchange –
Cuba has two currencies. The Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). CUP is worth twenty-four times the US dollar. CUC is worth a little more than the dollar. Tourists will only receive CUC when they exchange currency. CUP is only for Cuban citizens. If you exchange US dollars, you will be charged 10%. For example, if I exchange $400 USD, they will only give me $360 CUC. Therefore, it’s best to exchange USD into Euros before arriving to Cuba.
– Slow-paced Lifestyle –
People in Cuba do not live fast-paced lives. Make sure you give yourself extra time to complete any task or activity as the people will not rush in your favor. At restaurants, airports, currency exchange houses, banks — it will be a while. Which is why you should arrive to the airport three hours in advance before your departure flight.
– Internet and Wifi –
It is extremely difficult to connect to the internet. Even if you activate an international plan with your provider, there’s no service out there. The only thing you can do is purchase one-hour-long internet cards from hotels and drug stores. But this means you have to visit the same place where you originally connected the first time, every time you wish to connect using the same card. Make sense? For example, if I buy two internet cards and with card #1 I log onto Hotel Sevilla’s wifi and with card #2 I log onto Hotel Ambos Mundo’s wifi, then, I can ONLY log on to Hotel Sevilla’s wifi with card #1 for the remaining hour. The one-hour credit is calculated by the time you actually use it. If you turn off the wifi then it will stop timing your card. So you can use it for fifteen minutes, leave, return, and have a leftover credit of forty-five minutes.
– Beware of Scams –
Cuban people are very friendly and not at all aggressive. But some will try to take advantage of tourists. They will come up to you on the street and give you a pity story and ask for money. Some will expect a tip in exchange for a “favor” or information. Others will be selling products or services in CUP but will tell you that you need to pay in CUC. For example, at an ice cream shop, an ice cream cone is twenty-four CUP. Which means you must only pay ONE CUC. NOT twenty-four CUC. Haha! It’s almost common sense but you’ll be amazed at their scheming skills. Just, be careful and aware!
– Snapchat –
Lastly, for all you Snapchat lovers, even when connected to wifi, the use of Snapchat is prohibited in Cuba and it will not be available.
– Questions –
I hope this information helps you plan your next trip to Havana, Cuba. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to comment below.