Cuba: The Ultimate Guide (9 Things You Need To Know Before You Go)
Cuba is an exotic and captivating holiday destination that you must experience at least once in your lifetime. With its stunning beaches, lush jungles, vibrant culture and welcoming locals, Cuba is a unique holiday spot perfect for those seeking adventure.
Whether it’s snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Varadero or exploring the colonial cities of Havana and Trinidad Cuba offers something for everyone.
But before you book your ticket to Cuba there are some important things to consider – from travel restrictions to Cuba’s currency system – so read on to find out all the need-to-know information about travelling to Cuba!
Best Time to Visit:
The best time to visit Cuba as a tourist is between mid-November and mid-May. This period is blessed with pleasant weather, with temperatures typically ranging from 20-25°C. Not only is the weather perfect for sightseeing, but Cuba’s stunning beaches are at their best during this period, making it ideal for swimming, lounging and exploring Cuba’s secluded cays and bays.
Between June and October Cuba experiences hot temperatures of up to 35°C and high humidity levels which can make sightseeing uncomfortable. However, Cuba’s wet season does offer some distinct advantages. Prices tend to be lower during this period, making it an attractive option for budget travellers looking for great value accommodation and transport options. Cuba’s rainforest areas are also particularly verdant during this time of year and the country comes alive with lush green foliage and stunning waterfalls that provide an incredible backdrop for exploration and photography.
No matter when you decide to visit Cuba, one thing is certain: you will experience hospitality like nowhere else on earth! Local Cuban people are incredibly friendly and welcoming – they love nothing more than to show visitors the beauty of their culture, history, music and traditions.
The Most Happening Cities/Destinations in Cuba:
1. Havana – Cuba’s bustling capital city, home to stunning colonial architecture, vibrant nightlife and a mix of cultures from all over the world.
2. Varadero – This picturesque coastal resort town is renowned for its beautiful beaches with crystal-clear waters and excellent snorkeling opportunities.
3. Trinidad – A stunningly preserved Spanish colonial city on Cuba’s Caribbean coast that boasts colorful streets, breathtaking views and an exciting selection of bars and restaurants
4. Santiago de Cuba – Cuba’s second largest city is known for its unique culture that blends African traditions with Cuban rhythms as well as its great beach spots like Siboney Beach perfect for swimming or gazing out at the spectacular sunsets
5. Baracoa – Cuba’s oldest settlement located in the east features some of the country’s most pristine nature reserves, along with quaint fishing villages where you can find fresh seafood delicacies
6. Vinales Valley – This lush valley offers beautiful scenery with dramatic limestone mountains known as mogotes rising up from the surrounding countryside boasting some of Cuba’s best hiking trails
7. Cienfuegos– Located on Cuba’s south coast this port city has been dubbed Cuba’s ‘Pearl of the South’ thanks to its vibrant architecture and picturesque bay.
Cuba Currency Issues:
Cuba has two currencies – the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUC is pegged to the US Dollar and is mainly used by tourists. The CUC is more valuable than the Cuban Peso – 1 CUC = 25 CUP.
It’s important to be aware that Cuba has very strict currency exchange regulations and it is illegal to exchange any money other than CUC and CUP. It’s also important to note that Cuba is a cash-only country, with credit cards only accepted at a few major hotels.
Top Tourist Attractions:
1. El Morro Castle – Located on Cuba’s northern coast, El Morro Castle is a stunning 16th-century fortress that offers commanding views of Havana and the Caribbean Sea.
2. Plaza de la Revolución – This iconic square in Cuba’s capital city features impressive monuments dedicated to Cuba’s revolutionary heroes as well as a huge plaza which regularly hosts political rallies and events.
3. Castillo de San Pedro del Mar – A beautiful 16th-century castle located on Cuba’s southern coast, this historic site provides visitors with an insight into Cuba’s colonial history with its scenic courtyards and towers offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
4. Palacio de los Capitanes Generales – Built in 1776 by Cuban architect Joaquin Cancio y Liorente, this palace was once home to many of Cuba’s governors throughout its turbulent history including Fidel Castro himself for a period of time during his revolution era reign over Cuba from 1959-2008 when he stepped down from office due to ill health.
5. Gran Teatro de La Habana– Also known as the Great Theatre of Havana, this magnificent building is one of Cuba’s most iconic venues, having hosted many of Cuba’s most famous musical performances and productions throughout its history.
