In late 2014, President Obama loosened the travel restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba. Since then, Cuba has become “a must-visit” place, making an appearance on many travelers’ lists. The time to go is now!
Less than 90 miles off the coast of Florida, Cuba is an enticing destination for travelers of any stripe. Beaches, nights in Havana, and the appeal of the Caribbean culture makes Cuba perfect for a weekend getaway, or a weeks-long vacation. Whether it's your honeymoon, a girls’ trip, or an adventure for one, Cuba offers something for everyone.
Before you go, ensure that your trip is nothing short of spectacular by preparing correctly. While Cuba is magical, it does require some forethought to make sure everything runs smoothly. We've got eight tips for anyone planning on visiting Cuba.
1) Learn some Spanish. Knowing something of the local language will go a long way to finding your way around, negotiating prices, and finding the best spots to visit. Before you go, spend some time on Duolingo to pick up a few key phrases like, 'I would like to order food.' Keep a Spanish-English language dictionary on you, as Wi-Fi is scarce. When you do have Wi-Fi, Triplingo is a very good language app.
2) On that note, there's very limited Wi-Fi throughout Cuba. Be prepared to go most of your days without it. Most hotels will sell patrons an hour of Wi-Fi a day and it can get very expensive. Connecting after 6pm ET is almost impossible.
3) Get your visa early, and state your reason for travel. While the travel restrictions have loosened, technically there are still no traditional tourist visas available for Americans in Cuba. Rather, you choose from 11 options, which can be found on the Cuban embassy website. Many of the available travel visas are tourist adjacent. Request your visa ahead of time by visiting the Cuban Embassy's website, and know what your official reason for being there is.
4) Bring your own medication. Over the counter medication isn’t as readily available as it is in the States. Plus, because of the embargo, the items available won't be what you’re used to. Bring your own supplies.
Along the same vein, pre-purchase things like shampoo, ibuprofen, and sunscreen. Again, availability on the ground in Cuba is the concern here. Avoid any hiccups by purchasing everything you need before you fly down.
5) There are two types of money in Cuba. Tourists exchange their money for the Cuban Convertible dollar (aka CUC),1 CUC = $1.00 USD. Locals use Cuban pesos. One CUC equals roughly 25 Cuban pesos. Double check all prices in cabs and restaurants to make sure you use the right currency.
6) Bring a lot of cash. US-based bank cards don't work in Cuba. You'll be using cash for everything, and will need to exchange US dollars for CUC. This is a lingering effect of the embargo and over 50 years of tensions between the two countries. So for now, have cash on hand.
7) The beaches are incredible. The city of Havana is the place to fly into and it has its own charm, but the beaches are stunning. You'll want to make it out of the capital city and visit some of the country's beaches to get a complete Cuban experience. Guardalavaca and Cayos Coco and Guillermo are both beautiful spots with calm waters.
8) Book your lodging before you land. While your credit card might not work on the ground, it will work with companies like Airbnb before you get there. (Booking with your credit card is also a great way to rack up miles for your next trip.) As for hotels, you'll need to call a travel agent and have them book one for you through their on-the-ground connections. Pre-book lodging in every place you plan to visit, as accommodations have been filling up quickly since the restrictions relaxed. Iberostar Playa Pilar is a highly rated beach hotel, and Casa Densil Bed and Breakfast in Havana is popular.
Cuba is a land of wonder, and definitely worth a trip. Due to its complicated history with the US, it does take more planning than some other destinations. However, with just a little bit of planning, you can have the Cuban vacation of your dreams.
*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Kara Perez and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
Image credit: iStock
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