Exchanging Money in Cuba

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba

Exchanging Money in Cuba

Exchanging money in Cuba and the country’s currency system can be a complex matter and difficult to navigate. The Cuban government is notorious for making monetary and economic reforms at random and with little notice. This blog will introduce you to the basics of Cuba’s currency and of exchanging money plus tips to help you understand Cuba’s currency system.

What is the currency in Cuba?

Before finding out how to exchange money in Cuba, it’s important to know a bit about Cuba’s currency system. Cuba’s official currency is the Cuban peso (CUP). The moneda libremente convertible (MLC*) is also in use in certain places. The Cuban peso is a closed currency so you can’t buy, sell or trade it outside of Cuba. This means that you won’t be able to legally exchange other currencies for pesos before your trip; you can only do so in Cuba.

Official exchange rates are determined by the Cuban government and are subject to change at any moment without notice. You can see the government’s recent exchange rates on CADECA’S WEBSITE. This website may not be updated regularly or have the most current rates.

The Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is no longer in circulation in Cuba!

*MLC stands for moneda libremente convertible. It is a term created by the Cuban government for foreign currencies, usually US dollars and euros.

Exchange money in Cuba for Cuban pesos (CUP)

Cuban pesos (CUP)

Which currency should I bring to Cuba?

Simply put, we recommended that US travelers bring US dollars (USD) for purchases and spending in Cuba.

Cuba is experiencing one of its worst bouts of inflation so prices in CUP are extremely elevated, but USD are accepted at many private food and beverage establishments. These are the only types of places we dine at on our 9-day trip.

At the official government exchange houses, 1 USD is approximately 110 CUP.

When paying in US dollars, you will often receive change in CUP. You can use this to tip your server, bartender, etc. Be sure to ask at every place you visit what their USD to CUP exchange rate is. 1 USD is valued at varying amounts of CUP at private restaurants, bars, and cafes. For more information about what to tip, check out our blog about Tipping in Cuba!

If you are from another country, it is probably more feasible for you to bring euros (EUR), Great British pounds (GBP), or Canadian dollars (CAD). We do not advise travelers on which currency to bring. It’s best to look around and find out exchange rates and fees locally in order to decide which currency is best for you.

PRO TIP: When bringing US dollars, it’s best to bring smaller bills of 20s, 10s, and 5s for purchases (i.e. meals, drinks, tips). Avoid bringing too many bills above 50.

Exchange money in Cuba to get a cool Cuban beer on a hot Havana day

A cold, refreshing Cuban beer on a hot day!

How can I exchange money in Cuba?

The most common place to exchange money in Cuba is the CADECA, the official government currency exchange office. You will see these offices at the Havana airport as well as in major cities and tourist destinations. The official exchange rates are set by the government and do not really vary too much from office to office. 

As of June 23, 2023, 1 USD = 110 CUP.  This includes the 8% conversion fee that CADECA charges. All other currencies have a 2% conversion fee.

Many hotels will often exchange money, but it is not recommended to exchange there because of the inflated exchange fees they charge.

There are many unofficial money exchangers on the street, but we do not advise our travelers on how to do this. If you choose to exchange money in Cuba in this way, it is at your discretion and own risk! 

At the end of your trip, you can usually exchange your remaining CUP back to an available foreign currency at the airport. CADECA in the city may exchange CUP back for foreign currency for you depending on availability. You can also try to spend the rest of your CUP. Keep in mind that CADECA in the city or at the airport may impose a $100 – $300 USD limit when exchanging back from CUP.

Note that only euros and Canadian dollars are accepted after security at the Havana airport. USD will not be accepted.

PRO TIP: As most taxis at the airport will accept USD, we recommend that all travelers on our 9-day trip wait to exchange money in Cuba until you meet with the guide on the evening of Day 1 of the trip. He will offer guidance on exchanging money at the first meeting when you arrive.

Exchange money in Cuba legally at the CADECA

CADECA are legal Cuban government exchange houses where you can exchange currency

Can I use my debit/credit card in Cuba?

In short, you cannot use a debit or credit card in Cuba as a US traveler and you should not rely on any card as a main method of payment. No US debit or credit card will work in Cuba so basically: No, you cannot use your debit/credit card in Cuba. 

