How To Plan Your Trip To Cuba

How to Organize your Trip to Cuba The Pearl of the Antilles

In this post ‘how to plan your trip to Cuba’ we will discuss popular topics about trip planning to Cuba such as Cuban currencies, Cuban tourist visa, how to get around Cuba, and much more.

Cuba, the pearl of the Antilles, is a place where history and music reign supreme, and time seems to have stood still. Everywhere you look, you’ll find indelible marks of history, from depictions of iconic figures like Castro and Che Guevara to museums proudly showcasing revolutionary weaponry. Classic Cadillacs from the 1950s still roam the streets, evoking a sense of nostalgia, while sugar cane and coffee plantations harken back to bygone eras of prosperity. The vibrant sounds of live jazz and Cuban salsa spill out from the windows of Central Havana, creating a unique atmosphere that momentarily distracts from the poverty that surrounds.

We spent two weeks travelling around Cuba and we will take you there through our words. 

How to Plan Your Trip To Cuba

Need to know before planning your trip to Cuba

Cuba is a country rich in history, culture, and traditions. A magic place where time seems to have frozen back in the days, with the sound of Cuban music – renowned all over the world – playing loud from every corner.


Cuba is located in the Caribbean, positioned between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea

Cuba is known for several distinctive features and cultural elements, including classic cars, Cuban cigars, and music and dance

Cuba is a safe country with low criminality rates

How to plan your trip to Cuba
Graffiti in Havana

When is the best time to visit Cuba?

When is the best time to visit Cuba?

Generally speaking, Cuba can be visited in any season, however, the best time to go is from December to May.

The country has a tropical climate with two seasons: the dry season, December to May, sees warm, sunny days with temperatures ranging between 26 °C and 32 °C during the day.

On the contrary, the wet season, June to November, sees unpredictable weather with quick and hard rainfalls, and high humidity with temperatures around 27 °C and 34 °C during the day. Generally speaking, Cuba can be visited in any season, however, the best time to go is from December to May. During this time, the temperatures are not too high and it rains sporadically. In addition, between August and October, there is a risk of hurricanes.

What is needed to enter Cuba

Most tourists traveling to Cuba must have a valid passport with at least 6 months of validity upon entry, a return ticket, travel insurance with medical coverage, booked accommodation, and a tourist visa (Tarjeta del Turista). The visa can be obtained through the Cuban embassy or consulate in your country or through specialized travel agencies. Upon arrival, you’ll need to present your visa, booked accommodation, travel itinerary, and travel insurance. It’s not necessary to have accommodation booked for the entire trip; the first few nights will suffice. The tourist visa is valid for 30 days for a single entry. Some airlines may require you to show your travel insurance before boarding, so it’s advisable to purchase it well in advance.

** Note: As of September 2020, the Cuban Government has exempted certain countries from requiring a visa to enter Cuba and made exemptions on the maximum duration of stay, which varies by country. It’s recommended to check with your nearest Cuban consulate for the latest information.

How to Get to Cuba

Cuba has 25 airports; however, the main international airport is Jose Marti in Havana.

We were able to get a good deal on our trip to Cuba by flying on a holy day. Usually, people do not travel on festive days, but rather include these as part of their trip, so airlines tend to decrease their prices on these days. It could be a great opportunity to save money on flights for you too!

Getting from Havana Airport to City Centre

Once arrived at Havana airport, you will need to grab a taxi or a bus. You’ll be approached by several drivers outside the airport. Unfortunately, many taxi drivers do not hold a regular licence in Cuba and tend to increase their prices for tourists. For your peace of mind, we would recommend booking a safe and official transfer in Havana.  This option could be a bit more expensive, but it would allow you to arrive straight at your place, thus particularly convenient if you are carrying heavy bags. 

Alternatively, you could get the buses P16 or P19 from terminal 2, which will bring you to Plaza de la Revolucion. The P16 also stops in Vedado. These buses do not have a timetable, but they run quite frequently. The journey time would be between 50 to 60 minutes.

Exchanging money in Cuba

The CUP (Peso Cubano) is now the only official currency in Cuba. Visitors can exchange Cuban currency at banks, hotels, and government currency exchange houses (CADECA). These offices are the safest place to exchange your cash. Just look for the CADECA sign. They are usually located in airports, hotels, and shopping centres. You can also withdraw money from an ATM using a credit or debit card. 

These are the official ways to exchange money in Cuba. We advise avoiding exchanging money in the street. Some people on the street would ask you to change your money with excellent exchange rates. That’s illegal, and most likely it is a scam. 

Another thing to point out is that American cards are not accepted in Cuba. Even though some American banks are in the process of making deals to enter Cuba, you should bring some cash to avoid hassles. Although non-American credit/debit cards are increasingly becoming accepted, be prepared to use cash most of the time. USD, EUR, and CAD cash are becoming frequently accepted. 

