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Cuba On A Budget: The Ultimate Guide On How To Visit The “Revolucion” Island.

Clelia Mattana AMERICAS, BLOG, CUBA, LATIN AMERICA, USEFUL GUIDES 61 Comments

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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE PLANNING A TRIP TO CUBA

 Flights, health insurance, health matters, visas, safety issues, etc.



All of this, and the considerably cheap prices of accommodation, transport and food, make Cuba an excellent destination for backpackers and anybody who is traveling independently and on a tight budget. Now that you are finally convinced that this should be your next holiday destination, I can help you better plan your vacation.


CUBA-spring-waters-forest-cuba

Clear Spring water in Cuba

 

 


1| WEATHER: WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT CUBA.

If you ask me, I think it’s always a good time to go to Cuba.June to August are the hottest months,

I would advise you to go in February: It’s sunny, you can enjoy the beaches and a good snorkel, and won’t feel suffocated by the heat.
while October and November are classified as hurricane seasons – although Cuba safety records concerning hurricanes is excellent and I would not discourage travelers to go during those months.

Besides, depending on the region, you may still get rain in other seasons too. If you are among those that feel the urge to escape the winter months at home, yet want to avoid extremely high temperatures and humidity.


2| FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHT TO CUBA: CHECK OUT FLIGHTS DEALS.

Reaching Cuba is relatively easy in any season. Flight prices don’t vary much between seasons, but do keep your eyes open to catch some of the special offers that airlines occasionally have:

  • Air France (via Paris)
  • Blue Panorama (via Rome)
  • Cubana (via Rome)
  • KLM (via Amsterdam)
  • Iberia (via Madrid) 
  • Virgin Atlantic (via London)

They all fly to Havana. With a little bit of luck, you may get a round trip ticket for as cheap as 550 euro.

One of the best tools I use to find cheap flights online is Skyscanner. I love it as it searches among all the major airlines for the selected route and shows me tons of options. I usually start my research for cheap flights a few months before my trip and I sign up to their alerts that show when the price drops, giving me the possibility to book at the optimal price.


CHECK OUT CHEAP FLIGHT TO CUBA IN HERE!


 


3| DON’T FORGET TO BUY HEALTH INSURANCE:

Together with your flight, you should buy a health insurance. As of May 2010, any foreigner traveling to Cuba is required proof of medical insurance, and you may be asked to show it at customs before entering the country. Should you fail to provide proof, you may have to buy one on the spot, with the State agency Asistur.

You won’t be required to show proof of previous vaccinations, so it is up to you if you want to have protection against tetanus, difteritis, hepatitis A and B and typhoid fever.

When it comes to buying my travel insurance, after a lot of research online and years on the road, I decided to go with WorldNoamds, I found them to be very reliable and most importantly, they pay! Check it out and see if this type of insurance is right for you. A really great bonus is that you can renew it while you are still on the road and you can do everything online!


GET A QUOTE FOR YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR CUBA IN HERE





4| VISA REQUIREMENT FOR CUBA

You will also need a visa, better known as tarjeta de turista which is valid for 30 days and can be extended for 30 more days while in Cuba. It is normally bought via the Cuban consulate in your own country, or, better, through your travel agent. It costs around €25 and you will be asked a copy of your passport and a valid onward ticket.


5| CURRENCY IN CUBA

Now, on the tricky bits: there are two currencies in Cuba. Yes, you read that correctly.

  • One is the CUC, or Pesos Convertibles: it is used by foreigners and by Cubans to purchase certain specific goods. A CUC is worth about one US dollar.
  • The other one is the MN (Moneda Nacional): 1 CUC = 25 MN.

 

Knowing that, whenever entering a museum, a foreigner pays 2 or 3 CUC as opposed to the 1 MN paid by locals helps you put things into perspective as to what your money can really buy in Cuba and what things are really worth.

Keep in mind that, although you may pay 15 CUC for a room, the average salary of a Cuban is about 12 to 18 CUC per month. No wonder they all strive to work with tourists: this way, they do get paid in CUC and can have access to a wider range of otherwise unavailable goods.

