Thinking of joining one of our upcoming Solo Travellers trips to Cuba? Or maybe you’ve already signed up… either way, here is some useful information to know before you go!
- Apply for your visa at least 2 months before your departure. This is a quick and easy process which costs around £25. It is best to apply a couple of months in advance in case there are any complications with your application. Apply here.
- If you are unsure whether you need any vaccinations updated, book an appointment with your doctor or travel nurse a minimum of 8 weeks before departure.
- Inform family, friends, loved ones, cats, dogs, and basically anyone else who cares, that you might not be able to get in contact with them every day. The mobile phone reception varies throughout the country and whilst WiFi is available in all the towns you’ll visit, you will need to park your butt in one of the WiFi ‘hotspots’ to use it.
What To Pack…
- Cuba is hot during the day so you will mostly need to pack for summer, having said that, you should also take a couple of jumpers with you in case it gets chilly in the evenings.
- You will need comfortable shoes (trainers will be fine), as there are a few optional activities which involve some walking and trekking.
- Mosquito repellent and plug-ins will be very useful, especially for when you get to Viñales, where you will see an increase in insects.
- Travel plug adapters – so that you can charge cameras!
- Snacks, such as nuts or breakfast bars, will come in handy as most of the ‘convenience stores’ in Cuba rarely have much of anything.
- This also goes for toiletries. Anything you think you will need – take it with you… shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, aftersun, toothpaste, sanitary products, plasters, i could go on… any basic stuff – take it!
- It is a good idea to carry paracetamol or ibuprofen with you as you might not always be able to find a decent pharmacy. And definitely take a packet of immodium… just in case.
- Packets of tissues will come in handy for when you stop off for toilet breaks during the drives. It’s best to just keep some on you at all times. Also, toilet paper goes in the bins… not down the toilets!
- The most important thing to note; if you can’t carry your own suitcase, you need to unpack some stuff as there might not always be someone around to help you. There are usually stairs in the home-stays, and you have to walk short distances with your luggage – so if you don’t absolutely need it, don’t bring it.
Before You Leave…
- Make sure you have got some cash on you to change upon arrival in Cuba. We recommend changing £250 to start with, and see how you go. There will be the opportunity to change more money or use the ATM’s in every town you visit, so bring your bank card as a back-up.
- Take GBP or EURO. Do not take USD with you as this will incur an extra 10% charge on whatever amount you are wanting to exchange.
- If you are going to take money out of the ATM’s in Cuba, please note that the conversion rate will appear in US dollars – so don’t worry, you’re not getting a terrible deal, even though that’s what it looks like!
- You will need to show your visa either when you check-in or just before you board the plane, so make sure it is easily accessible.
- Once you are through security, it is a good idea to buy a couple of bottles of water to take with you into Cuba. When you get to the airport in Havana there are no places to buy water whilst you are waiting for your bags, and it can take up to 3 hours before you are at your home-stays.
- You will need to have your passport and visa ready to show at immigration control.
- When you see a member of staff offering you an ‘arrivals form-esque’ piece of paper, take it and fill it out. You will need this to exit the airport.
- Keep mosquito repellent in your hand luggage as you may need to spray yourself whilst waiting for your bags.
- Talking of waiting for your bags… this can sometimes take a long time, so don’t panic if you don’t see your bag straight away.
- When you get your bag back, DO NOT rip off the luggage tag. They will not let you out of the airport without it.
- Our local guide will be waiting for you in arrivals holding a ‘Solo Travellers’ sign. He will show you to the CADECA where you will be able to change your GBP into CUC.
- From the airport, it is roughly a 40-minute drive to Old Havana, where you will be staying.
- When you arrive at each home-stay (also known as casas), you will need to give your passport to your hosts. They will take down your details and then ask you to sign for their records.
- The home-stays are exactly what they say on the tin; you will be staying with local families, in their homes. You will probably find that most of the hosts do not speak much English, so a Spanish dictionary would be very useful… you could even try and learn a few Spanish phrases before you go!
- The home-stays vary in size, but most have 2 or 3 rooms per house, and wherever possible, you will be put in the same homestays as others in your group.
- The home-stays will all be in a very short walking distance of each other, and sometimes you can even all end up on the same street, so don’t worry about not being in the same house as your new best pal… they won’t be far away!
- You will find that the home-stays vary from town to town, some will be slightly more basic than others, but they will always be very clean and comfortable.
- Towels will be provided in all the home-stays, but please bring your own toiletries as these are generally not given. You can also ask your hosts to borrow another towel if you planning on having a day at the beach.
- When checking-out of your home-stay, please remember to pay for any drinks you might have taken out of the fridge.
