1. Cuba does not have access to Wi-Fi and the internet like most other places that you have visited. Most of the top hotels have Wi-Fi access for a charge, but if you opt to stay at an Airbnb like many visitors, you’ll be subject to trying to find an internet café to get Wi-Fi access. This can be a costly and slow process, so try to plan accordingly.
2. Some cell phones will not work in Cuba or will be subject to very expensive charges. Your best bet is to try to obtain a Cuban cell phone so you can make local calls and if you must make long distance calls, use a hotel.
3. If you have a US bank based credit card, it WILL NOT work in Cuba. Really, no exceptions here, it’s like having a hunk of useless plastic in your pocket.
4. That being said, even if you have non-US bank based credit cards, it’s easier to operate in cash in Cuba. Cuba works on their own currency system, so you’ll want to exchange your local currency for theirs. You can learn more about the two types of Cuban currency here.
Before You Travel
1. If you’re American, you CANNOT go to Cuba for tourism purposes. There are 12 valid reasons that you can travel to Cuba and you need to research each of them before you head out to determine which classification you can meet. Find more info on these 12 categories from this U.S. Embassy information.
2. You need a tourist card/visa to enter Cuba. It will likely be included in your airline ticket fee, but be sure to check. You cannot get through customs without it, so make sure you get one either online (depends on your country) or at your local airport (your airline can help you).
3. Airbnb offers great lodging options that may surpass the local hotels. While there is a lot of construction happening and new hotels are coming, most hotels in Cuba are dated despite per night costs. For a fraction of the price, you can stay at a great Airbnb that may offer meals, caretakers and amenities you can’t get from hotels. Check out the beautiful Havana Oceanfront Condo Airbnb where I stayed and book here
4. Print off all of your travel documents and carry them with you. This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s easy to depend on apps and email to keep track of travel docs… until you don’t have Wi-Fi.
Tips To Help You Navigate Your Cuban Adventure
Finally, dust off your Español! Most Cubans speak Spanish (closer to Latin American Spanish with some Cuban nuances like dropping “r’s”) and if you have at least some base knowledge of Spanish it will help tremendously as you make your way throughout your tours, shopping and nightlife.
1. You will hear a lot about how bad Cuban water is for you (the real issue is old pipes and infrastructure) and you should take heed. Only drink bottle or filtered water if you can. While I didn’t struggle with any food/water sickness, many people complained about this.
2. Take hand wipes and sanitizer with you to carry around in Cuba. Many public restrooms did not have toilet paper or soap (or if they did someone was selling it to you), so it’s better to have your own supply if you can.
3. Take over the counter medicine with you (allergy pills, headache medicine, stomach medicine) because while you will see several farmacias in Cuba, you may not recognize the medicines that you are seeing or find things available that you’re used to taking in your home country.
4. Lysol is your friend. Despite its beauty, Cuba's proximity to the ocean brings with it lots of opportunity for mold, so having a bacterial disinfectant can help, particularly if you're prone to asthma or allergies.