Category Archives: Cuba

Cuba Currency: Everything You Need To Know For 2021

Cuba Currency. CUC. CUP

Cuba currency is changing. From January 2021, locals and tourists say goodbye to the so-called dual currency system and hello to the reactivation of the historic national currency, the Cuban Peso (CUP). This guide will detail everything you need to know about Cuban currency, answer whether you can use your credit card in Cuba and discuss the rumoured USD tax AND exchange fee! Keep reading so you can prepare before you go and enjoy your stress-free trip from when you arrive.


» You may also like | First timer’s guide to Cuba


What Type of Cuba Currency Is There?

There is now one unified currency in Cuba, the Cuban Peso (CUP).

The CUP will trade at 24 pesos to the US Dollar.

Previously, there were two currencies.

The CUP, outlined above, which tourists only really used for street food, and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC).

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC pronounced Cook), was the so-called Cuban tourist currency, used daily by foreigners to pay for accommodation such as casas particulares, buses, taxis, tours and food.

The CUC will be phased out, making way for the CUP.

Here is how to tell the difference between the two notes.

  • CUP = Pesos, pictures of people on the bill/note. Che on the 3 CUP note
  • CUC = Convertibles, pictures of monuments on the bill/note
  • 1 CUC = 24 CUP, check the up to date rates here

The 3 peso note is popular with visitors as it has Che Guevara face on it!

It is worth taking note of the difference between the two types to avoid getting short-changed. Uncommon but has happened.


» Read next | 10 scams in Cuba that actually happen


Cuban CurrencyCuban Convertible Peso Bills/Notes (CUC) 


Can I Get Cuban Currency in the UK/US/Etc?

No, I’m afraid you can’t exchange your native currency for Cuban in your home country or anywhere in the world apart from Cuba.

However, we have handy advice below to help you get the most out of the exchange.


What Currency to Take to Cuba?

You can’t buy CUP in other countries like you can buy euros for your trip to, say, Paris.

As a workaround, it is recommended* that you take either of the following three currencies to Cuba in cash:

  1. Pound sterling (GBP)
  2. Euros
  3. Canadian dollars

You can see today’s Cuba exchange rate here as well as other currencies accepted and their exchange rates.

Once you are in Cuba you can exchange the above with a 3% conversion fee.

* Taking GBP, EUR or CAD is only recommended if the exchange rate is good for you at home and you don’t have to go miles out of your way to make the exchange. Shop around online to see what the best rates are before deciding if you are going to exchange your native currency for either of the three.


What is the Cuba Exchange Rate for USD?

Up until July 2020, there was a 10% conversion fee on the US “greenback” dollar.

This meant visitors were charged the 3% conversation fee discussed above and a further 10% fee so 13% fee in total.

Previously, this would have meant:

  • $10 USD – 13% (1.30) = $8.70
  • $100 USD – 13% (13) = $87

According to many news outlets, as of July 2020, the 10% tax has now been scrapped. Do you have experience of this? Please leave us a comment or email gemma(at)twoscotsabroad(dot)com.

However, the official Banco Central De Cuba still shows GBP, EUR and CAD to offer better conversions than the USD.

CUC I Cuban Currency


How to Get Cuban Currency

The official Cuba money exchange is called CaDeCa (Casa de Cambio). They can be found everywhere in Havana and the bigger cities but less so in smaller towns.

We were caught out in Caleton by Playa Larga as the bank hours were limited. Luckily new friends lent us some CUC so we could go diving at the Bay of Pigs the next day.

To exchange money at CaDeCa you need:

  • An early rise
  • Your passport
  • Patience

Be prepared to wait in long lines.

I read that CADECA shops close at 3pm so get there early, at opening times is recommended. Although changing money in Cuba is not impossible, it can be taxing on time.

There are two CADECA at Havana airport, check upstairs for the quieter one which had no line when we arrived.

It is recommended to exchange as much as you are comfortable with at the airport.

The airport ATM did not work during our departure.

Cue panic as we were not aware that there was a tax you have to pay to leave. Luckily our airline had already covered it. Read our guide to Cuba to avoid the silly mistakes we made.


Should I Exchange Dollars at my Casa?

So this is an update as of 2017, a reader asked on our scams in Cuba post whether to exchange USD for CUC at their casa found through Airbnb.

I asked around and fellow bloggers who have recently been to Cuba said that they were offered this too and declined, opting to order euros instead and exchange some at the airport.

Have you exchanged money at your casa? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Bank in Havana I Cuban Currency_

What about ATMs in Cuba?

There are ‘hole in the wall’ ATMs in Cuba and we used them after our cash ran out. You can expect to pay a 3% exchange fee.

Non-US Visa is the preferred card. Others may not work.

Again, there may be lines and there are instances when the money runs out. ATMs also max out so you may have to return for more.

Cash may come out before your card so remember to lift it out the machine or it will get swallowed. We had a swallowed card incident in Peru and it sucked, boom boom!

Overall, getting cash in Cuba is relatively easy if you have a non-US card that works, can beat the crowds and don’t mind making a few runs.

Can You Use Credit Cards in Cuba?

Overall, Cuba is a cash country and the easiest way to get around is by carrying currency.

Increasingly, there are some places that will accept non-US credit cards but this is not the norm.

It isn’t certain whether your credit card will work in Cuba either.


So How Much Does Cuba Cost?

The total budget for 3 weeks in Cuba came to 1903.50 USD. That’s 90 USD per day for two people with limited activities and one week in an all-inclusive resort. You can read the full details here in our breakdown guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What money is used in Cuba?

The currency used in Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP).

CUC v CUP?

Tourists were able to use both but CUC was used more frequently to pay for accommodation (casas), taxis, tours and meals. CUP was used for street food.

What is the currency in Cuba for tourists?

Now, there is one currency, CUP.

Previously, tourists used both CUP and CUC.

Can I use USD in Cuba? 

On the whole, no, you can’t pay with USD in Cuba.

Should I exchange my USD before I go to Cuba?

You can’t actually exchange USD to CUP outside of Cuba.

Should I exchange my USD to another currency before I travel?

This very much depends on what exchange rate you can get for GBP, CAD or EUR.

If the rate is poor, it may be worth you taking USD.

If it involves you having to drive for miles and eats into your time, just take USD and be prepared to wait in line.



Final Words

I hope this has helped answer your question – what currency do you use in Cuba?

To recap, the best currency to take to Cuba is either GBP, EUR or CAD which you exchange for CUP at the airport or city.

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Planning a trip to Cuba in the future? You need to know about Cuba's currency changes. Gone is the so-called tourist currency, the CUC. Click to find out more.

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Is Cuba Expensive? Detailed Guide to Cuba Prices

Is Cuba Expensive Detailed Guide to Cuba Prices

Is Cuba expensive? Yes and no. Cuba is a relatively cheap country to enjoy an all-inclusive holiday in, but budget backpackers who are accustomed to the cost of travel in say Bolivia or Cambodia will find Cuba expensive. We spent three weeks in Cuba with the intention of seeing the whole island, which is possible in that time. However, our daily budget dictated and we had to cut the trip short. This travel budget for 3 weeks in Cuba will outline the price of accommodation, food, trips and travel, for two.


