Essential information and Facts to know about Cuba

Essential information and Facts to know about Cuba

Cuba is one of the most beautiful countries we have visited. It kept its culture, way of living and it seems to be frozen in time when go there. The old vintage cars give a unique vibe for sure as we travelled through Cuba in a 1960s Chevrolet we have seen a local life from a very short distance. And there are essential things to know before you go to Cuba, that wold make your trip less troubled.

Here are 20 essential things to know before traveling to Cuba:

  1. Visa Requirements: Most travelers need a tourist visa (tourist card) to enter Cuba. Make sure to obtain this before your trip.
  2. Currency: Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Tourists typically use CUC. Be aware of exchange rates and where to exchange money – we found that the best exchange rate actually was from our host at “casa particular”.
  3. Cash is King: Credit and debit cards issued by U.S. banks do not work in Cuba. Bring enough cash (preferably euros or Canadian dollars) to exchange.
  4. Health Insurance: Proof of health insurance is required for entry. Ensure your policy covers Cuba or purchase a temporary policy at the airport upon arrival.
  5. Language: The official language is Spanish. Learning basic Spanish phrases can be very helpful as English is not widely spoken outside tourist areas.
  6. Internet Access: Internet access is limited and can be slow. Wi-Fi is available in some hotels and public parks, but you’ll need to purchase an internet card (ETECSA).
  7. Accommodation: Options include hotels, government-run guesthouses, and private homestays called “casas particulares,” which are often more affordable and offer a local experience.
  8. Travel Insurance: It is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and unexpected events.
  9. Local Transportation: Public transportation options include buses, taxis (including classic cars), and shared taxis (colectivos). Renting a car is possible but can be expensive and challenging. There are also scooter for rent so make sure to bring your driver’s license.
  10. Electricity: Cuba uses 110V and 220V, with a mix of plug types (A, B, and C). Bring a universal adapter and check your devices’ voltage compatibility.
  11. Safety: Cuba is generally safe for tourists, but like anywhere, exercise caution with your belongings, avoid poorly lit areas at night, and be mindful of scams.
  12. Healthcare: Healthcare services are available, but facilities and resources may be limited compared to Western standards. Bring necessary medications and a basic first aid kit.
  13. Water and Food: Tap water is not safe to drink. Stick to bottled water. Be cautious with street food and eat at reputable restaurants to avoid foodborne illnesses.
  14. Cultural Etiquette: Cubans are friendly and hospitable. Respect local customs, dress modestly in religious sites, and avoid discussing politics, especially criticism of the government.
  15. Tipping: Tipping is appreciated in Cuba. A 10% tip is customary in restaurants, and small tips for service staff (housekeepers, porters) are also common.
  16. Weather: Cuba has a tropical climate. The dry season is from November to April, and the wet season is from May to October. Be prepared for heat and humidity, and consider hurricane season (June to November).
  17. Hygiene Products: Basic hygiene products (toothpaste, shampoo, feminine hygiene products) can be hard to find or expensive. Bring enough for your trip.
  18. Cultural Experiences: Engage in local culture by visiting museums, attending music and dance performances, and exploring historical sites like Old Havana and Trinidad.
  19. Responsible Tourism: Support the local economy by staying in privately-owned accommodations, eating at local restaurants, and buying handmade souvenirs.
  20. Regulations: Be aware of and respect Cuban laws and regulations, including those on photography (avoid taking photos of military or government buildings), and drug laws, which are very strict.

By keeping these points in mind, you can ensure a smoother and more enjoyable trip to Cuba.

And here I am sharing some interesting and amazing facts about Cuba:

Largest Island in the Caribbean: Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, both by land area and population.

Havana: The capital city, Havana, is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture and vibrant cultural scene.

Cuban Revolution: The Cuban Revolution in 1959 led to the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista and the rise of Fidel Castro.

Classic Cars: Due to the U.S. embargo, Cuba is famous for its classic American cars from the 1950s.

Cigars: Cuban cigars are considered the best in the world, known for their quality and craftsmanship.

UNESCO Sites: Cuba has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Old Havana and its Fortification System, and Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios.

Health Care: Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, with a high doctor-to-patient ratio.

Education: Education is free and compulsory until the ninth grade in Cuba.

Literacy Rate: Cuba boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world, at nearly 100%.

Biological Diversity: Cuba is home to the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird.

