The Republic of Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 17th largest island globally. Island is located in the northern Caribbean, where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean meet. Havana is the capital of Cuba, very authentic, unique. You can easily fall in love in the city from the first city, how Camila Cabello is singing “Half of my heart is in Havana.” Capital has a lot of beautiful architectural spots and classic American cars. It feels you are going back in time in the 1950s, and the streets are full of colorful Chevrolet & Fords. – Explore Havana from the backseat of a classic car. Cuba travel tips that you can both inform and enjoy yourselves are listed down below!
We stayed in Cuba for 2 weeks and still left some unexplored places, so my recommendation book minimum of 14 days for Cuba. Before booking tickets and a hotel in Cuba, here are 12 useful Cuba travel tips to know about the country in detail:
1. Weather In Cuba
Cuba has a tropical climate, with an official dry season from late November to mid-April and a rainy and season from late April to early November. We came at the beginning of May. The rain was 2-3 times max for 30 minutes. The temperature was around 30 degrees during the day and then dropping to 24 degrees in the evening with a cool wind. The hottest month is August, so better to avoid it. Sea is warm enough for swimming all year round. So one of the most important Cuba travel tips that I can give for you is the weather and which season is the best to go.
2. What Language Is Spoken in Cuba?
The official language in Cuba is Spanish, and in most countries, Latin America and the Caribbean. 90% of the population, around 11 million people, speaks Spanish, and there are no special dialects. English is not so common on the island, so for better communication with locals and hotel staff, so one of my other important Cuba travel tips is to learn some simple phrases in Spanish.
3. Money in Cuba
Let’s talk about the currency which is used on the island. Interesting fact, there is two currency system: for locals – CUP (Cuban Pesos), for foreigners – CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) and CUC has a 1:1 conversion rate with the US dollar. And in shops, there are prices for locals and tourists. The money you can easily exchange in a hotel, the exchange rate is everywhere the same. So probably one of the best Cuba travel tips is to take enough cash with you, as ATM is not easy to find.
4. Internet in Cuba
It’s one of my favorite topics! There is no Wi-Fi in hotels, or even if you found a network, most likely you will have to pay for it. So here is the thing how it usually works: in the hotel, you buy a special internet card, 1 $ for 1 hour. The card gives you internet access, with unique login and password. After 1 hour you can buy a new card to get 1 more hour. Overall, there are advantages to this system. You can totally disconnect from your phone, social media and fully enjoy the ocean, beaches, and nature.
5. Which Places to Visit in Cuba
The largest resort town is Varadero, with 20 km of white sand beaches and more than 50 hotels located there. By the way, Varadero Beach, in 2019 it was ranked as number two in the world’s best beaches in TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards. It’s located 2 hours east of Havana. It’s the perfect place to stay, and we haven’t regret choosing it. Ocean color is changing during the day, depending on the sun – so different shades of blue. And one of the biggest Cuba travel tips to sunsets lovers like me is that you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset on the beach every evening.
Playa Larga is a nice place to enjoy crystal clear Caribbean water, wild nature, and the place is not full of tourists. The best way to get there is to take a tour from the hotel, around 125 km on the way. It will be one day trip, including a crocodile farm, Cueva de Los Peces – lagoon with a 70-meter-deep sinkhole, offering snorkeling and swimming, plus farm with Cubana Flora & Fauna, where you can see how different fruits are growing and try juice from sugarcane.
A small town in the central part of Cuba has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage site. From Varadero, you can take a tour to get there, it’s quite far away, approximately 270 km on the way, with a 1-night stay in town, or another option is taking a plane from Havana. We haven’t been there as we decided to have a more relaxing vacation and visited Cayo Blanco island instead. However, if you like history, architecture and looking for the perfect photo spot – go there. Probably one of the best Cuba travel tips I can give you is this! I left it I my to-do list for next time.
Havana is a must-have for all tourists. We stayed there 2 days and to be honest it was not enough to fully explore & enjoy the city. I believe 3-4 days would be perfect. Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and Habana Centro are the most convenient places for staying. We choose casa (Cuban house) instead of a hotel – you can feel there more atmosphere of the country, and it’s cheaper than a hotel. During the day, there are many things to explore, and in the evening visit, one of Havana’s nightclubs – the atmosphere is like in “Dirty Dance” movie, if you know what I mean.