Many cards issued from non-US banks may work in Cuba, but the common issues with cards are twofold: 1.) Card readers don’t always function properly because they’re outdated or they experience connectivity problems; 2.) ATMs are known to break down or run out of cash when withdrawing Cuban pesos. Remember that some cards from banks in other countries are affiliated with US banks so they may not work either.

It’s best to be prepared to deal in cash only during your travels to Cuba. We never recommend relying on a card as a main method of payment for the above-mentioned reasons.

PRO TIP: You may be advised to get an MLC debit card on arrival in Cuba. We do not recommend getting this card. It is offered by the Cuban government and works primarily at state-run businesses which we do not patronize on our trips. Most private restaurants, bars, casa particulares, etc. do not have card readers and will not accept payment by any type of card.

How much money will I need for my Cuba trip?

For travelers on our 9-day trip, we recommend bringing 600 – 900 USD in cash based on past travelers’ feedback for the few lunches & dinners that are not included as well as tips, souvenirs, and any other optional activities that you wish to participate in. This will vary depending on your spending habits and travel style. We strongly advise bringing more money than you expect to spend in case of an emergency!

Many travelers have told us that they found Cuba to be much more expensive than other developing countries. Be prepared to pay as much for food and beverages as you might in a ‘developed’ Western country.

Below are some approximate prices for food, drink, souvenirs, etc. to help you budget for your trip:

Meal at a nice, sit-down restaurant: 20 – 30+ USD
• Cocktail: 5 – 10 USD
• Can of beer: 2 – 3 USD
• Wifi (1-hour card): 1 USD

*These are only approximate prices and the cost of items may vary depending on location and your personal preferences.

You can read up on tipping by checking out our Tipping in Cuba blog!

No need to exchange money in Cuba to eat at a paladar. Pay in EUR!

Cuban restaurants: You can purchase food in USD or EUR, and tip in CUP!

Cuba’s currency exchange and monetary system are ever-changing and quite complex at times. By knowing what to expect beforehand, you’ll have a great trip that you’ll never forget. Remember that on our Globe Drifters 9-day trip, your guide will be there to help point you in the right direction. Happy travels!

classic car beach cuba trip 

Top 10 Cuba Travel Tips

By globedrifters Cuba

Top 10 Cuba Travel Tips

Updated September 19, 2023

Cuba is somewhat uncharted territory for many travelers and there are a lot of questions surrounding travel to the island. Cultural visits in support of the Cuban people for US travelers are a bit of a novelty. This is our list of the top 10 Cuba travel tips to help prepare you for your trip so you can have the best time ever!

#1: Things will break down

The old colonial buildings and vintage cars are amazing. However, they are old and that means they often break down. Replacement parts for things that you may consider basic are hard to come by in Cuba. If a replacement part is needed, Cubans have to improvise with whatever they have. They cannot simply order the part online or go to a shop and buy it. There is usually never an easy or quick way to fix things that break because Cuba still lacks a lot of resources to make repairs. 

It’s important to come to Cuba with this in mind and a good amount of patience. For example, if something breaks at your casa particular, kindly speak to someone working there about whatever appliance is broken and understand that it may or may not be able to be fixed during your stay. Your host will do their utmost to make you feel at home and comfortable.

classic car in Old Havana

Classic cars are beautiful but old and prone to breakdowns

#2: Expect limited internet and phone access

Telecommunication in Cuba has improved a lot over the years. However, cell phone and internet usage are still very limited on the island. For US travelers, some of your service providers may advertise call and text messaging in Cuba. They typically have very high roaming charges for incoming/outgoing calls and texts though. Even if your provider says that you will have service in Cuba, it is very possible that you won’t have service during your trip. Calls and texts might work, but the internet (data) on your phone will not. When you land in Cuba, you will usually get a message from your service provider with the cost of texts and calls. 

The internet can be hard to come by in Cuba. Be prepared to have only a few chances at most to connect on our 9-day trip. It can be accessed at some telecommunication stores in the form of WiFi cards. These cards can be used in designated public squares, parks, and some hotels. On our trips, your guide will point out where you can purchase the WiFi cards and use them. Most major tourist hotels or Etecsa sales points sell the cards. Unfortunately, even when purchasing these cards, the connection can be spotty at best.

Cuban WiFi cards

WiFi cards

It’s best to inform your family and friends not to expect daily emails, calls, and messages from you during your visit to Cuba. Also, let them know not to worry if they don’t hear from you since the internet can never be guaranteed in Cuba. If you travel with us, we will have your emergency contact information and in case of an emergency, we will contact the number you provide us.