Music and Dance: Cuba is famous for its rich musical heritage, including genres like salsa, son, mambo, and cha-cha-cha.

Rumba: Rumba, a traditional Cuban dance, is included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

No Commercial Advertising: In Cuba, there is virtually no commercial advertising; most billboards promote political messages instead.

Ballet: The Cuban National Ballet is renowned worldwide, with many Cuban dancers achieving international acclaim.

Boxing: Cuba has a strong boxing tradition, winning numerous Olympic gold medals in the sport.

Baseball: Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba, with many Cuban players succeeding in Major League Baseball in the U.S.

Rum: Cuban rum, especially brands like Havana Club, is world-famous.

Ernest Hemingway: The famous author Ernest Hemingway lived in Cuba for nearly 20 years and wrote some of his best works there.

Tourism: Tourism is a major industry in Cuba, with visitors drawn to its beautiful beaches, historical sites, and vibrant culture.

Cuban Cuisine: Cuban cuisine is a blend of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences, known for dishes like ropa vieja and picadillo.

Sugar Production: Historically, sugar was Cuba’s main export product, leading to the nickname “sugar bowl of the world.”

Beaches: Cuba has over 300 beaches, known for their white sand and clear waters.

No McDonald’s: Due to the U.S. embargo, there are no McDonald’s restaurants in Cuba.

Diplomatic Relations: In 2015, the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of tension.

Santería: Santería, a syncretic religion combining African and Catholic elements, is practiced widely in Cuba.

Cuban Missile Crisis: The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Famous University: The University of Havana, founded in 1728, is one of the oldest universities in the Americas.

Flora and Fauna: Cuba has many endemic species of plants and animals, thanks to its isolation.

Mojito: The mojito, a popular cocktail, originated in Cuba.

Pico Turquino: Pico Turquino is the highest mountain in Cuba, standing at 1,974 meters (6,476 feet).

Public Transportation: Cuba has a unique public transportation system, including the use of vintage cars and horse-drawn carriages.

Bacardi Origin: The Bacardi rum company was founded in Cuba before relocating to Puerto Rico after the revolution.

Cuban Art: Cuban art is known for its vibrant colors and political themes, with many renowned artists like Wilfredo Lam.

Weather: Cuba has a tropical climate, with a dry season from November to April and a rainy season from May to October.

Cayo Coco: Cayo Coco is a popular tourist destination, known for its resorts and beautiful beaches.

Currency: Cuba uses two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists.

Fidel Castro: Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, was in power from 1959 to 2008.

Che Guevara: The iconic revolutionary Che Guevara played a significant role in the Cuban Revolution.

Tourist Safety: Cuba is considered one of the safest countries for tourists in the Caribbean.

Architecture: Cuban architecture is a mix of colonial, baroque, neoclassical, and modernist styles.

Language: The official language of Cuba is Spanish.

El Malecón: El Malecón is a famous seaside promenade in Havana, popular with locals and tourists.

Cuban Economy: The Cuban economy is largely state-controlled, with major industries including tourism, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals.

Cuban Missile Crisis Resolution: The Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved through negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, leading to the removal of missiles from Cuba.

Cuban Sports Success: Despite its small size, Cuba has achieved significant success in international sports, especially in boxing, baseball, and track and field.

Cuban Film Industry: The Cuban film industry has produced many notable films, often with strong social and political messages.

Tobacco Production: Cuba is one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco, essential for its famous cigars.

Revolutionary Square: Plaza de la Revolución in Havana is one of the world’s largest city squares and a focal point for political events.

Jazz: Cuba has a rich jazz tradition, blending African and Cuban rhythms.

Medical Exports: Cuba exports medical professionals and biotechnology products, such as vaccines, to other countries.

National Bird: The national bird of Cuba is the Tocororo, known for its colorful plumage.

Guantanamo Bay: The U.S. maintains a naval base at Guantanamo Bay, a point of contention between the two countries.

Oldest Theater: The Gran Teatro de La Habana is one of the oldest theaters in the Americas, opening in 1838.

Public Health Achievements: Cuba has eradicated several diseases, including polio and malaria, through effective public health campaigns.

Cubans Abroad: Many Cubans have emigrated, particularly to the United States, influencing American culture, especially in Miami.

We travelled to this beautiful country as a family of four. Having a new member in our family, we want to show Cuba to our little so another trip there is inevitable.

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