5 Things to Know Before You Travel to Cuba
With the recent de-escalation of tensions between Cuba and the United States, everyone’s talking about when pleasure travel from the US will be approved for the general public. It hasn’t happened yet, but Cuba is still a dream destination on many travelers lists.
For those of you lucky enough to find yourself in this tropical country, for work or pleasure, here’s a list of things you should know.
- How to pay
While the relationship between US credit card companies and Cuban banks has grown more friendly since the beginning of the year, with Mastercard boasting acceptance throughout the country as of March 1st, and American Express hot on their heels, their peso, is not publically traded, and thus can’t be obtained outside the country.
As a tourist, expect to use a special version of the peso, the Cuban Convertible Peso (or CUC). This is something that is considered standard practice, and you’ll find that yourself unable to pay using a standard peso at many tourist based establishments.
- What to wear
Standard attire is exactly what you’d hope for on a tropical island, casual, skin baring, and beach-oriented. Cuba doesn’t abide by strict dress codes. There will rarely be an appropriate occasion for anything considered formal, and even a jacket and tie will make you look and feel overdressed. Instead, wear lightweight fabrics and colors, a short sleeved button up for a man, and a sundress for a woman.
- What to eat and drink
The food in Cuba is notoriously delicious, and anyone visiting here should make every effort to indulge in ample local cuisine.
Don’t, on the other hand, use the locally sourced tap water to rinse down that spicy delicacy, and don’t bother trying to find cost friendly bottled water either. Cuba doesn’t have a preponderance of bodegas, corner stores, and grocery markets like many other countries. So, saving a few pennies by finding your own snacks and refreshments is not worth the trouble.
So, despite the healing and rejuvenating properties water has been proven to have, treat it like the enemy when you travel, and purchase bottled water from wherever you’re staying unless you want to spend your vacation sick in bed.
- How to behave
It is terribly disrespectful to ignore the cultural norms and expectations of your host country. While many travelers feign ignorance when they’re abroad, the right thing to do is educate yourself to certain customs in advance, one of these is conventional tipping expectations. In cuba, tipping is commonplace.
Bathroom attendance, airline and hotel employees, and other commonplace workers will expect you to tip them. At restaurants, conversely, no tip is anticipated, and thus anything you offer is taken as a compliment to the attendant.
- Don’t play politics
Remember, the Cuban people were no more involved in the decision to become estranged from the US than US citizens were to become estranged from Cuba. Reading a little bit of illuminated history before you travel will help you to understand the politics that drove the disintegration of our relations, and will keep you from making assumptions about the Cuban people.
Don’t forget, the rest of the world has been taking summer vacations to Cuba for decades, we’re the one’s who should consider ourselves strangers.