Cuba Travel Hacks
Organising a trip to Cuba can be a bit tricky and somewhat confusing but I promise you it’s so worth it! Below are a few useful things to note down while planning your trip.
Getting your visa for Cuba super simple, for the love of god I don’t know why google makes it so confusing. NO you don’t need to acquire your visa months in advance off of a visa site and pay $100+ USD. Most airlines can sort your visa for you at your boarding gate. So make some extra time when you head to the airport, the visa desk will be located near the boarding gate after you’ve passed customs and you can easily obtain your visa there for $50-70USD depending on what airline you are flying with. It would be a good idea to check your airlines website in regards to the visa just to double check the location of the visa desk.
NOTE: Trump has just tightened travel restrictions as of June 2019 no long allowing cruise ships to enter from America. He may also be looking to take away flight options going directly from the US into Cuba, so checking with airlines to see what your best options are is advisable!
12 categories of authorised travel
‘Open tourism’ into Cuba is not accepted at this time so you have to enter the country under 1 of the 12 categories of authorised travel. When you’re booking your flights you will be prompted with a drop down menu asking which of the 12 categories you are. Most of the 12 won’t apply to the average person wanting to enter Cuba so the easiest one to select is ‘Support of the Cuban people.’ With this you will need to write a brief itinerary before you go for each day that you are there of how you will be supporting the local people. Examples include: Staying at an airbnb or casa instead of a hotel, taking a tour of some kind, eating at local restaurants, vintage car tours, salsa lessons etc. From my personal experience we did not once eat asked for our itinerary or receipts of proof, I think it is a lot more relaxed that some sites on the interest make it out to be.
Exchanging Euros gives you the best exchange rate so If you can, I recommend getting out as many euros as you think you’ll need for the trip. I went through about $100NZD a day (not including accom.)
Exchanging USD can be done but it doesn’t work out in your favour. Not only is the exchange rate not as good as euros but they take 10% off of your exchanged total as well. They are not too fond of America for obvious reasons.
You can only get Cuban currency in Cuba so it’s a good idea to do your exchanging at the Airport before you get into a cab. If you head out the main exit doors and turn left you will see a small exchange kiosk.
I was told that ATM’s we few and far between in Cuba/ they didn’t work, so I needed exchange the total amount needed at the airport for the entirety of the trip. From my own experience however the ATM’s in Old Havana worked and not once did I have a problem with them. So maybe a good idea to check with your bank before you leave for your trip.
A taxi from the airport to Havana costs between 20-25 CUC. Do not pay anymore, you will be getting ripped off.
Taxis to get around Havana seem to have a flat rate of 10 CUC no matter where you go.
The vintage classic taxi’s cost the same as the new taxis do so if you can take advantage of driving around in the old classic cars instead. And why not for the same price!
You can take a tour of Havana in a classic car (highly recommend). You will notice just about everywhere in Old Havana there are people trying to sell you a car tour so pick the car you like the look of most and ask the driver how much it is. You can barter the price down in most cases. For a 1 hour drive around the city you should pay around 40 CUC per car, so If there are 4 of you in the car its only 10 CUC each. You may find that some drivers won’t budge on a most expensive price and that may be because the car is of more value. Just shop around until you are happy with the car and price.
Hotel Parque Central and Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski are perfect for a cheeky drink with a 360 degree view of Old Havana. 100% recommend doing this one night.
And lastly - sorting out wifi is a pain in the ass. If you feel you can do your whole trip without having to connect then great but if not:
You can buy internet/wifi cards from ETECSA stores. They are located around the main areas of Old Havana. Tip: Make sure you get there to line up as soon as it opens in the morning as the lines to get into the building can last an hour. You will pay around $1-2 for an 1 hour card, its a good idea to get a few so you don't have to go back.
Wifi cards can also be found at the reception of main hotel chains, so that is always an alternative if you find the ETECSA line too big.
Once you've got your card, you will be able to use the wifi in certain areas. These are mostly in public squares or gardens, you'll often see a whole lot of locals and tourists sitting around in squares on their phones. This is how you know your in the right spot. Once you've connected to the wifi a pop up will appear and you are asked to type in the code that is on the back of your wifi card, your 1 hour will start from there, if you log off before the one hour you can still use the remaining time on the card another time.
Be ready for extremely slow connections and sometimes no internet at all. Apps with lots of data like Instagram are the worst and sometimes your feed won't load.