Most of my other travel guides point out history, things to do, places to eat…etc. Since Cuba is a little more...labor intensive...to travel to first off here is a list of links to more in-depth articles about planning your trip to Cuba.
Top tips for traveling to Cuba
My costs for Cuba – a budget breakdown
Staying in Casa Particulars – How to do it and what to expect (coming soon)
US money in Cuba – what you need to know
Do I need a Visa to go to Cuba?
Those articles above will give you the most frequent answered questions when it comes to planning a Cuba trip and honestly it seems like a lot, and that it is SO much more difficult to go to Cuba compared to another Caribbean island but it is completely worth it and not that bad once you figure it all out.
As always if you have ANY questions about planning your trip don’t be afraid to comment or email me! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Anyyyywayyyy lets get to the guide!
- Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean but only the second most populous (Hispaniola is the most populous)
- The country has two currencies: The CUP and the CUC
- According to the WHO Cuba is "known the world over for its ability to train excellent doctors and nurses who can then go out to help other countries in need"
Best way to get there
Getting to Cuba from the US has been made exponentially easier in the last couple of months. As of 2017 these airlines fly to Cuba: Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue, Silver Airlines, Spirit, Southwest, Sun Country Airlines and United.
Most flights originate from south Florida and New York and fly in to Havana. You can also find flights from Philadelphia (Frontier), Chicago (Frontier), Charlotte (American), LA (Alaskan, United), Minneapolis (Sun Country), and Houston (United).
HavanaAir also currently flies from Miami and Key West.
Cruise to Havana: Carnival, Haimark Line
Small Sailboat: Adventure Smith Explorations
Ferries: Four ferry operators currently from Key West to Havana. Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando are still waiting on a green light for their own ferries.
How to get around
Important Tip: All forms of taxis don’t have a meter. No matter how far you are going always negotiate the price BEFORE you leave. In my budget post, I went over what the typical prices look like in Cuba.
In the city:
Vintage Cars: Obviously as a tourist the vintage American cars are (most likely) your favorite and preferred way to travel. Luckily they aren’t much more expensive than the normal taxis. In Cuba they are just another car!
Cycle Taxis and small Coco Cars: First off Coco Cars look like colorful tut tuts and both are another option for short distance travel.
Taxi Collectivos or Shared taxis: These are a bit harder to navigate; they only run on certain routes. Think of them as small buses. If you manage to figure it out they are SO CHEAP (like $.50 a ride) but I agree it is confusing.
Private Cars: Of course the most expensive but you can negotiate with your driver to stop along the way at other sightseeing opportunities.
Taxi Collectivos or Shared taxis: As well as running in the city they also run from city to city and this service is MUCH EASIER to figure out. We used one to get back from Vinales and it was cheap and efficient. Infotur kiosks and shops can help you find the pickup points and let you know what the exact prices are.
City Bus: The cheapest option for travel but very packed and no air conditioning. They run in the city and city to city.
Viazul Bus: The tourist bus that comes with A/C. Hallelujah! They run between multiple cities and cost around $4-5 per hour of journey. They take longer than hiring private cars of course. For example Havana to Varadero is about 2 hours by private car and about 3 and a half hours by Viazul bus.
Should you stay in a hotel or a Casa Particular when in Cuba? That is the number one question I got when I arrived back in the US. I have a whole post on Casa’s (coming soon) for a more in-depth answer to this question. If you are going to stay at a hotel here are my picks…
Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Pricey but worth it. Their garden overlooks the Malecon and is perfect for watching the beautiful sunsets each day. In Central Havana.
Iberostar Parque Central
Right in the middle of Old Havana and a perfect location for taking in all the city sights.
Trips outside Havana
A valley with a National Forest to explore via horseback or hiking. Plus organic farms where you can see first hand typical growing of tobacco. Lastly, the town itself is beautiful to wander through.
3 Hours from Havana.
22 km of white sandy beaches and perfect green palm trees. Resort town but surprisingly cheap food and drinks – we stayed in a Casa while there.
2 hours from Cuba.
I did not have the chance to go but have heard it is one of the most beautiful towns in all of Cuba. A UNESCO world heritage site.
Another awesome city that I heard very good things about