Cuba is on everyone’s bucket list. And it has every reason to be. Every picture you see is of pastel coloured houses and vintage cars. Havana is bursting with things to see and do whilst Trinidad de Cuba and Varadero offer a more quieter scene and tranquil beaches. But there are some things I wish I had known before going.
6 Things To Know Before Going To Cuba
It is actually expensive
You are a tourist. And even if you speak Spanish, they still know you are a tourist and will, therefore, charge you more. It’s just the way it is. It sucks, but a coffee in Havana will cost you the same as a coffee in Barcelona. The internet will also set you back €5 for an hour.
You can use Euros
Because the prices are all the same, you can sometimes pay in Euros. So whilst it is still useful to exchange some money. Don’t panic if you run out and can’t find an exchange house. Speaking of which, you can change Canadian and Australian Dollars and British Pounds pretty easy. US Dollars, however, come with a 10% commission fee and can sometimes be tricky to change back.
You’ll Draw Male Attention
Depending on who you’re travelling with, you may or may not experience this. If you have a big, good looking guy by your side, you probably won’t draw any attention. We were two, blonde girls. And probably every male we passed shouted something to us. It’s nothing offensive, usually just “hola, guapa” but it got very annoying. As much as I love being called beautiful, there is only so much I can take.
Milk Is Impossible To Find
You may laugh reading this, but we stayed in an apartment we found on AirB&B which came with coffee and sugar (being British, we bought our own tea bags) but no milk. They also didn’t have milk in the 20 stores we visited. It’s such a small thing but it actually really bothered us. Moral of the story: bring supplies of the stuff you know you’ll want. The food shops only stock Rum, rice, beans and washing up liquid. All the other essentials are pretty hard to come by, so pack extra.
The ATMs Don’t Work
By the last few days of our trip, we were getting desperate for cash. So when we found an ATM that took Visa and Mastercard in Trinidad de Cuba, we thought our prayers had been answered. Sadly, it didn’t accept any of our cards! A fellow tourist, who also tried the machine, told us that none of the ATMs he tried around Cuba had worked. Before going, check with your bank to make sure your card can be used in Cuba or double your budget.
There isn’t even the option to pay card in any restaurants and attractions so plan like your plastic isn’t an option.
Print Out Confirmations
For our first bus ride from Havana to Varadero, the ticket assistant told us that we needed to print out our confirmation. Even though we had the email on our phones with the reference number and names that match our passports, she still refused to issue the ticket, telling us she needed a printout. We had to pay again to get on the bus. At our next bus terminal, Varadero to Trinidad de Cuba a few days later, we had the printout but decided to see if we did need it. We didn’t. He was more than happy to get the information from our phones. So now I carry copies of my confirmations where ever I go to avoid being scammed again.
I won’t lie. I very much have a love/hate relationship with that holiday. On the one hand, it was amazing to see and experience. There are endless amounts of stuff to do, and the beaches are incredible. But it just seemed like such an effort. You couldn’t even stop and check the internet for directions or confirm the location and opening/closing times of places.
Has anyone else been to Cuba? How did you find it?