I’ve just come back from one of the best vacations of my life. I went to Cuba for five days and four nights during my spring break. It was an amazing experience and I am putting together a blog/vlog with all of the deets. This however is not what this post is going to be about. Before I went to Cuba I read tons and tons of info on line and asked other people about their experiences when preparing to go to Cuba. A lot of the information was extremely helpful, but a lot of it was also straight up wrong or overkill.
That is why I am a firm believer that you should always experience things for your self, which is exactly what I did. In doing so, I’ve cultivated the most honest and simple set of information you’ll need when it comes to booking a trip to Cuba.
5 Things To Do Before Booking A Trip To Cuba
1. Get A Passport: I know that sounds like a common sense “duh” statement to make. But… not only do you need to have a passport you need to make sure that the expiration date is 6 or more months away. My passport was set to expire in June of 2018 when I booked my trip to Cuba back in December. Since my trip was booked for March 2018, I needed to renew my passport. The process of renewing was really simple and cost me about 120.00 dollars, between the passport fee and the photo fee. I received both my new and old passport within 2 weeks of sending out the application, but it is best to give yourself at least 30 days ( and you will have to send back your old passport… don’t worry they’ll send it back to you separately).
2. Change your money in Cuba: So I’m still not 100% sure if you can use your debit or credit card in Cuba because I didn’t try. I was however told to change my money to Euros in America and then change them to the CUC (Cuban peso used by tourists) when I arrived in Cuba. I’m here to tell you.. DO NOT do this. You will lose money doing this. Instead bring your American dollars with you and change them to the CUC at the airport. The exchange rate is the same everywhere, but it is easiest and most convenient to change it at the airport. The Cuban airport has one of the best exchange rates I’ve experienced in all my travels, so take my word for it, you’ll get more bang for your buck.
3. Get A Visa At The Airport: You do need a visa to get into Cuba and it is extremely simple/easy to get. We flew Delta and had to connect in Atlanta. Once we got to Atlanta, we paid 50.00 dollars for each visa and we were set. Super easy process and, Delta also provided the stamp on our boarding pass to serve as proof of travel insurance.
4. Travel Light: I wrote up a post about a week ago that gave a detailed itemized packing list for Cuba and it was really helpful for me when I was packing. Packing for this trip was actually one of the best experiences I’ve had, because I ended up using/wearing everything I brought. Leave the makeup, jeans, sneakers and heels at home because I promise you, you will not use them/ be comfortable in them. I brought one pair leggings to fly out of New York and to fly back into New York. The items that took up the most space in my book bag/ carry on were snacks, and miscellaneous items. I brought hand soap towelettes (super convenient and come in handy when places don’t have any soap in public bathrooms), traveling toilet paper (restaurants in Cuba don’t always have toilet paper)…etc. I highly recommend bringing a carry on and book bag (the checked bag process looked terrifying when we landed and also costs 45 dollars).
5. Create an itinerary: My friend took care of creating one of the best most detailed itineraries that I’ve ever had. You are going to want to have an itinerary just in case they ask you what you are doing in Cuba (we weren’t asked … but they can ask you so be prepared). Most people stay in Air BNBs (I’m almost 100% sure we are not allowed to stay at hotels because most are government funded/run/operated) and the Air BNB hosts are usually pretty great at giving you different ideas/hot spots you can go to. Take advantage of their suggestions and really support the Cuban people. Embrace the culture and enjoy the experiences.
Hopefully these 5 steps are helpful for you when you are planning your trip to Cuba. Let me know if you are planning on going in the near future, or if you’ve already been how was the experience for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.