Planning your quintessential Cuban experience

There’s more to the tropical Caribbean island of Cuba than gorgeous beaches and colourful antique cars.

An economic embargo had stopped Americans from visiting the country until recently. Now, travellers from all over the world can experience the unique culture, history and cuisine of Cuba.

How to get to Cuba

Cuba has two main airports – Havana and Santiago de Cuba. While more direct flights are being offered, many travellers fly in from gateway cities such as Cancun and Mexico City. With the ongoing COVID situation still providing uncertainty, you may need to hold off booking your trip to Cuba for a while. But that just gives you even more time to plan and save for it!

All travellers need to pay for a tourist visa. This costs $20 (or $50 if you’re from the US). You can do this at the departure airport or online when you book your flights.

Getting around Cuba

When it comes to exploring the island freely, renting a car is your best option. For a medium-sized car, you can spend between $80-$120 CUC per day. It’s not cheap, but it’s very convenient.

Otherwise, you can opt for local transport and taxis. The main bus line is called Viazul and tickets often sell out 1-2 days in advance so it's good to have a plan in place, as well as a backup just in case you miss out.

Taxis are plentiful in the cities (Havana, Varadero and Trinidad) but aren’t as common in the less touristy areas. There’s a mix of modern and classic cars, but you’ll pay a bit more for the latter. Be sure to ask your hotel concierge which taxi company to go for. Rideshare services are still few and far between.

Where to stay in Cuba

If you’re looking for a swanky, resort-style holiday, you should look at staying in either Havana or Varadero. The former is a bustling city with many of the well-known chain hotels, while the latter has more of the all-inclusive resort offerings on the island.

If you’re after something a little more authentic, the accommodation options of choice are called casas particulares. These local guesthouses are a mix between homesteads and Airbnbs. The government allows some residents to rent out their spare rooms for extra income, which stimulates the local economy and gives travellers an experience closer to that of a local. There’s no online booking portal, however. You simply wander the neighbourhood you want to stay in and knock on the door of any house that dons one of the special signs that looks a bit like an anchor. Expect to pay between $25-$50 CUC including breakfast.

Food to try in Cuba

In all honesty, Cuba is not known for its cuisine. You’ll find plenty of cheap eats and easy snacks, but if you want a nice sit-down meal, you’re going to pay a steep price for it.

Cuban sandwiches and pizzas are perfect lunch options. You’ll find them along the street in paladares. You’ll only need a few dollars to cover the cost of lunch.

Closer to the coast, you can find cheap seafood restaurants serving big plates of prawns, crab, fish and lobster from $10.

The restaurants in the tourist areas are purpose built to cater to the holiday market, so you can expect to pay the tourist price. But for a nice view and a nice meal, it’s often worth it!

To wash it all down, treat yourself to a mojito (or three). At $2 a pop, it’s easy to get carried away.

How expensive is Cuba?

Compared to many of the neighbouring islands in the region, Cuba is fairly inexpensive but it’s still a step up from other parts of Latin and Central America. The reason for this is mostly because the country has established a currency just for tourists called the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), so you’re likely to be paying tourist prices most of the time. In Cuba, cash is still king so don’t expect to be able to tap-and-go.

So, have I convinced you to take the plunge and plan a trip to Cuba? If so, let's have a chat about making it happen. As a fully accredited travel agent, I can have your dream trip locked in with no trouble at all. Get in touch!