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Tips for Traveling to Cuba for the First Time

The island of Cuba has plenty to offer vacationers. This vacation spot, closed to Americans since 1962, offers many sights, cultural experiences, and gastronomy that haven’t been available until only recently. Today, you can delve into everything Cuba has to offer for very affordable prices. Visit the old part of Havana for its rich history or purchase some art from a little shop on the plaza. Plan to enjoy diversity, the energy of the population, warmth and music, and a lot of culture.


Begin Working on Your Travel Documents Now


Although, it is legally possible to visit Cuba now, it is still difficult to get there. With the appropriate U.S. travel license, you can go to Cuba, but you may have to plan for months ahead of time to be sure you have the right documents. Once you’ve got your paperwork in order, you’ll be happy to find that cheap flights are available from most major airports.


Reserve Your Accommodations


There are some 4-star and 5-star hotels available, such as the Iberostar Bella Vista Varadero, and if you want to enjoy some of the comforts of home, these are your best option. On the other hand, if you’re interested in getting to know the people of Cuba a little more, take advantage of a casa particular. This is a lot like a bed and breakfast, and you’ll find that staying with locals is a casual experience with a lot of advantages, such as advice about the best places to eat and sightsee.


Keep Your Cash Safe


You’ll pay in cash just about everywhere in Cuba. Unfortunately, you can’t limit yourself to small amounts because cash machines are few and far between. You’ll probably want to carry around enough money for a few days at a time and this means getting creative about how to carry and handle your money, so it doesn’t get stolen.


Learn How the Money Works


There are two types of currency in Cuba: national (or Cuban) pesos and convertible pesos. The convertible peso is worth about the same as the U.S. dollar, and you’ll probably use this type of currency for most of your transactions. If you want to stop at a roadside stand to buy some fruit, you’ll need to have some national pesos on hand.


Don’t make the mistake of using the currency the same way, however. Convertible pesos are worth twenty-four times what national pesos are worth. Many vendors will accept your convertible pesos and try to give you change in national pesos. This is a popular scam and a quick way to lose a lot of money.


One quick and easy way to distinguish between the two types of currency is to look at the picture on the bill. National pesos have pictures of men and convertible pesos have pictures of monuments. Remember that one monument bill is worth the same as 24 bills with men.


Try Out Pladars for Delicious Meals


If you’ve heard that the food in Cuba isn’t very good, then it’s time to get a second opinion. Up until a few years ago, severe restrictions on restaurants prevented many chefs from trying exciting menus. Today, however, those restrictions have been lifted to some degree. Plan to try out the many paladars for great food opportunities and avoid any of the state-run restaurants.


Plan To Do Without Internet Access


The country of Cuba has very strict rules about how you can access the internet and where it can be reached. You’ll need to stay in more expensive accommodations, such as a 5-star hotel in Varadero, if you want consistent access to the internet.


There are a small number of public internet cafes and some public Wi-Fi spots, but you may have to wait in long lines to use them. Once you reach the end of the line, plan on the connection speed to be agonizingly slow and make sure you’re prepared to pay a hefty fee. Of course, you could travel old-school, leaving behind your smartphone and tablet, and travel with a guidebook instead.


With these tips as a starting spot, dig a little deeper into the best ways to enjoy your time in Cuba. The newly-available vacation spot has plenty to offer and it’s well worth your investment in time to prepare for your stay.


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