» Planning a trip to Cuba? | Don’t miss our extensive guide


Cuba Prices: How Much Does Cuba Cost?

Whether you are visiting Cuba for a long weekend or a three-week trip, our guide will help you plan and budget accordingly, eliminating any surprises when you hit the ground!

We visited Cuba as part of an 18-month sabbatical to travel the Americas and Europe.

We did find it hard going from Colombia to Cuba and the highest expense was moving between destinations. While Cuba on a budget is not impossible, it is difficult if you plan to travel. Read on to find out more.

Cuban Currency


Cuba Budget Planning Prices

Before you leave for Cuba there are some things you need to invest in:

  1. Airline ticket – the price of this will depend on where you travel from. European readers, pay more to ensure that your Cuba Tourist Card is included in the price. US, your travel insurance should be covered
  2. Cuba Travel Visa – this can cost anything from $15-35 and must be secured before you fly into Cuba
  3. Vaccinations – check with medical professionals that you are up to date with vaccinations required for Cuba
  4. Travel insurance – if not provided by your airline. Non-US readers check out True Traveller Insurance or World Nomads Travel Insurance. You can read our comparison guide here
  5. Cuba travel book US / UK – I rarely say you need one but you do need a detailed guide for Cuba. Why? Limited WiFi
  6. Spanish phrasebook- it is likely that only your tour guides will speak English
  7. Learn Spanish – you will need survival Spanish to have an easier vacation if you intend to move around the island. Here are 5 ways to learn
  8. Bug spray – like Avon So Soft US / UK
  9. Pack snacks
  10. Don’t bother buying additional data from your phone provider – just buy a WiFi card when you arrive
  11. Cash! But not Cuban money – you want to bring Euros, British Pounds or Canadian Dollars. Avoid USD if you can.

» Read next | Cuba currency explained – Cuban money, ATMs + credit cards


Cuba Visa Tourist Card

Cuba Travel Visa Card 


Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Accommodation in Cuba

The most common type of accommodation in Cuba is casas pariculares.

Casas pariculares are private homes that have rooms for rent. This is legal, owners have to register with the government.

It is totally normal to stay with a local and the level of engagement will very much depend on the host and you.

There are hotels in bigger Cuban cities and towns like Havana and Trinidad but they are more expensive than the local option, casas particulares.

For example, the Iberostar Trinidad starts at $400 (U.S) for one night.

How Much Do Casas Cost in Cuba?

The cost of casas depends on where the house is and what the rooms offer.

Generally, rooms cost between 10-50 USD per person.

We mostly spent 10 USD per person and negotiated this price for every room after Viñales.

The price of your casa will include a bed for the night in a basic room, an ensuite and a fan or aircon.

Some rooms will have fridges. Not all casas have WiFi for you to log on to, others go as far as to offer you a phone!

Breakfast is around 4-5 USD per person and varies in quantity, mostly a decent plate of eggs and fruit and served with love.

If you want to avoid carrying large sums of cash with you, you can reserve your room before you travel to Cuba. However, you really don’t need to do this as casas will recommend others in the town you are going to next. They will receive some commission for this recommendation from the owner.

You can even rock up to a destination and ask a taxi driver or PR hanging about the street to help you find one. So strange to us, very normal to travel in Cuba!

If you’d prefer to see what you are getting use Booking.com and you can read reviews at TripAdvisor, for example, this casa, La Villa Teresa in Havana. Gorgeous.

Find out everything you need to know about casas in Cuba here: Essential Guide to Casas Particulares in Cuba

Hostels in Havana

There is a handful of them in Havana but not elsewhere on the island.

Although many casas call themselves hostals they aren’t hostels like backpacker hostels with social areas. Actual hostel dorm beds cost between $5 USD – $10 USD.

Dorms are a good place to start if visiting alone and you want to meet some travel buddies. Here are the best the Havana:

  • Club 58: Outstanding reviews, friendly staff, very social, super central and safe
  • Ronaldo’s: This is the first hostel in Havana and a bit of an institution. Nice rooftop. Friendly staff
  • Paradise: This is where we stayed for two nights as Ronaldo’s was full. Nice rooftop. Hot rooms

Couchsurfing is illegal in Cuba.

Our Accommodation Budget

After two weeks of travel, our Cuba travel budget was burning through our savings so we booked into an all-inclusive resort in Varadero. Hard life, I know.

  • Accommodation in Cuba Total: 562 USD for two nights in a hostel, the remaining two weeks in casas, for two
  • This total includes 70 USD per night all-inclusive resort for last week which includes food and drink

Casas Particulares I Cuba

Casa in Viñales


Food Prices in Cuba

Budget Food

You can eat for cheap in Cuba if you are staying around Havana and are happy to live off the 1 USD pizzas. Warning, they are a heart attack waiting to happen!

We watched a local buy one from the hole in the wall and then fold it in half to let the grease fall down the drain. I am not joking!

So yeah, you probably aren’t going to eat two pizzas a day and still fit into your travel clothes. There are fruit and veg markets in the city too.

It’s unlikely you will have access to a kitchen to cook in though and I know this makes travel in Cuba difficult for vegans, vegetarians and families with small children.

It also increases the prices of meals because you are relying on restaurants or casas to cook for you.

Snacks

Pack snacks before you fly as grocery stores are not the norm.

There is a small shop in Trinidad which sells crackers and ice cream and you can always find somewhere to buy rum!

Breakfast

Breakfast is typically hosted by the casa owner at 4-5 USD per person. Some casas offer dinner, we were never offered it though.

Restaurants in Cuba

Restaurants in Cuba are extremely hit or miss.

There are two kinds, government-run and privately owned restaurants called Paladar restaurants. The latter tends to be better.

Government-run are notoriously slow in service and basic. Our tour guide in Havana warned us of this.

Before you leave, I suggest taking note of the restaurants that you would like to try.

Here’s some of ours which admittedly are in the popular areas of popular places.

To keep costs down, travel outside of these destinations and eat on the outskirts:

Havana

  • 304 O’Reilly: modern tapas and nice cocktails – 4 tapas / 2 cocktails 30 USD
  • El Chanchullero: more tapas – 3 mains, 3 soft drinks, 2 coffees 17 USD
  • Castas & Tal: nice decor, full plates – 2 mains / 1 cocktail / 1 beer 21 USD

Trinidad

  • Taberna La Botija: nice atmosphere, live music – tapas for 2 / 2 drinks: 23 USD

Viñales

  • El Olivo: try the paella – two mains 15 USD
  • Dulce Vida: nice pizzas – pizzas/drinks 25 USD

I do feel bad that these are up in the top 5 on TripAdvisor, something we normally try to avoid, but this highlights how varied the food quality is in Cuba!

  • Food in Cuba Total: 445 USD two weeks eating breakfast at casas, snacks/small meals for lunch and dinner out, for two. Includes coffee and water

Food in Cuba I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

The infamous 1 USD pizza, and Gemma


Partying in Cuba

Cuba is a very social place and Cubans are very social people!

