Traveling to Cuba is a trip 1,333 miles below the ocean’s surface: a utopian, Communist island where beaches and nightclubs are lined with French restaurants instead of McDonald’s and the American flag. Cuba has recently become one of the most popular destinations among American tourists, and you’ve probably seen many reports and advice on what to expect before you visit. The reality is much different than what you’ve heard, however. Cuba has a huge history of political turmoil, with Communism being the one constant for most of its history.
Cuba is a country that is rapidly becoming more and more attractive to visit by tourists. While the communist-led government has managed to maintain a travel embargo and keep the country off most people’s radars, the Caribbean Island is known for its fascinating culture, vibrant nightlife, and beautiful landscapes.
With that, here are the important things that you should know when traveling to Cuba:
- Cubans are stereotyped as warm and welcoming, so it’s not surprising that more and more Americans are visiting Cuba every year. Although the U.S. embargo prohibits most U.S. citizens from legally traveling to Cuba, there are still many ways to visit. Plus, even if you can’t travel to Cuba, it’s still worth reading about the country since Cuba’s history and culture is fascinating.
- It’s not quite as simple as packing your bags and heading off to Cuba, but you do need to be aware of what happens when you arrive in Cuba. For one, you’ll need a visa. If you’re going to stay for a specific amount of time, you’ll need to submit a Cuban visa application online beforehand. The process to obtain a Cuban visa is a little different from the usual application process, so you’ll need to prepare ahead of time. A Cuban visa is valid for 90 days from the day of departure you have chosen, and it can only be used for a single trip to Cuba.
- If you’re planning on traveling to Cuba, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash to avoid any hassles. This does not mean that you need to carry lots of cash, but it is always better to have some extra money on you, especially when traveling to Cuba.
- Cuba is an island with warm weather and white sand beaches, lots of exotic plants, friendly people, and of course, a very particular lifestyle. However, before you rush off to your departure airport, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. This is a country with strict rules, and you may not have the freedom of movement you were expecting.
- When traveling to Cuba, it is a good idea to prepare yourself ahead of time for a less-than-ideal experience. This is especially true if you are visiting in Spring and Summer since it is extremely hot there. The best way to save yourself from plenty of discomforts is to go prepared.
- Finding a reliable, affordable, and comfortable public transportation system can be a hassle for visitors in Cuba, and it’s not something that you should overlook when you’re there. While there are plenty of taxis that will take you anywhere, it’s important to know that some things that you might take for granted in other countries are not available in Cuba. For example, you can’t take your own drinks on the bus. You can’t smoke on the bus. And lastly, you can’t watch movies or charge your phone on the bus.
- It’s true that the internet in Cuba is pretty limited, but that doesn’t mean there’s no internet access when you travel to Cub In fact, there is plenty of internet access in Cuba, but it’s not always reliable. Plans are quite expensive, and it’s only available in certain cities. If you’re comfortable with the Internet in Cuba, you can use it to check your email, search for a job, or listen to music.
- In Cuba, tipping is not a ritual but a requirement. If you have a guide, driver, or tour guide and they help you with your trip, they will require payment for their services. If you travel on your own, tipping is also a necessity. You may not get a tip, but you definitely have to pay. In general, tipping is expected at hotels. If you stay at a hotel with a rooftop pool, buffet, or other amenities, the hotel may offer breakfast, but they will not provide a buffet unless you tip.
While Cuba remains a popular destination for many travelers, not all destinations are the same. Cuba is still a developing country, and like anywhere else, there are some things you need to know before you go.