10 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Cuba

TravelIf there’s one thing I’ve learned traveling to Cuba, it’s that the country is built on human interaction. Cubans rely on in-person meetings and build networks through trust and friendship. Phone calls are limited, internet access is difficult, and even texting is uncommon. As a result, anyone that wants to get anything done in Cuba has to go there, and go there regularly.

To help with this, we at ifCuba have created The Innovadores Guide to Traveling to Cuba. It’s a detailed look at everything you need to know about visiting the country, for those looking to plan their own trip.

Keep in mind that Cuba is a difficult country to visit on your own, even for experienced travelers. We recommend that you do some serious research and talk to people that have already been before you plan your trip.

If you’re interested in visiting, check out our list below for a quick overview of what you need to keep in mind. This is just a high-level overview. For more detailed information, be sure to download our guide.

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What you need to know before you visit Cuba:

  1. Plan before your go. Cuba is not a country to “show up and figure it out,” even if you’re well-traveled. It’s difficult to make arrangements after you arrive, so best to book these in advance through a trusted resource. Even better to visit with the help of experienced travelers.
  2. Internet access in Cuba is extremely limited, as we’ve discussed in previous posts. To get online, you’ll need to find a wifi hotspot and purchase an access card. You also won’t be able to access certain websites and services. Our guide offers a map of wifi hotspots and more details on which spots are blocked.
  3. You need to bring cash. There are, unfortunately, no good ways to get cash in Cuba as an American. As a last resort you can try Western Union, but it’s a challenge. We can tell you how much to budget and where to exchange the cash for the best deal.
  4. You also need a visa for Cuba, and you can get it several different ways depending on how you book your flights. But make sure you have a visa, and don’t stay longer than you’re permitted.
  5. Hotel rooms are in short supply, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck. Havana has a wealth of private houses, known as casa particulars, that you can book through a few different websites, including Airbnb. Just make sure you book in advance and trust the people you’re booking with. Your best bet is to get a recommendation from someone who’s visited before.
  6. Traveling around Havana can be challenging and expensive. Daily drivers are an option, but they can be costly and are honestly a bit of overkill. Depending on where you’re staying, you can often hop a cab to your next destination. You can even try an almendron if you’re feeling adventurous. Check the guide for a full list of all the transport options.
  7. It’s legally required that you purchase health insurance while you’re in Cuba. This is usually included in the price of your ticket if you book through an agent, but check to be sure. We also suggest you be careful about what you eat and drink.
  8. Before you go, get your phone ready. This means trying to active it for Cuba and downloading the appropriate apps. There are a bunch of apps that are useful in Cuba, but we have a few favorites that we recommend.
  9. There are four main neighborhoods in Havana, which each have a lot to offer. Try to pick one that meets your needs and your budget. Best to do a bit of research on each before you decide where to stay.
  10. There’s a lot to do in the city, including some pretty great restaurants and bars. We’ve provided a map of some of our favorite spots, and the places you shouldn’t miss before you leave–including the FAC.

There’s a lot to keep in mind before your visit Cuba. Try not to go in alone, and check out our guide for more info.

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