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HomeSingapore TravelPlanning A Trip To Cuba? Nicely, I Recommend You Learn This First.

Planning A Trip To Cuba? Nicely, I Recommend You Learn This First.

“Hey, didn’t you simply get again from Cuba?

Wow, it seems to be so fairly, and I simply love the colours and the retro vibes. It’s like a step again into time. I might love to go to sometime!”

Cuba is a kind of locations that everybody claims is on their bucket checklist, however one way or the other, at all times will get postponed in favor of a road-trip throughout the USA or a buying spree throughout Europe.

Let me apologize upfront for being the “bucket-list” spoiler;

As a result of Cuba, in our opinion was probably the most “misrepresented” locations we’d ever been to.

Many vacationers (most, actually) who go to Cuba put up colourful (closely edited) footage of colonial buildings, the classic American vehicles, stunning tobacco fields, and rave in regards to the retro vibes.

They don’t inform you in regards to the annoying touts, the scams, the vacationer traps, the drained worn-down buildings, the unhappy plight of the locals, and the way poorly the nation is run, nothing.

All you hear is, “It was an incredible journey! Try to be there!”

Don’t get us flawed, Cuba is gorgeous, and positively one of many extra attention-grabbing nations we’ve visited. We loved ourselves and have been overwhelmed by the Cuban tradition, the music, its historical past, and the hospitality of our hosts.

Maybe “misrepresented” is simply too sturdy a phrase. However that impression that you’ve in your head primarily based on what you’ve seen on Instagram? Nicely, it’s nothing like that.

Now, extra on the aspect of Cuba that nobody desires to speak about on the finish of this put up. However for these of you who’re set on Cuba as your subsequent trip vacation spot? Listed below are 25 stuff you’ll want know earlier than you go.

1. Overlook About Being Linked.

WIFI, or the shortage of it. This, is probably the one greatest stumbling block most Singaporeans will face.

I take advantage of an outdated iPhone 6 (it is 2019 now and iPhone XS is the in-thing), and may’t actually care much less about being linked, however sure, it was painful, even for me.

Discuss a step again in time. For years, entry to the web was restricted and managed by the Cuban authorities. At this time, WIFI is out there in sure spots within the nation. To make use of the web, you’ll need to seek for a “WIFI Zone” and share that reference to 100 different individuals.

You’ll first queue between 30mins to an hour for the correct to buy WIFI playing cards, no more than 3 playing cards per particular person. The playing cards price 5 CUC for 3 playing cards of 1 hour every or 5 CUC for 1 card of 5 hours every. You then take a coin and scratch off the again of the cardboard for the password. Scratch too laborious and the numbers will come off as nicely. Now your card’s ineffective. Our suggestion? Ask the man on the WIFI store to scratch it off for you. No costs for guessing, however connection isn’t that nice.

Oh, and I have not come to the dangerous half. For those who neglect, or do not know the way to sign off after you are carried out, anybody inside shut proximity to you’ll be able to steal no matter minutes are left in your WIFI card.

2. Obtain Maps.Me/Google Translate Earlier than You Arrive

(A typical Retro Cuban convertible/taxi)

Due to the shortage of WIFI, neglect about google maps. As a substitute, obtain Maps.Me, an amazing offline map that’s simply as correct. We’ve used Maps.Me everywhere in the world, from Lebanon, to Zimbabwe, to Ukraine, and now in Cuba; it’s by no means failed us.

Until you studied Spanish, you’ll need to depend on signal language or screenshot footage in your cellphone if you wish to talk with the locals. The better manner? Google Translate. It definitely helps when taking taxis.

3. What Are The “Should Have” Experiences?

Take up horse using in Vinales, the tobacco area of Cuba. You may as well be a farmer for a day at one of many many tobacco farms and study to roll and smoke your personal cigars.

Cuban music & dance is taken into account one of many richest and most influential music genres of the world. Be taught Salsa, or watch an area Cuban music efficiency whereas having fun with a swig of Havana Membership.

Take in the “previous world” really feel in Trinidad and Havana. Get your self misplaced in a maze of previous colourful colonial buildings or pay to be ferried round in a typical Cuban convertible.

Go to the Revolution Museum to study in regards to the Cuban Missile Disaster, their falling out with the USA, Communism, and uncover how all these occasions led as much as Cuba being what they’re right this moment. With the fascinating historical past that Cuba has, you do not have to be the “museum kind” to search out the Revolution Museum attention-grabbing.

Stick with one of many English talking locals in a standard Cuban residence, have a chat with them and be puzzled on how they survive on a wage, the equal of 40 USD a month. You’ll uncover a aspect of Cuba not seen in Instagram.

