Traveling to Cuba (especially as an American citizen) can be a rather unique experience. Having been rather isolated from the rest of the world, visiting Cuba feels like an otherworldly experience. Tourism has been a growing industry in Cuba within the past few years and I highly recommend taking an adventure down there to support the Cuban people! However, visiting Cuba is a unique experience and requires some planning. Here’s what to know before visiting this amazing island:
WiFi is available (but often unreliable)
WiFi was just recently introduced to Cuba in 2017 and mobile internet the end of 2018. However, it is still not widely available throughout the country, nor is it free. In urban areas, there are WiFi hot-spots throughout the city but access is limited and restricted to minimal bandwidth. The best option for using these WiFi hot-spots is to buy a NAUTA card, which will allow you to use the internet at public areas including restaurants. A 5 hour card costs about 5 CUC and a 1-hour card costs 1 CUC (just make sure to bring your passport when purchasing these cards!).
Bring enough cash to last throughout your trip (and extra if possible)
Cuba is a cash country with credit cards rarely accepted. Therefore, you will want to make sure you bring enough cash with you to last the entire trip, as well as some emergency money. There are two types of currency used, the Pesos Nacionales (CUPs) and Cuban Convertibles (CUCs). Basically, CUPs are the local currency while CUCs are intended for foreigners and accepted throughout the country.
The food is quite fresh and delicious!
I have rarely had a fresher meal than in my time in Cuba. The meals are simple, but robust and delicious. Common meals usually include rice, some form of meat and black beans (you have options vegetarians and vegans!), yuca, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. Flan is also a favorite for dessert as well as a mojito to complement the meal! For US tourists who are not permitted to dining at state and government run restaurants, paladares (independent restaurant run by individual entrepreneurs) and casa particulares (AirBNBs) are the best ways to try authentic Cuban cuisine and support the locals!
Cubans are very hospitable and friendly (yes, even to Americans)
I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous and intimidated about visiting Cuba as a US citizen. Even though I chose to do “the group tour” thing, I did spend time wandering the neighborhood on my own with my roommates and chat with the locals. Everyone we encountered were extremely friendly and hospitable, offering us over for breakfast! Being respectful and (respectfully) curious, goes a long way!
Cuba is a beautiful country
Seriously guys, I love this country. Please don’t let politics, fear, or ignorance prevent you from exploring this beautiful island. There is plenty to see and do for adventure seekers. Or if you prefer a R&R type of vacation, the beaches are absolutely stunning. Your tourism dollars will help the Cuban people. Just go!