Cuba is a popular tourist destination for many reasons: its natural beauty, rich culture, and Caribbean atmosphere. If you’re planning to visit Cuba in the near future, there are a few things you should that will help you prepare for your upcoming holiday.
We have seen some changes rolling out over the past few years, which means there are more requirements you need to fulfill before your trip. We are currently faced with the ever changing entry/quarantine requirements that make many reluctant to travel, but with some preparation and flexibility, travel is still possible – and enjoyable.
If you are considering a get-away to the Caribbean, Cuba is an amazing place to be! So how could you make such trip a reality?
What do you want from your holiday?
I feel that before you go anywhere the first question you need to ask yourself if – What sort of holiday am I looking for? Is it just sitting by the beach, sipping on cocktails all-day along or is it something more fun, exciting that will give you an insight into your destination, let’s you learn about the people, the culture and immerse into local life?
I am so excited to see the reports from travel agencies, travel magazines and insurance companies that their surveys found that more and more people are opting for adventure. If the pandemic taught us something it is the importance of human connection, and with the warm hospitality of the Cuban people you’d certainly be in good hands here. Don’t be surprised if you walk away from your holiday with life long friends!
The best way to travel sustainably in Cuba is through a sustainable tour company – Simply Cuba Tours being one of them. The reason for that is arranging accommodation, transport and even activities in Cuba can be a little challenging try to go it alone, having a local, licensed and knowledgeable team on the ground is worth their weight in gold. What’s even better is the insight into the daily life and all the history and colloquial stories they can share with you! Unfortunately whilst Cuba is safe, just like any other tourist destination you’ll find your hustlers, taxi scams and the like around here too, however when you travel in a small group with a guide, they will keep you well away from all these.
So why not band together with a handful of like-minded people to do more and see more of this fascinating place, than you could on your own?
What will the weather be like?
Weather is an important consideration when you are traveling to the tropics as the wet season offers dense humidity. Whilst I for one keep telling people the amazing benefits that has to your skin, it is not overly comfortable for outdoor activities like walking tours around Havana or trekking in the jungle – although you will appreciate those pristine waterwalls and crystal-clear springs a whole lot more… The wet season also means daily rains, which can wash away some of the activities you may have been looking forward to.
In Cuba the wet season runs from May till October. If you are considering nature-based activities, like birdwatching you will find that they aren’t available during this time. If you are considering diving, then bare in mind that on cloudy days your visibility may be reduced under water.
The dry season is from November till April when the days will be around 26 – 28 degrees Celsius, with the nights cooling down to sometimes even to as low as 10 degrees. So bring a jumper, just in case you are faced with a cool front on your trip.
What should you bring with you?
Simple, casual clothes are the best. Natural, breathable materials go a long way. As a sustainable traveler I don’t recommend going out to buy a whole new wardrobe for your Cuban holiday! No need to get fancy here. With the uneven surfaces and cobbled streets around many of Cuba’s amazing towns, I always advise ladies to leave the high heels home.
Apart from clothing a mask is a must, wherever you go. You’ll need it to get on a plane, and you will also need it on the ground. Hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes are definitely on the must have items. Cuba is not a place that has supermarkets around every corner so you will have to consider even the most common items you use to come with you on this trip – everything from paracetamol to ibuprofen, a travel first aid kit, toothpaste, shampoo, hygiene products, regular medication or even your most favourite snacks you cannot go without need to be packed.
If you have extra room, it’s a great idea to pack extras of those items. Your casa hosts, drivers and other service providers greatly appreciate it.
What documentation do you need to enter the country?
Each country is a little different. So before you travel the best thing to do is check your local travel advisory for most up to date requirements. We have a collection of links you can refer to here.
When it comes to vaccination, you will need to check both the entry requirements and the requirements for you to return home you wouldn’t want to get caught out! Travel to Cuba unvaccinated is possible, but the airline has to allow you to travel unvaccinated. Best to check before you book.
From some countries, you will still have to present a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours at the time of arrival. Many international airlines also request you have this just to get on the airplane these days.
Apart from testing and vaccination certificates you will need a tourist card. For Canadian travelers this is generally speaking included in their airfare – do check! – for everyone else this requires an application, you can easily lodge it here. With some airlines, like Iberia, now requiting you to upload all travel documentation it is best to prepare in advance for having a tourist card rather than trying to get it along the way.
You will also be required to complete a personal information document for Cuba online prior to travel and have the QR code sent to you. There is also a Health Declaration Form that is required and if you can’t find this elusive form online – as I couldn’t – don’t fret, you will get one given on the plane.
Most importantly, you will need travel insurance! Cuba has always required travelers to have insurance on entry, this is even more important now. Things you must be covered for are repatriation costs, hospitalisation and of course COVID-19, so make sure you check the fine print to ensure you have adequate coverage on all counts. This will be checked on arrival and if you are deemed not to have enough coverage, you may be required to purchase more at the airport.
There will also be customs form that you will need to complete on arrival to Cuba, this is handed out on the plane, so make sure you complete it as you must have it to exit the airport.
Whilst the world is meant to turn paperless, it makes your processing times a lo shorter if you have everything printed out.
What about Money?
CASH IS KING! Most importantly Euro is your best friends on this trip. Whilst Canadian Dollar and British Pounds are also accepted. US Dollar no longer has a surcharge on it, but some places will not accept it in cash form.
Make sure you only change small amounts of your currency to Cuban Pesos as you will find that foreign currency is better accepted in most places. Whenever you pay in currency, expect that the change will be in Cuban Pesos, so do ask what rate they are using before you hand over your foreign currency.
Word of caution for Australian travellers, AUD is NOT ACCEPTED, so ensure you take Euro with you.
It’s also good to have various card options as there are places that will only accept payment with a card. American Bank issued card will not work in Cuba! So prepaid travel cash cards are a good option. If you didn’t arrange one prior to your travels you can do so upon arrival in Cuba, the load will be in USD, although you cannot use USD to obtain one. They will come in set amounts of $100, $200, $500 and $1000 as it is fairly limiting. Also the exchange rate on these is abysmal, so I’d recommend limiting their use.
On the ground
Now of course getting all the way to Havana is one thing, but then what?
If you join a Simply Cuba Tour, we will have airport transfer arranged and waiting for you at your airport to take you to your accommodation. If you didn’t then you will have to make your own way. A handy tip here is to ensure that you set a price and have the correct change on you.
Remember, you will have to wear your mask everywhere. Some places will check your temperature prior to entry, but all in all it is not regimented and the rules are not going to hinder the fun to be had, so enjoy your break and have an awesome time!
Cuba is a beautiful and fascinating country, definitely different than other destinations. Make sure you are aware of the travel requirements and have everything in order before making the journey. We hope you’ll join us on one of our upcoming tours in the near future. We can help make your Cuban adventure unforgettable!