While I enjoyed my trip to Cuba I encountered several snafus during my 8-day stay. Read below as I discuss all things that went wrong in Cuba. Consider my suggestions as you get ready for your trip.
MYTH: Cubans don’t like gifts or will not accept them.
FACT: They like gifts and will graciously take them.
How Do I Know: As we were leaving our Airbnb and headed to Varadero Beach a lady named Maria stopped to talk to us. In the midst of our conversation, she asked,”Did we have any clothes or hygiene items to give her?”. I felt bad because it was on my heart to bring items to give away but I did not follow through with my plans. At the end of our trip, my friend Renee gave away small items she had left over in her bag to Claudia.
SUGGESTION: Don’t forget to bring gifts. Gifts can include clothes, toys, personal hygiene items and snacks such as chips and chocolate, (my tour guide requested these items before I came to Cuba).
MYTH: All Airbnbs serve breakfast and is included in the total price.
FACT: All Airbnbs do not offer breakfast.
How Do I Know: The first several days we did not have breakfast and I was always “starving like Marvin” until lunch. Thank God, I brought snacks such as chips, crackers, fruit cups and nuts to eat until lunch was served.
SUGGESTION: If you like to eat breakfast in the morning, reserve an Airbnb that can provide breakfast. Breakfast is typically $5 CUC and will include ham, cheese, fruit, egg, and bread. Bring snacks to eat as they don’t have convenience stores such as 7-Eleven where you can easily purchase snack items.
MYTH: Taxi Cabs are honest and they would never try to charge you more because you are a foreigner.
FACT: That will, in fact, charge you more money if you let them.
How Do I Know: My tour guide explained that he would charge my group $300 CUCS. The price included round trip transportation from Varadero to Trinidad and tour guide in Trinidad. Unfortunately, the guide never showed up, only sent his driver and still charged $200 CUC. In fact, he should have only charged about $120 for a one-way trip.
SUGGESTION: Determine the price of the taxi before beginning your ride. Ask your Airbnb host for alternative transportation if the taxi driver appears to be price gouging you. Also, book with a reputable company that provides emails/receipts of the agreed price. He was a guide I found on the internet and although we had an agreed price, we only talked over Facebook Messenger and telephone calls. When working with another reputable company, I was told I needed to pay a different price. I was able to locate my email with the correct price and they had no choice but to honor the price agreed upon in the email.
MYTH: People you travel with will tip service providers.
FACT: Some people in your travel group will NOT tip and don’t see non-tipping as an issue.
How Do I Know: Some people in my group did not tip at restaurants or chose not to tip tour guides. It is to be noted that this did not occur the entire trip.
SUGGESTION: It is embarrassing when everybody in your group doesn’t tip for a particular service. Although tipping is very subjective, the Cuban people don’t earn high wages therefore tipping is expected. If you are planning a trip include tipping in the cost of the entire trip.
MYTH: You can get your iPhone 6 wet and it will work after putting it in rice.
FACT: Your iPhone 6 is not waterproof. Rice will possibly help but depends on where the water damage occurred in your phone and the type of water it is dropped in. For example, salt water will do more damage then let’s say toilet water.
How Do I Know: I went to the Cueva de Saturno or Saturn Caves in Varadero. I wanted to take pictures in the cave but I wasn’t sure if my Life proof case was actually water proof. So I decided to test in the cave water to determine if I could actually go further in the cave to take pictures. I dipped the phone in water for about 10 seconds. So far so good. I dipped the opposite end for about 10 seconds and the phone began to turn a different color and eventually went blank.
I tried to put the phone in rice to dry but that did not work. The Apple store said it was water damage in all 3 functions of the phone. Needless to say, due to limited wifi, my pictures did not back up and they were not saved. Yes you heard right all my pictures on my phone are lost forever.
SUGGESTION: Don’t try and test your phone to see if it is waterproof while on vacation. Back up your pictures, by downloading Google Photos, post them on Facebook or email them to yourself at the end of every day. In case your phone is broken, lost, or damaged you will still have your travel photos.
MYTH: Only budget $100 CUCS per day in Cuba.
