How to plan a trip to Cuba – how to design your own trip

Good morning travellers!
You are starting to plan your trip to Cuba, so, take a deep breath and don’t panic: even if planning two weeks Cuba is harder than for any other trip, I swear, it’ll worth your time!

Plan a trip to Cuba: do I need a tarjeta turistica? (the Cuban visa)

Apply for yor visa – tarjeta turistica – is the first step to take when you start to plan your trip to Cuba; the tourist visa is, indeed, mandatory to enter the country and it can be released only for tourist or leisure purposes.

plan a trip to cuba - cuban visa

You can apply for your Cuban visa:
• At the nearest Cuban Consulate
• On line agencies

I bought mine for something like 20 euro and they delivered my visa straight at my place within two days.

Note: travelling from Montral to l’Avana – we had a stopover in Canada – the hostess gave complimentary visas to passengers asking for them.

Beside that, I suggest you to buy your tarjeta before jumping on the plane – just to be sure you’ll be allowed to visit Cuba.

NB: if you are American I don’t really know how it works for you guys, I’m very sorry.

Plan a trip to Cuba: do I have to pay a fee before leaving the country?

If you google this question you will be told you should pay a 25$ fee before leaving Cuba but from what I saw last year nobody has to pay that anymore.

How many cigars can I bring with me? And what about rum bottles?
Every passenger is allowed to board two bottles of rum – it’s not specified how many litres of alcohol, they just count the bottles – and 50 cigars.
Some people say that, sometimes, during safety checks, they could ask you a receipt for rum and cigars. When we left Cuba nobody asked us any receipts beside we were boarding both cigars and rum.

plan a trip to cuba - old cars

Plan a trip to Cuba: do I need a health insurance?

Healthcare in Cuba is completely free and public and it’s famous to be one of the best in the world (that’s one of the reason why American people often try to go there to be treated!).

Cuba has some of the best doctors in the world, as well, but there are a lot of problems about medicine supply – because of the embargo – and that’s why HAVE A HEALTH INSURANCE is mandatory to travel to Cuba.

Experience: During my trip to Cuba I had to go to the International Hospital several times, I’ve been on the ambulance and I had to buy some medicine. I spent around 300 CUC for it and as soon as I got back home I’ve been refunded by my insurance (which costed only 20 box).

Note: If you want to do something good for Cuban people bring with you some medicine  and leave them to the people you’ll meet during the trip (I know it looks like charity but they’ll really appreciate it).

plan a trip to cuba - old cars

Plan a trip to Cuba: did you know there are two different type of currency in Cuba?

Someone maybe already know that, someone else probably not.
In Cuba there are two different type of currency: Pesos National and Pesos Convertible (CUC). The first one is the Cuban official currency while the second one was made only for tourists.

This isn’t everything.

Every shop, restaurant or bus can choose which of the two currencies apply to you. You, as a tourist, will mostly use CUC but, if you want, you can ask for some pesos national at the “Cadeca”* (casa de cambio) and use them to buy small things such as street food, coffee or similar stuff.

Be aware of the most common and easy scam: when you pay with CUC be sure you will receive CUC change and not CUP one.

1 CUC is 1 US$, 1 CUP is 0.04$

*Make sure you only change your money at the Official Cadeca.

plan a trip to cuba - old cars

Plan a trip to Cuba: how much does a two weeks trip cost?

First, I have a terrible new: a trip to Cuba is definitely more expensive than a trip to South Est Asia. The good new is that a trip to Cuba is cheaper than a trip to USA or Europe (oh well it depends from where you are living).

• Rent a car is crazily expensive: you were probably dreaming about you and your partner driving one of the famous Cuban vintage car up and down the country… and yes, you can do that! But only if you have a quite big budget. When we checked the prices they asked us more than 1000$ for a week of rent (that’s why we decided to move around Cuba catching taxi particulares).

• Casas Particulares: this is absolutely the best way to sleep in Cuba!
Sleep in the old colonial house allows you to feel that marvellaus vintage atmosphere that you were dreaming about and, of course, is the cheapest solution to sleep in Cuba.

Furthermore, rent a room from a cuban family is an amazing way to make the best from your experience in terms of human contact, you’ll get the chance to know real cuban life. We’ve always paid around 40-50CUC for a double room and a huge wonderful breakfast (yes this is way more expensive than the typical cheap hostels in Thailand!).

• Food: food can be incredibly cheap or infinitive expensive. It’ll all depend on you and on the place you will choose to eat in (you can have a whole meal for 5$ in a local place or for 150 in the most tourist ones, so take a look at the menu before sitting).

• Relax on the cayos: here we are to the most expensive voice of your trip. Sleep on the cayos is expensive because there are only resorts with all inclusive formula.
It’s up to you if go there or not, but remember that the cheapest room in the cheapest resort costs around 150$/night.

Then you’ll have to pay a taxi or bus ride to go and come back from there and some excursions on the cayo (or the motorbike rent at least).

plan a trip to cuba - vinales

Plan a trip to Cuba: how to move around Cuba?

As I wrote before, rent a car in Cuba is more expensive than it is in other places in the world and that’s the reason why we had to figure out something else to move around.

Basically you can choose between two different options:

• Bus: when I realized that I couldn’t afford to rent a car I was absolutely sure I’d had to move around Cuba by bus. There are few bus companies and of course they are always absolutely full booked.

We bought a bus tickets from l’Avana to Vinales but we never used them since we had thousands of people waiting before us.

You are probably thinking about booking a ticket with large notice but unfortunately in Cuba it doesn’t work like that at all: you’ll have your seat if you’ll be the first one arriving at the bus station hours before leaving time. That’s it.

plan a trip to cuba - cayo santa maria

• Taxi Particulares – shared taxies: here’s the answer to the question “how can I move around Cuba?”.

With many taxi particulares.

Not only they are cheap and you can book them with just one or two days notice but they also have that incredible appeal that only Cuban cars have.
Forget our fast, brand new cars and move your mind back up to 100 years ago (I swear I’ve been on a car from 1918!!!!) to beautiful and colorful American cars, yes those ones you’d love to take a picture with.

I have to warn you! it’ll take hours to do 100km but the experience will worth the “waste of time”.

To book a taxi particular ask to your casa particular owner and he/she will have a friend/cousin/brother ready to take you wherever you want; in alternative you can find swarm of them close to viazul stations.

NB: always negotiate your price to make a good deal, I’ve always paid the same amount I’d have paid If I had chosen to travel with Viazul bus.


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