We know it can be hard because we are so used to having lots of telecommunication options at our fingertips. Try to enjoy this “digital detox” opportunity! It’s not every day that you have an excuse not to be glued to your phone, tablet, or computer!

#3: Learn a little Spanish

Spanish is the official language of Cuba. Don’t expect to be able to speak English everywhere you go. If you stay in a casa particular, there might be little to no English spoken. If it is spoken, it could be broken and/or limited. When visiting a store, restaurant or bar, interaction in English is not always guaranteed. Many non-Spanish speaking visitors to Cuba rely on gestures as a means of communication which are part of the fun of traveling!

We suggest learning some key phrases in Spanish before going. We suggest the standard “Please” and “Thank you” as well as “I would like…”, “How much is it?” and “It’s OK.” It’s also wise to brush up on food and numbers before you go. Most guidebooks will have useful phrases in them. Also, Duolingo is a free online learning tool that we love to help you learn some basic Spanish.

#4: Stay in a casa particular

A casa particular is a type of accommodation in Cuba. It is similar to a guesthouse or bed and breakfast. You can find casa particulares in most large- to mid-sized cities and in some smaller, more well-traveled towns in Cuba. You can identify a casa particular by the mandatory sticker with a blue anchor on the door. This indicates that it is a legal accommodation for foreign visitors. 

casa particular in cuba

Casa particulares are one of the best ways to have a more authentic experience in Cuba.

Casa particulares are generally very safe. Most have a small safe inside each room where you can securely store your valuables. They are owned and operated by private Cuban citizens who often live on the property. A casa may consist of up to 5 – 7 rooms or as little as 2 – 3 rooms. On our 9-day trip, we only stay at casa particulares.

The families who own and work at the casa will try their best to make you feel at home. Most casa particular owners are very friendly and love to talk to guests. Our travelers have said that the casa particulares in Cuba were highlights of their trip. The casas provide a great opportunity to interact with everyday Cubans. They also offer a different experience than staying in hotels.

Please note that power outages are becoming increasingly common. These may happen with little to no notice and are mostly due to the country’s very outdated and crumbling power supply plants.

#5: Don’t visit Cuba during hurricane season

Hurricane season in Cuba is from June to November. Hurricanes are most likely to happen in September and October. We don’t recommend traveling to Cuba during these months. Hurricanes don’t occur frequently in Cuba, but they can happen. Our trips are in March, November, and December/January to avoid peak hurricane season in Cuba. 

#6: Only bring cash to Cuba

In Cuba, cash is king. In general, it’s usually most convenient for US travelers to bring US dollars for spending. You can read more about money in our blog about currency exchange in Cuba.

Americans cannot use any debit or credit cards in Cuba. No US card will work in Cuba. Even if you’re not American, we do not recommend relying on any card as a main method of payment.

cuban pesos cup cuban currency

Cash is king in Cuba!

Some may advise you to get an MLC debit card on arrival in Cuba. We do not recommend getting this card. The Cuban government produces it and it works primarily at state-run businesses. We do not patronize these places on our trips. Most private restaurants, bars, casa particulares, etc. do not have card readers and will not accept payment by any type of card.

#7: Get a visa (Cuban tourist card)

A Cuban visa, also known as a tourist card, is mandatory for many travelers to Cuba, including those from the US. Most of you won’t need to fill out an application or hand in your passport to an embassy. If you’re from the US, you can usually get your Cuban visa with the airline you’re flying with. 

cuban visa cuban tourist card

Most travelers must get a Cuban tourist card (visa) to enter Cuba.

You can usually purchase your Cuban visa at check-in or at the departure gate of your flight to Cuba by credit/debit card only. If you have questions, it’s best to call your airline. Alternatively, you can pre-purchase your Cuban visa online with Cuba Visa Services.

If you’re not from the US, it’s best to contact your nearest Cuban embassy to see if you need a Cuban visa and how to go about getting one. 

To learn more about the Cuban visa (tourist card) and how to get it, check out our How to Get a Cuban Visa blog!

#8: Pack everything you’ll need

Wondering what to pack for your trip to Cuba? Our advice is to pack everything you’ll need and double of the necessities. Finding phone chargers, shampoo, conditioner, bandages, aspirin, socks, and pretty much everything else in between are hard to find in Cuba. If you can find them, they are very expensive. That’s why it’s best to pack everything you think you’ll need. If you have any extras, you can leave them behind as gifts for the Cuban people.

