Updated November 9, 2017
Planning your dream trip to Cuba but need a little more info? We've got you covered. Here's what you need to know before you travel to Cuba!
By the way, Americans can still travel to Cuba despite recent changes to Cuba travel policy. A legal trip is just a matter of making sure you know what's changed and how it affects your plans.
Before your trip, make sure to check out:
- Cuban Tourist Cards and Visas
- Cuba Info for Americans
- Our homepage on Cuba
- Contact us with your Questions
When is a good time to go?
- The main tourist season is from December to April. The weather is great throughout this time.
- November, April, and May still have good weather, but there are fewer crowds of travelers.
- The summer can be hot and humid, but it's even less crowded than the shoulder season.
- Early fall can be a wonderful time to travel to Cuba, but you run the risk of traveling during hurricane season so you may even need to cancel your trip.
Can I travel to Cuba independently even though I'm American?
Yes! You can absolutely plan an independent trip to Cuba. Keep up-to-date on the latest policies regarding American travel to Cuba. And ask our Cuba travel experts to guide you through the Cuba trip planning process.
What should I bring to Cuba?
Any toiletries, sunscreen, insect repellent, shampoo, medications (even just simple Tylenol/ibuprofen) that you'd expect to need while in Cuba. A spare roll of toilet paper is essential, especially for public restrooms - keep it with you during the day.
Relevant paper maps or an offline map app with maps you need already downloaded are necessary.
Although all of these items are available for purchase in Cuba, it can be an all-day search for a store that has them in stock, so it's much more convenient to bring them with you. Plus these types of items can be very expensive.
What outlets do they use in Cuba?
You'll typically find North American 110V 2-3 prong plugs like those in the US. Most of the modern hotels have sockets that accept both the American flat pin plugs and the European rounded pin plugs, which is very convenient. You should not need an adapter in a 4+ star hotel, but be aware of outlets that use 220V and which appliances you're plugging in.
What's the status on Zika in Cuba?
The Cuban government has only reported two locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus. By comparison, Miami has had 65 local cases thus far. It's possible but unlikely that you will contract Zika in Cuba. The Cuban government keeps mosquito-borne Zika transmissions at bay by fumigating buildings on a daily basis, which has its own health drawbacks.
Are there scams in Cuba?
People who make recommendations for you are often making them because they get a monetary kickback from it. Some are more direct about it than others. One common scam is to say "It's my birthday," in hope that you'll buy them a drink at the bar of their choice, where they'll get a commission.
Trust your casa owner or your hotel concierge to make honest recommendations. But most people on the street who approach you, especially in Havana and Trinidad where tourists are common, will be looking for ways to make a commission off of you for referring you somewhere. It’s annoying but harmless as far as scams go.
If you approach someone asking for help, the above concerns generally don't apply.
What can I bring back from Cuba as an American?
Americans can bring back $100 worth of cigars and rum as part of up to $400 of souvenirs and an unlimited amount of art purchased directly from artists to the US. Keep high ticket item receipts just in case you're asked for them at customs.
Where should I go in Cuba?
That depends on what you like to do when you're traveling. Havana has a mix of
What should I tip in Cuba?
You should always tip in restaurants, bars, and taxis, but don’t overtip. 5% is sufficient and 10% is extremely generous.
Where can I buy cigars in Cuba?
Don't buy cigars on the street or in outdoor markets because they are generally not authentic Cuban cigars. Buy them in cigar shops or at the airport.
ViaHero travel planner Karlita can give you the inside scoop on the best places to purchase cigars and see them being made.
What are some do's and don'ts in Cuba?
- Do take the time to learn some Spanish. Cuba is a lot less interesting if you can't communicate with locals.
- Do bring everything you need. Finding simple things like deodorant or sunscreen can take a day and cost you a lot of money.
- Don't follow street hustlers who tell you they will show you the way without you asking them for directions. Ignore them, they are probably expecting money.
- Don't try to get in line without yelling "Who was last in line" or "¿El último?” If you see a group of people waiting around a window or desk, there's actually a 'line' or 'queue.' It often won't look like a line, but it is and everyone knows where they are in the line.
- Do trust strangers for help when you need it, but only when you ask them, never when they approach you first.
- Don't throw toilet paper in the toilet. Throw it in the trash can. This is standard in many Latin American countries.
- Don't flaunt money or expensive jewelry in the street for any reason.
- Don't drink water, juice, or anything that contains ice. Bottled water is easy to find and cheap.
- Do change money in official Cadecas or change houses, at the airport, at the bank, or at your hotel.
- Do count your change carefully, short-giving happens often in Cuba.
- Don't spit or blow your nose in public, it’s considered offensive.