Going to a destination for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience for many travelers. You could spend hours researching fun activities and scheduling each day, but outdated logistics can turn your trip into a fiasco.
If you’re nervous about your first time on this Caribbean island, we got you covered with some valuable tips. Take a deep breath, relax, and save these five pieces of advice that will come in handy for your first trip to Cuba.
Spend the Night in Casa Particulares
The best decision you could make for your trip to Cuba is to ditch the luxury, all-inclusive resorts and stay in casa particulares. Similar to bed and breakfasts, casa particulares provide the most authentic Cuban stay while you’re on the island. Residents open their homes to travelers, and you feel more like a guest than strictly a paying customer.
Not only will you get to chat with locals in their homes, but you’ll be able to ask any questions about the country. These private homestays are also more affordable than hotels and resorts, saving you money during your vacation.
Traveling is always more fulfilling when you interact with the locals and get a glimpse of their everyday lives. Casa particulares are a fantastic way to learn about Cuban culture, explore the neighborhoods, and directly support the Cuban people.
Dine at Paladars
Cuba has witnessed a revival in its food scene thanks to the resourcefulness of its culinary geniuses. While previous generations only had the option of government-run restaurants, the new concept of paladars has reshaped Cuban gastronomy.
Paladars are privately-owned eateries, and the menus are way more innovative than the typical Cuban fare of rice and bean dishes. The country’s most talented chefs add their own flare to popular meals, and some transformed their homes into private restaurants.
Chefs often have a difficult time getting their hands on ingredients and menus are constantly evolving based on what’s available. This makes eating at paladars a unique journey for your taste buds, and you never know what delicious meal Cuba’s creative chef might whip up.
Know that Cuba has Two Currencies
Cuba has two official currencies, and it’s critical to understand each of them to avoid falling victim to local scams. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is used mostly by tourists and locals generally use the Cuban Peso (CUP). Tourist purchases such as hotels, attractions, and restaurants are paid in CUC, but it’s better to use CUP when buying items at a street vendor or market.
The CUC is comparable to the U.S. Dollar and is worth about 25 times more than the CUP. If you’re not aware of what each currency looks like, it’s easy to be tricked into using the more valuable CUC to buy cheaper things. To know if you have CUC or CUP bills, remember that CUC bills have monuments on them, and CUP bills feature the faces of prominent Cuban figures.
There have been rumors about getting rid of the CUC in recent years, but an exact timetable remains uncertain.
Always Have Cash
Sticking to money-saving tips in Cuba, you should never rely 100 percent on plastic for your purchases around the country. Similar to other places, cash is used more frequently than credit cards or checks. Many businesses only accept cash, and you shouldn’t go anywhere without having some paper in your wallet.
Although you’ll have no difficulty finding ATMs in Havana or touristy resorts, finding a place to withdrawal cash in rural areas is close to impossible. Whenever you see a cash machine, stock up in case you need more funds for your trip. Just make sure to store your cash in a secure location to avoid pickpockets.
There are often problems using foreign cards, and some Cuban banks have difficulty processing transactions with other currencies. Plus, most casa particulares and paladars don’t accept credit card payments, and not having cash will limit your ability for authentic experiences.
Book the Right Tour Guides
Whether you wish to join a group tour or want a private Cuban guide, booking tours will take your Cuba vacation to the next level. However, it’s crucial to hire professional and responsible guides to provide an unforgettable adventure.
There are lots of guides available to show you around, but some are only looking to make a quick buck. For a safe, enjoyable time exploring Cuba, hire legitimate guides with a solid reputation. Although many guides will offer you tours on the street, stick to guides that are proven to be reliable.
Locally Sourced Cuba is a fantastic option for a wide range of tours to get the most out of your first trip to Cuba. From Havana day tours to family vacations, guides are organized, insightful, and boast fun personalities. Whatever sights you wish to see, the staff goes out of their way to teach you about the local culture.