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How to Plan a Trip to Cuba: Frequently Asked Questions

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Che Guevara memorial at Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

You may have questions about Cuba and what to expect from the Caribbean island, and this article shares the answers so you can plan a trip that’s beyond your expectations.

Explore the cultural districts that hum to the rhythm of Afro-Cuban music and salsa, discover rainforests that teem with wildlife and colorful flora, and visit Cuba’s famous markets and plantations. All introduce travelers to the country’s ancient customs and traditions, which you can enjoy on a stress-free vacation with all your questions answered.

We discuss what you need to know before you go, how Zicasso can help you experience the best of Cuba, and provide you with insight into the easiest ways to explore the island.

Overview

  1. Can I travel to Cuba from the US?
  2. What is the best time to visit Cuba?
  3. How many days should I spend in Cuba?
  4. What are the most popular places in Cuba?
  5. What should I do on my trip to Cuba?
  6. Where is Cuba?
  7. Is Cuba a good place for beaches?
  8. Is Cuba a good place for hiking?
  9. Where can I see wildlife in Cuba?
  10. Why is Cuba famous?
  11. Is Cuba a good destination for families?
  12. Is Cuba suitable for senior travelers?
  13. Is Cuba suitable for couples or honeymooners?
  14. What food should I try in Cuba?
  15. Is Cuba safe for travel?
  16. What language do they speak in Cuba?
  17. Which airports should I look at?
  18. Do I need a visa for Cuba?
  19. What currency does Cuba use?
  20. How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to Cuba?
  21. Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Can I travel to Cuba from the US?

Cuba is open to American travelers.

Cuba has specific requirements for American travelers. While entry conditions are contingent upon decisions by the country’s government, a Zicasso travel specialist can give you the latest information and the steps you need to take should anything change between planning and departure.

For more ideas on where you can visit without restrictions, browse Where Americans Can Travel Right Now.

Learn more: Plan Your Trip to Cuba

What is the best time to visit Cuba?

The best time to visit Cuba is during the dry season, late November to April, when the weather is suitable for exploring the island’s breathtaking outdoors.

During these months you can trek through emerald rainforests to see towering waterfalls, swim in the crystal-clear waters to view vibrant coral reefs and magnificent marine life, and explore the famous cigar and rum plantations covering the hillsides.

If you wish to avoid the crowds with your family or enjoy Cuba for a quiet honeymoon, visit the island during May, June, July, and August.

Learn more: Best Time to Visit Cuba

How many days should I spend in Cuba?

Eight to 10 days is a great amount of time to spend in Cuba.

You will find true appreciation for the island’s culture, nature, history, and scenery with more time, but you can experience its highlights, such as Havana, during a five- to seven-day trip.

From Havana to Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba to the Vinales Valley, Cuba is an exceptional destination with a variety of things to do and see. Eight to 10 days will give you the right amount of time to travel in and around the island beyond Havana.

What are the most popular places in Cuba?

Here is a list of the seven most popular cities, regions, and national parks to visit in Cuba:

  • Havana
  • Trinidad
  • Guardalavaca
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • Valle de Vinales
  • Baracoa
  • Zapata Peninsula

What should I do on my trip to Cuba?

Whether you wish to visit the Caribbean island with your family or escape to the sun-washed shores on your honeymoon, the following are some of the top things you can do:

  • Explore the beaches of Varadero, Playa Paraiso, and beyond on snorkeling excursions, catamaran cruises, and days lounging on soft sands
  • Escape to the famous Cuban cigar and rum plantations to learn about some of the country’s oldest traditions at glamorous estates in the hillsides
  • Delve into the life and times of Ernest Hemingway on tours of cities, museums, and fishing villages that inspired some of the novelist's greatest works
  • Discover the natural charms of Cuba’s rainforests and spot fascinating endemic wildlife on trekking tours beneath the canopy to surging waterfalls
  • Tuck into Cuban cuisine and cocktails at gourmet restaurants, local eateries, and chic seaside bars
  • Dance the night away to salsa and rumba music at Afro-Cuban nightclubs dotting the bustling cityscapes
  • Cruise around Havana in vintage vehicles that embody local culture
  • Witness the traditional canon ceremony at El Morro during sunset and watch the shifting colors of the sky from a vantage point over Havana

This list highlights a number of the best things you can do in Cuba for a memorable experience, but you can learn more in our Top 8 Things to Do in Cuba.