What to pack for a trip to Cuba

Cuba enjoys warm weather year-round, with temperatures and humidity rising during the wet season. When packing for your trip, it’s important to be smart and travel light. Consider using a backpack instead of a trolley, as you’ll be moving around frequently and the streets can be uneven. Additionally, bring along a small everyday bag for essentials like your camera, sunglasses, rain jacket, and water, which you can also take with you on the airplane. Pack mostly lightweight clothing suitable for warm weather, but remember that it can get cold at night, so include some warmer layers as well.

Here is what you should pack for a trip to Cuba


As a general rule, you should pack only the essentials so you can travel light. There is no need to bring lots of clothes, as you can always have them washed while there. Additionally, shopping in Cuba is not exactly the way we are used to. There are no real supermarkets in Cuba, even in bigger cities like Havana, and in shops, the shelves are often empty. This is also why we recommend bringing some extra soap and tissues.

How to Plan Your Trip to Cuba: Getting around Cuba

Renting a car in Cuba has several cons. Prices are very high and rental car companies do not always have availability, but most importantly…you can’t leave Cuba if you have an accident! Cuban law states that if a tourist has a car accident, they cannot leave the country until the court is over. This could take months!

Getting around Cuba by taxi

Taxis are everywhere in Cuba and they would take you everywhere on the island. In some places, such as bus terminals, many jinteros (unofficial taxi drivers) will propose you a casa particular and taxi services. In our opinion, this is just the way it works in these countries. Tourism is their primary resource and they would do anything to catch some business. However, we also don’t want to get scammed, and just want to pay the right price for a certain service. If you need a taxi, haggling is a smart thing to do to avoid scams. They will initially propose a price that is clearly much higher than what it should be. But with a bit of haggling, you can easily drop the price. In case they don’t lower the price, simply turn back and start walking and you’ll see how quickly they’ll change their mind.

If you are a small group you could also share a taxi. A popular way of travel around the island is by taxi compartidos. It’s basically sharing a car ride with other travellers and sharing the price. We only used a taxi compartido for a short 30 minutes ride as we preferred using the bus where possible. Some other travellers we met over there, told us the shared taxi they got often stopped in different locations to pick up more tourists, and this has made the trip lasting longer. 

taxi compartido Cuba
Our taxi compartido to Playa Ancon

Getting around Cuba by organized tours

If haggling is not exactly for you, there are several other options to travel around Cuba. For instance, taking part in one of the many organized tours will give you the comfort to have the trip set up for you and not need to spend too much time on planning. The most popular tours in Cuba are:

  • Viñales Valley Day Trip: Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage Viñales Valley and navigate through a thousand-year-old cave. You’ll also discover the tobacco fields in Cuba where the iconic world-famous cigars are made.

  • Trinidad & Cienfuegos 2-Day Tour: Leave the capital behind and discover two of the most charming cities in Cuba.

  • Soroa Waterfall Trekking Tour: If you are in Havana for a few days and want to connect with Cuban nature, then don’t miss this excursion. The Soroa jungle is a Biosphere Reserve featuring lush vegetation and amazing views.

  • Varadero Day Trip: Escape from Havana and spend a relaxing day on a paradise beach on this excursion to Varadero. You’ll also visit the spectacular Saturno Cave!

  • 8 Days in Cuba: a fully immersive tour in the top Cuban destinations Havana, Varadero, and Viñales.

Getting around Cuba by bus

The Viazul bus company travels all over the island. You can find their timetables and book the rides on their website. We travelled with Viazul on four occasions and, despite the not-so-good reviews they have, it was a good experience. The buses were always on time, which is all we needed after all. We booked the rides well in advance as we knew that during peak season, tickets tend to sell out fast. At the Viazul station in Vedado, people showed up to buy tickets on the day but trips were all sold out.

Where to stay in Cuba

Staying in a casa particular is one of the most traditional things you could do in Cuba. These are essentially private houses where the owners rent out rooms to tourists.

Note: most casa owners advertise themselves as “hostals”. Make sure you do not confuse them with backpacker hostels: it is not the same!

Staying in casas particulares will definitely add extras to your overall experience. Their service is much more personal than in hotels, meaning you will get to meet and know locals and experience a bit of Cuban culture and lifestyle. They are very welcoming, and always very keen to give you insightful information about anything. For reasonable prices, they will cook great meals and will arrange transfers and laundries for you. Having dinner at casas was actually one of the best experiences in Cuba. We stayed in 5 different casas in Cuba, and we were happy with all of them.

casa particulares Cuba
Enjoying breakfast at Casa Vladi Trinidad
where to stay in Cuba
Antique style Casa de los arquitectos Havana

Ready for Cuba? Some useful tips to keep in mind

Are you now even more excited about your next trip to Cuba? We know it will be a great experience and you will make memories that will last forever. Because of this, we decided to add some extra tips and useful information to make your trip planning easier.

