I recently returned from my illegal/non-illegal trip to Cuba and wanted to share some necessary travels tips! If you've been wanting to go to Cuba now is the perfect time. JetBlue recently announced that they will be offering charter flights directly to Cuba from New York starting in July, and more airlines will follow suit.
First things first. Cuba is a very mysterious, beautiful place who's purity has been preserved over the years. I don't know how much longer that will last due to the rekindled relations with America, so if you want to see the non-American influenced Cuba I suggest you go asap!
I would advise you download an app that allows you to practice Spanish. My Spanish is sub par, but I picked it up very quickly and by the end of my trip was able to have basic conversations in Spanish. About 99% of the encounters I had were in Spanish, but don't let a language barrier stop you from seeing Cuba. Cubans are very friendly and will try their best to help you and communicate with you.
As far as safety is concerned, Cuba is the SAFEST Latin country to travel throughout. There was never a moment where I felt unsafe. I booked my ticket from NY to Cuba with a stop in Panama. At JFK I had to fill out a paper expressing my reason(s) for going to Cuba. So simple. Check off 1 of the 12 options that are legally allowed for travel and keep it moving. In Panama I purchased my visa (have American dollars on you) for $20 then boarded the plane to Cuba. Once I arrived in Cuba, I was stopped,asked my reasoning for visitng and my profession then they let me go onto immigrations. The trip was sooooo smooth and easy. I feel like the regulations are so broad and can be loosely interpreted so don’t worry about going. Get to Cuba before major changes start to take place which I predict will be in the next year or so.
I would recommend traveling with at least one other person. I think Cuba is more enjoyable with others & it helps cut costs. A week is not enough time to see Cuba! Go for at least two weeks if time permits. Cuba operates on two currencies: the CUC and the National Moneda (Cuban Pesos). It’s hard to find places that blatantly express that the accept the national money but search around as you will save lots of money. I bought a smoothie for 40 cents and the most amazing ice-cream for 12 cents.
Stay in a Casa Particular. The Cuban government allows home owners to rent out rooms in their homes and this is the best way to ensure you get a true Cuban experience while saving tons of money. Casa Particulars are Cuba’s version of AirBnB (even though AirBnB has recently expanded their services to Cuba…).
In your Casa you can bargain with the home owners for how much you will be charged a night. Most range on average from $20-$25 CUC. You can find them for cheaper and more expensive it just depends on what you like. Your host family will give you advice on places to see, arrange excursions and even Casas in other Providences for your travel.
They offer an amazing variety of breakfast from plates of fruit, bread, omelets, anything you want. For $4 I was able to get a large plate of fruit, bread with marmalade, an omelet, fresh fruit juice and more. So worth it and you won’t be needing lunch!
If you plan on traveling to other providences you can either arrange a casa as soon as you arrive (there is a plethora), or you can have one arranged in advance. Most homeowners have a network of friends/family in other cities who will host you.
Hopefully you find this information useful & get to Cuba before a major American influence does!
If you have any questions about Cuba/ my trip don't hesitate to ask!