Planning ahead is key:
You are expected to present your visa upon arrival, there are passport and security checks each and every time you leave or return to the ship, which takes a long time.
The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the main currency used by island visitors. It can only be obtained in Cuba and is worthless outside of Cuba. Understand that no U.S. credit cards are accepted, and there is limited access to money changing. It is stated that USD would not be accepted anywhere, but that wasn’t always true. Some of the vendors at the open-air markets accepted USD. Be sure to estimate the correct amount of currency you need so as not to leave money on the table, as the currency exchange closes at 5:00pm.
Anyone traveling to Cuba should check with their cell phone provider about an international calling plan and be sure to specify that your trip will include Cuba, which is not typically part of such a plan. Connectivity while in Cuba can be extremely pricey.
Tours and Shore Excursions:
Tourism is still finding its way in Cuba, and U.S. based companies are still trying to find reliable tour guides and services. Some shore excursions hosted by the ships may vary widely from the description. Beware. Ask before you buy.
Cuban health insurance is also required for all travelers.
We had one very warm, humid day around 90 degrees – then the next day was beautiful and in the 70s.
Renting a vehicle in Cuba is relatively easy but by most accounts, driving in Cuba can be rough. Many tourists choose to use taxis, but avoid taking rides with unlicensed taxis. One of the more unique types of transportation in Cuba is the "Co-Co" taxi, a three-wheeled vehicle that lacks any safety features - be aware of the risk. By bus - keep in mind when selecting bus as a mode of transportation is that they can be quite crowded and therefore can be haven for pickpockets. You can take a ride in a classic car – a convertible. These old 50’s cars are everywhere, and they provide a living for the owners who drive tourists around. These make for an interesting experience and offer a small glimpse of normal Cuban life.
It’s apparent that Cuba once had its glory days, but they’re long over. Some of the buildings are in such disrepair, and the government will probably never have the capital to renovate everything.
As a Communist country, families are assigned ‘apartments’ in these dilapidated old buildings, and you will find people in the windows hanging laundry out to dry. The government provides housing, education, cradle to grave medical, and food, which is extremely basic and strictly limited by ration cards. Above and beyond, the average wage is $20 per month, so guides and classic car drivers can make some money, depending on restrictions. Cash is king.
The people of Cuba are very hard-working and very kind. From an American perspective, it must be difficult to live there, but for many Cubans, it’s all they’ve ever known.
The White House announced new restrictions aimed at tightening travel and commercial ties between the U.S. and Cuba. Travelers who have already scheduled a trip to Cuba can still move ahead with their plans, as long as the new regulations have not taken effect yet. Cruise travelers are likely to be the least affected by the new policies.
Use a reputable travel agency. it's the only way to go.