Do not bring dollars with you, it is better to carry Euros. Also keep in mind that no credit cards are accepted, ever. You have to pay in cash and at most your credit card (as long as it is not originated by a US bank account) can be used to withdraw cash.


6| CUBA INTERNET CONNECTION

Once in Cuba, forget the internet. There is no wifi in the country. There are public phones and in order to use them, you will have to buy (and regularly top up) a calling card from any ETECSA center (that’s where you may also be able to get the internet, but it is so slow you will be discouraged). Take this as your one chance to really forget about computers, emails, text messages and social media.


beautiful-beach-cuba-beaches-in-cuba-sea-in-cuba-caribbeans-beaches

No internet connection? Just Relax and enjoy!


7| HYGIENE/FOOD IN CUBA: WHAT TO EXPECT.

Cuba is a clean country and you will hardly have to worry about hygiene issues. Different from the majority of Latin American countries, streets here are pretty much spotless, the grass is clean, and you will never see garbage around. Keep it this way.

Cubans are clean people – they may not have brand new clothes, but they do keep good care of themselves. The hygienic conditions are good, and it is safe to eat at either private restaurants (paladares), state-owned restaurants, casas particulares (where the landlady can and will prepare meals for you) and even in the street.

It is advisable not to drink tap water. You should be fine with salads, they are usually washed in purified water.



8| FIRST AID KIT AND OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED IN CUBA:

Carry a basic set of medicines – whatever you may normally need back home, plus:

  • Imodium
  • Dramamine
  • Disinfectants
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun block

There hardly are any mosquitoes and cockroaches – the country is regularly fumigated and the houses are kept very clean – but should you find there are mosquitoes, do spray repellent to avoid becoming itchy! I

In doubt, carry some extra toothpaste and shampoo or bars of soap. For as crazy as it may sound, these items are not easily found in Cuba and if you run out of them, you will have a hard time looking for more. I ended up having to ask the landlord at my casa particular in Trinidad to help me find toothpaste.

TIP: Should you be left with some before you leave, you won’t have to carry it home: people in the street often stop tourists to ask if they have shampoo, soap, pencils or pens, and even clothes.I always had some in my bag to give away.

 

9| SHOPS IN CUBA:

There are no real supermarkets as we know them, but just small shops that sell a few items. You may enter a shop that sells bottles and ask to buy water, and you will be told that there is no water there, but just beer and rum. If you want coke or water, you have to go next door or to a different shop.

And even then, there is only one kind of it. One kind of beer, one kind of soda, one kind of bread. No nonsense and no abundance, and most of all no waste of time in making choices.

10| SAFETY FOR SOLO TRAVELERS IN CUBA:

 

Cuba is very safe, to travel alone, as a single woman, or even with children.


Cubans love children. Criminality is very low, and you may walk around the streets day and night without anybody bothering you.They will at most comment on your physical appearance, or offer to accompany you, but ignore them and that will be the end of it.


 

Read in: Italian German

Comments 61

  1. Was in Cuba a week ago and had the most incredible time. In Viñales, I really recommend the “Casa Dovales” amazing people, great hospitality, the rooms were perfect, and the food I ate in the house was very good as well. Definitely is a must go to if you go to Viñales.

    1. Thanks for your suggestion Marc! It’s always nice to have people recommending places they have visited themselves in Cuba!

    2. Hello! Thank you for your suggestion! Do you have e-mail address of Casa Dovales in Vinales, please? I would like to go there in 10 days. I am leaving to Cuba! 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Wow amazing post! I’ve been visiting Cuba on February and fell immediately in love. Also currently blogging about it. My first time solo travel ever and I’d do it again!!

    1. Thanks Asli! Glad you like it and you couldn’t have chosen a better place to travel solo, what an experience !

  3. Such a great guide! I went to Cuba in 2014 and am glad I did. It was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to (my photos don’t do it justice).

