Don’t Make these Snafus in Cuba!

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.

 

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Me, Claudia and Renee

 

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).

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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.

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Taxi  Cabs 

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.

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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.

 

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I was happy until my phone was damaged in the caves

 

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.

 

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Maria tasting Rum at the Rum Factory 

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.

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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.

 

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Probiotics can be found at any pharmacy or drug store

 

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.

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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.

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Beaded purse and necklace 

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.

50 Comments

    • Thanks, when I seen the purse, I had to have it due to the details on the purse. Glad I could tell you be the app. It def would have been a life saver for me when I couldn’t figure out the word in Spanish. LOL

    • Thank you it means alot when people tell me that. I have yet to wear the purse or jewelry. Need to find an outfit to go with it. It does suck every time I think about the phone, I get sad 🙁

  1. Omggggg.
    Why is it that when folks travel to other countries they all upset stomachs?
    I wantbto visit Cuba myself. I just ill have to have a stack when I go.

    Hmmmmm My mom is from Trinidad I hope you enjoyed ur time there.

    • They have a small city in Cuba called Trinidad. Is your mom from Cuba or from the island Trinidad? Honestly I think they have the natural food and we have the injected food and our body has to to get used to it. The one place where I didn’t have an upset stomach was Thailand and I was surprised but grateful. LOL, yes take a stack or more to be on the safe side.

      • She’s from the island.
        Girl I would have died. I can’t stand for my stomach to be on 1000. It’s sad bcuz when we go to these other places and get sick. We swear it’s them. Nope it’s our nasty food that our body is so accustomed to eating.

    • I’ve written so many post on Cuba, I have to try different forms of formatting or perspective so I don’t become to redundant with the same info. Hope you get to make it soon.

    • Thanks I still get upset about that phone when I think about it. LOL The caves were pretty awesome just was so focused on the phone didn’t get to enjoy like I wanted to.

    • I hope you get a chance to go, I know they will have a lot to rebuild after the hurricane Irma just hit. You can find a organization to give things away or somebody that you meet while there will gladly accept as well.

    • Thank you! I know you cant be prepared for everything that comes your way but hopefully new visitors can avoid these things.

  2. I really want to visit Cuba but I want to be smart about it. When leaving the US I want to be as smart as possible. All of this is new for me and I want an amazing experience.

    • This is why I blog about my experiences because I want to help others have a great time when they travel to a new destination. If you go I’m sure it will be an amazing time.

    • Thank God for the market, our last morning was spent shopping for souvenirs and we got some great deals. Great thing is my family and friends don’t ask for souvenirs.

    • Your’e going to have a blast. Let me know if you have any other questions before you leave to go on your trip.

    • Thank you, Cuba is a mysterious place to most. So there are lots of various assumptions so I wanted to talk about some of them as well as trying to be creative with my writing. LOL

  3. You shared some excellent suggestions. I really enjoyed reading the tip about the taxi drivers and the how you should get suggestions from your AirBNB host.

    • I really dislike taking Taxi because of the varying prices they try to charge but sometimes you have to use them, so I want people to be prepared. Airbnb host have a great wealth of information.

    • Thank you. It was probably the worst time to test my phone but I wanted to go deeper in the pool but also wanted to take pictures. So tested to see if i could go deeper in the pool. In retrospect, I should have just gotten pictures from my friend but sometimes its so hard getting pictures from other people.

    • Yes, I try to avoid taxis like a plague but sometimes you can’t. It happens in the states as well. When i would take taxis in DC, it was a different price every single time.. Im like how? but it was either get a taxi or take the train.

  4. All great information. I am looking forward to taking a trip to Cuba.I want to venture outside of Havana and see all that the island has to offer.

  5. I traveled with a big group recently and we were given some guidelines to follow. The tipping was a big issue, I took funds just for tipping no matter where you travel showing appreciation should be universal.

    • I’m glad that provided guidelines. If I organize a big group trip, I would do the same as well. I agree tipping is just a common courtesy.

  6. Let me tell you traveling to Cuba is no joke especially the money conversion rate. Bring more than enough money and convert it to CUCs because your debit and atm cards or USD are not going to fly. It sucks but that is the reality so go to Cuba financially prepared and thanks for highlighting this. Sorry your friend had to end her trip early and spend an extra $200 to go home ouch!

    • Hopefully as more tourist come to Cuba, they will prepare more by allowing US visitors to use Debit/Credit cards. It does make you feel uncomfortable or spend wisely just to make sure you have enough money. Towards the end I was a little bit scared but everything worked out, I had enough. Yes I was sad she had to leave early.

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