1. Book an airbnb, which shouldn't cost you that much, you can find really good ones, READ the reviews.
2. Download the app triposo, its a really good app to have when you travel, you can download the map and tips for offline use. You can also download and offline map from Google maps for the area you're staying in. I recommend doing both. No paper maps, you'll standout too much.
3. If you don't speak Spanish I recommend getting an app that works offline so that you can conversate better with the locals.
4. Try getting to the airport about 2-3 hours before your flight. When I say 2-3 hours I really mean it. It's not similar to traveling to other Caribbean countries, so for once in your life be ON TIME.
6. At the airport you'll have to get a visa, since I flew Delta I'll tell you about my experience, but I assume other airlines will be similar.
a. You'll need to fill out a reason for your travel through a form to obtain your visa, so make sure you and your party have pens!
b. The visa price is $50, so when filling it out pay attention because if you mess up you'll have to buy another one which will cost $50. So TAKE YOUR TIME!!!!!
NOTE: There are probably other ways to get your VISA, but I don't know them, but the above wasn't bad so I recommend it!
7. If possible get Euros through a cheap service in the U.S. Reason is the exchange rate will be nice and there's NO charge. If you bring USD they will charge you extra to exchange, 10%, its up to you.
Exchange money at the airport!!!! DO NOT make any deals or take any cabs without having your money exchanged. In Cuba there are 2 currencies, make sure you get the CUC. Also the lines will be long, just be patient.
Now you can also exchange at hotels and banks, but to get there you need Money in CUC, do not use any other currency to pay for any cabs.
IMPORTANT: Get small bills and change. This way it makes paying for things easier.
8. A cab fare from the airport to your Havana should cost about $20-25 CUC. Rule of thumb is $1 CUC per km. If you find cheaper They're definitely illegal. If they tell you a higher price don't take it. Talk them down because it's a hustle out here. In General before getting into any cab confirm the price first! In the city a bus ride costs $0.40, but expect the buses to be very crowded.
9. Once in town get familiar with your surroundings, find a store or location that sells bottle water, its highly recommended that you drink ONLY bottle water. It will taste different than what you're used to, but that's because it's mineral water from CUBA!
10. Since you're a tourist, you're a target. Just like on Canal in New York Buying legit products from people on the streets can be costly, remember the county is under communist rule, so for legit things I recommend buying from government controlled businesses.
Since you're allowed 50 cigars per person and 3 bottles of rum per person to take back home. I'll tell you the prices and locations on buying.
a. Hustlers are everywhere, no matter how much you try you will stand out. AGAIN Hustlers are everywhere and their main goal is to get the most out of you. They always start off with donde estas ( where are you from?)
For the illustrious Cuban Cigar people who you ask directions from will be very helpful and give you directions, my advice here is to take directions and part ways with a gracias and a smile, make no gracias your friend. If you hang around them a lot they will try to get you to buy high priced cigars that are FAKE. The fake ones are made with banana leaves. Remember buying from the government is the only way to know it's legit.
So how do you get legit cigars? Well you buy them from taking one of the excursions that you should book through the hotel which is owned by the government, you'll definitely get the better deals through this process rather than buying at an airport or store in the city and most importantly you know they're real. I was able to get a bunch of cigars from a farmer for about $20 CUC and a bunch of cigars from a government run distillery for about $25 CUC. The farmer let's you try the cigars which is pretty cool.
11. People will not rob you, based on locals I've spoken with and the people around, the government is in many cases the enemy, thats who they'll steal from and try to create a side huslte.
12. Book excursions through the hotels. They're really cheap and again you know they're legit since the government runs them. I did one where they took us to a distillery, then caves, and a tobacco plantation where you learn about Cuban cigars and what goes into making them. The area where this took place is called
13. Wear longer pants for certain excursions.
14. If you need internet access you'll have to got to one of the designated areas to buy the card. DO NOT BUY from people on the streets! ONLY buy from legit vendors, either on hotel grounds which all have their own wifi or the park areas where there will be a stand and a long long line, these are near parks.
FOOD: Tinhao Chinese Restaurant
PARTY: Pinco Blanco , La Cruzara
EXPERIENCES: Black Lives Matter, Negro Importa, Fabrica de Atre
Cuba is a land of beauty and pride with a history of terror and sorrow, but the people I've been around love their country and heritage.