Read more about what to pack for Cuba in our blog!

#9: Plan a legal trip to Cuba

Travelers from the US must travel to Cuba for one of the categories approved by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). You can see the approved categories on the US Department of the Treasury’s OFAC website. All of our 9-day trips go under the category “Support for the Cuban People”. We adhere to the required full-time schedule of activities as relating to this category.

#10: Realistic food expectations

Food in Cuba is delicious but tends to be very simple due to extreme food shortages on the island. There isn’t much variety compared to what you’re used to and much of the food is what’s in season and it’s generally organic as Cuba doesn’t rely heavily on pesticides and GMOs. The best thing to do is to have the correct expectations as food in Cuba may not be as plentiful or great in variety as where you’re from. Most still find it delicious despite the food shortages. Dishes are always handmade and prepared with lots of love!

If you’d like to learn more about this, check out our blog about Food in Cuba.

cuban fruit and vegetables street vendor

Fresh, what’s in season, and organic… Cuban food!

Bonus tips!

Here are some more things to know to help you prepare for your trip to Cuba:

  • Electricity outages with little to no notice
  • No toilet seats on some public toilets
  • No toilet paper in public bathrooms or for purchase from a bathroom attendant
  • Toilet paper goes in the trash bin, NOT into the toilet
  • Minimal water pressure in showers
  • Lack of air conditioning in many restaurants and public buildings
  • Smoking allowed in many establishments
  • Lack of hot water
  • No elevators; be ready to walk up 2 – 4 flights or more
vinales valley and mogotes

Cuba is beautiful, but it’s worth preparing yourself for your trip to the island!

Cuba is a very unique and beautiful place that deserves a place on your bucket list. With these tips to help prepare you, you’ll have a trip of a lifetime in Cuba! Happy travels!

Havana, Cuba streets 

Food in Cuba

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba

Food in Cuba

Food in Cuba is delicious but tends to be very simple. Many travelers to Cuba are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. There typically isn’t as much variety as most you might be used to, but it is generally fresh, in season, and organic as Cuba doesn’t rely as heavily on pesticides and GMOs as other countries. When it comes to food in Cuba, it’s best to have the correct expectations as food may not be as plentiful or great in variety as where you’re from.

Breakfast, lunch & dinner in Cuba

A standard Cuban meal is basic and is composed of what is in season. Seasonings and condiments are also basic and dishes are typically not sauce-heavy. It’s important to keep in mind that there are food shortages on the island so the quantity and what’s available will vary depending on this as well as what’s in season. Please be mindful of the amount of food you waste.

Breakfast in Cuba is plentiful and fresh! It is included every morning at the casa particular on our trips and usually is made up of eggs and bread, seasonal fruit, fresh fruit juice (i.e. guava, papaya, mango, etc.), coffee, and sometimes tea. (What is a casa particular? Read our blog about accommodation in Cuba!)

Fresh fruit in Cuba

Fresh and in-season fruit is commonly served at breakfast in Cuba.

A typical lunch or dinner in Cuba consists of white rice or beans and rice, a salad made up of vegetables that are in season (i.e. cucumber, tomato, cabbage, avocados, etc.), some type of grilled, fried, or stewed meat and sometimes fish and a root vegetable or banana in some form (i.e. cassava, taro, potatoes, plantains, etc.) You may also see the occasional seafood dish (i.e. shrimp or lobster).

PRO TIP: If you like your meals to be seasoned or with lots of spice, then we recommend that you bring your own spices and condiments such as hot sauce or whatever you prefer.

Vinales organic farm and restaurant

Locally sourced produce is a large part of Cuban food… Truly farm-to-table!

Traditional Cuban dishes

Below are a few of our favorite typical Cuban dishes to try while you’re traveling in Cuba:

  • Ropa vieja: This is one of Cuba’s most famous dishes and literally translated, means “old clothes”. It’s shredded beef slow-cooked in its own juices and stock along with tomato sauce, onions, and bell peppers.
  • Pollo fricasse: Chicken simmered in a tomato-based sauce with onions and sometimes other in-season vegetables.
  • Moros y cristianos: Most will know it as “rice and beans” and you’ll find it at almost every Cuban restaurant. Literally translated, it means “Moors and Christians”. Black beans and rice are boiled in the same water and other ingredients are sometimes added for more flavor (i.e. garlic, pepper, oregano, etc.).
  • Platanos: They’re known around the world as plantains or cooking bananas and are less sweet than bananas. In their unripened state, you’ll see them sliced thin and fried (chicharritas/mariquitas), flattened and double fried (tostones/chatinos). Or when they’re ripe, they’re sliced up and fried as a sweet, gooey treat.