4. I Have 1 week In Cuba, The place Are The ‘Should Go’s”?

We might recommend 2 days in Trinidad (colonial city), 2 days in Vinales (tobacco hills, caves, countryside), 2 days in Havana (Instagram Metropolis), 1 day in Varadero (seashores)

5. Which International locations Can I Mix Cuba With?

(Left, Mexico. Proper, Miami)

Essentially the most flights to Cuba are from Cancun (Mexico) and Miami (USA). These locations are additionally the most cost effective to fly into.

6. Queues, A Singaporean Pastime

Singaporeans will love this. Due to our expertise in queuing for Hiya Kitty toys, the most recent iPhone, dim sum, bubble tea, and buying reductions, there’s no nationality on this planet that has higher queuing credentials than we do.

In Cuba, you can also anticipate to queue for essentially the most ridiculous issues. There are 30min queues for the cash trade, to buy WIFI, and even to enter a grocery store to purchase water.

The supply of the queue? Nicely, they’ve this bizarre observe of limiting the variety of individuals that may enter a store. You and your spouse plan on exchanging cash? Solely certainly one of you is allowed to enter, the opposite has to attend outdoors.

7. Take Money, Overlook Playing cards

(“Mural de la Prehistoria”, one of many greatest vacationer traps in Vinales along with the “Indian Caves”. Unimpressive and never definitely worth the entrance charges)

Have a $50,000 restrict in your swanky American Specific Card? That is ineffective. And that goes for Visa and Grasp playing cards as nicely.

ATMs exist, however we’d recommend carrying all of the money you want to your journey on you to save lots of time. Cuba is secure sufficient.

8. Get The whole lot Finished At The Airport (WIFI/Alternate Cash)

(The Malecon in Havana. It is a good way to spend the night strolling alongside the by the ocean, watching the locals fish)

For those who don’t need to waste a few ours queuing for WIFI or to trade cash, it’s finest to do these couple of issues on the airport.

There are seldom queues as the speed isn’t that nice. However it certain beats queuing for hours below the new Cuban solar.

9. Welcome To One Of The Worst Airports Ever

We have been to airports everywhere in the world; and sure, we are able to conclude that the airport procedures in Cuba, are among the many worst.

The airport officers in Cuba haven’t received a clue that Singaporeans don’t want a Visa.

We had our journey paperwork printed out even in Spanish to show we didn’t require a visa, had already bought lodging, flights overseas, and mainly knew what we have been doing. Nonetheless they confiscated our passports and proceeded to query us for the following 30mins in an authoritarian like method. This occurred every time we entered and exited Cuba.

Think about if we didn’t print out our paperwork.

Once we have been leaving Havana, the identical immigration official who let “The Woman” by a minute in the past stopped me, asking me why I did not have a Cuban Visa. Which made me marvel, why did they let her by then? We’re carrying the identical passport aren’t we? And why would they even allow us to in to start with solely to ask why I did not require a Visa after I was leaving?

10. One Nation, Two Currencies

(The stereotypical colourful streets of Havana)

Vacationer have to make use of CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso, 1 USD = 1CUC), and the locals use CUP (Cuban Nationwide Peso, 1 CUC = 24 CUP).

For those who eat within the cheaper native institutions like we did, be ready to get again CUP as change. You possibly can nonetheless use it, but it surely’s just a bit extra work on the accounting half.

11. Don’t Carry USD Until You Need To Be Taxed

Cuba and the USA have some dangerous blood with one another. Alternate USD and anticipate to get a horrible trade plus get hit with a further 10% tax.

For one of the best trade fee, deliver Euros or Sterling Kilos. Cuba prefers Europeans.

12. Don’t E book Excursions In Advance

(Cuba has some fairly good seashores)

Like Bangkok, every part might be negotiated in Cuba. It’s finest to only present up and haggle the costs down. For those who stick with an area, they’ll do the mandatory preparations for you.

13. Rip-off Metropolis

Touring alone? Look out for the “Friendship Rip-off” the place some random individuals come as much as you, act extraordinarily pleasant, present you one of the best locations for lunch or drinks, sit and dine with you, then go away you to select up the invoice.

The “Salsa Competition”. Many individuals will inform you how fortunate you’re that you simply arrived in Cuba on the most important Salsa Competition of the 12 months and attempt to promote you tickets to them. You then arrive at some dancing college or membership for classes, they get a fee, they usually disappear.

“Pretend Taxi”. A taxi at all times seems like a superb different after hours below the Cuban solar. For those who don’t negotiate the worth beforehand, be ready for a shock.

Simply don’t purchase any cigars or entertain any touts on the road. The one factor value shopping for might be a hat in the event you haven’t received one due to the blistering warmth.

