10 things you need to know before travelling to Cuba
I recently returned from a trip to Cuba and it was nothing short of mind blowing. There are many misconceptions and also many things that make Cuba a very different travel experience to most places - so you can't assume that you can travel the way you normally do #nowifi. To make life a little easier, I have compiled a list of tips to make your adventure a seamless one.
1. It is safe: Cuba’s tumultuous history has meant they have gone from having everything to having nothing. It is strange to be in a country with lots of dark alleys, limited availability to resources and so much uncertainly and not feel a little anxious. But you don’t need to be here, the people are friendly, kind and appreciative of the little they do have. Like anywhere, keep your valuables safe and keep your wits about you.
2. Hotels are few and far between: there are limited hotels in Cuba and the ones that exist are incredibly old like the rest of the city, and incredibly expensive for what you get. Many tourists stay in Cuban homes with families, these are known as Casas. They are a great way to get insight into Cuban life, they are run incredibly professionally and just as good as most of the hotels.
3. The food sucks: Sad but true. The lack of agriculture and farming here means that supplies are limited and produce is average a lot of the time so the quality of the food suffers. It is OK, but don’t expect a mind blowing culinary experience. Restaurants in the touristy areas are very expensive and no better than the lovely little street vendors so opt for the latter.
4. Money: Just like everything else in Cuba, the banking system is a time warp. There are ATMs but they are very temperamental so the best way to get money is in a bank through a teller the old fashion way. Nowhere takes cards so ensure you have plenty of cash at all times and don’t wait until you have run out to get more out (I learnt that the hard way!).
5. Pack goodies: the simplest things we take for granted are a luxury in Cuba. Pack lots of goodies to give to the locals while you are there like pens, paper, shampoo, soap, razors. The people that receive these will be incredibly grateful.
6. Maps and getting around: after the revolution all the streets had their names changes in most of the cities and most Cubans have not adopted the new names. Make sure you have a map with the old names to make getting around a little easier.
7. Internet: unsurprisingly there is limited internet in Cuba and even if you find some it is bad quality. Make sure you arrive organised with the places and sites you want to see printed out or loaded onto your iPad.
8. Bed bugs: many places in Cuba have bed bugs. Yep I know, GROSS! Ensure that you don’t put your luggage on the bed as they might pack themselves in and come home with you. Wash all your belongings thoroughly once you leave.
9. Visas: you need a visa before entering the country. You can spend $150+ doing this before you leave which takes 6 weeks or buy one for $30 at the airport. Don’t be stupid like me and opt for the first option!
10. Identification: no casas can have you stay without your passport, so if you go travelling for the day take your passport in case you want to stay overnight or you might find yourself stranded.
To see more of my photos from my trip, you can visit my photo journal here.