1. Varadero Beach – Located on Cuba’s north coast, this stunning beach is one of Cuba’s most popular destinations thanks to its white sand and crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
2. Guardalavaca Beach – This beautiful beach in Cuba’s Holguin province offers a tranquil setting with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea making it ideal for relaxation or enjoying water sports such as scuba diving or sailing.
3. Santa Lucia Beach – Situated on Cuba’s northern coast near Santiago de Cuba, this stunning beach features clear turquoise waters, the opportunity to explore nearby coral reefs and a range of accommodation options from luxury resorts to more affordable guesthouses.
4. Cayo Coco Beach – Lying off Cuba’s central coast is this secluded island paradise with its powdery white sands and dazzling blue waters making it an ideal destination for sun-seekers looking for some peace and quiet away from the hustle & bustle of city life.
5. Playa Ancon– Just outside Trinidad lies Playa Ancon, one of Cuba’s most picturesque beaches which boasts breathtaking views over the Caribbean Sea, plenty of activities like kayaking, fishing and snorkeling and some of Cuba’s most beautiful coral reefs.
1. Museo de la Revolución – Located in Cuba’s capital city of Havana, this museum chronicles the tumultuous history of Cuba and its struggle for independence from Spain and its subsequent revolution led by Fidel Castro.
2. National Museum of Fine Arts – Founded in 1913, this impressive art museum houses a vast collection spanning centuries worth of Cuban art, including works by many prominent Cuban artists such as Wilfredo Lam, Wifredo Arcay and Roberto Fabelo amongst others.
3. Granma Memorial– This memorial commemorates Cuba’s revolutionary heroes who fought against Spanish rule during Cuba’s War Of Independence with exhibits showcasing weapons used during the war as well as personal artifacts belonging to various members of Cuba’s revolutionary movement over the years.
4. Museum of Che Guevara– Dedicated to one of Cuba’s leading revolutionaries; Ernesto “Che” Guevara, this museum is located in his birthplace Santa Clara and features exhibits detailing his life story along with items related to him such as photographs and personal belongings.
5. National History Museum– Situated near Old Havana’s Cathedral Square, this monumental building is home to Cuba’s largest collection of historic artifacts, ranging from Spanish colonial era relics to displays related to Cuba’s post-revolutionary period.
1. Parque Cuba – Located in Havana, Cuba, this theme park is Cuba’s biggest and most popular amusement park with a host of thrilling rides and attractions to choose from including roller coasters, water slides and bumper cars.
2. El Manglar Park – Founded in 1994 as an eco-tourism project, El Manglar Park offers visitors the chance to explore Cuba’s lush mangrove forests on guided kayak tours or by taking part in educational activities such as bird watching or learning about local wildlife habitats.
3. Mirador de Cojimar– This unique park overlooks the Caribbean Sea and features stunning views of Havana making it one of Cuba’s most popular spots for sightseeing thanks to its breathtaking panoramas over the cityscape below.
4. Ecopark Las Terrazas– Just outside Havana lies this nature reserve which was once home to Fidel Castro himself during his revolutionary era reign over Cuba from 1959-2008 when he stepped down from office due to ill health. Today it’s known for its ecological activities like bird watching and hiking trails through its lush vegetation perfect for spotting exotic birds and other wildlife native to Cuba’s tropical climate regions like iguanas, monkeys and turtles.
5. Cuba Safari– Founded in 1994 as Cuba’s first safari attraction, Cuba Safari is located south of Cuba’s capital Havana and provides visitors with the chance to get up close and personal with some of Cuba’s most iconic wildlife, including flamingos, crocodiles, deer and exotic birds. Cuba Safari is also home to Cuba’s only alligator breeding program, with Cuba’s indigenous Cuban Crocodile population in danger of extinction.
1. Cuba’s International Ballet Festival (April/May) – This annual event held in Havana features performances by Cuba’s world-renowned ballet companies and international dancers.
2. Santiago de Cuba Carnival (July) – The biggest carnival on the island, this 10 day celebration is an explosion of music and dance with parades, live entertainment and more showcasing Cuban culture from all over the country.
3. Havana Biennial (November/December) – An art festival which showcases contemporary Cuban art from around the globe as well as showcasing artwork from Cuba’s local artists through exhibitions, installations and performances.
4. Los Días Grandes Festival (August)– Held every year in August for two weeks in Holguín province, this huge cultural festival celebrates Afro-Cuban music with a variety of concerts featuring traditional salsa, reggae & jazz bands from Cuba and abroad performing across various venues throughout the city during this two week extravaganza.