It’s hard not to get swept up in the Latin passion of salsa and that cheap rum (ron) goes down far too easily. It’s cheap too at 6-9 USD!

Casa de la Musica in Trinidad and Havana are very popular with tourists, you will spot many jineteros dancing with foreign women and foreign men picking up local Cuban chicas.

Touristy spots like La Floridita in Havana will set you back 12 USD for two daiquiris. They weren’t even the best we had during the trip.

Don’t miss the 1 USD cocktail man in Trinidad, excellent for budget travel in Cuba!

Please be warned: s*x workers target visitors of all ages. We met a young Irish high school teacher who was asked on a date by a waitress, they met that night and the police chased her away as she was a known worker. Life is hard for many Cubans, easy money is being made from visitors. Stay safe – check out this post on scams in Cuba.

  • Partying in Cuba Total: 161.50 USD includes drinks out and bottles of rum. We drank most days because it’s Cuba! This does not include the all-inclusive booze

Varadero All Inclusive Beach I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

Sunset with our new pals in Varadero

Transport in Cuba

The most expensive thing you can do in Cuba is to move.

The drive between destinations is what hurts the wallet most, hence why we stopped moving and opted for a lounger for a week.

Not what we intended but as long as you are prepared for the price, do put lots of destinations on your Cuba itinerary.

Viazul is a bus company which runs between towns and cities in Cuba.

This is sometimes the cheapest way to travel around the country, however, locals never know the bus schedules and the times in the Lonely Planet are unreliable. Note down the times from the website before you go.

Word of warning – by the time the bus reaches smaller towns, there may be no seats.

This happened in Playa Larga where we participated in some diving in Cuba.

If the bus is full, you won’t get on – it’s not like the chicken buses of Central America where they squeeze everyone and everything on for a cosy ride!

Locals who run taxi colectivo ride shares will often match the bus prices. You will sometimes share the ride with others but it is not always the fastest way to get between stops!

The good thing about colectivos is that they are door to door so you don’t have to pay for a taxi to the bus station.

If you want to rent a car the rate is around 50-100 USD per day, some deals include insurance, others don’t. Book before you go to ensure a car is available.

  • Transport in Cuba Total: 249 USD which includes local taxis, taxi colectivo and the bus

Havana I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

A classic car in Havana


Activities and Trips in Cuba

Many of the things to do in Cuba do cost money. Here’s a list of the things you shouldn’t miss:

  • Day tour of Havana – 100 USD per person
  • Cycling among the mogotes in Viñales – 4 USD per person
  • Diving at Playa Larga – 35 USD per person
  • Hire a bike from Trinidad and cycle to Playa Larga – 5 USD per person
  • Salsa dancing in Trinidad – depends on your liver

What do you recommend? Tell us in the comments below

  • Activities in Cuba Total: 324 USD

Octopus Club Dive House Playa Larga Cuba

Diving in Playa Larga


Miscellaneous + Luxuries

When looking at the above prices please remember that you will be hit by fees when transferring money which is explained in detail in this guide.

WiFi is not free. You have to purchase cards and log on at the designated spots around Cuba. Some of these spots are at the store you can buy the card, in the parks, some restaurants, hotels and casas.

One hour costs 1 USD, five hours will get you 5 USD. Find out more here.

It’s Cuba so it’s got to be done – we bought some cigars as gifts!

The best advice we were given was to avoid the jineteros who try to sell you cigars on the street (or from their windows!) and buy from the official shops for authentic smokes.

We found the Viñales store was cheaper than the Havana shop. Fewer tourists go to Viñales, and Viñales is the land of tobacco!

On our last day in Havana, we treated ourselves to a day at the fancy Hotel Sevilla where you can access WiFi using your cards by the pool for a day rate.

Hotel Sevilla in Havana was one of the first hotels to offer WiFi access. To access the pool, it costs 20 USD per person but you get 15 USD back to use as a credit at the bar for snacks and drink.

Craig celebrated his birthday in Cuba. I shopped ’til I dropped in the all-inclusive resort… Can you sense the sarcasm?

Craig loved his Che Guevara bamboo cup, a packet of crisps, and two 30 minutes WiFi cards. Ha!

  • Luxuries and Miscellaneous Total: 162 USD

The total budget for 3 weeks in Cuba: 1903.50 USD.
Our Cuba daily budget was 90 USD per day for two people with limited activities and one week in an all-inclusive resort.


Havana Malecon

Malecon, Havana 


Cuba on a Budget

How expensive is Cuba then? For us, as part of a big trip, expensive. For someone going on a standalone trip, not so much maybe. Here are our Cuba budget tips to help you save cash:

  • Bring EUR, CAD or GBP but only if you get a decent rate at home
  • Shop at local vendors and markets
  • Learn to love the 1 USD pizza
  • Dine at cafeterias
  • Pick up fruit and veg at stalls
  • Eat and drink at restaurants and bars outsides of the tourist areas
  • Buy rum/ron in local shops
  • Take a purifying and filter water bottle like the Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
  • Stay in casas and negotiate before agreeing to stay. This is perfectly normal. You can not negotiate if you book before you go
  • Ask how much things are before buying
  • Avoid these scams
  • Learn Spanish, as I said above you need survival but if you are at a conversational level you will get by much easier
  • Do the groundwork before you go and have a digital detox so you don’t have to pay for WiFi
  • Avoid moving around too much but then this means you won’t experience the best of the island
  • Walk everywhere
  • Do the free Havana walking tour and pay a tip at the end
  • Bring everything you need like sunscreen and medicine. You might not get it in Cuba

Havana churros snacks

Churros in Havana

Buy the Guides

There is only one country where I genuinely think you need a travel guide and that is Cuba. Due to the Wifi and 4G restrictions you can’t just jump on TripAdvisor, bus times etc. It is mighty frustrating. I really regret not investing in a guidebook.


Final Words

Do you think Cuba is cheap? I hope our guide and three weeks in Cuba experience has helped you in your planning. I do think you could do it a little cheaper if you ate locally and moved around less but then you would miss out on really cool destinations and the varying landscape of the island.

Varadero I Travel Budget for 3 Weeks in Cuba

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Scuba Diving in Cuba: 4 Spots You Can’t Miss [Dives + Snorkelling]

scuba diving in cuba

Affordable, accessible and unusual. There are many reasons that scuba diving in Cuba is recommended for experienced and new divers. This guide looks at four popular diving spots in Cuba including the historic Bay of Pigs, the freshwater hole at Cueva de Los Peces, postcard-perfect Playa Ancon near Trinidad and Guardalavaca near Holguin. As well as some tips for those who prefer to snorkel with the fish and the coral of Cuba.


