Travel Tips for Cuba.

Planning a trip to Cuba? Here are some tips you need to know before your getaway.
I did lots of research in regards basic information before heading to Cuba, unfortunately many blogs and websites did not include some of the following that I believe are very important to know if you do have a trip coming up to Cuba.

The Basics

Health Insurance. When we got to the airport we had tickets printed and all ready to go, unfortunately minutes before the boarding the flight we were asked to show health insurance. We pulled out our cards and were notified right away that our insurances do not cover traveling to Cuba. If you have a flight coming up, visit geo-blue.com and purchase health insurance for the days you'll be there for (make sure to do it at least 48 hours before the trip as it takes a while to activate. For a week it was only $12, however we did have a very limited time before the flight and I wish I got it done right when we got to the airport. Note that when you are checking into the hotels you might be asked to provide the same proof of insurance. I had all the emails of flights, insurance etc. saved on my phone in case I have to show it anywhere due to no access to wifi when in Cuba.

Visa. I was told to get a Visa prior to traveling which was supposed to be around $80, however we decided to get it during our stop in El Salvador on the way to Cuba, the Visa came out to only $15 at the airport. If you have a stop on the way to Cuba you will be able to purchase it there as well and save some money! 

Wifi. The struggle of not being able to connect to Wifi was real and I am not talking about wanting to get on Instagram or post pictures. You will run into little bumps like wanting to extend a stay, change a flight or simply look up your airbnb address -- well if you do not have it saved anywhere or printed out you will not be able to access it. Make sure to screenshot and save it all prior to the trip or print it out. I highly suggest printing out all your boarding/trip passes, map of Cuba, phone numbers of cabs etc. so that in case of any sort of an emergency you have it. 

Transportation. Getting around town is pretty easy as there is many different ways to get from one place to another, the key is to always NEGOTIATE. If they say $10, say $4 because you're a tourist they will add 200% markup on anything you try to do unless the prices are listed on things like a menu etc. If they say no to $4 offer, a driver next to them will say yes, because at the end of the day most of people's income there is $25 and every dollar you pay matters. If you're staying at Airbnb ask your host to arrange airport drop off etc. they have many friends who are drivers that do better deals than taxi drivers, make sure to ask for a car that has an AC! 

Accommodations. Because we were going to stay in Old Havana for a few nights and then head over to the Varadero beach that's 2 hours away we decided to stay with locals in Havana and get an all-inclusive Resort on the beach. Airbnb was great, AC was my main thing when searching for a right place, make sure to triple check and ask the host if there really is an AC in your unit, most of the time it might just be a fan. If you're looking to stay in Old Havana make sure to stay a few streets away from the main area as that is where all the bars are.

Airbnb > Hotel. As we stayed at both - Airbnb (to experience true life of Havana) and a Resort, I'd suggest getting a hotel, unless you speak Spanish of course. Communicating with locals isn't easy and having a reception desk a call away was sort of necessary.

Money exchange. Before your trip make sure to exchange dollars to euros. When you get to the airport, there will be a tiny bank outside on your right hand side where you will be able to exchange euros to local money. Thankfully we brought enough money on the trip but we did run into two people at the airport right before our trip back home that did run out of euros and did not have any money to eat for two days before heading home. It's better to have extra money than not enough. If you think you're going to spend 500, exchange 700 just in case - however you will not be able to exchange money back before you go back to the States so you will have to spend all the money before your trip is over. We spent around 100 dollars a day, including food, getting around, souvenirs etc. 

Food. I tried quite a few different meals throughout my stay there but ended up playing it safe and stuck to seafood. If you're pretty specific on what you eat, bring protein bars as grocery stores have extremely limited amounts of food, street food can be a hit or miss depending on how your body adjusts to certain foods and the way they look/are made. There is two Restaurants located in the middle of Havana that have a rooftop and yes, it might be pricey for Cuba but you won't be disappointed -- I had lobster [$19] and it was the best meal I had all week there! If your body is not taking street food and regular Cuban food check out the place for a good meal. Street food varies from $1-$5 for fried rice, ice cream etc. 

Two apps you must download for Cuba: 
[Even with no wifi your phone will still allow you to use these apps & trust me they will come in handy]
1. Maps.me -- It's a map that will show where you are at and will be your best friend when trying to find any place you may be looking for around you.
2. Google Translate -- Neither one of us speaks/understands Spanish so this app was extremely helpful!

Pictured on the left is a local grocery store. On the right you could see the architecture of Old Havana which is filled with many historical buildings.

Street markets filled with fresh fruit were delicious and absolutely necessary during the hot summer days.


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