Cuba Independent Travel Tips
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, Cuba is one of my absolute favourite countries! Independent travel here is less of a struggle than some might think. However, it’s not without its challenges. So here is my list of Cuba independent travel tips…
Cuba Independent Travel Tips:
ATMs charge steep fees. Bring all of the cash you will need for the trip, and exchange it when you arrive. Try not to bring US dollars as there are additional fees to exchange these. We brought a combination of pounds sterling and euros, and changed these on arrival.
There are two currencies in Cuba, CUC and CUP. CUC or “convertible pesos” are used for larger purchases and you will be given these when exchanging cash. CUC is pegged 1:1 to the US dollar.
CUP is more commonly used by locals, and it is often cheaper to use CUP than CUC for smaller purchases. Contrary to what some may think, tourists are free to use both currencies. When you make a purchase in CUC, ask for your change in CUP, and keep a small stash of CUP to pay for things like meals and drinks. However, make sure you convert all of your CUP before you leave Cuba, as it cannot be exchanged once you leave.
Some solo female travellers have reported street harassment (I encountered this myself when my partner Adam wasn’t by my side). Though this is most likely harmless, it can be irritating and intimidating, and worth keeping in mind when booking a trip.
Learn some Spanish! I know this is easier said than done, but even basic Spanish will help with interactions outside of hotels and tourist spots.
Internet access is very difficult to come by. For wifi, you can purchase a relatively expensive ETESCA card to use for your device. However, this will only allow you to access wifi in limited hotspots. You will notice crowds of people gathered along certain streets or in plazas using their phones! You may also be able to access the internet using a computer at a hotel or internet café. Or do as we did and disconnect for the duration of your trip!
If travelling by bus, buy tickets a day in advance. Be prepared for a long queue.
Shared taxis are often cheaper and faster than taking the bus. These are unpredictable and some travellers have shared stories of long waits, or drivers trying to cram more people in than can fit! Pay half of the fee upfront and half on arrival.
Stay in casa particulares. These are homestays where you will be welcomed by a host and stay in a room in their home. These rooms often have their own bathrooms and entrances. Staying in these casas are a fantastic way to meet people and experience Cuban life.
Casas can be booked before you arrive at your first destination in Cuba. Most owners will be able to call ahead to a friend at your next stop and arrange your next casa. We also found that arriving in a town without planned accommodation was no problem, as owners gathered around the bus stop to offer their homes. This may not be the case in high season however!
Cuban food is a bit of a mixed bag. We had some incredible meals interspersed with many bland sandwiches. Vegetarians will get by without problems. The best meals we had were at our casa particulares, many of which include a large breakfast, and an option to pay for dinner, too.
Be patient. Nothing in Cuba is hurried, but its laid back vibe is simply part of its charm!
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