» Don’t miss out | Click for our first timer’s guide to Cuba


Best Cuba Scuba Diving Tips

  • It is unlikely you can book a dive online, WiFi and 4G work differently in Cuba. Read our guide
  • It is perfectly normal to book a scuba diving day trip through your casa or hotel
  • It is best to arrive the day before you want to dive and book a tour for the next day
  • Not all diving instructors speak English but generally enough to get by
  • Equipment is provided and included in the price
  • Some of the best diving in Cuba are very affordable and the more dives you book, the cheaper it gets
  • Diving at, or from, Varadero is the most expensive option, dive elsewhere if you can
  • You don’t have to dive, you can snorkel in Cuba too

Scuba Diving in Cuba | Playa Larga


1. Diving at The Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs has two main beaches – Playa Larga and Playa Gerón.

A local in Viñales recommended Larga over Gerón, we hadn’t mentioned we wanted to dive but this turned out to be the best option for the plunge.

Playa Girón is where Fidel Castro defeated the US during the famous attack at the Bay of Pigs.

It has a museum and plaques for history fans. I was super keen to see this but it was going to cost too much in a taxi from Caleton were our casa was and as per, no one knew what times of the bus which is such a headache.

The dive does not require a boat, you just walk straight into the water. However, you do need a lift from the dive company to the site.

PADI certified divers may have the chance to do a different dive which involves investigating a wreck at another dive site.

How to Book a Dive

The best way to book your dive is to ask the owner of your casa or hotel. Failing that, a taxi driver should be able to help you out.

The Octopus Club dive centre will collect you in the morning around 9am and take you to the dive centre where you will be kitted our and then driven for 20 minutes to the dive site.

This is where Cuba from the TV is – crystal turquoise blue sea which smashes right up to the side of the ‘beach’ (grass and rock)!

Diving in Cuba Caribbean Sea

How Much Does Diving Cost?

The beauty of diving in Cuba is that there is no need for a boat which keeps costs down (25 USD) as you just walk directly into the sea. I think this is the cheapest diving in Cuba. If you know differently, please tell us in the comments below.

Our Experience

Initially, I was concentrating too much and had a slight panic, was I breathing too heavy? Too much? Was this normal? Why did I eat five pancakes and now feel like vomiting?

Craig confirmed he too was breathing heavily and long so this calmed me down and I was good to go.

Craig said he panicked a little because he felt light-headed after his ears equalised (diving chat for ‘popping’) but that did not tamper the overall experience, which was magical.

Down we went to the bottom of the Caribbean, can’t say that happens every day.

It felt like flying through the water amongst the colourful fish. The advice was to stay away from the bottom, I can confirm that coral hurts when you scrape your leg against it!

At one point I was fixated on the bubbles escaping from the instructor’s equipment, it looked like massive mushrooms of silver mercury rising to the top of the water, truly like a Disney movie.

We were underwater for forty minutes and when we returned to civilisation, our friend Geoff said ‘damn it, that’ll be another expensive activity I’m sucked in to,’ he was a first-timer too.

Diving lovers! Check out this scuba diving bucket list. How many have you done?

Non Divers? No Stress – Snorkelling

Not up for diving?

For 15 USD you can hire a snorkel kit, although I think this price is really steep.

We were told it is because of the bus journey so it might be worth investigating a taxi to the beach and hiring the kit there. Into snorkelling, check out this post on snorkelling in Palau, an island near the Philippines – jaw-dropping!

Here’s very amateur footage of our dive at Playa Larga.

How to Get to Playa Larga/Bay of Pigs

There are two ways to get to Playa Larga.

Firstly, the public bus operated by Viazul.

Another option, which is often price matched, is by taxi colectivo shared car ride. From Vinales, this costs 25 USD per person for a 4.5-hour drive with a short snack stop and a car swap halfway.

We hadn’t arranged our casa in Playa Larga at The Bay of Pigs so we let the driver help us out.

We bartered for a casa in the small (very small) town of Caleton and got it down to 10 USD each with a mandatory 4 USD breakfast.

Staying in Caleton was fine for the dive but there really isn’t much around. We dined in a local’s front room after a PR found us wandering around an off-season resort.

This isn’t usually the case but it was clear than the local didn’t really want us there. You won’t experience that often in Cuba!

Scuba Diving in Cuba Playa Larga


2. Diving in Cueva de Los Peces, Playa Larga

The Bay of Pigs is well known for great diving straight off the beach in Cuba.

But what about diving in freshwater?

Cueva de Los Peces is a freshwater hole only a few hundred meters from the beach.

Wrapped in lush, green jungle this gem is well worth it for those who only come for a refreshing swim.

However, if you get on your scuba diving gear and sink beneath the surface there is a whole different world.

First of all, Cueva de Los Peces means “Cave of the Fish” in Spanish. There are no fish to be seen.

Following the end of the pool bottom, there is a narrow cave continuing beneath the river.

The dive goes down to approximately 25 meters, but the cave ground is most likely double the depth.

You will get a flashlight to guide your way once you enter the cave, though your guide will make you turn around once there is no more natural light.

The most beautiful thing about this dive are the rays of sunlight that cut their way through the darkness.

To get the most out of this breathtaking sight, turn off your flashlight for a while. Diving in Cueva de Los Peces is, without a doubt, one of the most unique things you can do in Cuba.

How to Book a Dive at Cueva de Los Peces

You can book your dive through your casa particular at the Bay of Pigs.

There is no need to book in advance like other places, they will make a call and assure your place the night before.

You will probably have to go on a whole day trip with a bus that takes you to another dive site off the beach too.

You can choose if you want to do both dives or not.

How Much Does Diving Cost?

The regular beach dives cost 25 USD while the Cueva de Los Peces cost 40 USD.

However, there is a dive center at Cueva de Los Peces, so if you travel independently you can check for prices there too.

You need minimum Advanced Open Water to do this dive.

» By Linn at Brainy Backpackers

Cenote water, blue skies. Cueva de Los Peces Cuba


3. Diving in Trinidad – Playa Ancon

Playa Ancon is a popular beach located some 15 minutes by car from Trinidad, and it’s the most popular beach in the area.

Getting here is easy with a taxi colectivo.

Some tourists also rent bikes to come here, but a taxi is the most convenient way to get here from Trinidad.


» You may also like | Best things to do in Trinidad 


How to Book a Dive at Playa Ancon

You can book both the catamaran and scuba diving next to the hotel bar on the beach.

How Much Does Diving Cost?

Scuba diving typically costs 40 USD per person for a dive, equipment and transportation.

When is the Best Time to Dive?

The most pleasant time of the year to come here is from November to April when it’s the dry season.

Snorkel Instead of Diving

The diving here isn’t that interesting though, snorkeling and spending time on the beach is a better option.

The beach is very pretty with palm trees and crystal clear water. Nearby, there are three resorts with all the amenities needed.

If you want to snorkel, it’s recommended to hire a catamaran for about 10 USD, which will take you further out to the reef.

There are plenty of types of fish, and most trips will be around one hour. It’s possible to stay longer of course, but one hour is enough.

It’s easy for families as snorkeling here doesn’t require great swimming skills.

The reef is about 1-2 meters below the surface.

You can rent snorkel equipment on the beach, but it’s recommended to bring your own.