5. Fiesta del Fuego (July or August ) – A cultural event that takes place in Santiago de Cuba every July or August to honor Caribbean goddess Yemayá who is seen as mother of both land & sea deities according to Santeria beliefs. During this event, Cuba’s Afro-Cuban community celebrate her with a vibrant spectacle of live music and dance performances.
Best Local Foods and Delicacies:
1. Ropa Vieja – A slow-cooked dish made with shredded beef, vegetables and tomato sauce.
2. Moros y Cristianos – A traditional Cuban dish of black beans and white rice cooked together in a flavorful broth seasoned with garlic, cumin and oregano.
3. Lechón Asado – Cuba’s national dish of roasted pork served with onions, garlic, lime juice and herbs.
4. Frijoles Negros – Black bean soup made with smoked ham hocks or bacon for extra flavor, usually served as an appetizer or side dish to a main meal like lechón asado or ropa vieja.
5. Cuba Libre – Cuba’s signature cocktail consisting of rum mixed with Coca-Cola, garnished with a lime wedge and usually enjoyed over ice in Cuba’s tropical climate regions on hot summer days!
6. Mojito – An iconic Cuban drink made by muddling fresh mint leaves in sugar syrup before adding rum and soda water to create the perfect balance of sweet & sour flavors that this classic mojito is known for worldwide!
7 Croquetas de Jamon– Delicious fried croquettes filled with savory minced ham blended with bechamel sauce and breadcrumbs.
8. Tamales – Cuba’s version of tamales made with cornmeal dough, onions, peppers, olives and pork.
9. Pan con lechón – Cuba’s version of pulled pork sandwich made with slow-cooked pork, onions and garlic served on a freshly toasted Cuban bun.
10. Pastelitos de Guayaba – Sweet pastries made with guava, cream cheese and a layer of sweet biscuit dough on the outside.
11. Tostones – Fried plantains usually served as a side dish to Cuba’s classic dishes like ropa vieja and tamales.
12. Arroz con Pollo – Cuba’s version of classic Spanish dish, made with chicken and saffron infused rice.
Best Cities for Shopping:
1. Havana – Cuba’s largest city is the perfect place to find souvenirs, stylish clothing and cigars at great prices.
2. Varadero – Cuba’s beach resort town offers a wide range of shopping options including jewelry, Cuban art and local crafts.
3. Santiago de Cuba – Cuba’s second largest city has some unique items on offer such as handmade wood carvings, leather goods and musical instruments.
4. Trinidad – With its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and colorful buildings this charming town is the ideal location for finding vintage items like books, paintings or furniture from Cuban history gone by.
5. Holguín– A smaller but bustling city offering shopping opportunities for everything from clothing to electronics at great prices due to Cuba’s tax-free environment!
6 .Guardalavaca – The gateway to Cuba’s northern coast offers shops selling handcrafted items made locally in nearby villages as well as tourist souvenirs such as t-shirts and trinkets with images of Fidel Castro or Che Guevara emblazoned on them!
7 .Cienfuegos – This port city on the south coast is home to several boutique stores specializing in Cuban fashion, beachwear, cigars and rum.
When it comes to Cuba, there’s an endless list of things to explore and experience, from Cuba’s unique culture and customs to its delicious dishes and beautiful landscapes. Cuba is a magical place full of vibrant colors, music and history, and is sure to be an unforgettable experience!
Cities with Happening Nightlife:
1. Havana – Cuba’s capital city is well known for its vibrant nightlife scene with a variety of clubs, bars, and live music venues. Special attractions include the Malecón waterfront area where locals and visitors alike can be seen enjoying Cuba’s unique culture after dark.
2. Santiago de Cuba – Cuba’s second largest city has plenty to offer in terms of entertainment with its rich cultural heritage, lively salsa clubs and hip-hop music scene being some of the most popular draws.
3. Varadero – This beach resort town offers great options for partying as well as relaxing while sipping on signature Cuban cocktails such as mojitos or Cuba Libres! Specialties include evening strolls along the beautiful coastline accompanied by live Latin jazz bands that play until late into the night.
4. Trinidad – The colonial-era buildings in this charming town create an unforgettable atmosphere after dark when people come together to enjoy traditional Cuban street festivals with local food vendors and musicians playing their best tunes!
5 Cienfuegos – A port city located on Cuba’s south coast home to several lively nightclubs offering everything from salsa dancing to reggae parties late into the night!
Peaceful and Tranquil Cities:
1. Cienfuegos – This port city on Cuba’s south coast is renowned for its peaceful atmosphere and beautiful beaches which create a tranquil environment perfect for relaxation.
