While the FashionContainer team is normally a big believer in as little preparation as possible prior to visiting a new country, for Cuba this turned out a very, very bad idea. Let us tell you why.
The poor prepration already started while we were in the Netherlands. Cuba sure was on our itinerary somewhere in the months of December and January, but we didn’t yet book a flight, neither did we bother looking into a visa until two days before departure. Ehmmmm, yes really. While this all turned out OK at the last minute, other things didn’t quite work out that well. This is how you survive Cuba.
1. Cash is King
So you go to Cuba thinking you’ll be able to take out some money at the ATM when you need it? Forget it. Just forget it. There are barely banks and if there’s a bank, they most certainly don’t accept Mastercards. We spend half a day finding one place, the Nacional hotel that is, that does accept Mastercards, which then turned out to have technical issues meaning that we still couldn’t withdraw money. So, take cash. And count on cash only. It saves you a lot of stress and time.
2. No wi-fi
But really. I did read that wi-fi is extremely hard to find in Cuba, but I guess I just didn’t really believe it until I saw it for myself. So yes, it’s true. At some hotels you can get wi-fi (if the ticket machine where you have to purchase a code works and if the connection decides to be existing that day) but it’s very slow and expensive! For one hour online, you pay 5 CUC which equals 5 USD. The tip? Just tell your family and friends you’ll be going off the radar for a while and don’t bother yourself with trying to get online. It’s not worth it.
3. Toilet paper is your friend
…because even in many ‘upscale’ restaurants or bars you won’t find it. Put those tissues in your bag, because you’re going to need them.
4. Patience, patience
Everything takes long. Very, very long. From getting food or a drink in a restaurant, the queues to buy a ticket for the bus. So practice your patience skills before you get to Cuba, otherwise you’ll be brutally challenged.
5. Bring a survival kit
There’s no such thing as a super market (at least I haven’t seen them) or a drug store (bye bye conditioner and face wash), so you’re best off to really think through the time you’ll be spending in Cuba and what you’ll need. For example, if I knew what I know now, I’d most certainly have stuffed my suitcase with some nut bars, dried fruits and some other healthy things to survive.
We’re well aware that this post might sound a tad dramatic, but that’s by no means how we feel or experienced Cuba. Stay tuned for the full travel story and our experience at a guest house coming up!