Vegetarian & vegan food in Cuba

Vegetarian and vegan food in Cuba is available and Cubans are gradually becoming more aware of vegetarianism and veganism though neither are all that common there. More and more, you’ll find vegetarian and vegan options on menus and restaurants specializing in cuisines catering to the needs of these diets, especially in Havana.

Understand that while it may not be difficult to get a vegetarian or vegan meal in Cuba, you generally won’t find much variety and you may very well get tired of being offered the same thing at every meal (i.e. rice, beans, salad, fruit, etc.) If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, we suggest bringing some of your own snacks on the trip to supplement your diet.

Those who travel with us to Cuba will be able to provide us with your dietary restrictions when you sign up for the trip. Your guide will make sure all the restaurants during your stay in Cuba have adequate offerings to match your dietary needs.

Organic vegetables in Cuba

Vegetarians and vegans will delight in the organic, non-GMO produce of Cuba.

Drinks in Cuba

Drinks in Cuba are iconic worldwide. The mojito and daiquiri immediately come to mind, but Cuba is full of wonderfully refreshing drinks.

Traditional Cuban drinks

Below is a list of a few of our favorite non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails that you may not have heard of:

  • Canchanchara: Some consider it a forerunner of the mojito and daiquiri. This drink is made up of a mix aguardiente (very strong liquor distilled from sugar cane), honey, and lime juice.
  • Habana especial: A lovely, fruity cocktail with 3-year-old Havana Club rum, fresh orange or pineapple juice, and a splash of grenadine.
  • Limonada frapeada/frappée: It’s a frozen daiquiri minus the rum and is equally refreshing under the scorching Cuban sun!
  • Guarapo: The juice of sugarcane poured over a cup of ice to satisfy your thirst and your sweet tooth.
Daiquiri at el Floridita

The daiquiri: An icon of Cuba made famous by Hemingway.

Food in Cuba still manages to be delicious despite the lack of access to food and appliances to cook it with. Dishes are always made by hand and with lots of love. Although it might not be as great in variety as you are used to, there’s something for everyone! Happy travels!

an american in cuba 

An American in Cuba : A Guest Blog by Leslie Spoor

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba

An American in Cuba

A guest blog by Leslie Spoor

I never even thought about going to Cuba – it has been off limits my entire lifetime. But then, over the course of an hour, not one, but two emails came into my inbox promoting a trip and I thought it must be a sign! A sign to take a trip to Cuba! And it seemed really important to go now, before the trade embargo is lifted and our US commercialism mentality charges full steam into Cuba, destroying the quaint and simple lifestyle it has enjoyed since it was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

But here was the thing – despite the fact I am a seasoned world traveler, I was a bit nervous about going to a place that few Americans had visited. I tried researching information and did find some, but even with that little bit of info, it still seemed better to go with a tour group familiar with the customs and history of Cuba.

So we ended up picking Globe Drifters as our tour group of choice and boy are we glad we did!

As luck would have it, we opted to go to Cuba, a third world country by anyone’s standards, at the worst possible time.  We picked the week the U.S. President decided to go too. And the Rolling Stones decided to have a concert that week. Oh, and it was Spring Break, Holy Week and, of course, Easter.

What were we thinking? Here is a country barely able to support itself and now it was going to be overrun with visitors. Even though Americans have only recently been allowed to travel to Cuba, other countries (especially Canada and Great Britain) have been traveling there for years.

So we scheduled the trip, very excited to go, only for it to be challenging right from the beginning – Our charter was cancelled, there were problems with our casa particulares (the homes where we were staying throughout our trip), Havana was closed down for the Presidential visit, there are no ATM machines, barely any Internet, and no cell service. Had we been alone, we would have been cut off, isolated and unsure of what to do.

It was Globe Drifters to the rescue! Not only did they have connections and experience in Cuban travel, but they engaged a Cuban tour company who chauffeured us from town to town, making sure our accommodation was reasonable, showing us the best places to visit (and eat!) and explained Cuban history and culture at every opportunity.