2. Guardalavaca – Located in Cuba’s northern region, this small town offers stunning scenery with lush green hillsides and the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea creating a peaceful oasis far away from the hustle and bustle of Cuba’s larger cities.
3. Viñales Valley – Situated west of Havana in Pinar del Río province, this valley is home to Cuba’s oldest national park and boasts picturesque landscapes that make it one of Cuba’s most serene locations for exploring nature at its finest!
4. Trinidad – The colonial-era buildings create an enchanting atmosphere making it easy to relax as you explore cobblestone streets lined with colorful historic houses or take a stroll through Parque de La Vigía overlooking the Caribbean Sea during sunset hours!
5. Playa Ancon – This beach near Trinidad is known for its breathtaking landscape, turquoise waters, white sand beaches and laid back vibes providing plenty opportunities to soak up some sun while also disconnecting from the rest of the world.
Language Spoken and Communication Barriers:
The official language of Cuba is Spanish, and the majority of Cubans speak it fluently. For foreigners travelling to Cuba, communicating can be quite a challenge due to the heavy Cuban dialects that are present throughout the island.
The Cuban Spanish dialect varies in different parts of Cuba and speakers may use different vocabulary, expressions, and even pronunciation. This can make it difficult for foreigners who are not familiar with Cuban Spanish to understand what locals are saying.
In addition, a number of people from Cuba’s Afro-Caribbean population speak Haitian Creole as their native language which further complicates communication for non-local visitors.
That being said, Cuba has made great strides in recent years in terms of improving its infrastructure and communication networks, which makes it much easier for tourists from other countries to travel there and explore the country’s fascinating culture.
Many hotels, restaurants, shops and tourist attractions now have staff that can speak English or other foreign languages to help visitors understand what is going on around them and help them navigate their way through Cuba more effectively.
There are also plenty of Spanish courses available on the island if you wish to learn the language before visiting or even while you’re there!
Overall, Cuba is extremely welcoming towards travellers from other countries and efforts have been made to ensure that they feel at home during their stay by providing various facilities such as bilingual staff members or courses on learning Spanish.
With some patience and effort one can easily communicate with locals while exploring Cuba’s unique culture and landscape!
Language Translation Applications:
1. Google Translate
3. Microsoft Translator
4. Reverso Translation Dictionary and Conjugation
8. Trensiq Language Translation App
9. Papago by Naver-Line Corporation
10. Traductor by Apalon Apps
Commonly Used Phrases and Translations:
– Hello / Hola
– How are you? / ¿Cómo estás?
– What is your name?/ ¿Cómo te llamas?
– My name is…/ Me llamo…
– Good morning/ Buenos días
– Good evening/ Buenas tardes
– Bye / Adiós
– Please/ Por favor
– Thank you/ Gracias
– Yes / Sí
– No / No
– Excuse me (to get attention) / Disculpe
Things To Avoid or Be Careful Of:
1. Avoid buying counterfeit goods – Cuba is rife with fake merchandise, so be cautious when making any purchases.
2. Don’t bring Cuban currency with you to Cuba from abroad – it’s illegal and can lead to fines or even jail time if caught.
3. Respect Cuba’s culture particularly around political topics such as the US embargo on Cuba – keep conversations non-political when possible in order to avoid any awkwardness or potential issues that might arise from discussing sensitive topics during your stay in Cuba .
4. Be aware of theft – pickpocketing and other forms of petty crime do occur in Cuba, especially at night, so make sure you always keep your belongings safe and secure by carrying a money belt or keeping them close by at all times when out and about exploring the city streets.
5. Exercise caution when taking photos – although Cuba is an incredibly photogenic destination full of interesting sights, some places are off limits for photography (e.g., military installations). Make sure to ask permission before taking photographs inside private homes or businesses as well as areas considered sacred (such as churches).
What kind of clothing should I wear?
When travelling to Cuba, light and comfortable clothing is recommended due to the hot and humid climate found throughout much of the year. If visiting religious sites, be sure to cover up your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect. In terms of footwear, sandals are suitable for the beach but walking shoes are more convenient for sightseeing in Cuba’s historic cities. Hats and sunglasses can also come in handy depending on where you travel.
What are the things I should carry while I travel to Cuba?
2. Cuba visa (if required)
3. Flight ticket details and confirmation number
4. Accommodation booking information
5. Cash or traveller’s cheques in Cuba Convertible Pesos (CUC)
6. Credit/debit cards (though not all ATMs accept non-Cuban cards)
7. Sunscreen, insect repellent and other toiletries
8. Comfortable clothes, suitable for the climate as well as appropriate attire for religious sites
9. A money belt or similar to keep your cash safe while travelling around Cuba
How do I get around the country/city while travelling to Cuba?
