Cuba is a must-see for anybody who appreciates culture, art and more importantly traditional food. This caribbean island is home to white beaches, and salsa music for those who love to move their body while on vacay. Traveling is amazing, especially if you budget well in advance and get the best deals possible. You certainly don’t have to have empty pockets to have a memorable time anywhere.
That’s why I made this easy step-by-step guide to traveling to Cuba, as well as flight and accommodation costs to name a few. Here we go.
Why travel to Cuba?
Cuba is an adventure for many people, and if you like blue beaches, warm weather, amazing music and a host of other memorable things this island has to offer, then you might just fall in love there. It’s one of the most exciting islands to visit with friendly people and a rich history behind it. The buildings are vibrant while the Caribbean food is always mouth watering and delicious.
I love traveling to islands for many reasons, but I think what sets Cuba apart is that there’s always an atmosphere of fun and relaxation. You always have something to do and explore without worrying about getting bored during your stay.
The islands famous cigars, Cadillacs and street music are only some things that gives any traveler an inside look into life in Cuba. It’s certainly one of those traveling experiences that would leave a positive reminder every time you go down memory lane.
Flying to Cuba isn’t a hassle at all, especially if you’re an international traveler. Many airlines such as KLM and Turkish airlines flies directly to the Havana International Airport. Here’s a list of some airlines that you might want to fly with (both national and international);
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air France
- Air Europa
- Air Canada
If you’re an American citizen, it’s much cheaper to fly directly to Havana International Airport. Although it was tricky before to travel to this island as an American (due to trade embargo). Luckily, changes have been made since October 2017 where you can freely travel while using your debit or credit card in Cuba (you previously couldn’t do this). But, just ensure you constantly update yourself about any political changes that may occur.
It’s also worth mentioning that traveling to Cuba means that you fulfill one of the 12 categories that allow Americans to travel to Cuba. Some of these categories include family visits, professional research and supporting Cuban citizens. It’s actually forbidden to travel to Cuba simply as a tourist, so most travelers would fall under the supporting Cuban citizens category. This involves helping the economy through your tourist spending as well as visiting national museums and other national sites.
Here are the other categories;
- Journalist activities
- Foreign governments
- Journalist Activities
- Professional meetings
- Intergovernmental organizations
- Religious purposes
- Public activities
- Competitions (i.e athletics)
- Exhibitions and humanitarian activities
Remember: It’s mandatory to have travel insurance for you to enter the island. So ensure you have that sorted well in advance.
It’s also important to ensure that you have transportation sorted even before you enter your flight to Cuba. It’s often tough to even get a cab while you’re at the airport because there just isn’t a lot of taxi’s waiting for passengers. You might end up waiting a really long time, or paying a lot more for a private car.
You can also rent a car while you arrive which isn’t the cheapest option, but you have more room to decide on where you’d like to go and when. If that wouldn’t work for you, then a Viazul (Cuban bus) is another cheaper option that transports people to their destination.
If you’re an American citizen and fall under the supporting Cuban citizens category, then you would have to lodge in the Casa Particulars. This just means that you would be booking into someone’s home in one or several rooms. This is actually recommended for several reasons.
- It gives back to the economy and helps the Cuban people
- You save up on food costs since its’s much cheaper
- You get to directly interact with Cubans and their culture which is always a plus
- It’s much cheaper than living in a hotel
- You get advice on the best spots and places to see
Casa Particulars generally range anywhere from $25 to $45, while the more modern kind is around $50- 100. Hotels on the other hand go from $100 all the way to $400.
Cuba also has a 10% fee when you change your currency from dollar to their CUC and or CUP (you aren’t really allowed to use CUP, plus the inflation rate is way more). It would actually be more beneficial for you to change your dollar to euro, and to use CUC which would reduce your fee. You can also change your CUC back into dollar before you leave to go back home.
I don’t know about you, but food is one of the exciting parts of any trip for me. I always love to indulge in the country’s food to experience the authentic taste of it. I remember when I went to Greece and had my first Greek salad, it was one word… amazing. It tasted so different (in a good way of course) and nothing felt better than trying out the traditional Greek salad.
Cuba is no different, and they have some really delicious traditional food you can try out. Although they aren’t popularly known for their food, they certainly have national food that would be interesting to try out. Some traditional delicacies include;
- Frita (a kind of burger with chips and other yummy add-ons)
- Tamales (a type of roll made with dough or masa)
- Shrimps covered in coconut sauce
- Arroz con pollo (traditional Cuban rice and chicken)
- Vaca Frita (shredded steak with onions and rice or beans)
If you’re wondering where the best spots are to eat, it ranges from casa particulars to more fancy restaurants which are pricer. If you live in a casa particular, then you would almost pay less for the traditional food you eat. Street food and even going to local markets is also a way of saving some money while you enjoy all the delicious food.
What to do and pack in Cuba
This island is filled with a lot of activities you can certainly enjoy and make memories doing. From enjoying a lovely swim at the beach to taking in the beautiful music, your day is constantly packed with activities to do. The good news is that Cuba is considered quite safe for travelers to go about in the island.
Since Cuba is usually hot, you don’t have to pack really warm clothes. You would definitely need your bikini, summer clothes and light jerseys which would last you your duration of the trip. Don’t forget comfortable shoes, sunblock and your towel as well!
Also, it’s important to consider the best time to visit Cuba. December until May are usually the best months to visit the island because it’s hot and you can expect blue skies all throughout. Going around June or even October isn’t a great idea due to terrible weather conditions and possible hurricanes.
Here’s a list of some memorable and fun things you can do while you’re out there.
- Old Havana
Havana is the capital of Cuba (also where the international airport is located), and its home to some beautiful architecture and history. Visiting Old Havana is an eye-opener and lets you in on the island’s history and beautiful culture. While at this city-center, you can check out Morro Castle which is a castle right at the harbor. El Capitolio is also another must-see because that’s where you get to see most of the city’s history.
Malecón is a beautiful sidewalk that stretches out to the beach while you walk in Havana. It’s certainly a must if you’d love to see an amazing sunset while enjoying the view of the gorgeous beach. This is a popular area for tourists because while you hang around there, you can also see some historic places such as the Monument of the Victims of the USS Maine.
- Cayo Largo del Sur
This small resort a little outside of Cuba’s coast has a gorgeous beach that’s a site to see while you’re there. It has crystal blue skies and white sand which is perfect if you’re a photographer or love to take personal pictures. You also get to see turtles while you’re there, and the turtle museum is always open for anybody interested.
- Viñales Valley
Do you love hiking or biking? This valley is a rural area which is known for farming and you can enjoy some fresh air far away from busy city life. I personally love visiting the quieter areas of any place while I travel because it really reminds me of the important things in life. Plus, there’s no better feeling than being a stranger in the eyes of the locals.
- Museum of the Revolution
If you’d love to visit Cuba’s museum, then you might love this one. It tells all about Cuba’s history and the famous Fidel Castro and his yacht. The name comes from the fact that this used to be the presidential home to most presidents before the Cuban Revolution came about.
Has Cuba become one of the many islands you’d like to tick off your bucket list? Well, it’s home to gorgeous beaches and rich culture that would make for a memorable trip while you’re out there. Just keep in mind the legal aspects of the country, flights, accommodation, food and more while you plan your amazing trip out. The island is certainly a must if you’d love to experience the Caribbean way of living.