» By Alexander at Destinavo

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba


4. Guardalavaca

A great spot for scuba diving in Cuba is the tiny village of Guardalavaca.

Guardalavaca can be found in the Northeast of Cuba, it’s approximately one hour from Holguin and three from Santiago de Cuba.

There is only one dive school in Guardalavaca called the Eagle Ray Marlin Diving Center.

There are usually two dives a day, at 9 am and 11 am.

How to Book a Dive at Eagle Ray Marlin Diving Center

The best thing to do is go to the dive school one or two days before you want to go diving and ask if there are spots available the next day.

How Much Does Diving in Guardalavaca Cost?

Of course, you are curious about the dive prices, these vary between 25-40 USD per dive.

The exact price depends on the number of dives you do. The more dives, the lower the price per dive.

Do I Need Gear?

No, the divemasters will help you select your gear and assist you in assembling said gear (if you need this).

They will then explain about the dive sites you will be visiting that day and will tell you about the marine life you can expect to see.

Though of course there are never any guarantees what you will come across!

There are plenty of spots for scuba diving around Guardalavaca, well over 20 sites! I did three dives and went to these three dive sites:

  • Laberinto
  • Coral Garden
  • Sirena

I’m sure they are all beautiful, so it probably doesn’t really matter that much which one you visit during your dive(s).

When is the Best Time to Dive at Guardalavaca?

The best time to go diving here is between December and April.

» By Lotte at Phenomenal Globe

Eagle Ray Marlin Diving Center Guardalavaca Cuba



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iving in Cuba Bay of Pigs | Adventure travel


Final Words

This was Craig’s first dive which is surprising since his Dad is a retired deep-sea diver for the Ministry of Defence and although he felt panic at first, once he eased into the experience he was raring to go again.

I’ve dived once before in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and was keen to do it again in the turquoise waters of Cuba. It has been a highlight of our three week trip to Cuba and at 35 USD each, an absolute bargain.

If you don’t want to dive, you can try snorkelling in Cuba instead.

Did you dive or snorkel? Tell us in the comments below?

Casa Particular in Cuba: Everything You Need To Know For 2021

Casas Particulares I Cuba

Me casa, su casa, as they say in… every country but especially in Cuba. Staying with locals is part of the Cuba travel experience and the types of accommodation that you book are called casa particular or casas particulares (plural). Stay with Cubans for an authentic while supporting the community and saving some of your travel budget too! This guide explains what casas are, shares our experience, discusses where to stay in Cuba and finally, other forms of accommodation on the island which you can book too. 


» You may also like | How to plan a trip to Cuba


1. What is Casa Particular?

Casas particulares are a form of accommodation in Cuba. They are extremely popular with tourists as you get to live in a local’s house in the heart of the destination.

Casas are completely legal as owners sign up to have the right to rent out a room in their home or a full house if they have one.

Many offer breakfast making them essentially a B&B.

Some of the best places to stay in Cuba are actually casas which is great because hotels are expensive.


2. How Do I Find Casas Particulars?

If you are relaxed, arrive in Cuba and wander about the touristy areas.

Someone will stop you and ask if you need help/want to buy cigars! Decline the cigar offer but ask if they can help you find a casa.

This is completely normal and I know it is not the way you normally travel.

They’ll take you to a friend’s casa free of charge. Payment will be made by the casa owner in the form of commission. You will experience this exchange all over Cuba for a variety of services such as taxis, class car tours, bike rental, etc.

We let fate decide our casa during our second visit to Havana and felt confident doing so after three weeks in Cuba.

A local in a tuk-tuk cycled around a couple of options until we found one.

Once you are in a casa, the host can suggest casas in the next town you are moving on to.

They have a network of ‘friends’ who look out for each other.

We booked our casa in Viñales through our accommodation in Havana.

I know this sounds totally alien to us but it is honestly the norm for tourism in Cuba.

→ Note: The majority of casa owners do not speak English. Work on your survival Spanish before you go. Here are 5 ways to learn Spanish without leaving the house.

Man sitting outside a blue building in Trinidad, Cuba


3. Are Casas Particulares Legal?

We got the impression that in the past casas were a bit ‘under the table.’

People who have not been to Cuba (but like to think they know everything there is to know about the country, yeah those types) appear to think that casas are a secret network of housing.

This really isn’t the case!

If a house has an upside-down anchor sign outside, then they have registered with the government as a casa.

The owner pays some form of tax to the government and the guest will get a receipt.

Owners usually take your passport number for their records. There is a receipt/tax record book they complete.

Casas Particulares in Cuba Symbol on House in Havana


4. What Are Casas Particulares Like?

Casas all differ!

In Viñales, Sara and Jorge’s casa is painted blue. It has a porch with rocking chairs and wait for it… four beds in the spare room!

This was our first experience of a casa so we were surprised to see more of a hostel dorm set up.

In Caleton near the Bay of Pigs where we went diving, the owner doesn’t live in the house.

This is her second home which she uses purely for rent.

There is a porch, back garden with a washing line, kitchen, three double bedrooms and a bathroom.

We stayed with Jacqueline for four nights in Trinidad.

She has a private room with a bathroom and a fridge. There is another dorm-style room which our friend Sarah rented to herself.

Jacqueline and her family (the gran down to the kids) live in another part of the house.

She has a beautiful garden where you eat breakfast every morning amongst the flowers.

During our second visit to Havana, we stayed with Ramon and Rachel on Picota (#18), again we had a fridge and a private bathroom.

Rooms are basic, you have understand that before visiting.

→ Breakfast is usually an additional fee.

Casas Particulares Havana Cuba

Rachel changed our bedding more frequently than hotels do


5. How Much Do Casas Particulares Cost?

Online and in guidebooks the average advised price is 10 to 30 USD per room.

We quickly found out that there is little difference between rooms at 30 and 10 USD per person.

Use your bargaining skills. If the owner is set on a price, feel free to move on – casas particulares in Cuba are in abundance.

Casas Particulares Cuba

Caleton casa – for two!


6. What About Meals?

Again, this differs between casas.

Breakfast is usually an additional fee of 2-5 USD for eggs, toast and fruit. Some casas serve platters!

One of our hosts didn’t have margarine one day because the shop didn’t have any. This happens!

Remember many Cubans live from government rations and they use renting rooms or taxi colectivo (Cuban taxi service) services to bump up their wages.

Unless you are willing to dine out in Cuba for all three meals, you are limited as there are no grocery stores which you may be accustomed to at home. Bring snacks from home.

However, you will find fruit and veg carts/markets around Havana.

It is very unlikely you access to a kitchen too which may make travel a challenge for vegetarians/vegans, long-term backpackers and families with small children.

Dinners in casas are supposed to be outstanding but during our trip, only one owner offered us the option.


7. How Do I Pay?

It is widely known that debit and credit cards are not always accepted in Cuba. The most common way to pay for everything is in cash.

The currency in Cuba that tourists mostly use is USD. CUP is the local currency that you might use to buy fruit at a local market.

Casas accept USD so you need to ensure you have enough to cover your stay. You can read all about the currency in Cuba here.

