The 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Visiting Cuba

I would consider my trip to Cuba incredibly spontaneous – others may call it impulsive or extremely last minute. Tomato, tomaato.

It all started on a miserably cold day at the end of January..

On any given day I have about 10-15 price alerts in my Kayak app and that morning the price of a round trip flight to Havana dropped to $230! So I thought to myself,

“What better time than now to go to Cuba?”

I only had 3 weeks to research and plan my trip and one of those weeks I happened to be on a cruise for my friend’s engagement (too many celebratory cocktails to be planning a trip obvi). The week before my trip, I turned to my fellow travel bloggers hoping to get a good sense of what my “must sees” were for 4 days in Havana and the essential travel tips I needed to know before my trip.

How could I go wrong, right? Yea, no.

There were definitely a few surprises I encountered once I got to Cuba – some pleasant, some anxiety provoking (did someone bring the xanax?!). I’m going to blame it on the fact that I left most of my research until the last minute and that there just aren’t enough blog posts about Cuba out there given that it is still new for Americans to be able to visit. However, it wasn’t until my flight home when I was chatting with the person sitting next to me about all of the things my research had left out, when it came to me..

“Why don’t you just write your own blog post about what you wish you would have known?”

Ergo, I give you the 7 things I wish I had known before visiting Cuba.

A Weekend In Havana

 My first trip to Havana may have been brief, but it was nothing short of spectacular.

With only 4 days off from work, my sister and I were determined to attempt to experience all that Havana had to offer. While we may not have seen EVERYTHING, we got a delicious taste (quite literally) that left us with the hunger to explore Cuba more.


The Cuba Budget

A  guide for how much you should budget for your trip to Cuba whether you’re looking to splurge or looking for a bargain. 

If there’s only one thing to know before visiting Cuba, it’s to BRING CASH.

The next question I always get is,

How much cash should I bring?

Well, that depends on too many factors to give you an outright answer. To make it a little simpler, I limited my estimates to Havana and have broken my recommendations down based on the following 3 groups of people: the budget traveler, the luxury traveler, and the in between traveler.

A Guide to Money in Cuba

 Everything you need to know from the basics to budgeting for your trip to Cuba

Money in Cuba

The Basics

There are two legal currencies used in Cuba:

  • the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), pronounced “kook” and
  • the Cuban Peso (CUP), pronounced “koop”

The locals mostly carry CUP, as they are paid in this currency. Tourists, on the other hand, usually only carry or need CUC, but you can use either currency.

When should you use CUP vs. CUC?

The value of the CUC is 25 times to that of the CUP. So, if you’re paying for something that is only a few CUP, you won’t be able to receive proper change in CUC. For example, all taxi colectivos (shared taxis) rides are 10 CUP regardless of distance, however, if you pay in CUC it will cost you $0.50 CUC ( = 12 CUP). So, if those fractions of cents are that important to you, you should use CUP over CUC for small purchases.

Bottom line: CUP is useful for small purchases like street food, taxi colectivos, and if you’re concerned with stretching your cash to the very last cent.