General Tips and Suggestions:
–U.S. citizens need to obtain a visa to enter Cuba. The process is different if you are flying to and from the US, then if you are flying to and from a different country. We flew from Guatemala City through Panama to Cuba and then out to Colombia so we were able to purchase our visas directly at the airport check-in desk in Guatemala for $25 each. If you are in the US, your process is different. I have no first hand knowledge of this.
–The only currency that you can exchange in Cuba is US dollars (which is docked an additional 10% fee), British Sterling Pounds, Euros, and Mexican Pesos.
–There are two types of currency in Cuban. The CUP and the CUC. The CUP is what the nationals of Cuba use. Foreigners can use the CUP, but need to first exchange to the CUC and then go through another separate transaction to exchange CUC to CUP. You’ll need to exchange some money at the airport, upon arrival, to pay for your taxi ride into Havana.
–Disposable diapers are VERY hard to find in Cuba. You should bring all the diapers you will need for your whole trip and not plan on buying any while there. They do sell them, but very hard to find.
–if you can get by with carry-on luggage only, that is the way to go. Luggage handling is VERY VERY VERY slow. It took almost 2 hours to get our luggage after our flight landed.
Upon landing in Havana, we took a taxi to our AirBnB rental. Grabbing a taxi right outside the airport is easy to do. No need to arrange one in advance. When renting AirBnBs in Cuba, you’ll see two unusual things. One, is that you’ll need to select your purpose of travel if you are a US citizen. “Support of the Cuban people” works well for this section and helps support your visa requirements if that is the reason you chose for your visit to Cuba. Also, you’ll see lots of listings for “Casa Particulars”. These are houses owned by locals where they rent out some or all of the bedrooms. Even if it says “entire house”, you may not actually have the entire house. It is best to clarify with the owners before booking. One benefit of Casa Particulars is that the owners are locals who often offer additional services for a small fee such as meals, taxis, and tours.
In Havana, there are two types of taxis. The metered taxis, which are government owned and have specific price points, depending on the time of day, and the public owned taxis, which are easily identified as they are the classic old cars. Their prices are negotiable.
Grocery shopping in Cuba is extremely difficult. Most staples such as bread and eggs, are given to Cuban nationals, via their ration card. Even if you have local currency, you will not be able to purchase these items for yourself. Lots of food is past expiration date. Very hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables. While we normally rent places with kitchens and cook for ourselves, we found this to be nearly impossible in Cuba. Plan on eating out for most of your trip and since US citizens cannot pull out cash from the cash machines or use their US based credit cards, this means bringing enough cash for this expense.
This is a lovely rural village surrounding by beautiful landscapes and was our favorite stop in Cuba. Our AirBnB host in Vinales arranged for our taxi ride to their property from Havana. Depending on how fast your taxi is, the ride from Havana to Vinales can take anywhere from 2-3 hours.
We took a horseback ride through the national park, stopping at a coffee farm and a tobacco farm.
On a separate tour arranged by our AirBnB hosts, we went to La Cueva del Indio in which you walk and take a small boat ride through the cave system, the big mural on the hillside call La Mural de Prehistoria, a working tobacco farm, and an overlook over Vinales.