Casa Particulare Trinidad Cuba | Casa Yaquelin


8. Arguments For and Against Staying in a Cuban Casa

Pros

  • You live like a local
  • The rooms are clean
  • You are helping the local economy
  • Breakfast is provided for a cost
  • Hotels are expensive
  • Hostels are not common out with Havana

Cons

  • No kitchen
  • Living in someone else’s house (mostly)

9. Airbnb in Cuba

There are lots of casas available via Airbnb in Cuba and the average price for a private room for two is 30 USD.

Remember, Cuba has basically been running Airbnb before the apartment rental company was born!

Since the 90s, locals have been renting out rooms so don’t be afraid of using their direct word-of-mouth systel.

There are a few issues we need to address about Airbnb in Cuba so you are armed with knowledge before you book:

  • The Airbnb app doesn’t work in Cuba so you can’t use it to contact hosts when you arrive
  • Airbnb has been running in Cuba unofficially since the 90s! Casa owners create a network throughout the island and call ahead to book for you, they get commission in return
  • It is not uncommon for the casa booked for you to get a better deal (a longer stay) so you are moved elsewhere and you might not know it. Naturally, you will know it if you book via Airbnb
  • Read the reviews to check whether the amenities promised are provided. Hot tubs, doubt it!
  • Casa owners are now advertising over different search engines like Airbnb, Booking, TripAdvisor, Hostelworld, etc and WiFi is not as readily available so the response may be slower than accustomed to
  • This is also the case for casa owners updating when rooms are booked/casas are sold out

Reasons for booking with Airbnb

  • Pre-booking a casa obviously gives you peace of mind
  • You can pre-pay by credit card with Airbnb, less cash required – read our guide to currency in Cuba here
  • Airbnb is popular, we trust the resource and customer service is generally on the side of the customer
  • Properties have reviews

10. Where to Stay in Cuba

Here are the top-rated casas which you can pre-book via Booking.com and TripAdvisor.

Casa Particular, Havana

Wondering where to stay in Cuba but not interested in expensive hotels? Here’s a list of the most popular casas:

Casa Particular Viñales

Casa Particular, Varadero

Varadero is predominantly an area packed with all-inclusive resorts but there are a handful of casas too:

Casa Particular, Cienfuegos

Casa Particular, Trinidad

Casa Particular, Santiago de Cuba


11. Other Accommodation in Cuba

There are a number of hotels in Cuba, especially all-inclusive resorts around the Caribbean sea.

Hostels are lesser-known and primarily found in Havana.

Confusingly, casa owners use the term ‘hostal’ in the casa name often.


12. Hotels in Cuba

Havana Hotels

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to stick to hotels in Havana, there are many to choose from but at a hefty price.

  • Hotel National: Historically important hotel in Havana, lovely gardens, not in walking distance to Old Havana
  • Hotel Sevilla: Excellent location, very nice pool area which we used on our last day in Havana

Trinidad Hotels


13. Hostels Cuba

The following hostels have dorm rooms and social spaces in Havana. If arriving solo and looking to meet friends I highly recommend staying in a hostel first and meeting travel buddies as casas can be very private.

  • Club 58: Outstanding reviews, friendly staff, very social, super central and safe
  • Ronaldo’s: This is the first hostel in Havana and a bit of an institution. Nice rooftop. Friendly staff
  • Paradise: This is where we stayed for two nights as Ronaldo’s was full. Nice rooftop. Hot rooms

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Final Words

The types of Cuba accommodation are pretty unique I think you will agree. From casas to hostels, hotels to all-inclusive resorts there is variety to choose from but we urge you to get out of your comfort zone and stay with a local at their casa particular so you can experience a bit of culture and help out the community too.


Over to you – any questions or points to make?
Leave them below and I will get back to you ~ Gemma

Cuba Travel Guide 2021: Tips + Itineraries

Cuba Travel Guide Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Cuba and don’t know the difference between your CUP or casas? Don’t stress, tranquilo! Our Cuba travel guide details the essential planning areas from tourist cards to currency, accommodation and itineraries. So let’s dive you so you can start dreaming about those Caribbean beaches and rum cocktails.


Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide 

Before You Travel to Cuba

Getting to Cuba

Where is Cuba? Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

Travel to Cuba is relatively easy for all nationalities with the exception of citizens from the USA.

For non-US citizens, it is as simple as having a passport in date booking a flight with an airline carrier and touching down/sailing into Cuba as long as you did not travel through the States.

If you are planning on a multi-destination trip and the USA is your stop before Cuba the US rules apply, regardless of your nationality.

Travel to Cuba from USA is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

For US citizens travelling to Cuba and those arriving from the US, previous relaxed regulations created by Obama have been tightened again but it is not impossible. In the past, visitors from the US arrived via a Foreign Gateway City in Canada or Mexico. For example, they would take two flights, one to Cancun, Mexico or Toronto, Canada and then from Cancun to Havana or one of the other airports in Cuba.

Trump’s Cuba travel ban changes have stopped all flights to Cuba bar those flying into Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

According to the New York Times, US citizens can still enter Cuba under the “support for Cuban people” permitted/reasons for travel category.

It’s assumed this means you vow to support privately-run companies (not Government-run) which you will do naturally anyway because it’s Cuba and they’ve crafty with their economy for decades. Privately-run accommodation options are called a casas particulares and privately-run restaurants are called Paladares.

This category does not permit you to visit for a vacation. See questions six of the frequently asked questions here.

→ Tip: Print out/screenshot all important information. You won’t have 4G when you land.

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba

Playa Ancon


Cuba Tourist Card (Visa)

All visitors must have a Cuba Tourist Card to enter the country. Usually, your airline provides one for you and it just takes a quick filling out of the official form at the airport for you to gain access.

Check that your airline carrier does offer this. If it does not you need to speak with the Cuban Embassy in your area.

If like us, the embassy is in another country (London) it is worth shopping around for a flight that includes the tourist card to keep costs down and save time. There a Cuba Tourist Card form on the UK Government website but the last update is 2017 so we cannot confirm that you can use it to apply for a Tourist Card. Please tell us in the comments below if you have used it.

For UK citizens, the Cuba Tourist Card covers you for one entry and for 30 days and costs £39.00. Your passport must have at least two months left on it. We’d always advise applying for a new passport when you are close to the six months mark as many countries don’t let you in with less than six months.

Our experience was a bit of a nightmare as we were flying from Colombia and did not know about the Cuba visa and our last day in Bogota was a bank holiday so the embassy was closed. Craig spent the day trying to find an answer along with picking up currency at every bureau which I’ll talk about more below. Don’t leave your Cuba planning to last minute like us.

Conclusion, find an airline carrier that includes the Cuba Tourist Visa!

Airports in Cuba

There are 16 airports in Cuba in which visitors can fly into. The most popular, and only airport US flights can land in, is Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

Other popular airports are found at Camagüey, Holguín and Santa Clara.