  4. Hey Hey,

    we really liked your report on Cuba. It is an amazing country that is totally unique in the world. Everybody seems to be afraid of the change that the open politics will bring to Cuba. But we believe that the Cubans and their country will stay as they are – authentic and outgoing 🙂
    We have also been to Cuba for a couple of weeks and mostly stayed at casa particulars. Only there, you will get the inside information and get to know this country 🙂
    Maybe you would also like to read about our experiences:
    https://weareleavingtraces.com/2016/04/25/havanna/

    See you!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Glad the article was useful for you and that you had an authentic stay in CUba 🙂

  5. Hi Clelia, completely agree with your guest poster’s recommendation to stay in casas particulares, for exactly the reasons stated – cheaper, better, more authentic, friendlier! I also noticed that your guest poster says “What can be tricky about casas particulares is the booking system. Cubans mostly work via phone. They hardly use emails and internet to sort their business”. This is exactly why our small company exists – to simplify the booking process for independent travellers and to make managing the casa easier for the hosts. Please feel free to check us out and embed a link to us in your blog if you think our services might be useful for others

    Cheers!

    Admin Comment: Please note that adding links to the comments is not allowed as per our terms & conditions. Thank you for your understanding! Clelia

    1. Hi Clelia, not a bother, hadn’t realised that was part of your T&Cs. Would be good to provide your readers with a convenient means of actually booking casas though, so maybe worth linking in the main body of text?

      1. Hey Matthew, being this my full-time job, I usually have a paid service for the companies (or private) that want to promote their properties/business. If I had to add every link people ask me to, there wouldn’t be an article anymore, just a long list of links, plus (and this is even more important), I prefer to link to companies that I have either tried for myself and can personally recommend or that are somehow well known or someone else have tried them, hence I am sure I’m giving my readers some added value.

        I hope this clarifies the terms & conditions of my website.
        Kind Regards

        Clelia

  6. Amazing Cuba blog post! Going there in February! Can’t wait! Thanks for useful tips especially for sharing some casa particulares 🙂

    Kristina

  7. This is an awesome Blog. Wish I found it before I visited Cuba. In December of 2016 myself, my wife and 10-year-old daughter traveled to CUBA from Atlanta on Delta Airlines for 1 week. We stayed at a different hotel every night and traveled to a different location every day. I struggled gathering recent information when organizing our trip, like this blog, I wanted to help as many future CUBA travelers as possible by creating 15 short videos.

  8. Hi, greetings from Estonia!
    I wanted to ask about accomodation in Cienguegos: how did you get touch with Olga and Eugenio? I cant find they contacts anywhere… any email would be very helpful 🙂
    BR Andres

  9. Pingback: (Recipe) Natilla from Cuba – travelandlipsticks.com

  10. So if the internet connection is Cuba is not as good as people say what would you recommend? do you think my local verizon would be more reliable during roaming mode then the service that they offer there, I plan to attend and I want to constantly send pictures to my family and friends so is important forme.

    Great post by the way.

  11. Wow Claudia! Now that I’ve booked my tickets to Cuba next month I read your article. WOW, WOW, Super-WoW. You spent a lot of time on this and it has a ton of juicy, useful info. Particularly the contacts for the Casa Particulares.

    I’m so psyched about this trip! Thank you so much for writing this.

  12. Thanks For all the great information Claudia. Myself and my teenage daughter are travelling to Cuba from Ireland at beginning of May and as 2 women travelling you’ve reassured me and we cant wait to go. Cuba just looks fantastic we’re going to stay in Casas and travel around. You’ve included loads of helpful information. Many Thanks and happy travelling 🙂

  13. Great post Claudia with nice image. After read this post I experience that you have been very closely touch with the Cuba cultures and their peoples. However next year I have a trip planning for Mexico and no doubt those we included the Cuba in our trip map. Already booked a private vehicle for our trip from a transport agency as “Dtourscancun”. Hope we would have an unforgettable trip from there.

  14. Pingback: How To Plan A Vacation The Right Way | NTripping

  15. Nice, Claudia! Cuba is on my list of must-see. Couple of months ago we went to St. Petersburg with Travel all Russia to see Mother Russia and how people are living there. Eastern Europe, Cuba and few other countries should be seen by everyone, they’re very different to our mainstream attractions! You can feel the charm of the past, it really is something special. Glad you’re visiting countries as such!

