Traveling to a foreign country alone takes courage and organizing a solo trip can often be a daunting task. Cuba remains mostly undiscovered by the outside world and offers intrepid travelers the journey of a lifetime. This is especially true for daring solo explorers looking for a unique adventure to call their own.
While creating your itinerary for your solo trip to Cuba, there are some tips you need to know for an incredible time. From getting around with ease to authentic Cuban experiences, we’ve gathered 5 tips to ensure you have an unforgettable vacation. Hopefully, this makes the planning process easier for your upcoming solo trip.
Learn Basic Spanish
In general, knowing at least a few common Spanish words and phrases will benefit you greatly while in Cuba. This becomes more important when traveling through Cuba alone. You will have a difficult time navigating the country or making new friends without any knowledge of the local language. Also, knowing a little Spanish will prevent you from sticking out like a soar thumb.
Before your trip, practice simple words and phrases that will help you move around, ask for instructions, or order food. If you have time to take an introductory Spanish course, that’s even better and will allow you to have some communication with locals. As a backup, bring a Spanish translation book or a simple language translation device.
Stay in Casa Particulares
When you don’t know anyone in the country, booking Casa Particulares will go a long way in Cuba. Casa Particulares are private homestays that offer one of the most authentic experiences in Cuba. Instead of staying at expensive hotels or resorts, you get to spend nights in a local’s house. You’ll be directly supporting locals, and you get to explore Cuban neighborhoods in a way the average tourist can’t.
Your hosts can help you in exchange by providing guidance once you continue your journey through the country. If you’re unsure of directions to a specific location, they might offer advice you won’t find in any guidebook. This can make things much easier when booking tours, finding taxi rides or using the correct public transportation.
Dine at Paladare
Paladares are similar to Casa Particulares in that they’re privately-owned businesses. The word translates to “palate,” but they refer to family-run restaurants in Cuba. While Paladares first emerged decades ago, the government fiercely regulated the first entrepreneurs. Between oversight, heavy taxes, strict regulations, and forced closures, it remained difficult for Paladares to flourish around the country.
Fortunately, economic reforms eased the restrictions, and restaurant owners gained more freedom to open and modify their businesses. In the past decade, tons of Paladares have opened across the country, and it has transformed the food scene. Most restaurants serve traditional Cuban food but don’t be surprised to see each place add a unique flair to their menu. You’ll find innovative chefs whipping up Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and other international dishes for customers. When you’re alone in Cuba, dining exclusively at Paladares supports local businesses and lets you taste authentic Cuban meals.
Explore the Cuban Nightlife
While you should always be aware of your surroundings and practice street smarts, Cuba is generally a safe country for tourists. Minor crimes, such as pickpockets and scams, are common but don’t let that be an excuse to ignore the nightlife. Cubans love to party, and dancing is the theme you’ll see in nearly every bar and club. Don’t be surprised to find salsa bars, jazz clubs, and random rumba sessions filling the streets of Havana.
Many late-night joints throw in a drink with the cover charge, and the cocktail concoctions are bursting with flavor. Whether you prefer daiquiris or mojitos, you’ll be ready to bust a move on the dance floor. You’ll have lots of chances to party with the locals and take some new dance moves home with you.
Havana is an incredible city and a must-see on your vacation, but there’s much more Cuba has to offer than its colorful capital. Unless your trip is only for one or two days, then you have to explore other amazing places on the island. You’ll have a more adventurous trip by using public buses, taxis, and rental bikes to move around the country.
Even if you only join one excursion outside Havana, you won’t regret seeing Cuba’s beautiful nature or cultural treasures. Since you’re traveling alone, joining a group tour is a fantastic way to discover more sights around Cuba. Some of the best group tours in Cuba take you to incredible places such as Trinidad, Viñales Valley, Santa Clara, and the Bay of Pigs. This will help you make lots of new friends also visiting Cuba, and you’ll likely meet some interesting locals.