Cuba Travel Guide: All you need to know to visit Cuba in 2023
Welcome to Cuba
Cuba offers a unique experience to those who choose this fascinating destination. Old Cuban cars, white sandy beaches, salsa nights, and welcoming people will be part of the remarkable memories of this trip.
In this ultimate Cuban travel guide, we will share some travel tips and tricks and everything you need to know about traveling to Cuba smoothly.
Document checklist to enter Cuba
- Valid passport (at least six months validity)
- Sufficient funds
- Return airline ticket
Essential Cuba travel information
Currency - Cuban pesos CUP (₱). USD 1 is equivalent to approx. CUP 24,07.
Daily budget for 1 person - Allow a daily budget of ₱876 ($33).
Language - Spanish.
Socket type - Types A, B, C, and L, 110V supply voltage and 60Hz.
Time zone - Eastern Time Zone (EST): UTC -5.
Top 3 cities to visit - Havana, Varadero, and Trinidad.
Top 3 landmarks/monuments - Habana Vieja, Parque Ecológico Varahicacos, and Parque el Cubano.
Requirements of the Cuban government: Visa information
The Cuban government requires a Tourist Visa for travelers on vacation on the island. The visitor must go to the Cuban embassy to check the requirements for local authorities and apply for a Cuban tourist card. The document must be presented to immigration authorities during entry.
The visa policy is slightly different for US nationals due to US-Cuba relations. Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute for US travelers, so a Cuba tourist card or Cuban visa is not an option for the US. Otherwise, 12 general licenses allow US citizens to enter Cuba.
They are intended for family visits; official business and professional meetings; religious activities; humanitarian support to Cubans; athletic and other competitions; professional research or teaching institutes, and educational activities. One of them is the Cuban People category, a license to participate in this humanitarian program. You can click here to see the license details.
American travelers can apply for one of the licenses by contacting the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Typical costs and budget for Cuba
This is a basic guide to what you can spend on a daily basis traveling around Cuba on a decent budget.
Daily spending - Around ₱876 ($33)/per person/per day on a budget vacation. This includes:
Meals - ₱211 ($7.96)
Transport - ₱204 ($7.70)
Hotel - ₱976 ($37), for two people.
A trip for two for one week will cost, on average, ₱12,268 ($463).
Transport and the best ways to travel around Cuba
Once on the island, buses are the best way to travel around Cuba. They connect most destinations and are generally safe and affordable compared to rental cars or taxis. Unfortunately, despite the country's extensive train network, there are better options than this public transportation in Cuba since they have an unreliable schedule and are slow and uncomfortable.
A road trip in one of the classic cars may sound like a tempting idea, right? But it is not. Cuban road conditions are bad, poorly signposted, and the local road laws are ambiguous. Besides that, renting a car is very expensive there.
And if you want to optimize your time flying, be aware that Cuban airports are not really an option. The country has irregular schedules and few domestic flight options.
You can use taxis as transport in the cities. There are two types of taxis: yellow ones and classic convertibles that are very popular with tourists. Yellow taxis belong to state agencies or private drivers, but they all have similar prices. You can also book one-day or interprovincial trips in a classic car.
Safety in Cuba
Pickpocketing, bag snatching, and other petty crimes are common in tourist areas and on public transportation, so pay attention and keep a close eye on your valuables, like cell phones and cameras. There are some illegal drugs and cases of violent crimes, such as assaults, sexual assaults, and robbery.
Unfortunately, local law is not always effective. The advice is to be cautious and avoid dangerous situations, like walking alone at night.
Cuba is in the Caribbean, which means the country can experience hurricanes and severe storms. If this happens, follow local media and government instructions closely.
Weather in Cuba
Winter is the best time to travel to Cuba. It would be strange if we weren't talking about a Caribbean country, where it is hot all year round. This season runs from late November to mid-March, and you will find the sunniest days and the driest weather. Average temperatures range from 75° to 80 °F (24°- 27 °C).
Spring runs from March to mid-May. It's the transition to the wet season, but you still enjoy sunny and agreeable days. The average temperature is 26 °C (79 °F). Besides the weather, it's a good time to enjoy low hotel prices.
The hottest and most humid season in the country is summer (May to August). The average temperature is 29 °C (83 °F). It's also a very touristy time as it coincides with vacation time in North America and Europe, so be prepared for high prices.
