I’m sure you’ve heard, but Americans are finally able to travel to Cuba! I’ve been fascinated with visiting ever since I heard it was full of classic cars. Before I knew what and embargo was, I was obsessed with 1950’s Chevy Bel Airs. So when I found out that Havana was full of them it immediately made its way to my bucket list. I marked it off my list this February with a group of assorted co-workers. I’m a planner and a researcher so obviously looked into it a lot before going. I’ve complied a list of the top 5 things you should be prepared for before you take your trip back in time.
1. Credit and debit cards don’t work there
You have to come carrying all the cash you will need for your trip. There is a 10% charge for converting USD so our group got Euros before leaving. Since you can’t take any money out while there, I recommend bringing a bit more money than you think you’ll need. Meals ranged from $5-$10 depending on where you’re at and what you get. We found a place off the beaten path that was closer to $1.50. It saved our lives when we had to stay an extra day but most places were closer
2. Brushing up on your Spanish will be very helpful
Most people don’t speak English and if they do, they know as much English as I do Spanish which is not a lot (don’t tell my high school Spanish teacher). We were able to get by with a combination of what we could remember and a lot of creative acting out. If I go again, I’d spend some time brushing up on the basics or I would have downloaded Google translate.
3. Wifi is not everywhere
Wifi is not easy to come by. Homes and business don’t have wifi. To access the internet, you have to purchase a card and then access it in designated public places and some hotels. It was actually amazing to be truly disconnected for a week though. We were able to ask around to figure out where to buy the cards. In anticipation of this, we downloaded maps of Havana before we left so we could navigate by foot. We used the app maps.me to plot out the places we wanted to see and GPS still worked so we could figure out our route.
4. The food is…lacking
The lunches we had in Vinales were delicious but other than that, the food was not great. We ate a lot of ham sandwiches. There was a vegetarian in our group that had trouble finding food, so just be warned. Might be worth brining Cliff bars or other snacks to tie you over.
5. Its not weird if your host asks for your passport
Hosts in Cuba are required to document the people that are staying in their homes so don’t be alarmed if your casa or AirBnB host asks to see your passport. They have a log of visitors that they’ll write your information into then return your passport to you.
Have you been to Cuba? What were you most surprised to see?