Cuba Do’s & Don’ts For Babes Traveling To Havana

DO

Pack wisely. You can’t buy anything normal in Cuba. There aren’t bodegas or pharmacies to casually pick up a bottle of Pepto Bismol, bug spray, tooth paste, pain killers, Wet Wipes, moisturizer, deodorant or even condoms. Overthink your traveler’s health kit and stock up on over the counter medicine and first aid supplies – better safe than sorry! 

DON’T

Drink the tap water. Order your drinks “sin hielo” (without ice cubes) and strictly use bottled water, even just to brush your teeth. Wash your hands constantly and keep a hand sanitizer in your purse. This is not India, but there are serious water supply and sanitation problems down in Cuba, and getting sick can shut you down for days

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DO 

Brush up on your Spanish before you go. Most of the Cuban population is not fluent in English. Download a translation app that’s available offline and write down a few key words and sentences so you can communicate the basics. 

DON’T

Be a cry baby over the absence of wifi. Be prepared to truly disconnect. Verizon is pretty much the only US carrier that supports roaming in Cuba, and it is not cheap! There are a few public wifi hotspots around town and some hotels offer (shitty and expensive) Internet. Download all your apps prior to flying out. There is no way to install anything new on your device while you are on the island. Oh – and Snapchat, FaceTime and Skype won’t work! So why don’t you just get off your damn phone for once? 🙂

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DO

Get a stash of American dollars or Euros at home and change them to CUC once you arrive at the Havana airport. Avoid the lines in the arrivals hall by walking up to the one of two money exchange booths in the departures hall instead, where there’s hardly anyone waiting. It is still quite a bit complicated to withdraw from a US account because of the embargo infrastructure, so plan for about $100 per person per day on the safe side. There are two currencies in Cuba –  the Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). Most tourists will likely only ever use the CUC, but if you’re adventurous / on a budget, you should make sure to carry CUP’s for peso stalls (a fast food restaurant run out of someone’s window), food and flower stands, taxis and the bus. 

DON’T

Freak out when Cubans invite you into their homes. They are not trying to kill you. Quite ironically, people in Havana have an open door policy when it comes to their living quarters. They are proud of every single thing they have, and so stoked to show off to foreigners who show genuine interest in their culture. 

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DO

Stay at an Airbnb or Casa Particular (bed & breakfast) instead of a hotel. You’ll get a much more authentic experience and might make friends along the way! 

DON’T

Take restaurant recommendations from street hustlers who get commission from the inflated price you pay for your meal. You’ll end up in an empty dining room eating a $17 plate of salty chicken with rice and beans. We got scammed once!

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DO

Haggle. It’s a must. A normal taxi ride between Old Havana and Centro Havana should be no more than 3 CUC, ever. Drivers will try to charge $20 to go around town, so set your price before you get in the car. It’s not like you’re ever gonna be stuck without a ride.

DON’T 

Jump on the back of a Bicitaxi. You might get in trouble with the police, who are definitely NOT nice in Cuba, not even to pretty girls. 

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DO 

Get your morning coffee from peso stalls for like 10 cents. There is no coffee-to-go culture in Cuba. Coffee is served in tiny porcelain cups with a lot of sugar. 

DON’T

Get offended by all the whistling and cat calling. Just ignore and walk away. Remember how stuck up American men are 😉 

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DO

Walk the streets at dawn to people watch. The sun casts an ethereal glow on the city, and everyone’s out and about. 

DON’T 

Be mortified when you hear a loud cannon fire off at night. In a tradition dating back to the 18th century, a cannon is fired (blank) every evening at 9 o’clock from the ancient Fortress of San Carlos de Cabaña. 

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DO

Drink in the streets. Drink on the Malecon. Drink in the cab. Cheers! 

DON’T 

Bother spending on aged rum. A local warned us that all the premium Havana Club production is currently reserved for export, and so the brown rum you get in stores and bars around Havana is just overpriced white rum with a coloring agent. Yikes! 

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DO

Bring a Polaroid camera and snap portraits of the locals – kids especially. Watch their reaction when the image develops, and leave the photo with them.

DON’T 

Ask for Papaya for breakfast – unless you’re into that. It’s a Cuban slang word for pussy. 🙂  

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DO

Go salsa dancing. Even if you suck… Just remember it’s all good as long as you feel the music in your hips and keep a big ass smile on your face. And if you get sick of the overwhelming latin male attention, find a gay bar called Myxto on Calle 23 and catch a late night drag show. YAS!

DON’T

Worry too much if you have to buy drinks for the local boys you end up rolling around with. 

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DO

Splurge on tickets for the mesmerizing cabaret show at The Tropicana.

DON’T

Pay extra to use your camera to take photos of the show.

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DO

Buy cigars to bring back to your friends, and hit up Havana’s famous El Laguito cigar factory

DON’T

Order the daiquiri in honor of Hemingway at La Floridita… If you read him, you know that’s not what he liked to drink 😉 

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DO

Take a day trip out to Guanabo! Find the man with the shark on his sail boat (Alex) and ask him to cook you lobster! Stick around for sunset and catch a delicious dinner at 421. Amazing pizza!

L’Agent Goodies…