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10 Things to know about Cuba Before Travel

1 CONVERSION OF MONEY: For every $1 US dollar you get 0.87 cents (some places 0.89). Also Cuba has 2 currencies: CUC and CUP. CUC is what everyone uses and is the one that they give you at the currency exchange. CUP as I learned after getting ripped off is some old form of money that really isn’t worth more than 0.30c. I will display a picture of it below. When I got out my taxi on my last night in Havana, I gave the man 20 CUC and was suppose to get 10 CUC back but he cheated me and gave me 10 Cuban pesos. Therefore, always CHECK YOUR CHANGE to make sure your given the right currency. When you convert your money back, depending on where your from it will be either less or more but you can not take CUC out of the country of Cuba to covert somewhere else. You need to do that at the airport or you will be stuck with Cuban money for the next time you want to come back.

2 KEEP YOUR BELONGS CLOSE TO YOU AT ALL TIMES: When I was in Cuba, I always keep my most valuable things with me at all times. Even if I wasn’t using my laptop, I always brought it on excursions with me because that way I knew exactly where it was at all times. I lost my phone in a Cuba tour bus on a tour I took with Cubatur, a tour planning agency, and do you think, I could reach anyone or anyone could reach the driver of the bus? Absolutely NOT? It was complete nightmare. The tour lady was trying to get in contact with the restaurant and the restaurant with the driver but the driver didn’t have any minutes on his phone and so forth…..ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK THE CAR SEATS AND BUS AND TAXIS YOU GET OUT OF BECAUSE If you lose something, you mostly wont get it back.

3 SAVOR THE LITTLE THINGS because you probably wont get them in Cuba: Want a soft bed, hot shower, almond milk, or just a simple pancake? Well you wont find any of that in Cuba. Because Cubans have been stuck in the 1950’s for the past 50 years, everything is slow to catch up with 2018. Most of the beds are made in Cuba and I don’t know if they are putting rocks inside the mattress but thats what some of these beds felt they were stuffed with. The last 2 hostels I stayed at the beds were incredible. They were way better than the one at the 4 star hotel Brisas Del Mar (which by the way is not a 4 star hotel, more like a 2 star hotel). For breakfast, all over the island you will get fruit, toast, and eggs and maybe some vegetables on the side. Now if you stay at an “all inclusive place” you will get more of a variety of food which may include french toast, pancakes, etc. But if your staying at a hostel, it will just be toast and eggs and some meat for those who like meat. A hot shower? Nope not gonna get that either. The best you’ll get is a warm shower at hostels. Brisas del Mar had no hot water and when the warm water would come out it came down like a trickle because supposedly there was a leak somewhere. When it comes to place to stay, check out my references and other travel bloggers hostels they have stayed at if you want to get a place that is exceptional with great host service.

4 I NEED TO GET ON THE BUS OR TAKE A TAXI TO…No this is not how it works in Cuba. I was thinking when I got there I could just book a bus or a taxi the next day to take me to Vinales. No problem. WRONG!!!The bus gets full fast and while you can and might be able to book a bus the same day of your trip, chances are it won’t work out for you. Whenever you do things last minute in Cuba, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re gonna be talked into spending way more than you need to in able to go to other cities. One of the bus companies I used was Viaazul. It took me to Trinidad from Vinales for 36 CUC. However it was a 9 hour ride. Therefore if you don’t have the time to spare, do not take the bus long distances. I’ll give you a cost break down of how much it should cost you going to and from each city at the bottom. This brings me to my next point…

5 EVERYTHING IS OVERPRICED AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T PAY FOR SOMETHING, YOU WILL GET CHEATED: This over pricing isn’t seen in the cost of food or accommodations if your staying in a hostel but it is seen in the cost of transportation to and from places. On my entire trip, I spent over 350 dollars on transportation for 8 days. Smdh. I know now that I could have saved half of that money if I knew what I am telling you now. That is why YOU SHOULD READ THE THINGS TRAVEL BLOGGERS EXPLAIN TO YOU ABOUT A DESTINATION. We make  mistakes and you learn from them. You should never pay more than 65 CUC to go anywhere.     If your staying less than 10 mins away from a downtown area like Trinidad, try renting a bike for those days instead of paying 10 CUC each way every time you want to go to the downtown area. Check the reviews on trip advisor of places advertised as “4 star hotels’ like Brisas del Mar. I checked the reviews on trip advisor before I left but I didn’t believe them because it said this hotel was a 4 star hotel. I totally should have. For 290 for 3 nights, I got a hard bed, trickling water, ants on the counter, broken hair dryer, no hot shower and horrible food and customer service. I recommend you make a budget list and try to stick to it as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to talk to fellow travelers and ask what they paid for a service. You need to be aware of what is going on around you, or you will be deceived.