When travelling to Cuba, one of the best ways to get around is by renting a car. Cuba has several international rental companies, such as CubaCar, Rex, Havanautos and Vía.
The cost for renting a car ranges from $30-70 USD per day depending on the make and model of the car.
Another great way to get around Cuba is by taking the bus. Cuba has an extensive network of buses and minivanes that can take you to almost all major cities and towns in Cuba, with fares ranging from $1-4 USD per journey.
Lastly, taxis are another option for getting around Cuba; however it is recommended to agree on a price before your journey.
Cuba has two types of taxis, the state-run Taxis Cubanos and private taxis which are significantly more expensive. Prices can range from $2-20 USD depending on the distance travelled.
Some Taxi Apps that Work in Cuba are:
2. Cubacar Cuba Taxi App
3. Cuba Taxi Booking App
4. Havanautos Cuba Taxis
5. EasyTaxi Cuba
6. Cuba Trip Taxi Service
7. VIA – Cuban Car Rental & Taxis
8. YoTeLlevo Cuba Taxi Services
What is the best way to exchange currency?
The best way to exchange currency when travelling to Cuba is to use Cuba Convertible Pesos (CUC). CUCs are the official currency of Cuba and can be exchanged at Cuba’s official money changers, banks, and hotels. US dollars, euros, Canadian dollars and pounds sterling all have a fixed exchange rate of 1 CUC = 1 USD.
It is important to keep in mind that Cuba also has a second currency called the Cuban Peso (CUP) which is mainly used by Cuba locals and should be avoided when exchanging money.
Lastly, it’s recommended to avoid changing money on the street as this can result in being ripped off by money changers.
It is a good idea to bring some Cuba Convertible Pesos with you when travelling to Cuba as it can difficult to find ATMs that accept non-Cuban cards. It’s also recommended to take out small amounts at a time as banks in Cuba often have limits on how much cash one can withdraw per day.
What should I do in case of an emergency?
In case of an emergency while travelling to Cuba, it is important to know the local emergency numbers. These include:
1. Police: 106
2. Fire Department: 105
3. Ambulance/Medical Emergency: 104
4. Tourist Assistance Hotline (24 hours): +53 7 837 2240
It is also a good idea to keep contact information for your country’s embassy or consulate in Cuba handy in case you need assistance with medical care, lost passports, visa issues or other legal matters during your trip. You should also make sure that someone at home knows when and where you are travelling so they can be contacted if needed in an emergency situation.
Cuba is a politically stable country with a long history of peaceful transitions of power. The Cuba Constitution, which was adopted in 1976 and revised in 2019, states that Cuba is an independent socialist republic led by the Cuban Communist Party (CCP). The CCP has been ruling Cuba since 1959 and has maintained strong control over the government and economy of Cuba.
In general, Cuba maintains political stability due to its centralized system of government and its relative economic homogeneity. This means that all citizens are subject to the same laws, regulations and rights. Cuba has also implemented a series of economic reforms such as liberalizing certain services, allowing private businesses to operate within specific sectors, and providing support for small-scale businesses. These measures have helped stabilize the economy, allowing Cuba to maintain political stability as well.
Cuba also has a high level of social cohesion among its people; this is due in part to the strong presence of civic organizations such as trade unions, student groups, women’s organizations and neighborhood associations. All these groups play an important role in supporting democracy and promoting social justice in Cuba.
The Cuban government also holds free elections every five years for party officials at all levels including president and vice president. These elections are closely monitored by international observers from countries such as Canada, Norway and Spain who report that they have found no evidence of fraud or manipulation during the process.
Overall, Cuba enjoys a high degree of political stability due to its centralized system of government, economic reforms, social cohesion among its people and free election process. Despite some challenges posed by its economy due to decades-long sanctions imposed by the United States government, Cuba remains an overall stable democracy today.
Cuba is an overall stable democracy that offers a high degree of political stability. The Cuba Constitution guarantees citizens the same laws, regulations and rights, while economic reforms have helped to stabilize Cuba’s economy.
Moreover, Cuba has strong social cohesion among its people due to the presence of civic organizations such as trade unions and neighborhood associations. It also holds free elections every five years for party officials at all levels including president and vice president which are closely monitored by international observers from countries such as Canada, Norway and Spain .
Therefore, Cuba remains a great choice for travellers who want to explore this beautiful Caribbean country safely with peace of mind.