Learn more: 3 Things to Do in Havana, Cuba

Where is Cuba?

Cuba is an island in the Caribbean Sea near the Gulf of Mexico.

It shares a maritime border with countries like the Bahamas, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States. Rather than a single island, it is the largest of an archipelago that is nearly 100 miles south of Florida.

With its proximity to Mexico and North America, Cuba is an easy destination to visit, with flights traveling between major cities such as Mexico City to the west or Toronto to the north. A number of US cities are allowed by the US government to travel to specific airports in Cuba.

Is Cuba a good place for beaches?

Cuba is an exceptional destination for beaches, with white sands, turquoise waters, and water activities like snorkeling and scuba diving.

The beaches range from tropical hideaways to popular seasonal getaways for locals. Spectacular coral reefs and dive sites bring travelers from around the world eager to enjoy the mixture of untamed jungle borders or relaxing cabanas that overlook the water.

As a US traveler, a beach visit is not an approved reason to visit Cuba or an “acceptable excursion while in the country. There are legal ways to experience the beach during a trip when traveling with a pre-designed itinerary customized by a Cuba Travel Specialist.

Is Cuba a good place for hiking?

From the Vinales Valley to the waterfalls of Las Terrazas, Cuba is a great place for hiking.

Trails can guide visitors into jungle terrain containing natural and social histories, as well as trek along trails that open to a coastline highlighting the Caribbean Sea. Hiking in Cuba can range from a full-day trek to a mountain peak to a short distance between historic monuments.

The diversity is perfect for families with children, senior travelers, or adventurers looking for more challenging terrain.

Best hiking trails in Cuba: Valle de Vinales • Las Terrazas • Salto de Caburní • El Nicho • Pico Turquoino • La Gran Piedra

Where can I see wildlife in Cuba?

While known more for historic cars and the colonial architecture of Havana, Cuba has a great variety of wildlife, from tropical birds to reptiles, and incredible marine life:

  • Cuban trogo - Cienaga de Zapata
  • Green and hawksbill turtles - Guanahacabibes National Park
  • Butterfly bat - Alejandro de Humboldt National Park
  • Cuban parrot - Topes de Collantes National Park
  • Flamingos - Jardines del Rey

Why is Cuba famous?

Cuba is best known for its cigars, rum, and sugar cane.

The island is known in the United States for its Communist government, one that’s often at odds with that of the US, including a decades-long trade embargo and the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Beyond politics, Cuba is also known for the rhythms of salsa, preserved Spanish-colonial architecture, retro American cars, and a devotion to baseball. The tropical landscape also gives way to remarkable beaches, celebrated for their pristine white sands and turquoise waters.

Is Cuba a good destination for families?

Cuba is a magnificent destination for a family trip.

The Caribbean island offers endless activities for those with children of any age, from beaches to adventure tours, each connected to a cultural experience. The wide variety of options highlights historic Spanish fortresses or a vibrant artist’s market, uncovers the historic sounds of salsa or unveils the Communist Revolution.

Whether visiting the former home of Ernest Hemingway, fishing in the Caribbean, or enjoying a ride in a classic car, Cuba is endless fun.

Is Cuba suitable for senior travelers?

Cuba is safe and comfortable for senior travelers, while revealing the island’s fascinating history and culture. With a unique heritage that covers centuries of Atlantic trade, it is an eye-opening experience for senior citizens looking for a different connection to, or perception of, the island.

Colonial architecture decorates Old Havana, easy walks capture the beautiful cobbled lanes of Trinidad, and a rugged charm still exists in the often-overlooked city of Santiago de Cuba.

As a senior traveler, you can experience the best of Cuba at your pace, with private guides who share personal, historical, and contextual stories that demonstrate attention to the local space, drivers who can help with your travel needs, and accommodation representatives who can tend to extra details.

Is Cuba suitable for couples or honeymooners?

Cuba is a wonderful country for honeymooners and couples, embodying passion, beauty, and charm. Old Havana has a sense of endless romance. Classic cars exude a traditional embrace. Salsa adds to the captivating rhythms of island life. Whether swirling to the music or enjoying the sounds of crashing waves, Cuba is a special place to combine culture, colorful scenery, and a rich history that spans centuries.

