Tips for travellers

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This blog has listed out pretty neat list of tips, worth checking! Below is my list, enjoy!

#1 Toilet paper. Always bring some, while your casa particular might have it, most public toilets doesn’t. If there is a lady in front of the toilet you should tip them to get toilet paper. Not all restrooms look like the one in Tropicana! You don’t throw paper in the toilet but in a bin next to it. Most Cuban toilets won’t have a seat cover or soap (or water) to wash your hands with.

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#2 Allergies. Cuban cities are sometimes heavily polluted, the cars aren’t really that clean after all.. So be prepared to get some symptoms and bring your allergy medication.

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#3 Cash. First of all, prepare to bring all you need for the trip. Second, always have small money with you. Even 5CUC is a lot of money so make sure you have coins or better yet local pesos in hand.
#4 Keep your money and valuables safe. As a female I highly recommend keeping your money in a bra, works out just fine. And for that you might want a ziplock bag because if you sweat the notes/bills might get nasty.

#5 Safety. Cuba is a very safe country, it does not have so much of drugs or violence, but you still need to be streetsmart. Do not leave your stuff around and try to keep your money in your pockets etc. Also avoid walking alone nighttime. I have heard of some cases where a tourist have been robbed by a group of people so Cuba like no country is 100% safe, but it is way safer than many other places.

#6 Shopping. Bring what you need. Don’t expect to find anything special in Cuba, or then you have to devote a lot of time and money to do so. You will, however find most of the stuff there such as shampoos etc, just not the brands or quality or price you are looking for. Bring all the clothes and medications you think you might need. Some stores might also limit access with backbag, or have a separate storage for them by the door.

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#7 Water. Tourists are not advised to drink tap water in Cuba. But sometimes you just cant find bottled water anywhere. So if you happen to find water buy tons of it. Some casas have water filters and I drank filtered water in Havana and it was just fine. If you are experiencing stomach issues also be aware of the ice, it might contain same bacteria as tap water. You might also want to keep your mouth closed when taking a shower..

#8 Waiting in line. Formando la cola.. so Cubans have to wait in lines a lot. And sometimes it does look bit chaotic but they have their system where you are supposed to ask “ultimo?” who is the last one, when arriving and then claiming your spot. Some might do other things while waiting or go wait in the shade so don’t be surprised when tons of people show up before your turn, they have claimed their spots before.

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#9 Taxi. Cuba has several different means of transportation, there are government run yellow taxis and privately owned taxi business. For a private taxi to be able to take foreigners in, they must have two labels on the windshield one for registration and other baby blue one for having a permit for business. Always check for the price beforehand! The taxi from airport to Havana should be around 25CUC.

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#10 Negotiate the price. Never do anything in Cuba before you are sure how much it costs. I have been a rookie and payed high price for this mistake so please don’t repeat it! Always check the price with casa, restaurant, taxi etc.. You can also try to negotiate and get it cheaper.

#11 Casa particular. Locals can offer their house or a room for rent, for the ones with a license to host foreigners you will recognize from the blue sign by the door. Casas are usually from 20CUC per night up to 40 or even 45CUC. You can get a breakfast that is usually pretty good (fresh fruits, omelet, sandwich, coffee, fresh juice) for 3-5CUC. Some casas are on internet booking systems, but most are still easier to reach by phone. Staying in a casa will get you in contact with locals in a whole different level and usually they are very helpful with everything.

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#12 When it rains it pours. So be prepared for the tropical rain, it clears the air and leaves pretty much everything wet, including your shoes. Luckily these rains don’t last for too long.

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#13 Budget. If you are looking for cheaper options go with local pesos and eat where the cubans do, get a pizza from the “window” or eat in a government owned restaurant and save a lot of money.

#14 Ask what’s on the menu. They like to give you the menu in most of the restaurants, but don’t even have half of the stuff thats on it. So always ask whats good today or what do you have.

#15 Electricity. Cuba uses mainly US sockets 110 volts, but some places also have 220 volts available. I find it a bit freaky having both in the same room! Electric power outages are common so stay calm and be prepared with flashlights, it might take a while. It is also a good idea to have extra portable charger and keep your batteries full in case of power outage.

#16 Internet. One of the best parts of Cuba is that you can disconnect! But if you insist on getting online it is doable. You can get internet cards from Etecsa the Cuban communications company. Cards are available for 1, 2 or 5 hours at cost of 2CUC per hour (prepare to show your ID when buying them). You can also get these cards from hotels, some casa particular or from street. Internet can be found near Etecsa stores, some plazas and in biggest hotels.

#17 Phone. Communication within and to Cuba is slightly complicated.. Cubans are getting more and more cellphones but calling is ridiculously expensive still. Landline to landline is the best option and there are lots of coin phones around. My European phone worked, some European friends even had free roaming data from their operator (my operator had 13€/Mb) and my US phone did not work. At&t and t-mobile are however making some progress so maybe in the near future Americans can also use their phones while in Cuba.

Calling to Cuba is easiest by imo an app that is similar to skype or face time. You can also get an app like tel3 that works fine when calling from the US, it was around 55cents/min where as skype is about a dollar/minute. To make sure that the Cuban also has internet you can topup their nauta account with companies like ding, hablacuba or fonoma. There are two separate topups options: one for nauta (=internet) and the other one is for cubacel (=phone and emails on roaming data). Email is the only app that Cubans can use roaming data. Cubacel has an offer once a month for 150%, which is very good time to do your topup 🙂

Foreigners are not able to get Cuban sim card, unless get one from the street markets or ask a Cuban to get one for you with their ID.

#18 Visa. Europeans and Canadians need a tourist visa to enter Cuba. It is valid for 30 days with possibility to extend for another 30 days. You can get this visa from the Cuban embassy or from some airlines at the airport. It costs about 22€. Americans have to additionally belong to any of the 12 categories under which their government allows travel to Cuba, such as family visits, people to people cultural exchange, professional etc. As a non US person however, flying through the US is not possible (or maybe the easiest) as I would still be treated as US citizens and I would have to do the paperwork to fill the requirements. Maybe one day our lives will get easier and we can take a short(er) flight to US east coast and then another short flight to Cuba, some airlines already sell flights from Cuba through the US to Europe but they do note that changing a plane at MIA or JFK is at your own risk. “feeling hopeful” 🙂

#19 Cars have right of way, unless crossing a pedestrian promenade so be careful when crossing the street. Cubans usually honk to inform people not to annoy others, so don’t get offended by honking it is done for your safety.
#20 some governmental offices such as banks, cultural centers or immigration might not allow tourists to enter in tanktops, flipflop and shorts. Just in case pack other clothes with if visiting any of these places.

#21 Try to avoid stepping in water on the streets, it might be contaminated

#22 Some stores might not let you in with a bagpack, you can leave it in a storage or come back later without one

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