Cuba Airport Tax

There is a mandatory airport tax in Cuba of 25 CUC which is often covered by your flight. Check before you leave or you’ll be sweating at the check in line like us with the ATM not working. No stress required, it was inclusive of the flight price.


Cuba Travel Vaccinations

It is advised to speak to your medical professional before your trip to discuss vaccinations for Cuba. Leave plenty of time for this. Tetanus is recommended and Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Cholera could be considered (UK).

The US offers similar advice here. Speak with your doctor before flying.

Medicines may not be available in Cuba so pack a sufficient supply of prescribed drugs. Always carry a copy of the prescription and a letter from your doctor explaining your condition, treatment, medication and dosage.


Travel Insurance

You should always travel with insurance. It is unlikely any providers through banking accounts will cover travel in Cuba.

We use True Traveller Insurance for long-distance travel, others prefer World Nomads Travel Insurance. You can read our comparison guide here.

According to the (OFAC), Cuba requires US Citizens to have non-US based medical insurance which may be covered by your flight.

Water in Cuba

Avoid water from the tap unless you are using a purifying and filtering bottle like Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off].

Taking a bottle with you will not only save you money as you won’t have to buy a plastic bottle every day, but it will also help prevent the plastic tide.

Revolution Square Che

Che at Revolution Square in Havana


Learn Spanish

I don’t think I’d say this about any other country that I’ve been to, including Japan, but you have to learn some survival Spanish before going to Cuba or travel with someone who can understand and speak the language.

Only tour guides can speak English, your casa owners, taxi drivers and general members of the public don’t speak English. You are in their country, they speak Spanish.

Craig and I spent one week learning Spanish in Peru and still struggled. We were very lucky to have met a Brit who lived in Mexico who spoke for us most of the time. Probably not the best idea if you are trying to improve your language skills but it helped us out massively.

If you are planning to travel around Cuba independently and want to meet friends to travel with I recommend booking a hostel in Havana for a couple of nights as rooms in casas are private and not social. See the accommodation section below for more.


» You may like | How to learn Spanish without leaving the house


Currency in Cuba

Cuba is currently undergoing currency reform. Our content will be updated as changes are announced. 

There are two types of currency in Cuba, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which is known as the Cuban tourist currency. It’s used to pay for rooms, restaurants, tours, shopping, etc.

The other is the Cuban Peso (CUP), which you may use for street food but in all honesty, we could have lived without it.

Recently, there have been trial shops giving out CUP as changed, don’t be alarmed. They are testing it.

Exchanging money in Cuba is a source of pain for those from the US because the Government of Cuba charges a 10% fee on all cash conversion using US Dollar. You can see today’s rates here.

It is better to take British Pound (not Scottish) or Euros as there is no 10% charge. Make sure the notes are clean with no tears. Always take your passport with you to the Casas de Cambio sa (cadeca) and arrive 15 minutes before opening time to avoid waiting in long lines.

Honestly, the lines are super long in Cuba one of our tour guides said there is a joke that sometimes people don’t even know what they are waiting in line for.

If you are entering Cuba with large sums of money you will need to declare this, as with most countries.

You can read more about currency in Cuba in our guide here.

Debit and Credit Cards in Cuba

Legally, you can use credit and debit cards in Cuba even if you are a US citizen as long as you are there authorised to be there by the OFAC.

Now here’s the catch, many US cards don’t work and just because you are not from the US doesn’t mean your credit card company isn’t associated with the States.

We even struggled to buy flights for Cuba in Peru with our UK bank credit cards using what we thought was a non-US website.

However, things seem to have improved since with visitors being able to use a UK Visa with no issues.

Not everywhere takes card though so take cash to exchange or a debit card to take money out from the ATM.

Expect to pay a 3% fee on debit ATM withdrawals in addition to your bank transaction charges.

Is Cuba Expensive?

Cuba was more expensive than we expected. Having just spent three months in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia we were surprised to be burning through our budget so quickly in Cuba.

I don’t advise visiting as part of a big travel trip and would like to visit with a bigger budget.

Our Cuba daily budget was 90 CUC per day for two people. Less on the day we stayed put, more on the days we moved destinations. 

Our plans to travel around the whole island were cut short, deciding to check into an all-inclusive resort to save money instead. I know, hard life!

Here’s a full breakdown of our Cuba travel costs: 3 weeks in Cuba.

Cuban Currency Note


Accommodation in Cuba

You will find hotels in Cuba’s bigger cities and towns like Havana and Trinidad but they are more expensive than the local option, casas particulares. For example, the Iberostar Trinidad starts at $400 (U.S) for one night.

Casas pariculares are private homes where Cubans rent out a room. It is common practice to stay with a local and the level of engagement will very much depend on the host and you.

You can tell if a house is a casa because they have the symbol in the image below outside of their home.

The cost of casas depends on where the house is and what the rooms are like. The general rule of thumb is that rooms cost 10-30 USD per person. We mostly spent 10 USD per person and negotiated this price for every room after Vinales.

The price includes a bed for the night in a basic room, an ensuite, a fan or aircon. Some rooms will have fridges. Not all casas have WiFi for you to log on to, others go as far as to offer you a phone!

Breakfast, and sometimes, dinner is offered on top of the room price. Breakfast is usually around 4-5 USD and varies in quantity. We’ve had banquets to margarine running out and that’s what you have to embrace about Cuba.

Casa owners can hook you up with anything! Need a casa at your next stop? No problem! A taxi colectivo share ride? Their uncle does that! You want to hire bikes? Their neighbour can hook you up.

It’s a strange way of life for us to get our heads around at first but you have to remember that Cubans have been working in an oppressive economic structure and they’ve found ways around it.

When your new Cuban friend gets you another casa, a taxi ride or bike hire they receive a small amount of commission for referring you on. Clever eh?!

You can book casas before you go to Cuba if you’d prefer to see what you are getting use Booking.com. You can read reviews at TripAdvisor for example, La Villa Teresa in Havana. Gorgeous.

Paying before you go also means carrying less cash.

Find out everything you need to know about casas in Cuba here: Essential Guide to Casas Particulares in Cuba

Casa Symbol in Havana

Casa symbol in Havana 

Although many casas call themselves hostals they aren’t hostels like backpacker hostels with social spaces. There is a handful of them in Havana though.

Hostels in Havana

  • Club 58: Outstanding reviews, friendly staff, very social, super central and safe
  • Ronaldo’s: This is the first hostel in Havana and a bit of an institution. Nice rooftop. Friendly staff
  • Paradise: This is where we stayed for two nights as Ronaldo’s was full. Nice rooftop. Hot rooms

Transport in Cuba

Cuba is pretty difficult to get around if you are short on time or tight on budget.

The most popular local bus service for tourists is, Viazul which has a website. It is advised to book buses for the journeys you know you want to take.

Screenshot the bus times too as you won’t have 4G/WiFi all the time. Be aware that businesses run on Cuba time which is not always the most efficient. Tranquilo!

Hiring a car is a good idea if you can spare a few days in Havana to wait on one coming in. Don’t always believe it when locals tell you roads are closed or gas stations have been shut down. It’s a scam an Aussie couple told us about. Oh, that charming Cuban hustle…

Taxi Colectivos are shared taxi cars which can be prearranged on the street, via your casa owner and outside of the bus stations.