  16. Pingback: Interview With Travel Blogger Claudia Tavani Of My Adventures Across The World

  17. Great post! Cuba seems like an amazing destination. All the history there, it seems very interesting. And seeing your pictures make me want to visit and know more about this place! 🙂

    Best,
    Julie.

  18. Gah! Clelia, I’m so jealous. I want to visit Cuba so bad. I was in Haiti recently and I was planning on going but there were such infrequent flights from Haiti (only Mondays and Fridays at a certain time) and it just didn’t fit my budget or timeline. I need to go. It’s been a top pick of mine forever.

    1. I also want to go there one day, this massive guide is from another Italian girl who’s an expert of South America. I saw your pictures of Haiti…not bad at all! We are definitely lucky people!

  19. Cubans proudly wear hot rollers to curl their hair while going to work in the morning and prepare amazing meals by using simple ingredients.

  20. Hey guys, I have been planning a honeymoon to Cuba, and my wife and I purchased some attractions tickets, for the BonAppetour dinners (a dining experience with locals: here is the link: http://www.bonappetour.com)
    If you guys want it, please let me know, I can sell them to you for a cheaper price!

  21. Claudia-What a great comprehensive guide you’ve put together and certainly helpful for anyone traveling to Cuba-not just budget travel! I am going in February and was thinking of a visit to Las Terrazes as I write about sustainable living and thought it looked interesting. Could you expand on your comment. Feel free to email me directly if that makes more sense. Thanks so much.

    1. Well, there isn’t much ecology in there altogether. The place is strikingly at odds with the surrounding environment and clorex is used to wash everything – surely not environmentally friendly!

  22. Wow, Claudia, you certainly did put a lot of energy and love in this extremely complete guide to Cuba. I’m so inspired by it and I’ve been wanting to visit Cuba for so long, this might be the final push I needed!

    Thank you so much for such detailed info! You rock!

    1. It is a country of many contradictions. It makes you exhausted while you are there, but you can’t help falling in love with it. Anybody should go, and I want to make sure that backpackers have the best experience ever!!

  23. I knew about bringing cash but didn’t realize that there isn’t ANY wi-fi in Cuba! I’m going in early April so I guess this means I’ll have fewer things to recharge and will have to wait to do social media sharing until I get home! Thanks for the scoop.

    1. I’m a Cuban American who left the country 45 years ago, I’ve been back several times visiting family. It’s a unique country and the people do whatever they can to survive. Havana is nice but it’s not the real Cuba. It’s the capital city. To really experience the real Cuba you have to stay in the small towns. Like Remedios or Placetas. I’ve done a few write-ups about Cuba. Here’s one of them: http://carmensluxurytravel.com/2014/04/remedios-cuba/

    2. Thanks Kay, I will ask Claudia if this internet thing is 100% true everywhere… I guess that maybe you could work with social media in some places (like in the big cities?) but I need Claudia to answer as I have no idea!

      1. You do get to log onto social media. But why even waste your time to do that? Internet is SLOW. You won’t have wifi at all. You can only access internet at ETECSA places as a travellers, or some state owned hotels may have a computer but internet is slow. Just don’t waste your time: enjoy it now, post later!

    3. You can get on social media from ETECSA centres. But why on earth would you waste your time on it, when you can be sociable with the locals? In Cuba, do as the Cubans 😉

      1. Claudia you are right. Internet access is useless in Cuba. In October 2015, I spent 10 days, travelling to Habana, Vinales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santa Clara. I talked to many Cubans, in particular the wonderful chicas, they gave me a lot of insight views. I had a fantastic time in Cuba without internet access.

        1. Hello Wolfgang,
          We are looking to do the same route in Jan 2016, how did you travel between towns? transport is my biggest concern at this time and don’t know if it’s ok to leave until we arrive and rely on taxis,
          Any advice is appreciated
          Cheers

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