- If you are planning on taking a tour in one of the old cars around the city, we recommend walking down to the waterfront and negotiating a price there. It should be roughly 40 CUC per car for 1 hour; so if there are 4 of you, that’s only 10 each. The cars take the exact same route as the T1 Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, which also costs 10 CUC’s, and offers a better – and way cooler – experience.
- In Havana you will notice that literally every restaurant you step into will have a live band playing, and, as you would expect, this live band will, at some point, be coming round to collect tips. 50 centavos or 1 CUC is enough to keep them happy. They will also offer you their CD’s for around 10 CUC.
- You will need to keep some small change for the toilet attendants too, although this will not be necessary everywhere.
- It’s worth remembering that Cuba is a poor country with dreadful economic problems. The average salary of a Cuban worker is just 20 CUC a month, so whilst tipping for everything can get a bit repetitive, remembering this puts everything into perspective.
- As you are only staying in Santa Clara for one night, you could always pack a small overnight bag and leave the rest of your luggage on the bus, to save you from carrying your larger bag around.
- As you have 3 days in Trinidad, you will be offered some optional activities, including snorkelling, trekking to a number of different waterfalls, and a day trip to Playa Ancon. Your guide will go through these with you in more detail, but please bear in mind you will need a little extra cash for these excursions.
- Trinidad is also a good place to get some laundry done; you are halfway through the trip, and will be here long enough for it to dry! Just ask your hosts at your home-stay.
- Trinidad, being a more touristic town, has better restaurant options, a few small supermarkets, and banks and CADECA’s all within a short walking distance of each other.
- As you are in Trinidad for a couple of days, it might be better to buy a large, 5 litre bottle of water to keep in your room and refill smaller bottles from that. This will work out cheaper for you, and creates less waste.
- As with Santa Clara, you are only staying in Cienfuegos for one night, so packing a small overnight bag might be less hassle.
- The drive from Cienfuegos to Viñales is the longest during the whole trip. You will spend most of the day on the road, so make sure you have something to keep you entertained on the bus. Regular stops will be made for toilet breaks and lunch.
- You will have some free time in Viñales, and we recommend doing a short trek through the tobacco fields. The treks are done in the morning and cost around 10 CUC. It is very easy walking.
- We also highly recommend having dinner at the Organic Farm whilst you’re in Viñales. It is one of the most beautiful places to watch the sunset. If you are interested, ask your guide to book ahead for you.
Restaurants & Food…
- Do not fear – the food is not as bad as everyone says. Whilst you can get stung with average food occasionally, if you do a bit of restaurant research before you go, you’ll be fine. Your guide will also offer advice on the best places to eat – so listen to them! They know what’s up.
- That said, I would still recommend carrying a small bottle of hot sauce around with you at all times… just in case.
- Vegetarian options are available in most restaurants; albeit fairly unimaginative vegetarian options, they are vegetarian options no less.
- Prices in most places are very reasonable, and you can expect to pay around 10-12 CUC for a meal and a drink.
- One last thing… food can take a while to come out of the kitchen. Whilst this is not the case in every restaurant, it is in some. On a positive note, it does mean that everything that’s coming out of the kitchen is made fresh… just make sure you’re already sat down ordering before you get too hungry!
- So. WiFi. If you think you can’t handle a digital detox for your time in Cuba, fear not, WiFi is available in all the towns you will visit.
- First, you will need to buy a WiFi card. Your guide will point out where you can get these, but they are usually located next to the WiFi ‘hotspots’ (your guide will also point out where these are).
- Next, you will need to connect to the WiFi network within the WiFi hotspot and enter the username and password on the WiFi card.
- And then bam, you’re in! The first webpage you see will let you know how many hours, minutes, or seconds you have left on your card.
- When you’re done, do not forget to log out…otherwise your precious minutes will be gone and you’ll have to buy another card.
- In addition to the WiFi hotspots, you can hit up a fancy hotel, buy a drink and use their WiFi – but you will still need the card.
- Costs wise, you can expect to pay around 1.50-2 CUC per hour.
- Please come to Cuba with an open mind. Chances are that you will find things very different here, so coming with an open mind will enable you to enjoy the experience of exploring this fascinating country a lot more.
- Occasionally it may be necessary to make small changes to the itinerary during the trip, but the tour company will do their best to try and keep it as advertised, and will always keep you informed of any changes.
- Don’t forget to save some CUC’s at the end for tipping your guide and driver – taking an envelope or two is also a good idea!
If you haven’t already, get yourself booked onto our next trip to Cuba and go and see what all the fuss is about!