But the worst time to visit the island is during the fall, from September to November. It's hurricane season, and the weather is pretty rainy. The temperature in this season is around 28 °C (83 °F).
Popular cities and towns
Once on the island, visitors want to stay in Cuba. Cuban citizens are welcoming people, historical Cuban hotels are very charming, and there is not enough time to explore the beautiful places. Learning more about Cuban military history is key to gaining a better understanding of the reality of the country and the impact of the Cuban Revolution.
Of the many places you should explore in the country, here are the five main cities to visit:
Havana - The colorful capital is full of historical and beautiful sites to explore.
Varadero - It's home to one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, with a great hotel structure.
Trinidad - One of the country's most historical cities, Trinidad preserves buildings whose architecture dates from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Guardalavaca - Quieter and more remote than Varadero, it's a pleasant place to enjoy relaxing days at the beach.
Cayo Largo del Sur - Another beach destination with crystal-clear waters. The city has many hotels and resorts.
Must do and see in Cuba
Besides the hospitality of the Cuban people, there is a lot to enjoy in the country. Don't miss these excellent activities on your trip to Cuba:
Take a stroll through Habana Vieja (Old Havana). This is a well-preserved slice of Cuban history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Try a mojito in the Bodeguita del Medi. The legendary Ernest Hemingway used to hang out in this restaurant and enjoy this drink.
Explore the caves "Cueva de Ambrosio" and "Cueva de Musulmanes" in the Parque Ecológico Varahicacos (Varadero Ecological Park).
Have fun diving and snorkeling in Varadero's turquoise waters.
Go hiking at the "Parque el Cubano" in Trinidad. You can explore the trail to the amazing Javira Waterfall.
Typical Cuban food to try
Ropa vieja - One of the most famous Cuban meals, the Ropa Vieja is an inheritance of the peninsular culture of the Spanish Canary Islands. The dish consists of boiled and shredded meat, cooked in a sauce with onion, bell peppers, bay leaves, and cumin, among other ingredients.
Arroz y Frijoles Negros (Rice and Black Beans) - Rice and black beans are a classic in Cuban cuisine and can complement other Cuban dishes. But we are not talking about an industrialized plate: the key here is the preparation of this meal: the rice must be cooked until it falls apart, and the beans should have a creamy, smooth texture.
Lechón Asado (Roast Pork) - This is a special plate for Cubans, usually cooked on holidays. The dish is roast pork with Cuban sauce composed of garlic, seasonings, and vinegar.
Vaccine information for Cuba
Before traveling, you must learn the routine vaccines and COVID-19 measures required to enter Cuba. We recommend you check the CDC website for all vaccine requirements and any recommended guidance or medication lists.
Regarding other health requirements, local authorities don't require valid health insurance or travel insurance to enter the country. Otherwise, medical insurance can be helpful in case of medical evacuation or if you need medical services.
Cuban cigars are famous worldwide. The cigars' history starts to be told in 1492 when Christopher Columbus first arrived in Cuba. The natives had already been smoking tobacco for several centuries. The product was a success since its European discovery, and Cuba's first cigar factory opened in 1542, remaining the premier cigar manufacturer for the next four centuries.
More than a cigar, it's a tradition that has been around for centuries and hasn't changed in over a hundred years. The local authorities developed strict regulations for the Cuban cigar industry to maintain its excellent reputation.
But what makes them so special? Every Cuban cigar is checked to ensure its high quality after passing through a 100-step production cycle. This unique and detailed production is what sets it apart from other cigars.
Curious facts about Cuba
Are you ready to explore Cuba? Here are some curious and fun facts to get acquainted with the country!
After the Cuban Revolution, the country was declared an atheist state and banned Christmas celebrations. The ban lasted 30 years, ending in 1997 after Pope John Paul II's historic visit.
Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8%, one of the highest in the world. After the Revolution, Fidel Castro's government launched the Cuban Literacy Campaign to abolish illiteracy and make schools accessible to everyone.
Cuba is home to 25 endemic bird species, including the bee hummingbird: the smallest bird in the world!
Although Salsa is famous worldwide, Son Cubano is Cuba's most popular musical genre. This genre contains Spanish and African musical influences, like many others in the region.
The country invests heavily in the health system and education. Since 1963, more than 600,000 Cuban health workers have provided medical services in more than 160 countries. Cuba has 70,000 qualified doctors, while the African continent has only 50,000.
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