Cuba Si? Travel Tricks!
We just returned from a family vacation to Cuba. I have now been 4 times and each of my visits have been very different. Travelling to Cuba when your twenty is so different from travelling when you are double this age and have a family in tow! At twenty, I wasn’t focused on food or sleep but rather drinking and partying. Today, things are quite opposite and food/sleep are essential.
Cuba is a cheap and cheerful place to travel. It is very different than any other vacation destination.
- Cuba is communist. What does this mean? Access to a variety of products, food and basic necessities is very limited especially for its residents. It is pretty much the same for travelers. Meals at resorts often lack flavor and variety.
- Cubans are so grateful and gracious because of the hardships that they endure everyday. They are appreciative of tips and especially like receiving goods. Things like shampoo, toothpaste, razors, cup-a-soup, shoes and socks are so hard to come by. Upon our recent family vacation, we befriended a lovely server who told us that she only made twenty Cuban pesos a month (which is equivalent to about 25 dollars American). She also explained that a simple white blouse costs about 20 Cuban pesos. So how can anyone live?
- Cuba is rich in history and culture. Cuba is literally frozen in time as of the 1960’s when communism came into play. You will see beautifully preserved buildings and vintage cars.
If you are considering travelling to Cuba, I have assembled my observations and travel tricks so that you are prepared…
- Before you even decide to book – make sure that you invest in a 5-Star hotel. If you don’t invest in 5 star – you may not get running water, electricity, moderate service and really terrible food. I learned the hard way by travelling to a 4 star hotel called Memories Varadero. Although the grounds were lovely, the food was sub-par and so was the service. I would also suggest asking for recommendations on hotels. Hotels can easily downgrade in a matter of a year, because of the age of a hotel. Ask your friends and research online.
- Cuba is on the other side of Florida – so you may have hot weather in December/January so make sure to pack warm clothes. For the first 3 days of our trip, there was a cold spell and we were in ski jackets. The remainder of our trip, temperatures ranged from 20-28 degrees C.
- If you are travelling with kids, keep in mind that Cuba is not a country of luxury or thrills – you may get hard beds, food that your children may not like. That being said, it’s super important to choose a resort that has great amenities for kids such as entertainment, kids clubs, water slides etc. Our recent resort had some great kids programming, a water slide and characters Toopy and Binoo entertained the children.
- To expand on my point above about a country lacking in luxury – if you prepare, you can bring the comforts of home. Pack condiments like ketchup, peanut butter, seasonings to add to your food. I also highly recommend bringing snacks for your kids like granola bars, cookies, chips, etc. Bring a cozy blanket and pillow (if it fits in your suitcase).
- The food does taste different – especially cheeses and milk.
- Don’t forget the imperative things that you need to take care of young ones such as diapers, wipes, life jackets etc. These things are super expensive in Cuba and are very different from the products we have at home.
- If you want better service, be prepared to tip – it does work. Of course it is well deserved and appreciated too. But as mentioned earlier, Cubans would love for you to leave them your toiletries, dry goods/food and clothing. Before you leave for your trip, load up at the dollar store.
- If you want to travel around Cuba and do some sightseeing, don’t book through your resort, as you will pay double the price. Speak to the locals and the staff from your resort about renting a taxi and/or hiring a tour guide. Check out local markets or take a trip to Havana.
- Venture into the city and try a meal away from your resort. You’ll find that the food in the cities are far better than the food in the resorts.
- Customs – there are long line-ups and it’s a process. So arrive early to the Cuban airports.
I love the people, the culture, the beautiful beaches – the history. I have had the pleasure of travelling to both Varadero and Havana 3 times and have traveled to the countryside of Holguin.
I definitely think that Cuba is a place to visit and see. Just be prepared and you won’t be disapointed!