Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Mon June 01 2015

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  • Nick and Dariece | June 1, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    5 Important Things to Know When Planning a Trip to Cuba

    5 Important Things to Know When Planning a Trip to Cuba

    Cuba is fast becoming the next big up and coming travel destination, and having just returned from a 3.5 week backpacking trip, I can see why! Traveling around the country is the easy part, but there are some things you need to know before packing your bags and setting off for this Caribbean nation.

    Travel Insurance

    It's always a good idea to have travel insurance when globetrotting, but to enter Cuba it's actually obligatory that you have coverage. We had our insurance purchased and were ready to present it to immigration on arrival in Havana, but weren't asked to show it! However, other travelers we met were asked to present their policies. To be safe, make sure you purchase travel insurance. Our go-to insurance provider has always been World Nomads in the past, but unfortunately, they don't cover travel in Cuba. We booked through Travel Cuts and received our policy through TIC Insurance. If you're from Europe or the UK, you can check out True Traveller.

    There are hundreds of insurance providers out there, contact a few and find the policy (and cost) that works best for you.


    If your ATM or credit card is issued in the United States, or through an American banking company, it will not work in the ATM machines in Cuba. If your card is issued from another country in the world, it will work. Our cards are from Canada and we used them at the ATMs around the country, but we did have to pay a fee — 3 percent on the withdrawal amount to be exact. Those fees really added up over the duration of our trip, but we were happy that the card worked.

    If you're coming from Canada or Europe, bring enough cash for the duration of your trip and exchange it at the money changers in Cuba, at no extra charge. Make sure to contact your bank before your departure to advise them of your upcoming travel plans. If they see your card being used in Cuba, they may suspect fraudulent activity and freeze your account, which will be difficult to unfreeze while in Cuba. Which brings me to my next point...


    Internet in Cuba is seriously lacking. Things have changed over the years though and there are now some spots that you can find internet and even Wi-Fi, but it's not an easy task. And even when you do find internet, Skype is not available. The internet kiosks are called Etecsa, and inside you'll find between five and 15 computers available for your use (depending on which city you're in). But before using the computer, you must pay for a card, which allows you one hour of internet time. The cost? $4.50 - $6 an hour. You'll wait in a long line up just to purchase the card, then you'll wait in another long line up for your turn to use the computer. Expect to spend an hour or more waiting in some cases.

    Some of the cities have Wi-Fi available in the upscale hotels. You'll often have to purchase an overpriced coffee in order to use their Wi-Fi, and you'll still have to wait in the line-up to purchase the internet card, but at least you can use your own device and the Wi-Fi is surprisingly fast.

    The Currency

    There are actually two currencies in Cuba, which can be confusing for travelers at first. To make matters even more confusing, they actually look very similar!

    The National Peso is the currency that locals are paid in, and is the currency that can buy you fruit, vegetables, street snacks, local buses, along with food and drink from "peso" restaurants. The Convertible Peso is the currency used for "luxury" items such as tourist buses, internet, restaurants, hotels, and many grocery items. Unless they are in the restaurant, tourism, or hotel business (and are therefore paid in this "hard" currency), most Cubans cannot afford these items based on their national peso incomes (which averages $25 a month).

    1 Cuban Convertible = 1 US Dollar 1 Cuban Convertible = 25 National Pesos

    We suggest having around $5 and $10 of National Pesos on you each week for smaller items like delicious fresh guava juice, popcorn on the street or a "peso" lunch of pork or pizza. You can eat a meal for $0.20, and a big glass of fresh juice is a mere $0.04. Not only is this good for your budget, but you'll be able to mingle much more with the local people.

    Casa Particulars

    Many people go to Cuba and spend their time lazing on the beach in the resort towns, or in high-end hotels in the big cities. We suggest trying out a casa particular, which is basically a homestay, and they're extremely popular in Cuba. In the city of Trinidad, there are an estimated 500 casas with rooms for rent! This is a great way to put some tourism dollars into the locals' pockets. The cost is only around $20-$30 a night, and you can book online through, which also includes reviews so you can make sure you're picking a good home.

    The owners will treat you like family, you'll have your own private room with attached bathroom, and if you want, you can order breakfast and dinner. The home-cooked food at the casas is the best in all of Cuba.

    For more information, check out Planning a Trip to Cuba: To-Do List Before Travel.

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Nick and Dariece Notes from the Goats

Nick and Dariece Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to inspire others to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad and turning their travels into a way of life, they've been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go. They are also full time contributors at Credit Walk where they share their expertise of making money and travelling forever. Check them out at Goats On The and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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