6 BRUSH UP ON YOUR SPANISH because your going to need it: If your going on tours, you will meet those who speak a little english. Enough english for them to be able to communicate and understand what you’re saying to them. However, a lot of locals and most people don’t speak any english. If you don’t speak fluent Spanish or your Spanish isn’t that great, iTranslate is the best app for helping you translate your language into Spanish. It is free, you can talk into the app, and you can use it offline which is a bonus since you won’t have access to internet service throughout Cuba readily. I also suggest bringing a Spanish pocket dictionary for you to locate single words in case of an emergency and you don’t have access to your translation app.

7 IT IS CUT OFF FROM CIVILIZATION: Cuba has been disconnected from the entire world for a long time. They are literally living in a time period of their own making somewhere between the 1950’s and the 1990’s. Therefore, one of the most important pieces of information and advice I can share with you is to let go off your need for internet service or wi-fi because it will not be available to you unless you buy a wifi card and are standing in a spot where you can use that card. If you have an international plan with a phone company back in your country then things will probably be different. You will be able to access their cell phone service called Cubacel. However, if you don’t, you will have to travel to the center of town just to use the wi-fi service.((( Sidenote))) If you’re in Trinidad and trying to use the wi-fi, the best place to get excellent reception is in the 5 star hotel called Iberostar. The wi-fi connecting is so much better and you get to buy drinks at the bar as well   A wifi card is 1.50 CUC to buy and is good for 1 hour only.

8 EXPECTING TO SIT IN THE SUN WHILE EVERYONE AT HOME IS SITTING IN THE SNOW??? You will be just as cold there as you are at home. Cuba is the closet to the states so the arctic breeze that comes down hits Cuba nicely making the winter time pretty cold. Think about a cold day in the spring time. The temperature fluctuates quite frequently. One day it could be 75 and the next day it may 59 degrees. I recommend bringing a light jacket and plenty of pants in your suitcase if you’re traveling here during the winter months.

9 !!!!WATCH WHAT YOU EAT!!!! I ran into so many people in Cuba with tales of stomach issues because of the food they ate in Cuba. I am lactose intolerant and I eat ice cream all the time in America and I am pretty sure I have had it in other places but in Cuba….If you are LACTOSE INTOLERANT stay away from dairy products or products with milk in them in Cuba. I think it’s because it comes straight from the cow down there and hasn’t been sitting on the shelf for a long period of time like the dairy in America and doesn’t have the added extras to preserve it. Whatever the case maybe, watch the things you eat when in Cuba. Things that may be as simple as ordering a brownie wont taste like the brownies you and me know. They have an entirely different way of eating and cooking food than we do.

10 Last but not least… If you’re a VEGETARIAN LIKE ME, YOU OPTIONS WILL BE LIMITED so don’t expect to come down here and eat veggie burgers and have a wide variety of options to choose from. Cubans LOVE their MEAT and I don’t even know if Vegetarian or Vegan is in their vocabulary. You will have a few options. There options most of the time will be eggs, bread, fruit and rice and beans ( unless your staying at an all-inclusive resort). Always let your host know your a vegetarian or vegan before they cook you anytime of meal so that they aren’t wasting the food they have.

My experience in Cuba was overall, one of mixed reviews. A love the nature and the scenery of Cuba but the economic workings, lack of communication, and lack of sustainable food for me, made me so happy to be back home. Take notes on these topics. Especially the ones where information on hostels is given and transportation information is written down. I will be posting accommodation soon along with more photos once I learn how to upload them from my new Sony a6000 lol.  I hope you found this helpful. If so please comment down below and subscribe to my blog.

Love Yourself,

Kmarie

More need to know info:

***Must Bring Cash Only***: I originally was planning on staying 10 days on my trip with about 800 dollars. I thought the conversion rate was $1.00 to 1.00 CUC but I was wrong. Once my money was converted it was about 696 dollars. Because I kind of mismanaged the transportation part of my trip, this amount kept me just until the 8th day. I think if I would have had my places booked properly and knew about the transportation, this amount would have been enough for 10 days. However, I would recommend for a 10 day stay bringing 900-1000 dollars just incase something happens. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

(((Cost Breakdown))):

Transportation: 

-Bus ( Viaazul): From Vinales to Trinidad: 36 CUC

-Taxi Collective (A shared taxi): Depends where your going but no more than 30 CUC

-Taxi solo: Depends on where your going but short distances shouldn’t be more than 10CUC and long distances shouldn’t be more than 65 CUC.)))

Typical Hostels: $20-35 CUC + 5 extra for each meal you eat there

Typical Restaurant meal: $4-10 CUC

Tours and excursions: Varies.  Recommend bringing $50 for each day you want to do a tour if you plan on booking them when you arrive.

-Tour agencies: Cubatur (http://www.cubatur.cu/en/), infotur (http://www.infotur.cu), Gaviota (http://www.gaviota-grupo.com/en/travel-agencies), and Cuba Travel Services (http://cubatravelservices.com).

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