If it hadn’t been for Globe Drifters and Jodie, Rebecca and our guide, Tatiana, our trip could well have been a disaster. So yes, while it was challenging and even sometimes downright ridiculous, it was also an amazing, beautiful, fun and exciting adventure. And that is the key to a successful Cuban vacation – you must remember it is an adventure.

I was amazed by how much I didn’t know before traveling to Cuba. Globe Drifters puts out a fair amount of good information before you go, but there were still unexpected surprises and of course unforeseen complications due to the particular week we visited.

When we returned to the US after our weeklong visit, it occurred to me that other Americans opting to go to Cuba might benefit from a comprehensive ‘how to’ travel guide. So I wrote An American In Cuba, a quick and downloadable e-book travel guide.

Now is the time to go to Cuba, before it is disturbed by all the corporations chomping at the bit to get into the country and build a coffee shop and discount super store on every corner. Go now! Consider Globe Drifters as your tour company and for sure, download An American In Cuba, available for download at Amazon. For just $3.99 it may help you have an unforgettable Cuban travel experience.


*Leslie Spoor is an entrepreneur and founder/president of two successful companies – Executive Errands®, a lifestyle management company in the Palm Springs area (www.executive-errands.com), and Concierge Business Solutions® (www.conciergebusinesssolutions.com), a consulting company for small business owners and a software development company that services clients all across the US and internationally.  Leslie may be reached by email at info@conciergebusinesssolutions.com


People Ruin Everything

By globedrifters Amazing trips around the world | Cuba | Thailand

What are the downsides of mass tourism?

Seven years ago I visited the island of Koh Phi Phi, which is probably the most popular and well-known island in Thailand. I went during peak season so there were hoards of tourists on the beach and it pretty much ruined the mood. I remember going into the water and thinking, “Is the water really warm because it’s hot out or is everyone around me taking a piss?” Talk about one of the downsides of mass tourism… and there are so much more! Learn about the obvious ones I witnessed and how to avoid crowds and reduce your impact when traveling.

cuba expect the unexpected 

Cuba – Expect the Unexpected

By globedrifters Cuba

What to Expect in Cuba

Cuba is trending big time these days – in the news, among travelers, on social media, etc. More and more tourists are flocking to the tiny island before it is “ruined”. (Don’t even get me started on that topic. I’ll save it for it for another blog post!) I encourage anyone and everyone to go to Cuba because it is a beautiful country with warm and extraordinarily resourceful people. HOWEVER… before going there, please, please, pretty please with sugar on top, open up your mind and as the title recommends : expect the unexpected! Here are seven “unexpected” things to expect during your travels in Cuba!


1.) Breakdowns

I don’t mean the emotional or mental kind! Cuba is a small and pretty much isolated island although it is only about 90 miles away from Florida. Because of the embargo still in effect, access to what we consider common tools and parts needed to fix cars, air conditioners, bathrooms, and so on can be very hard to come by. On top of this, appliances tend to be older models, so there is a strong likelihood that something will break down. So when the air conditioner in your accommodation is leaking water, don’t expect it to be fixed at the snap of a finger.

How to deal : Be patient! Kindly speak to a person working at your accommodation about whatever appliance is broken and understand that it may or may not be able to be fixed during your stay.


Broken down car on the side of the road

2.) Hablamos espanol

Spanish is the official language of Cuba, so naturally, you’ll hear it everywhere during your stay in Cuba. Furthermore, don’t expect to be able to speak English everywhere you go. If you stay in a casa particular, there will most likely be little to no English to be spoken. If it is spoken, it may be broken and limited in nature. When visiting a store or food/beverage establishment, interaction in English can be rare. Many non-Spanish speaking tourists rely on gestures as a means of communication.

How to deal : Learn some key Spanish phrases before going. I suggest the standard “Please” and “Thank you” as well as “I would like…”, “How much is it?”, and brushing up on food and numbers before you go. Most guide books will have useful phrases in them to help you out.

3.) Spend Those CUCs

While Cuba remains relatively cheap in comparison to other major tourist destinations, it is still more expensive than developing countries that you may have visited. You shouldn’t expect to be making it rain CUCs in the club simply because the cost of goods and services are not as cheap as you might expect. A meal at a restaurant including a drink and tip can come to $10 USD or more per person. Cuban cigars, while cheaper than in other countries, can still be pricey, especially the more well-known brands.

