By Stephanie Illing
- A guidebook is a must, particularly for maps and things to see, but don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path. Most of the places we ate at were definitely not in the Lonely Planet guidebook and it was some of the best food we had in Cuba – although the food’s not great in Cuba wherever you go. Most houses offer a full three-course meal for less than $5 and have set up their lounge rooms to accommodate any hungry passers-by
- Whilst all-inclusive hotels are becoming a huge part of the travelling culture in Cuba, in my opinion, they’re not the way to do it. Most people we met staying at an all-inclusive had barely left the resort and hated the food and generally hated Cuba and I think it was because of their choice of accommodation
- The all-inclusive’s are snapping up the beachfront and will send security guards to tell you off for being on “their beach”, but there is a law in Cuba that all beaches are public property and are therefore able to be used by everyone
- Book most (if not all) of your accommodation before you go – with little to no communication options, we found it tricky to navigate the system. However, if you do find yourself getting off a bus in the middle of one of Cuba’s many beautiful cities, don’t panic, there’s always someone standing at the bus stop offering accommodation in their house for a better rate than their next door neighbour!
- Stay in a casa particular – these are the Cuban version of a hosted Airbnb. We stayed exclusively in casa particulars. It was awesome for meeting the locals and, as mentioned, they go out of their way to make you feel welcome and will use their landline to organize as much as they can for you with their friends and neighbours. The language barrier wasn’t really an issue as most hosts have a tourism qualification.
- Take cash with you! We had troubles in Cuba because the Cuban ATMs don’t accept American bank cards – so for us, our Citibank cards didn’t work – luckily, we had a stash of American cash that our casa particular host got changed for us (I told you they’d do anything for you). We also were able to find a very rare ATM to withdraw cash using my Australian bank card.
- If you’re a lady, be prepared to get a fair bit of attention on the street. From catcalling to whistling to just calling out at you, Cuban men like you to know they appreciate you. For me, it became exhausting by the end of my 10 days in Cuba – the best approach to the hassling is simply to ignore it. This goes also for street hagglers that want you to get in their taxi, go to their restaurant etc – a simple “No, gracias” works best here!