Your Essential Guide for Planning a Solo Trip to Cuba
Updated November 9, 2017
Traveling solo can be daunting if you've never done it before. It can seem scary and lonely to not have a companion by your side.
The truth of the matter is…traveling alone is awesome.
Say it with me: “You can do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it.”
Being in the driver's seat of your own adventure is completely different than traveling with someone else. And, while you definitely need to have some inhibitions (as you would with any country), Cuba is a great place to travel solo.
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. ViaHero has you covered with the latest updates on Cuba travel policies in these recent articles:
Before your trip, make sure to check out:
Being solo in Cuba allows you to completely immerse yourself in the culture.
You'll be more approachable to locals, and eager to make new friends. However, being on your own, you'll need to be extra prepared for your trip.
The best way to make sure you have a solid and safe plan is to get advice from a local. Locals will be able to suggest safe areas to stay, hang out, and meet new people. They can also recommend friends and family who give private lessons, own restaurants, or rent bikes for a fair price.
Knowing a local is the only way to get this information, because the internet is virtually non-existent Cuba. Very few people use the internet, much less advertise their business. It would be impossible to find this information without knowing someone.
ViaHero can pair you with a local before you arrive in Cuba to curate YOUR perfect trip. They will take into account all of your travel preferences - museum junkie? hiking addict? complete foodie? - and create an itinerary based on what you want to see.
Your plan will be presented to you with an offline map, so you can still access all of the information without an internet connection.
The best part? You’re going to have a more authentic and engrossing trip!
In addition to having a local assist you with trip planning, here are some important things to consider before heading solo to Cuba:
Especially if you're traveling solo, you may find it difficult to navigate and make friends in Cuba if you don’t speak Spanish. Even a rudimentary understanding of the language can go a long way.
If you have time before your trip, make the effort to brush up on your Spanish. Trust us, you’ll be grateful you did.
Stay in a Casa Particular
Casa particulares are essentially family-owned bed and breakfasts, very similar to Airbnbs. Guests are provided an extra room in the home of a local family.
For solo travelers, this is the best way to have a solid source of travel information. Cuban hosts are very warm and inviting, and will most likely treat you like family when you stay with them. You will be able to ask questions and receive recommendations. Plus, you’ll get to witness Cuban home life firsthand!
Understand That Locals are Very Friendly...
… and they are going to want to talk to you, especially if you don’t have anyone else with you. They can tell you're a foreigner, and will try to strike up a conversation.
If you are not interested, just say:
“Lo siento, yo no hablo español.” - “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish.”
“Lo siento, estoy ocupado.” - “I’m sorry, I’m busy.”
However, if they seem friendly and you’re in a safe area, this could be a great way to make friends.
Note: This is general advice for life (and especially in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language), never wander off with a stranger alone.
Women Traveling Solo
As mentioned above, locals are going to try to talk to you. This will only increase for women, especially foreign-looking women.
Understand that Cubans are very forthright with their emotions, and they only mean to compliment you. If you are not interested, just say:
“No gracias.” - “No thank you.”
It is also likely that you will get catcalled. If you start to feel uncomfortable, then walking around with a local or male traveler will probably make the catcalling stop.
Keep Track of Your Money
You are traveling by yourself. There is no one to bail you out if you run out of money. ATMS are hard to find, and if you’re American, your credit and debit cards will not work in Cuba.
Our guide on traveling to Cuba explains how to organize your money before the trip.
It is important (especially if you're American) to arrive in the country with enough cash to last the entire trip.
Everyone should be wary about traveling with this much money (use safe boxes, money belts, etc.), but especially solo travelers.
Be conscious of pickpockets, because they do exist. Have your money secured, and don’t keep all of your cash in one place!
Transport Via Bus and Bike
If you're alone, those candy-colored cabs are going to be expensive for one person to pick up the bill.
We're not saying don't ride in them. Of course ride in them. You’re in Cuba - splurge on a ride at least once! If you make friends, suggest doing it together to split cost.
But the best way to get around by yourself is to take the bus or bike. Bus tickets can be purchased individually and bikes are cheap to rent.
Biking is a great way to see a lot in a little time. Viazul is the name of the intercity bus.
Eat street food…On Your schedule
Again, you may not want to go out to eat if you’re by yourself.
The best way for solo travelers to fill up is to eat street food whenever hungry. Snacks like fruit and veggies, plantain crisps, ice cream, and rice and beans can be found all over Cuba for affordable prices.
The golden rule of travel applies to street food - if you see locals lining up, checkout what's going on!
Drink Mojitos…With Locals
Don’t let being solo keep you from having fun, especially in the homeland of the mojito.
Ask your ViaHero for a fun and safe place to get a drink, and enjoy a night out.
If you’re nervous about chatting with someone, try going back to the same place a few nights in a row. It is likely that you will recognize regulars and feel more comfortable talking with them.
No partner? No problem!
Do note that Cubans typically dress up when they are out for drinks or dancing.
You are in charge of your trip, so go where you want to go.
This is important for all travelers in Cuba. There will be many moments where you think…
“That’s so Cuba.”
Stay relaxed, and go with the flow. If something breaks down, or someone doesn’t show up....just know you’re having an authentic experience.