What to Do in Cuba?December 24, 2019
Traveling to Cuba is a culturally rich and multi-faceted experience that leaves travelers with lifelong memories and a better understanding of the island nation’s people, history and culture.
Ensure a smooth trip, stay present and discover the treasures this Caribbean gem has to offer by following our Do’s and Don’ts of Cuba travel.
#1 DO BRING CASH (USD OR EURO)
U.S. credit and debit cards do not work in Cuba. Make sure you bring cash and exchange it at the airport in Cuba.
#2 DO USE ROAMING TEXT MESSAGES
For about $0.50 per message, you may use text roaming on your U.S. mobile phone to communicate within Cuba and to friends/family in the U.S.
#3 DO KEEP YOUR BOARDING PASS
Your boarding pass serves as proof of required Cuban health insurance and will come in handy should you need to use it.
#4 DO TIP AT RESTAURANTS
If your bill already includes a 10% service charge, you do not need to leave an additional tip.
#5 DO BRING ALL TOILETRIES AND PLENTT OF SUNSCREEN
It can be difficult to buy these items in Cuba so make sure to pack accordingly.
#6 DO BRING EAR PLUGS
Cuban streets can be noisy at night with barking dogs and passing cars.
#7 Do print all travel documents before departure
It will be difficult to find a printer in Cuba.
#8 Do go salsa dancing
When in Rome!
#9 Do stay in a private home
Private homes are a great choice for Cuba due to the country’s safety and hospitality of its hosts.
#10 Do download an offline map before you leave
This will be a big help getting around in areas without mobile internet.
#11 Do bring snacks such as trail mix and protein bars
Eating “on-the-go” is difficult in Cuba, and handy snacks can be a great bridge to the next meal.
#12 Do bring donations
We recommend sweets (chocolate), sporting equipment and school supplies.
#13 Do negotiate and specify taxi fare in advance
With no fixed meters, it is important to agree on a price before you get into the taxi.
#14 Do take lots of photos
Cuba is a photographer’s paradise.
#15 Do bring a few small packs of toilet tissue (ladies)
Some bathrooms may run out of toilet paper.
#16 Do bring hand sanitizer
It’s always a good idea to use hand sanitizer before meals.
#17 Do make a plan for all activities, excursions, restaurants and nightlife
Cuba is a difficult country to “wing-it” due to the lack of internet and long lines. A plan is necessary for U.S. legal compliance as well.
#18 Do open your mind to a new perspective on life
Most travelers are surprised to find that Cubans are happy, despite historical stereotypes of their society.
#20 Do go with the flow and embrace the spontaneous
Cubans face many challenges and sometimes things do not go as planned due to unforeseen surprises and a lack of resources. Give them a break and give the benefit of the doubt!
#21 Do it right. You never forget your first time
Cuba is a very special place. Invest in a great experience and do it right! You may never come back.
#1 Don’t lose your “Cuban tourist visa”
You will need it to enter the country.
#2 Don’t wing it
Cuba is not a good country to just show up. Your experience will suffer from a lack of planning, and you may have a hard time justifying your itinerary as compliant under U.S. law.
#3 Don’t drink the tap water
Always drink bottled water in Cuba, and lots of it to stay healthy and hydrated!
#4 Don’t expect your credit or debit cards to work
Bring more cash than you think you’ll need!
#5 Don’t expect Cuba to be cheap
Cuba is not as cheap as many expect. We recommend travelers visiting without a tour operator bring $200 per day spent on the island.
#6 Don’t check a bag
Checked bags can take forever to come out and are lost by the airlines occasionally, resulting in up to several days delay until your luggage is found and delivered!
#7 Don’t rent a car
If you get in an accident, you may not be able to leave the country until the case is resolved, especially if someone is hurt. Probably not worth the risk!
#8 Don’t bring satellite phones, drones, political items/literature, or pornography
They are prohibited and may be confiscated at Cuban customs.
#9 Don’t be a “tourist”
Under U.S. law, it is illegal to travel to Cuba for “tourism.” You must have an authorized purpose for your travel.
#10 Don’t get a local SIM card
Use text roaming on your U.S. mobile instead.
#11 Don’t use data roaming or voice roaming in Cuba
Data roaming is $2+ / MB and voice roaming is $3+ / minute. Be absolutely sure to turn off data roaming in Cuba. Stick with text roaming!
#12 Don’t be afraid to chat with strangers
Cuba is one of the world’s safest countries for travelers to visit, providing a unique space for local cultural immersion. Don’t be afraid of locals approaching you on the street trying to make an honest buck. Engage with them, make jokes or simply say no thanks.
#13 Don’t buy cigars from the street
Local cigars can be a counterfeit rip-off. Always buy cigars in the official cigar shops.
#14 Don’t worry about the Cuban health insurance requirement
All direct flights from the United States include Cuban health insurance in the ticket. Your boarding pass serves as proof of this insurance, should you need to use it.