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Visiting Cuba.

 After 50 years of strained relations between Cuba and the US it looks likely that travel will soon be possible again.




I've been visiting Cuba - for over 15 years - from the UK. - I'm British.

I spend some time living in the US each year, so hopefully I'll give you an insight into what to expect - and what not to expect for the American visitor.




This is how things are at this moment. Contents may vary.




You need a Cuban Visa before entering the country. Travel operators currently supply these for you. You'll need to present it with your passport on arrival. Take a pen to complete it on the flight. 10 minutes. 1 per person.  


Europeans do NOT require vaccinations before travel. You may hear some stories of mosquito bites being infectious. This is only in the mountainous regions inland. You won't be going there. Unless you have a particular liking for tropical jungles.  


You can only get the Cuban Tourist Peso (CUC) inside Cuba. Currently the US Dollar is not welcome in Cuba. There is a 10% surcharge on exchanging US $ notes to CUC. US Bank and Credit cards are not accepted  - currently. Only take clean unmarked notes for exchange. Consider Canadian or Euro alternatives to the $ US.


The value of the CUC is linked to the US $...  $1 = 1 CUC.  


You can not take any food into Cuba. Your bags will all be scanned using a modern scanner and - like  me - you will be told "You have an apple and a sandwich in your luggage" And then you'll need to empty all your stuff out onto the table at Customs.




Take any medicines you think you may need on a vacation. There's nothing to buy when you get there so take everything from a band-aid to upset stomach tabs. Mosquito wipes, anti-histamine and sun block. Keep medicines from your doctor in packaging that identifies your name.  


Don't even think about taking anything stronger than tobacco into Cuba. Dogs have a sniff of everyone entering Cuba. Military governments are unsympathetic towards drug users.






The airport has Taxis for the independent traveller - or if you're on a package deal, then a modern Chinese bus will take you to your hotel. Exceptionally nice buses they are, too. Taxis are French, Korean or Chinese. Modern and roadworthy.  


The standard of your chosen hotel will vary greatly. But it will never reach the standard you've been used to in other countries. Bedrooms are basic but very clean. You may get a mini-bar and fridge. Bathroom facilities are just like home. TV is usually free satellite channels intended for Florida.   The food is basic and will not include all the meals you enjoy in the US. Steak and beef is not available to the Cubans. But some is imported for tourist consumption. Fish, pork and chicken are available to all. Local vegetables. Rice or beans. Soups. Breads. Cheese.  Spicy Cuban sauces are delicious.


Coke and Fanta are imported from Mexico. Beer is brewed locally by Labatt's (of Canada) - Crystal and Buccanero ( "Fuerte" - high alcohol content)  


You can get Cuban currency at the airport when you arrive or wait until you get to the hotel. Exchange rates are set by the government. You'll get the same rate of exchange wherever.  


PART 2 NEXT SUNDAY.....   EXPLORING CUBA. - ( and a few more photos of cars ! )   (These are just my opinions. If you have questions please ask. Share your experience of Cuba - all welcome)       



















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Comments (6)

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Hi HistoryDigger. We always get the leader of the Animation Team - he organises the shows and dancing inside the hotel.

He knows all the local places of interest.

Obviously It depends on which region you'll be visiting.

He'll organise a 12 seat Hyundai van for the day 8 - 4pm.

Including gas and driver it costs us around $200 equivalent. (Divide that by 10 in the group)

Lunch in a restaurant another $15 each.

Nice tip for the driver when you start off and he'll be your friend for ever !

The money you'll be charged goes to the Taxi Company ( usually the Government ) so keep Manuel the driver happy. Feed him too. And a can of Fanta.

Reps in the Hotel will offer to do it for you - probably cost twice as much !

Canadians and Brits do this every week - so it will be nothing new to the driver.


I wouldn't advise you take to the roads solo. Your driver will  know where the road suddenly disappears. The pot holes and where to drive on the only side of the road that hasn't collapsed. Forget highways and freeways - think tracks and assault courses.

Last edited by GarryRF

That's some very excellent and useful advise, Garry.  Thanks for sharing this info at this timely moment in travel history.


And the car photos are the best.  I wonder how long they'll last there, as American car collectors having been wanting to get their hands on them for years!

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

The enthusiasts I've met in the US are looking for genuine cars !

The Cuban guys call these blasts from the past " Frankencars "

Like the original Frankenstein's monster these beauties are made of parts from maybe a dozen other cars. Moskvich and Lada engines from Russia. Brakes from China and everything else off the scrap heap!

Panel beaters ( now there's a dying trade ) will beat a new wing from the hood of a dead Russian truck in a few hours.

You'd be surprised how much these trade for in Cuba.

Not everyone there is poor !

Last edited by GarryRF

It's similar rules for people like me coming from the Caribbean into Cuba. I flew via Panama and I was surprised how easy the process was entering Cuba given some horror stories I have heard. I planned my entire trip, thankfully with the help of locals. The only stress was getting an internal flight from Santiago back to Havana before we arrived (which I tried to do the minute we arrived). After a week of trying I finally scored the last two seats on the last flight out before our connecting flight (back up plan was a 24hr bus ride back which I dreaded doing).

Love the car photos! My uncle has been frequently going to Cuba for car parts over the years for his collection of antique cars. With the US opening up, he's also wondering how the antique American car trade will change. 

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