14. Don’t Purchase Cigar’s In Havana

The federal government of Cuba makes it necessary for tobacco farms to contribute 90% of their produce to the federal government. These cigars are then packed into a pleasant humidor, with an amazing packaging and exorbitant price ticket. The farms earn peanuts and the federal government takes the money. These cigars from the federal government are blended with chemical substances for preservation.

For those who plan to take them residence, you don’t have a lot of a alternative. However for the expertise of merely having fun with a Cuban Cigar on trip? Simply get it from the tobacco farms for 10 occasions lesser. 4 CUC for a Montecristo.

15. Finest Time Of The Yr To Go to Cuba

The perfect time is between Mid-November to March when it’s cooler. Could to June is the moist season, and July to Early November is hurricane season.

16. The Fortress, The Vacationer Lure

That is maybe the biggest vacationer lure in all of Havana. At 9pm each evening, a cannon will fireplace from the previous fortress of Havana. Not 9 occasions, however simply 1 time. Bang! And that’s the tip of it.

It prices 8 CUC to get a taxi to the fortress, 8 CUC to get again, and eight CUC for the doorway payment. All for a “bang”. And no, whereas the views from the fortress are alright, under no circumstances is that this worth for cash. Nonetheless, in the event you’ve by no means heard a cannon fireplace, please, go to this and don’t let me discourage you.

17. Price range Autos

One of many key should do’s for anybody visiting Havana is to expertise being pushed round in on of the various colourful retro convertibles.

Most of them can be found at close to the Capitol at Parque Central in between Centro and Outdated Havana, and price 30 CUC for a an hours drive. For those who’re touring in 4, that’s nonetheless inexpensive. However in the event you’re touring alone, 30 CUC is painful.

Ignore the fleet of vehicles at Parque Central and stroll towards the Museum of the Revolution. Simply 5mins stroll off the primary sq. of Parque Central, you’ll discover be capable of get costs at simply 20 CUC as a substitute, that’s like 30% much less!

18. The place To Keep In Cuba?

(For the following few factors, I’ll be utilizing Havana and Vinales as a reference level as a result of value smart, they’re the two extremes of touristy cities in Cuba. Bear in mind, 1 CUC = 1 USD)

Give motels a miss in Cuba and go onto or Airbnb to remain in an area Casa (residence). These Casa’s are furnished with air-conditioning, WIFI, clear beds, non-public bathrooms and even a hair dryer for the women. A part of the Cuban expertise resides with an area and waking up the following morning for a Cuban breakfast.

By staying in Casa’s, you not solely get a extra genuine expertise, however you additionally assist to locals who earn a pittance of 20 – 60 CUC a month and save your self cash on the similar time.

In Outdated Havana, the primary vacationer space is Obispo Road. Keep close to there as a result of that’s the place all of the motion is, along with the cash trade, supermarkets, and WIFI store.

In Vinales, keep close to the “Cathederal”. That’s the place the primary space of Vinales is. There are lots of of Casa’s inside 5-10mins strolling distance from the road.

19. An Alcoholic’s Paradise

I might think about myself extra of a “beer man”. However in Cuba, I barely touched a drop of beer (nicely, perhaps only one glass) as a result of the native cocktails and rum was so low-cost.

Get pleasure from Pina Colada’s, Daiquiri’s, Mojito’s, Cuba Libra from 2 – 6 CUC in Havana, and 1- 3 CUC in Vinales. Let’s simply say any of those drinks would have price 15 -30 SGD at a restaurant in Singapore.

I had in all probability 10 drinks a day and that, is under no circumstances an exaggeration!

20. How A lot Does A Meal Value?

We’ll use Havana as a reference level as a result of that’s the most costly metropolis in Cuba. Nonetheless a meal even in Havana might be actually low-cost. At one of many native institutions, we paid 0.75 CUC for a big pizza and 0.25 CUC for a glass of fruit juice. That’s like 1 USD for a meal!

In most different correct eating places in Havana, a essential course of rooster prices from 5 CUC, fish from 6 CUC, and Lobster from 8 CUC and up. Add in drinks, and also you’ll anticipate to spend 10 CUC per meal per particular person in Cuba.

Vinales is less expensive and you will get pasta from 1.5 CUC and rooster from 3 CUC. If you would like a coke for example, keep in mind there are 2 classifications; native gentle drinks and worldwide gentle drinks. Each are coke, aside from one being made in Cuba and the opposite, the unique coke at 2 occasions the worth.

To economize but get to get pleasure from good Cuban meals on the similar time, we shared a 1 CUC meal of pizza and fruit juice to replenish a part of our stomach’s then shared a correct meal at a restaurant. Identical expertise, half the worth.

21. Is Cuba Secure?

It’s very secure. We felt zero hazard vibes.