Cuba is a very safe country for visiting. The country is earning a lot of money from tourism, so protecting tourists is the police’s number one priority. So, don’t be afraid of taking a taxi on the street or walking in the evening. The level of crime in Cuba is one of the lowest in South America and the Caribbean.
7. Interesting Fact: Communism in Cuba
Since 1959, Cuba has had a socialist political system 1959 based on the “one-state – one party” principle held by Fidel Castro. Government is in control of education, labor, has ownership of agriculture, transportation, and total abolition of private property. You can’t go fishing. Take fruits from the tree as it’s not yours; it’s all government. Every Cuban family has a basic Libreta or so-called ration book. This provides on monthly basis rice, sugar, cooking oil, eggs, chicken. This brings to full social equality of all members of society. Maybe with the new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel – who is first in such a position since Cuban Revolution non-Castro family – things will change.
8. Shops Are Empty
This can be shocking for all tourists coming from Europe. You see a shop you go there, and there are 5-6 product types for today (for example, soap, napkins, eggs, juice, cigars). Tomorrow there could be something else, pasta, chicken, rice – so going shopping. It’s like playing the lottery every day. Most locals have never tried chocolate and other types of sweets. So, my recommendation if you have space in your luggage, buy some sweets, waffles, cookies and share them with the hotel staff (we usually were leaving sweets with tips in the room). Believe me; you make those people happy with such a small gesture. And take with you all the stuff you need cause it might be hard to find some sunscreen, body gel, or shampoo. Here is another important Cuba travel tip for hygiene!
9. Music, Dancing & Best Cocktails
In Cuba, all people love to dance and know how to dance. Salsa, bachata, merengue, rumba, reggaeton, cha cha, cha are one of the most famous dances. People are dancing everywhere, on the beach, on the streets, and in clubs. So, it’s a great place to learn how to dance if you don’t know yet. In our hotel we had dancing classes twice per day on the beach, some moves I remember till now. In Cuba, especially in Havana, cocktails are delicious: Cuba Libre, Pina Colada, Daiquiri, Mojito, Margarita, and lots more. It’s worst to try. In the hotel, bartenders are also quite creative and can do some unique cocktails based on your request.
10. Don’t Drink Water from Tap or Eat Street Food
It’s not recommended to drink water from taps, so take water bottles. Street food might look delicious. However, it can make you sick, as on the streets there are no refrigerators & it’s boiling outside, so better to eat at recommended cafes & restaurants. The average bill for two people will be 30-40$.
11. Old Classic Cars
Cuba nowadays is a living museum of vintage cars. American cars were imported in Cuba from the 1930s to the 1950s. After the Cuban Revolution embargo was erected and American cars/products banded. Havana is full of old cars, different colors, models – so as it was already mentioned above, it must have to take a ride in old Chevrolet or Ford. By the way, in Cuba, you can see also Russian old cars, as Volga, Lada.
12. What to Bring from Cuba?
Cuban rum and cigars are the most popular present people are bringing from Cuba. If to talk about rum – Legendario Ron Dorado, Havana Club Añejo 7 Años are good ones, the price range varies 15$ -25$ per bottle. If you are looking for more expensive rum, that takes a look at Ron Santiago de Cuba 11 Años Añejo Superior Rum, 11 years rum with notes of vanilla and orange (price around 50$). Also, another idea for the present can be coffee, wooden accessories for the kitchen, paintings, Cuban music, Che Guevara’s Beret, t-shirts.
Last Words about Cuba and Cuba Travel Tips
To sum up, Cuba is a unique place globally, and it cannot be compared to any other place in the world. After visiting 34 countries – for me, it still stays on top of the list. If you are looking for some bright, tropical island to visit – choose Cuba, and you won’t regret it. Moreover, it’s still not so spoiled by tourists, so I consider it a big plus. After reading the article, you are inspired to explore a new country and ready to pack your luggage, and given enough Cuba travel tips that can be beneficial for you. Please, put comments in case you have some questions or you would like to add some points.