These shared rides tend to match the bus prices but it don’t always get you there quicker. The cute vintage cars you see in the Havana guidebooks are genuinely the cars than Cubans use and while they are very good at fixing them, breakdowns do happen. Tranquilo!

It is not uncommon to switch cars halfway so don’t be alarmed. We did this getting from Playa Larga to Trinidad.

Moving between places starts to add up. Expect to pay around 25 USD per person and up between itinerary stops.

Other modes of transport in Havana include:

  • Cocotaxi
  • Car taxi
  • Classic car
  • Tuk-tuk
  • Hop on/off bus

And in Viñales, horse-drawn cart!

Maps.me and Galileo maps both works in Cuba. Download before you touchdown.

Vintage Car Vinales Cuba_

Our taxi colectivo


Internet, WiFi and 4G in Cuba

Does Cuba have the internet?

Yes it does! Contrary to popular belief there is internet access in Cuba but not as you know it.

To log on you have to purchase a card from an ETECSA telecommunications centre, hotel, casa owner, or Cuban on the street (not official).

Use the card to log on and use the internet at any of the WiFi points around the country. Remember to log off again to save your credit.

You’ll know the points as you’ll see lots of locals looking at their phones. Read the full guide to WiFi and 4G in Cuba here.

Havana Pool Craig Using WiFi on Phone

Hotel Sevilla Pool in Havana


Best Time to go to Cuba?

The best time to visit Cuba is in the dry season.

The dry season is between November and April but there are nice temperatures all year round. We visited in April and it felt really hot in Havana even then. Consider this when creating your itinerary and making plans.

June to August sees highs of 32 degrees Celcius/89F. This is the hottest

Is It Safe to Travel Cuba?

Crime rates are very low in Cuba and you will have no issues walking around the cities at night.

However, I’ve mentioned above that Cubans have been crafty in their retaliation to a communist regime so there are a few Cuba scams you should be aware of such as a baby milk scam and cigar scam. Read the full details in our guide to scams. Independent travel to Cuba is totally doable and encouraged.

→Note: None of those scams are made up. It is not a sensationalist post. All ten either happened to us or the people we met in Cuba. Check the comments for others that fellow visitors experienced too.

La Bodeguita Del Medio Havana

Cocktails at La Bodeguita del Medio


Food in Cuba

Food in Cuba varies in quality and availability.

Paladar restaurants are privately-owned and tend to offer better meals.

Government-run service can be slow. We were advised of this by our tour guide in Havana and definitely knew were in a government-run restaurant in Trinidad after waiting an hour for a rice dish!

Many Cubans live of rations, please be considerate of this.

Cuba food to try includes:

  • Ropa vieja
  • Tostones
  • Tamales
  • Arroz con pollo
  • Mojitos cocktail which you can learn how to make in this cocktails around the world guide!
  • Daiquiri cocktail
  • Canchanchara cocktail

Cuba Packing List

  • Cuba travel plug – Pack a Skross universal adaptor US / UK
    and you can’t go wrong
  • Hydration tablets US / UK for hangovers
  • Cuba travel guidebook US / UK
  • Filter/purifying bottle like Water To Go [quote TSA15 at checkout for 15% off]
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable walking shoes

Cuba Itinerary: 1-10 Days in Cuba

Whether you have one or ten days in Cuba there is something for everyone in our Cuba travel itinerary. It is a relatively small island so if you have the budget and time you can easily tour the whole country in three weeks.

For what to do in Cuba, my best advice is to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Cuba before you leave, make a plan, research the bus times online and print them out once you know which places to visit in Cuba. I don’t usually suggest that you need guide books but for Cuba, you do because WiFi is not readily available.

Let’s take a look at where to do in Cuba with 1-10 days.

Havana: 1-6 Days

Four days in ample time to see everything the city of Havana has to offer. Here is a sample of the highlights:

Havana’s Three Main Areas

  • Centro Habana
  • La Habana Vieja (Old Havana)
  • Vedado’s Central Business District and urban residencies

Havana’s Points of Interest

  • Ride in a classic car
  • Walk the malecón waterfront
  • Capitolio government building
  • Museo de la Revolución
  • Sculptures such as Roberto Fabelo’s girl at Plaza Vieja/Old Square
  • Camera Obscura
  • Hotel Ambos Mundos, a Hemmingway haunt
  • Hemingway tour
  • Plaza de la Revolución with Che Guevara sculpture
  • Hotel Nacional for a mojito
  • Almendares Park, the lungs of the city

Read next:


Viñales: 2 Days or Day Trip from Havana

Escape the heat of Havana as part of day tour or for a 2-day stay in Viñales.

Viñales is part of Cuba that looks like Jurrasic Park with its lush green mogotes and plantations.

  • Hire a bike
  • Hike a cave
  • Visit the botanical
  • Lunch at a farm
  • See the tobacco plantation
  • Buy cigars
  • Chill by the pool
  • Party in a mogote

Read the full guide

Playa Larga: 2 Days

Cuba is one of the cheapest countries in the world to dive and you can do it at Playa Larga.

Not a fan of the depth, why not try snorkelling in Cuba?

The historically imporant Bay of Pigs is also in this region.

Read the full guide

You may also wish to visit Cienfuegos which is in between Playa Larga and Trinidad or can be done as a day trip from Trinidad.

Trinidad: 4 Days

Trinidad is the town with the pastel colonial buildings and hot nightlife.

  • Salsa the night away at Casa de la Musica
  • Drink an original Canchanchara cocktail
  • Climb the bell tower
  • Take a day trip to paradise aka Playa Ancon
  • Hike to a waterfall.

Read the full guide

Vinales I Cuba Travel Guide

Viñales mogote and sexy classic car


Cuba Travel Map



Personal Experience

We visited Cuba as part of a long-term travel trip so limited by our budget.

Here’s what I would do differently:

  • Download the bus times between locations. Locals do not know the times and are quick to offer their family taxi colectivo service which starts to add up at 25 USD per ride, per person
  • Take note of recommended restaurants for each stop. Some restaurants are pretty bad and even Cubans will tell you this
  • Create a loose itinerary. We are so quick to connect to 4G, you will soon see how much you rely on it since you can’t have it
  • Consider activities. I thought I’d use the time in Cuba to switch off so didn’t bother planning anything which is unlike me!
  • Renting a car? You may have to wait a few days in Havana for one to come in but having that flexibility to move around will be liberating
  • Don’t visit Cuba as part of a big multi-destination trip. Not having a kitchen starts to take its toll
  • Accept that the Cuban hustle isn’t going anywhere! Sure, it’s tiring constantly having people trying to sell to you but this two-tier economic system has allowed Cubans to survive and thrive

Final Words

Planning on going to Cuba in the near future? Whether it’s for a Cuban beach resort vacation with day trips or a backpacking tour of Cuba, you won’t experience anywhere in the world quite like Cuba.


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