Looking To Travel To Cuba? You’ll Want To Know These 5 Things
By DeAnna Taylor
While many would believe that traveling to Cuba isn’t possible, that isn’t exactly true. Yes, the Trump administration has been busy rolling out travel bans to try to slow down travel to the Caribbean nation, but all is not lost yet.
Americans looking to head to Cuba will need to fall within one of the 12 exceptions, as purely tourist travel is still illegal. You can read more about those 12 exceptions here.
Once you figure out which exception you fall into, you’ll want to keep these 5 things in mind as well.
American credit and debit cards don’t work there
Yes, it’s 2019, and unfortunately, the country is still not in a place to accept U.S. debit and credit cards. It has only been a few years since Americans were able to begin traveling there so they just haven’t caught up yet.
It is best to take enough cash to last you for the duration of your visit. You can head to a bank, mostly in Havana, to exchange your money. You can convert U.S. dollars, but there was once a tax to covert. It is best to take either Euros or even Canadian dollars to get the most bang for your buck.
Cuba has a dual currency
This is one of the few places in the world that has this, and it can be very confusing. In Cuba, you will find that there are two different currencies and they each hold different value.
The main one is the Convertible Peso (CUC), which is what is mostly used for tourists. It is pretty spot on with the American dollar as far as the conversion rate goes. Of course, you’ll want to check on the days you are traveling since rates change daily.
The second currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP). Locals mostly use this, but if you venture into more localized areas, you will see that this is what’s used. Be aware of what is accepted or used when you are paying for things. The CUP has a significantly lower value.
WiFi is still scarce
One of the great things, at least in my opinion, about traveling to Cuba is that you can disconnect for a while.
WiFi still isn’t luxury there, so it takes a bit of work to actually connect. You will first need to purchase a WiFi card at one of the communications stores around Havana. The lines can get pretty long depending on the time of day because locals are also trying to get their own cards.
Once you get your card you will need to find a WiFi zone. Most of the hotels have WiFi zones and some of them are beginning to offer WiFi without the card. You simply connect using the login info via your card, which also has a time limit. So, be mindful of how long you are online.
You can hire a local tour guide for next to nothing
We’ve all seen the pictures of the colorful old school cars around Havana and that’s always on everyone’s list of things to do once they get there. However, these are a big tourist attraction so they cost more than most things around the area.
You can always find local Cubans with their own cars, still classic cars, who are more than willing to be a personal tour guide for the day. I happened to luck up and meet a guy when I went who drove me around for hours for only next to nothing. He also had great connections which got me into one of the hottest attractions in Havana by skipping a more than 2-hour line.
He came to pick me up the next day for a full day of seeing the top tourist sites and restaurants, and I only had to give him around $20 for the whole day. Those classic car tours can be double that and only for a few hours.
Practice your Spanish
Sure, we would prefer to speak our own language when we travel. But, truth is not everyone in the world speaks English and that’s okay. Part of traveling the world is also immersing yourself in other cultures.
Try to pick up a few key phrases prior to your trip, trust me it will go a long way. Not only will locals connect with you on a deeper level, but it can also help you with negotiating deals on things too.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.