Getting internet in Cuba

Telecommunication is government-owned in Cuba and there are no internet companies in Cuba

Too bad? Perhaps, however, this could be a great way to detox from the internet and social media while you are there. You can buy a NAUTA internet card from an ETECSA office. This card costs 1 CUC and will give you internet access for 1 hour. Cards can also be found in some hotels and from street vendors (at a higher cost). The card works like a scratch card which gives you a username and password. You will need this to get internet access in a wi-fi hotspot. Don’t worry, there are many hotspots throughout the country and they can be easily found.

When you see a group of people with their heads down staring at their phones, that is a wi-fi hotspot 😊

Hotels and resorts have wi-fi but they typically let their guests use the internet for an hour a day. Some casas particulares also have wi-fi, but rarely. Remember not to use your data provider if you don’t want to finish up all of your credit in a flash: data roaming is extremely expensive there.

Food and drinks in Cuba

Food and drinks are good and cheap in Cuba. Just like everywhere, there are good and bad eateries. Government-run restaurants are famous for slow service and poor quality. Eating in casas particulares and paladares is the way to go.

Casas particulares

Casas Particulares are shared houses where you stay and the owners would cook you a meal for a fee. Now, it is true that it depends on how good they are at cooking however remember that in Cuba they tend to eat fresh and locally sourced ingredients such as eggs and fish. Most of the time they make simple but delicious meals. Overall it is a great experience to share a meal with a local family!


The paladares are privately owned restaurants or family-run restaurants which typically offer traditional meals. Prices tend to be higher than those in government-run restaurants but you’ll probably gain in variety and quality of food. We recommend La Casa as a paladar to try out in Havana. Pork, fish, chicken, shrimp, and lobster are among the most popular dishes and they are usually accompanied by fried banana croquettes, rice, or beans. A national dish which we liked particularly is Ropa Vieja. Literary meaning “Old Stuff”, it is an ancient dish consisting of shredded beef with vegetables served with rice and black beans.


Drinks are also good pretty much everywhere. Cubans like to make variation recipes of famous cocktails such as Piña Colada and Mojito, and we must say they were nice. After all, they use Cuban rum 😊 They also have their very own cocktails, such as Canchanchara in Trinidad, which are really good. Water is not drinkable; you should always bring your own bottle and not order tap water at restaurants.

cocktails cuba
La Canchanchara

Tipping in Cuba

Tipping in bars and restaurants is not mandatory, but they would definitely appreciate a tip. Many bars and restaurants have live music shows to accompany your lunches or dinners. The musicians will usually pass around the tables for tips. Again, tipping the musicians is not mandatory but they would appreciate your help. Remember: Cubans rely heavily on tourism!

The best Salsa clubs in Cuba

Music is just everywhere in Cuba. Many – almost all – bars and restaurants have live Cuban music. We honestly don’t know how to dance Cuban salsa; however, we can assure you  it’s very catchy!!!

You can enjoy your dinner and simply watch the show, or go for a dance. It is not rare that restaurants transform themselves into dance clubs after dinner.

If you want to experience some of the best Cuban clubs, here is the list:

  • La Casa de la Musica: there are two in Havana, one in Miramar and one in Central Havana. There is also one in Trinidad, which is where we went, and highly recommend it.

  • Café Cantante: one of the most famous venues and part of the National Theatre of Cuba.

  • La Cecilia: well-known by the locals also because is where local bands play.

  • El Floridita: a historical landmark of Havana, where Ernest Hemingway used to hang around. It tends to be busy with tourists, but their drinks are great.

  • Club Salseando Chevere: a combination of a nightclub, theatre, and dance school.


Do you like Cuban Music?

Are you completely caught up by the Cuban and Afro-Caribbean rhythms just like us? Then why not make the most of your time in Havana embracing Cuba’s incredible culture of music and dance by taking a Dance Class? There would be no better way to learn how to dance salsa, merengue, and cha-cha-cha than while in Cuba!

Want to know more about Cuba?

Don’t forget to read our blog post Two Weeks in Cuba: Top Things You Should Not Miss

We will be talking about the top things to do in Havana (yes including riding a vintage car); explore Trinidad, a cute town frozen in time; take you to some of the best Cuban Cayos – beach lovers stay tuned – and finish up our amazing trip in Varadero.

Do you like city breaks? Read our articles on Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Lisbon, Naples, Paris, Budapest, London, Edinburgh, Rome and Barcelona !

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