I might be comfy with “The Woman” touring right here on her personal. To place issues in perspective, in Africa, we might probably be again in our lodge room by 8pm, or at the very least in a spot the place we may simply get a taxi again. In Cuba, “The Woman” and I have been nonetheless strolling about at midnight searching for a bar to drink.

22. (For Some) Cuba Is Not An Simple Place To Get pleasure from

A typical Singaporean used to every part working easily, having WIFI readily available and skilled no actual language obstacles in earlier journeys, will wrestle to get pleasure from Cuba.

In case your journey expertise is restricted to holidays in Europe, Japan, or all-inclusive resorts within the Maldives, I’m not so certain in the event you’re prepared for Cuba.

Overlook that notion of Cuba that was conjured by Instagram or Fb, and also you’ll get pleasure from your day slightly extra.

23. Getting Round Cuba. Transport Costs.


A taxi to from the Jose Marti Airport to Outdated Havana will price 25 CUC. In case your visiting Trinidad, it’ll price you at the very least 80 CUC from Santa Clara Airport.

To get round Havana, you’ll be able to anticipate to pay between 5 -10 CUC for a taxi trip.

Viazul (Bus)

Buses are the most cost effective type of transport from metropolis to metropolis. A bus from Havana to Vinales for example, may price 10 CUC.

Collectivo (Shared Taxi)

Collectivo’s are the candy spot. They decide you up proper at your step, and drop you off precisely the place it’s worthwhile to go. Consider it as “Grabshare”. “The Woman” and I received a collectivo for 20 CUC every from Havana to Vinales. It’s extra handy than the bus and manner cheaper than a personal taxi.

24. Am I Anticipated To Tip? Do I Want A Visa/Vacationer Card

Sure, a tip of 10-15% is anticipated in Cuba. Small items like toiletries, toothbrushes, crayons, pencils and slippers for the locals could be appreciated much more than ideas as a result of they don’t seem to be available in Cuba. Even when the locals needed them, it was price an arm and a leg.

Some journey blogs inform you to put aside $20 USD for a “vacationer card” on arrival to Cuba. That is now not relevant to Singaporeans and we did not pay a cent. We validated this with different Singaporean mates who additionally visited Cuba in 2019.

25. Expectation Setting

The reality is, Cuba is a lot greater than colourful colonial homes, retro vehicles and cigars.

Don’t arrive in Cuba with the requirements you’d anticipate in Singapore or in your European holidays.

Overlook about how processes run in a developed world, neglect about WIFI, assured air-conditioning and even sizzling water. For those who do get these luxuries, or at any time when processes run in line with what you’d anticipate them to do, it’s a bonus.

For those who don’t, “Welcome to Cuba”. And sure, Cuba is a communist nation.

Ultimate Ideas

Below the guise of closely edited footage, Cuba is fairly. The reality is, Cuba has been “mis-represented” by Instagram.

Up shut, the balconies are lopsided. The paint is peeling, and the roads are full of big portholes. And no, the Cuban authorities is not making an attempt to keep up the “again in time look” for the sake of the vacationer greenback. The nation is simply clearly money strapped; its buildings and streets are in dire want of “refurbishing”, however the authorities does not appear to care.

Violent crime, Cuba is freed from; however scams are aplenty.

The previous Cuban vehicles so fashionable with vacationers truly price greater than many new vehicles in Singapore and are actually robust to keep up. The everlasting façade of the vehicles are colourful, shiny and look nice in footage. On the within? It resembles extra of a cannibalized Toyota.

And majority of that 30 CUC you pay? It doesn’t go to the driving force, who painstakingly maintained it so you can get an image and a trip, it goes to his bosses, a single company who owns all of the convertibles.

Apart from taxi drivers and a few others within the tourism business, most locals earn a median of 40 CUC a month as dictated by the federal government. Within the countryside, the farmers are pressured to present 90% of their tobacco again to the federal government, leaving a miserly 10% for themselves.

As I puffed on my “farm purchased” Cuban cigar, I questioned, “how good is tourism for Cuba? Who’s truly getting the cash?” With an increasing number of vacationers pouring in, it a method a better way of life however not essentially increased wages for the locals. I don’t find out about you, however in 2019, I’d say that incomes the equal of 40 USD a month is just not a life I’d need.

We’re not making an attempt to discourage anybody from visiting Cuba, however merely to embrase the aspect of Cuba that hasn’t been represented nicely. After writing such a protracted put up, we’d similar to to say that Cuba is a unbelievable place to go to with definitely one of many extra attention-grabbing, thought frightening pasts behind it.

Please go to Cuba, however go, as a clean sheet of paper, and never with misguided expectations.

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