FACT: You should bring $120 CUCS a day and bring extra money for art, alcohol, cigars etc.
How Do I Know: My friend Maria left two days earlier than planned because she felt like she was running out of money. She ended her trip early and still lost money because she was charged $200 US Dollars to change her airline ticket.
SUGGESTION: Make sure you budget at least $120 CUCS a day for food, tours, gifts. etc. Remember you do not have access to an ATM and US credit card will not work. It is to be noted that you can have money sent through Western Union but your Airbnb host would have to retrieve the money for you. I would suggest waiting to buy gifts or souvenirs until the end of your trip to ensure you have enough money.
MYTH: Downloading Google translate automatically means it will work.
FACT: Only the OFFLINE version of Google Translate will work with no wifi connection.
How Do I Know: I downloaded google translate but it did not work because I did not have a wifi connection. I didn’t realize I had downloaded the wrong version.
I thought I downloaded Mapsme on the airplane as we were taking off but it didn’t completely download and it was inaccessible. One night we were trying to get back to our Airbnb and the taxi cab didn’t know where to go, if we could have shown him on a map it would have been much easier.
SUGGESTION: Download recommended apps such as MAPS.ME and Google Translate. Although I did extremely well with my limited Spanish, Google translate would have been a big help when communicating my wants/needs. MAPS.ME me will help you navigate your way around town.
MYTH: You can easily access your email or the internet for reservations or address to certain places.
FACT: You will not have easy access to wifi on your smart phone.
How Do I Know: Our group almost missed certain reservations and tours because I failed to write this pertinent information down. We had to text people in the USA to find telephone numbers and addresses but that was a hassle because we were charged for every text and had to wait for their responses.
SUGGESTION: Due to limited wifi, please write down all the numbers, names and address of the people you want to contact while in Cuba.
MYTH: You don’t need preventive medicines for your stomach.
FACT: You may or not need them but I have heard of lots of people visiting having stomach or digestive issues.
How Do I Know: I know it is TMI but the last two days in Cuba I had diarrhea. While in Vinales, I thought I was going to have to use the bathroom on myself. My stomach was bubbling and I couldn’t get out of the caves (I was in too deep and you had to take a boat to get out). Happy to report I safely got to a bathroom. I thought I had packed my travel diarrhea pills but I had forgotten them on the kitchen table.
SUGGESTION: Make a travel list and include all medications. Double check to make sure you have included them in your purse/suitcase. Don’t forget your medicine-probiotic pills, Pepto Bismol, travel pills for diarrhea (Ciprol). Do not drink or brush teeth with faucet water only use bottled water. Watch out for drinks with ice as they may not be made from bottled water.
MYTH: People will sell you items at the lowest price possible.
FACT: Hustlers are trying to make a double profit.
How Do I Know: Do not pay more than 1.50-2.50 per card or 7.50 for a 5-hour Wi-FI card. In Trinidad, we kept buying $3.00 Wi-FI cards from this guy because we didn’t know where else to purchase them. On our 3rd day in Trinidad, he didn’t have any more Wi-Fi cards. We saw a post office that was selling the card for $2 and a computer company selling them for $1.50. The funny part is we had been standing in front of these places and buying the more expensive cards from him. I called him out on what he was doing. He laughed and pretended like he didn’t know what he was doing. I wanted to warn others but then I thought, maybe he really needed the money.
SUGGESTION: Cuba has limited wifi. In order to connect to the wifi, you need to buy a wifi card and then go to a designated place to use the wifi.
MYTH: Even if you think you are getting the best deal on souvenirs you may not be.
FACT: Things may be too good to be true.
How Do I Know: I bought a beautiful beaded purse near the EL Morro. The vendor said the purse was $25 CUC and he threw in some beaded necklaces and bracelets to go along with the purse. I thought it was a great deal until I went shopping at Jose Martin. A large shopping area where you can purchase souvenirs. I saw the same purse for only $10 CUCS.
Suggestion: Bargain with shop owners, never take the first price suggested and wait to you go to larger shopping areas, they usually have cheaper prices.