Traveling to Cuba
Having just successfully completed Myths and Mountains’ first group trip to Cuba, I have a short list of five things to pack for your adventure to one of the most popular destinations in the world today.
1. Lots Of Cash
Cash is king when you travel to Cuba. That’s because you can’t use your debit or credit cards for everyday purchases like meals or drinks. You’ll also need cash to buy tickets to the Buena Vista Social Club and rides in one of the thousands of colorful classic American cars that roam the streets of Havana.
Your best bet is to bring a minimum of about $100 a day for essentials beyond your hotel and breakfast. You can exchange US dollars to CUCs (pronounced “cooks”) at your hotel. ($100 bills are accepted.) In February 2016, the current exchange rate is .87 CUCs = $1 US dollar.
Some tour guides prefer tips in US dollars, but others, such as local experts who take you to museums, and bus drivers, may prefer CUCs. Don’t hesitate to ask what is preferred.
2. All Your Toiletries… And Extras To Give Away
Bring all the toiletries you may need with you. Finding replacements for shampoo and soap isn’t difficult, but toothbrushes and toothpaste, mosquito repellant and razors and can be hard to find or very expensive. You can give any extras you don’t use to grateful locals.
Don’t forget a small roll of toilet paper. Some public restrooms don’t offer toilet paper, and if they do, you may have to tip the matron to give it to you before using the facilities.
Pack a small umbrella, too. Surprisingly, umbrellas are quite expensive in Cuba, if you can find one at all.
3. A Small Bag
Large purses, tote bags and backpacks are not allowed at many museums and visitor sites. Pack a small bag to hold your bare essentials – for example, your cash and phone if you use it to take pictures or a small camera. Most tours include transportation with drivers who stay behind with the bus for security, so it’s safe to leave items on board at stopping points.
4. Converters For Your Electric Devices
Pack a converter that uses two round plugs for 220V outlets. If you do use a CPAP machine for your sleep apnea, consider bringing a long extension cord since electrical plugs may not be located near the bed. Finding converters and extension cords in Cuba is notoriously difficult.
Cuba has always welcomed travelers from all over the world, but large numbers of Americans have only recently begun traveling there. So until now Cubans have never had to deal with the high level of service and the expectations of that many Americans have when traveling.
For example, you’ll see clean bathrooms, but they may not have toilet seats or toilet paper. Doors may not lock or close properly. You may sit down to dinner and have a mojito in front of you within seconds, but another 30 minutes may pass before water or another drink is offered to you during the meal.
Bring your patience to Cuba and keep in mind that the daily challenges of life for most Cubans before you become upset or impatient. We promise you, any inconveniences you experience will be far outweighed by the warm smiles and hugs you’ll receive from your new friends in Cuba.