everything you need to know before you go to Cuba: a first-timer’s tips for planning your first trip

On my first trip to Cuba, I was blown away by the warmth of the people, the beauty of the landscapes, and the incredible liveliness of its cities. I came prepared for my visit having done heaps of research before hand, but I was a little disappointed by what was out there on the internet in regards to information for planning a trip. While there were itineraries and “must-see” lists galore, there wasn’t much to prepare a person for the nitty-gritty details that go into making a trip smoother. And so, I’ve compiled a list of things to know before you land on Cuban soil!



The requirements for entry into Cuba for U.S. Citizens are outlined in detail in my previous blog post {here}. Visas for entry for Americans cost $50 {at time of publishing} and you are required to complete an affidavit and present your passport with at least 6 months validity. 


Cuba uses the Cuban Convertible Peso, abbreviated as the CUC. For current exchange rates, I use XE: Currency Converter App

As explained in my step-by-step guide for entry into Cuba, you will need to pull out money prior to arrival in Cuba and then go to either a bank or currency exchange booth to convert your currency. Most travel experts say to budget USD $100 per day, but you can definitely survive on less {I did}. 

What is there to eat?

Don't expect much for fun and exciting cuisine. Unfortunately, menus within Havana city centre mainly consist of basic seafood dishes, pork loins, ham and cheese sandwiches, and the occasional pasta dish {served with pickles??}. In the Cuban countryside, I was served traditional steamed yuca, black beans, and rice with vegetables {served with pickles??}. Moral of this story is this: prepare to lose a few lbs. or live off of churros like I did. 

Breakfast is fairly consistent no matter if you scour street cafes or eat what your hotel offers: eggs, fresh fruit, some variety of bread, coffee, and "natural juice" {either orange, mango, or guava}. 


Is it safe?

This was one question I got asked as soon as I came back by almost everyone. The truth is that I can't answer that across the board since bad things can {and do} happen everywhere. Did I feel safe? Yes. So safe, in fact, that I set up my tripod in crowded plazas and cathedral squares without fear of my camera being stolen. My time in Cuba felt very safe and I was comfortable travelling by myself there. I also had a group of kids playing football take photos of me because they were very keen to investigate my camera's inner-workings. 

It's only fair that I add that the men in Cuba {based on my own experiences} were very assertive. Not every person who has visited may agree. Two different drivers grabbed my hands and kissed them as I exited their taxis on different occasions. A tobacco farmer give me his telephone number. While walking the streets, I'd be called "beautiful lady" and would hear wolf whistles. All that being said, I never opened my own door, pulled out my own chair, or carried or loaded my carry-on bag anywhere during my stay. I suppose you could say that I experienced both the gentlemen and the less-than-chivalrous of Cuba. I'm someone who is very into PDA with my significant other, but with random men? It's just what I feel comfortable with. That doesn't mean it isn't safe, it is just something of note. 

What's the weather like?

I visited in July, during the off-peak tourist season. It was at least 90 F almost every day I was there with afternoon showers that brought lower temps for an hour or two climbing up the thermometer again. It was incredibly humid {not quite as humid as Laos or Southeast Asia, but pretty close}. 

How do you get around?

I believe the best way to see any destination is to walk the entirety of it. If the heat is too much, or point A and point B are too far away to reach by foot, there are buses, taxis, and bike cabs. Due to the language barrier, I found it very helpful to have a screenshot of every address I needed to get to. Just to be safe, I also wrote down every address in a miniature notebook.

What about WiFi?

Oh, the internet. It basically doesn't exist. So, don't expect to be on your phone with easy access to all your travel apps or Instagram. There are certain high-price hotels and particular plazas that have WiFi, but you have to purchase a card with a passcode that gives you access in 1-hour intervals. You can buy a card with passcode access at certain hotel reception desks, at the airport, or at the ETECSA stores in town. 

What questions do you have about Cuba? Leave them in the comments below!

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everything to know before you visit cuba
everything you need to know before you visit Cuba: a first-timer's guide guide to Cuba