I gave you why I love Cuba so much, but trust me, it is very different than the U.S. I actually thought Cuba would be similar to Puerto Rico, but I also got a different vibe from the place.
There are so many culture shock moments, but good ones. If you have the ability to adapt, you will be just dandy. OK, on with the tips:
1. Grab Euros before your trip if you can. Not only is there the typical 3% exchange rate fee, you get an additional 10% if you exchange with USD. Whereas, you will only be charged for other currencies.
2. Brush up on your Spanish. So I went in knowing tourism if a large part of this country’s GOP. I thought then that the people would know English to get more business. This was not the case. Only the tour guides really knew English, but store owners, drivers, etc mainly knew only Spanish.
3. Stores close around 7 P. The Cuban businesses open around 9 A to 7 P, which isn’t very long for shops. I went around looking for candy to bring home and by the time I figured out what a Cuban convenient store looked like, they were closed. Restaurants are opened through the night.
4. No TP in the toilet. Water is very hard to come by in Cuba, because hotels usually get priority. So the water pressure is very low and you will clog up their toilet.
5. Don’t expect gourmet food. The meal prices are around $10, which isn’t so bad. However, the food isn’t fresh-tasting, and again, due to limited resources. There was only one place (review soon) I thought the meat was super fresh, but other than that, nothing. Great spice though.
6. Stay within Old Havana. Our host gave us a map and drew the boundaries of Old Havana. She told us not to head south. We did go south a couple of times but only on our tour. Don’t worry, there is plenty to do in Old Havana.
7. Use CUCs for everyday transactions. So sometimes tourists pay with just Euros or USD, because they don’t plan accordingly. At Cadeca (exchange company), you can only exchange if you meet the minimum. For a local, who needs the money to eat, not getting the CUC due to someone’s carelessness is just heartbreaking.
8. Buy a WiFi card. Even if your host has a router, you need to buy a WiFi card to access the router. It is 1 CUC for 1 hour of internet, and you buy it at Telepunto.
9. Bring your passport with you. We don’t know all the times you will need your passport, but there were a couple times we unexpectedly needed it and had to run back to our Airbnb to get it. We had to do this for the Wifi card and to exchange money, and it would suck if you waited in their long lines just to leave it later.
10. Lastly, and most importantly, do NOT throw out your tourist card. You have two tourist cards; one to enter and one to leave the country. I heard customs is supposed to take one half when you enter, but that never happened to me. The official did stamp it though.
Alright everyone, I hope this helps you. Have a wonderful time and please stay tune for future reviews and tips.