In 2016, a lot of changes were made to travel to Cuba. President Obama's historic trip to Cuba opened the doors to many Americans who never realized they could ever travel to that small Caribbean Island of 11 million people. This Cuba travel guide will talk about (and debunk!) the top 10 travel myths about Cuba.
Myth 1: Entering Cuba is a bureaucratic nightmare
Truth: It depends on your passport and your reason for travel. While there are travel requirements to Cuba, most likely you'll breeze through three forms and a photo. However, international travelers who hold a "USA" passport must declare one of 12 legal reasons to travel:
1. Family visits; 2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; 3. Journalistic activity; 4. Professional research and professional meetings; 5. Educational activities (people to people); 6. Religious activities; 7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; 8. Support for the Cuban people; 9. Humanitarian projects; 10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; 11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; 12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
Acquiring a Cuban visa isn’t difficult, it just takes a little preparation and planning ahead of time.
Myth 2: Cuban food is awful
Truth: Local produce is usually fresh and often organic. There is little factory farming in Cuba, and the food is not pumped full of hormones and artificial fertilizers – partly as a result of the constraints of their past. Cuba was a pioneer in the use of ecologically sound farming, all of which means that the ingredients do tend to be full of flavor. There are several popular Cuban dishes travelers should be sure to try while visiting, including their amazing pork and bean dishes! Other favorites include frijoles negros, arros con pollo, mijito, picadillo, sofrito, boliche, and cuban bread!
Myth 3: Cuba isn’t safe for independent female travelers
Truth: Just as many other countries, Cuba is completely safe for female travelers! Like for all travelers, it’s important to be smart, stay aware and take safety precautions.
Myth 4: You can't bring in laptops, fancy camera equipment, or smart phones
Truth: Understanding what is and isn't allowed through Cuban customs can be a bit tricky, especially since the list of prohibited items can constantly change! There is always conflicting information online, and many travelers are often nervous about bringing in our electronic equipment. We always get through just fine with our DSLR cameras, laptops, and iPhones - so most likely you will to! The most up-to-date list of permitted and prohibited items can be found on the official Cuban customs website.
Myth 5: The Cuban people don't like their country
Truth: Some Cubans might be disgruntled about their country, but most of the locals we encounter on our trips seem to genuinely love and admire their country! From the airport staff to the hotel porters and taxi drivers, they will have more than enough good things to say about their homeland and country. From the beautiful beaches to old colonial cities and delicious food, who wouldn't be proud of Cuba as their home.
Myth 6: Cuba is inexpensive for tourists
Truth: The dual currency and the lack of visible price tags may mean that Cuba can be a more expensive place to visit than other Caribbean destinations. While the locals use the National Peso, tourists are usually required to use the Convertible Peso (CUC) which is designed to bleed money from tourists who have no option but to use it while they are in the country (as it is a currency that is not traded internationally). In addition their is a penalty tax (usually around 10%) when exchanging USD to Convertible Cuban Pesos upon arrival to Cuba.
Myth 7: There is no internet
Truth: Cuba does have a stable internet and wifi infrastructure. Wifi is available in almost all hotels and usually offers very good connection (although not always). In some locations hotels require a surcharge to use the internet (wifi fee) but it is usually always available.
Myth 8: Cuba is untouched by American culture
Truth: Cuba has gained the reputation of being an island that’s untouched by time and outside cultures, but that is quickly changing. American shows play on television screens, they listen to American music, and they talk about American politics in the Bars & Restaurants. Cubans will eagerly tell you about where Beyonce and Jay-Z ate when they came to visit! That being said, Cuba still holds onto it's unique culture, a culture that is fascinating in many ways, and one that should be visited and explored!
Myth 9: Havana is unsafe
Truth: Online photos show Havana's crumbling buildings, dusty streets, stray animals, and threadbare panhandlers, can put travelers on high alert when it comes to safety in Cuba. Surprisingly we have found that theft and other crimes are incredibly rare in Havana. Old Havana is usually crowded at all hours and full of tourists milling about together and warmly talking to each other and locals. That said, Havana is still an urban center, so be smart about your belongings. Leave the jewelry at home, keep your wallet tucked away (or use a money belt), and hold your bag in front of your body.
Myth 10: Avoid the water at all costs
Truth: Like most developing nations, water sources can often lead to many diseases. We recommend that all of our travelers stick to safe bottle water for all their drinking - to avoid any possibility of sickness while traveling.
Travel with us on one of our upcoming Trips to Cuba (or elsewhere)...