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  • Konrad Tillman

Going To Cuba As An American? Here Are Some Tips Before You Go!

Intro


I was a tad nervous before heading to Havana on my weekend adventure. You might be as well if you are heading to Cuba soon. Perhaps confused about the rules? Perhaps you are confused about how to get a Tourist Card. Perhaps confused about the wifi situation? As an American tourist who just went, it was super easy and with these few tips, you will be stress-free.


How Do You Get In?


Before we even embark on the tips, do you need to be concerned about getting into Cuba? Absolutely not. The gate agent only asked for my QR code and my reason for travel "I said Support For The Cuban People". While I had a printed itinerary, they never asked to see it😅. Don't stress you'll be okay.


How Do You Get A Tourist Card?


It's another very simple process; no need to worry. Once you arrive in Miami (most flights go from Miami), there was an agent by the gate that sold us tourist cards for 100$, payable by credit card only. No questions were asked and I had my tourist card within 30 seconds.


Take out enough cash and more.


US bank cards are not accepted in Cuba by any means necessary. This means if you run out of dollars, you are sort of screwed. While I only spent about 250$ dollars across two days, I was glad I brought 400$ for my peace of mind. If you are staying at a Casa Particular (https://www.jettoajet.com/post/staying-at-a-casa-particular-in-havana-a-cultivating-experience-of-cuban-culture), most will offer a good exchange rate on changing money to the local currency. However, most restaurants and taxis also take USD and Euro. Another note (pun intended) to be aware of is if a note is crinkled they might not accept it, make sure you have some fresh notes!


Most local taxis will offer you a rate in USD

Fill Out Your QR Code Before The Airport


I wish someone had told me this before I showed up an hour before boarding at LAX. There is a QR declaration form you must fill out (not that Cuba checks it but airlines mandate it) and it is all in Spanish. It takes a good 10-15 minutes and the link is here (https://dviajeros.mitrans.gob.cu/inicio). Make sure you save the screenshot or PDF or even better, print it out. This will make your life so much easier!


The People Are Friendly, But...


Throughout my weekend in Havana, the locals were extremely friendly but there are people at the tourist traps who aren't as friendly. Just like in Asia, people will be asking you if you want a taxi (charging 5x more than La Nave, but you can't download the app on a US phone, very similar to Uber), people will be asking you if you want drugs and the list goes on.



For example I paid 25 dollars for this taxi to drive me 9 minutes😅

Dining Establishments


There are two types of restaurants in Havana: the tourist places and the not-so-touristic establishments. For example, there was a pizza place I went to and it quoted me 2000 of the local currency (6 USD). However, the one next door had better quality pizza for less than 1/3 of the price (600 local).


The Rum Is Cheap


There is no other way to put this: the rum is dirt cheap and some of the best I have had. The lowest quality at a restaurant sits at around 60-80 cents a shot. While the top-shelf stuff is around 3$ a line (shot). Suprinsgly, I had about 25 in a day and woke up with no hangover, quality must be that good🤥.


Get Out And Explore! It's Safe!


Once you land, it is as if you are transported to a different era of life, the 1950's. Havana is a special place that will blow your mind with its rich culture, deep roots, and mind-blowing sights. Take a stroll around and see Plaza Revolucion or somewhere else that piques your interest! Never once did I feel unsafe, people go about their own lives but are friendly if asking for directions. Side note: not much English is spoken so learn Spanish!


It's a different dimension

Wifi/Data


Sorry, US carriers don't provide data in Cuba. However, there are places where you can buy a physical SIM card, the key word here is physical as a lot of newer iPhones have an ESIM. However, it's not all bad news. The Airbnb provided Wifi for free as most hotels and Airbnbs do in Havana. The only drawback is that during the day it was relatively slow, but at night, I was able to stream movies (I know I watched a movie but Napoleon came out that day).

Take A Salsa Class


This isn't just about a salsa class, although it was one of my favorite activities. The point is actually to engage with the Cuban people; they are genuine, friendly, and kind people. Salsa Classes, Cigar Making, and Rum tasting are just some of the activities you can participate in (check out my cigar post for more details on booking).


Havana Music School: My Salsa Dance Location

Coming Back To The USA


Like me, you might be worried about coming back to the USA with certain good or you might be worried about being interrogated. While you are not supposed to bring in Cigars or Rum, I'm sure you could manage a few cigars if you wanted as customs never stopped me (I will not be held responsible if they do😅). Once I got to the mobile passport control (do this if you travel, no need to pay it's an app on your phone) the agent scanned my passport, asked where I was coming from, and waved me through to the terminal. IT IS NO DIFFERENT!


Final Thoughts


A lot of us have been told not to go to Cuba, it's difficult, it's communist, it's not safe, etc blah blah blah. Don't fret, everything that people have said is wrong (apart from communism) the people are friendly, it's not dangerous, and it's a beautiful place. It's not so different than travelling to any other place and if you follow these tips, your trip will be a breeze!






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