How to deal : For our 9 day trip, we recommend that travelers plan on spending around $400 – $600 USD. Additionally, we recommend that you bring a few hundred more in case of an emergency situation.

One Cuban peso convertible (CUC) approximately $0.87 USD

4.) Go Off the Grid

As an American, cell phone and Internet usage are very limited for the time being. Most American cell phones do not get service in Cuba. Even some of those who had purchased international plans and were told that they would work while in Cuba were disappointingly unable to use them. The Internet is also not always a given. In order to use the Internet, you can go to a major tourist hotel and purchase an Internet card. These days, there are newer establishments where you can go to purchase these cards as well. However, you can only use the wifi in designated public squares in various cities throughout Cuba. Unfortunately, even when purchasing these cards, connection can be spotty at best.

How to deal : Be mentally prepared not to be able to use the Internet and phone while in Cuba. We always advise travelers not to tell their friends and family that they will be emailing/video chatting/texting/calling during their travels. Also, try not to let your need to be connected affect your trip. We know it can be hard because we are so used to having lots of telecommunication options at your fingertips, but try to enjoy it! It’s not everyday that you have an excuse not to be glued to your phone, tablet, or computer!

Cubans using wifi in a public square

5.) Toilet Toils

I have seen threads on forums and blogs on this pretty frequently. Toilets in Cuba, especially public ones, often do not have toilet seats. Ladies : now is as good of time as any to learn the art of hovering! Your accommodations will have a toilet seat and/or lid. Also, toilet paper is not usually freely offered in public restrooms. There is almost always a bathroom attendant to whom you give some small change and in return, you will normally receive a small amount of tissue for your use. Finally, don’t flush the toilet paper down the toilet in public and private bathrooms! If you have traveled to parts of Asia, you probably have had some experience with this. Plumbing in Cuba is kind of weak sauce, so wads of tissue down the toilet does not usually end well for the toilet and pipes. There is usually a small waste basket next to the toilet in which you can dispose of your used tissue.

How to deal : Bring your own toilet paper. It’ll come in handy when you feel that the amount of tissue you receive from the restroom attendant is too small. Plus, you can use it to wipe off the toilet bowl rim prior to using it.

Cuban toilet without lid or seat

6.) Water Woes

These days, there has been a big influx of travelers to Cuba and that has put a strain on the infrastructure. The housing and plumbing are just not ready to handle all the tourists flooding the island. This will most likely have an affect on your showering habits. Be prepared for lukewarm or possibly even cold showers and low water pressure. In all of our travels to Cuba, we can count the number of times we have had a hot, high-pressured shower on one hand!

How to deal : The showers may be cold, but on the plus side, the weather will be hot! Shower fast and perhaps split the shower up into two parts. At night, very quickly wash your body. Then in the morning, wash your hair over the sink or tub if it has a detachable shower head. The water will be cold, but it will break up the showering process and hopefully you won’t feel too chilly after getting clean!

7.) Eat Your Veggies

Some find Cuban food to be delicious; others not so much. Cuban cuisine tends to be pretty simple in nature. You will almost always have a protein consisting of pork, chicken, beef, or fish that will be generally pan fried or grilled and lightly seasoned. Your meal will also come with some fresh vegetables that are in season. You may be offered some sliced tomatoes or cucumbers with shredded cabbage and a simple dressing of olive oil with salt and pepper. Also, for the starch, there is almost always rice and beans or just rice served. Occasionally you will get some boiled potatoes. A lot of people have told me that they have found the food in Cuba to be quite bland or very monotonous.

How to deal : Bring your own hot sauce! No joke! I always have my favorite one constantly on hand at the dinner table whenever I’m dining in Cuba.

Cuban meal : Ropa Vieja (spiced shredded beef w/ veggies), plantains, assorted veggies, black beans & rice!

All of these things seem pretty basic, but you’d be surprised at how many people gripe and complain about these things. I’m going to keep it real and let you know that the best advice I can give you is to remember that while it is tough to take a cold shower, have a boring meal, hover over a toilet, the Cuban people have had to live with this on a daily basis and they have survived. If they can do it for most of their lives, you can do it for a little over a week! Finally, don’t let this little stuff – because let’s face it, it really is little stuff – affect your trip too much. There are too many awesome things to see and lovely people to meet in Cuba to sweat the little things.  So with these things in your open mind, definitely DO go to Cuba and have tons of fun!