How to Survive in Havana, Cuba

Cuba is an unusual place due to its culture, its people, its political regime and more. But sometimes what makes it special also creates some difficulties, so in this article we will share what we can recommend to be prepared for when you visit Havana.

1. Be prepared to spend your time without internet

Yes, you CAN get WiFi in Cuba, but you need to buy a prepaid card (which is cheap – around 1 CUC), and then you can only find WiFi in certain places. HERE is a list of WiFi hotspots in Havana. But let’s be honest, how awesome could it be to spend some time without Facebook, Instagram and emails? If you decide not to pursue WiFi card, be prepared to do some of the research about Cuba online before you come there, or practice your Spanish to speak a little more with locals.

Havana Cuba

This is how a typical WiFi hotspot looks like.. often it’s in a park with lots of people staring at their phones

2. Take the necessities with you

It’s not always easy to find things in Cuba, so if possible, bring your toiletries, clothes, chargers and whatever else you need with you. If you travel long-term, try to get it in the destination before Cuba. That being said, there are shops and supermarkets, but they’re not always open and you can’t always find what you need closeby.

Havana Club

You don’t need to bring your own rum though, there’s aplenty..

3. Be aware of common “scams”

Cuba is a relatively safe country, and there’s a very small chance of being robbed, mugged or pick-pocketed. However, there are numerous ways for locals to “cheat” you. One of the famous scams is young mothers asking you to buy powder milk for their babies, taking you to the shop, charging 20$ for milk and later selling milk back to the shop. Another one is locals wanting to “hang out” with you and show you local bars and later asking for money. And of course, when you go to eat/drink, make sure you know prices in advance and check your receipt. In one restaurant our bill was 30% more expensive than it should’ve been, and only after we asked why, they have changed a price. Greta from “Greta’s travels” wrote a great post about Cuba scams, which you can find HERE.

While being aware and cautious, try to keep your mind open – it’s often the hardest thing to do. But if you trust yourself and make connections with locals, you are bound for the unforgettable experience!

4. Get your taxi prices straight

Very often taxi drivers charge locals three times the price, just because they can. Try to ask your accommodation about the average price to pay for your destination. You shouldn’t pay more than 10 CUC to get from Old Havana to Cuba Art Factory and the 1-hour cabriolet city tour should’t cost you 50 CUC. Also, consider taxi colectivo.

Havana Cuba

Sometimes taxi drivers would offer high prices just to see if you would go with that. Once our conversation went like that: – How much from here to X? – 90 CUC. – 90? Okay, that’s way too much. – Okay, 15.

5. Be ready to pay

Unfortunately, you will encounter a lot of “tourist” prices. I don’t know who told us that Cuba is cheap, but that wasn’t true for us, even though we didn’t pay much for accommodation. Maybe it is cheaper outside Havana, but that we’ll have to find out some other time. In Havana, prices add up so quickly: a lunch here, a daiquiri there, a taxi ride, museum entrance, tips for musicians, a bottle of rum as a souvenir – and suddenly our daily spending is higher than in New Zealand! I’m sure other people might have had different outcomes, but for us Havana wasn’t cheap at all, albeit not bathing in luxury.

Cuban Art Factory

Speaking about museums – Cuban Art Factory is a must

6. Set some money aside for tips

People in Cuba ask you for money in many situations, and it’s your choice whether to give it or not. Remember that what’s little for you, might be a lot for them. So I suggest that if you are in a restaurant and you find a great service; if you are sitting in a bar and musicians are playing songs you really enjoy; if you love anything else at all – don’t be shy, and give some tips – it doesn’t have to be much, but can make a colossal difference.

Havana Cuba

In Havana live music is everywhere – and often it’s great fun

7. Enjoy Cuba and Cuban people

In general, we found Cubans very friendly and easy to approach. Sometimes it’s hard to say whether a person is very friendly or he/she just wants your money, but my advice – give it a try, you might end up having a very fun evening and find our much more about real life in Cuba behind the curtains of pink cabriolets and colourful cocktails. Don’t forget to check out this 10 day Cuba itinerary!

Havana Cuba

Don’t forget to include both though 😉 cabriolet drives are fun and colourful cocktails are delicious!

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