Read on for the ultimate guide for your travel to Cuba. Five genius travel hacks for a smoother trip to Cuba, with exclusive insider tips from our team of Cuban travel experts.
1. Buy your Tourist visa online
Some might stress at hearing that the UK Cuban Embassy now only accepts Tourist Card Applications by post. To make matters worse, they only accept Postal Order payments due to restrictions imposed by the US embargo. Forget queuing at the Post Office and filling out visa forms by hand - hack your holiday before you even step foot in Cuba by buying your visa online. Recommended by the Cuba Tourism Board and Cuban Consulate, Visa Cuba only charges £26 for the visa and delivery service, as opposed to the hefty £39 fee charged by the Embassy. You’ll be saving time and 9 mojitos worth of money!
P.S. The Cuban Tourist Card is only valid for 30 days, but you can get it extended once you’re in Cuba if you find yourself refusing to go back home!
Forget the queuing at the Post Office with an online visa.
2. Download an Offline Map of Cuba
So you’re preparing yourself psychologically for having to internet detox in Cuba. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – we’ve gathered some of the top offline maps for you to download before you travel. Using just your mobile GPS, you can navigate around our isla bella and locate all the main attractions, restaurants and bars - without worrying about your phone bill!
No WiFi, no problem!
3. Stay connected with family and friends with IMO
With the spread of WiFi hotspots in Cuba, IMO (a video-calling app) became an instant favourite amongst Cubans keen to stay in touch with family abroad. For Cubans, IMO trumps Skype and Whatsapp, because it runs better with a slower internet connection than mainstream apps. It’s always good to have a cheap communication option – you’ll never know when you’ll need to make a quick call. Ask your family and friends to download IMO before you travel to Cuba, so you can stay in touch the Cuban way.
In Cuba, IMO trumps Skype and Whatsapp (as well as old-school payphones!)
4. Take cash instead of relying on bank cards
Most transactions in Cuba are done in cash, since hardly anywhere takes card (apart from hotels). Although you’ll find that there’s an ATM machine here and there, they’re not always guaranteed to work - and they’re definitely not an ideal option. First, there’s the fact that you’ll be charged approximately 3% local commission, on top of your normal bank transaction charges. The other issue is that not all bank cards will work in Cuba, as US-based cards don’t operate on the island (even if they’re issued by another country). So your best bet is to take the money you’ll be using in cash, and to then exchange it at a local CADECA when you get there.
P.S. Scottish and Northern Irish notes can’t be exchanged for CUCs in Cuba, so you will need to take Bank of England cash with you.
P.P.S Whilst taking cash is undoubtedly your best option, it’s still a good idea to check with your local bank whether your card works in Cuba (just for peace of mind!).
Step back in time to the days of cash economies.
5. Buy an internet card from your local WiFi dealer
Getting a WiFi card can be quite the odyssey if you’re not staying at a hotel, since cards are issued by ETECSA (the Cuban telecommunications company). Avoid the queues at ETECSA by buying internet cards at WiFi hotspots for only an extra 50 cents. If you’re unsure who to ask for a card, just look for the nearest group of men standing on a street corner. Some will even approach you and ask ‘tarjeta?’ ('card'). That’s when you know you’ve hit the jackpot – they’ll sort out all your internet needs.
WiFi cards cost 1 CUC from ETECSA, and 2 CUC from your local dealer.
Travelling to Cuba can seem quite daunting when you’re not sure how things work on the island. For more hacks and tips to help you have a smooth-sailing trip, give our Cuban travel specialists a call on 02039305057 or get in touch using our Contact Us form. With more holiday experts of Cuban origin than any other British tour operator, our team of specialists know Cuba inside-out.