A tropical jungle getaway, a hidden city escape, or a coastline full of sensational marine life, whether celebrating an anniversary or looking for a unique honeymoon, Cuba is memorable.

What food should I try in Cuba?

Cuban cuisine combines Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavors, with a focus on local ingredients. The following list offers a number of foods you can try during your trip:

  • Lechon Asado, roast suckling pig
  • Moros y Cristianos, black beans and white rice
  • Tostones, twice-fried plantains
  • Costillas, baby back ribs
  • Ropa vieja, braised skirt steak with tomato sauce served over white rice and fried plantains

Is Cuba safe for travel?

Cuba is a safe country for travel. Zicasso advises, as with all destinations, that travelers be mindful of their personal belongings and conceal valuable items, especially when visiting crowded places. While the country experiences a hurricane season, most prominent during September, travel outside of this month should not pose any major risks.

What language do they speak in Cuba?

Cuba’s official language is Spanish.

Most of the 11 million people on the island speak Cubano, also referred to as Cuban Spanish, which has been influenced by its centuries-old cultural diversity. In popular tourist destinations like Havana or Valle de Vinales, it’s common for vendors to speak English, but it is not widely spoken.

When visiting areas outside popular centers, including remote villages and towns, your guide can help you to navigate any language barriers.

Which airports should I look at?

Most international vacations in Cuba begin in Havana, with travelers arriving via the Jose Marti International Airport (HAV). After arriving, you can use an extensive network of airports to travel from one end of the island to the other. The following are some of the most popular:

  • Jose Marti International Airport, Havana (HAV)
  • Juan Gualberto Gomez International Airport, Varadero (MUVR, VRA)
  • Abel Santamaria International Airport, Santa Clara (SNU)
  • Sierra Maestra Airport, Manzanillo (MZO)
  • Hermanos Ameijeiras Airport, Las Tunas (VTU)

Do I need a visa for Cuba?

Visitors visas are required for travelers from the US.

Tourism in Cuba for US travelers remains prohibited, requiring a single-entry visitor’s card be obtained before entry marked with specific conditions met for travel purposes. The visa is valid for up to 30 days within the country.

Your Zicasso travel specialist will help you with any required paperwork and inform you about the steps you must take before and during your trip to ensure a smooth experience.

What currency does Cuba use?

The official currency of Cuba is the Cuban peso (CUP).

This is the only legal currency allowed in Cuba, however, more established tourist centers, such as private hotels, bars, and restaurants, accept payments in US dollars, euros, Canadian dollars, and British pounds. The euro is the most widely accepted currency on the island outside the Cuban peso.

In the past, Cuba was known for having a dual currency system that separated the Cuban peso from the tourist monetary unit known as the Cuban Convertible Peso. As of January 2021, Cuba united its dual system into a single currency.

When traveling from the United States, most credit cards or debit cards will not work on the island. You should bring enough cash to cover meals, tours, accommodations, and other purchases not pre-paid before your trip. Cash tender is also the best way to make purchases in rural towns, villages, or directly from artists and cigar vendors.

How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to Cuba?

Our Cuba Tours & Vacations are a collection of curated trips from which you can get a better idea of what your itinerary may look like.

You can select a sample trip that aligns with your ideal vacation, be it a family trip, honeymoon, adventure tour, or something else. These sample trips are often a stepping stone from which our travelers create unique itineraries.

When you are ready, you can complete a Trip Request to begin planning your vacation. We ask for more information on where you would like to go, how long you would like to spend in Cuba, the size of your party, and traveler ages to help streamline your planning.

You can also provide additional ideas and set a travel budget, after which our Travel Care team will contact you to match you with a top Cuba travel specialist. Our travel specialists will use their expertise and understanding of your preferences to curate your dream vacation.

Learn more: How to Plan Your Zicasso Trip in 4 Easy StepsHow to Plan Your Zicasso Trip Budget in 3 Easy Steps

Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Musician in Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

Take to the skies and arrive in the pulsating capital of Cuba, where your adventure begins with sample itineraries from our Cuba Tours & Vacations.

If you have any further questions, you can chat with a Zicasso Cuba travel specialist before you plan your trip. With insider knowledge of the country and the experiences it offers, your travel expert can help you organize a dream tour of the Caribbean island.

For more information on what to expect on your first stop, check out our Cuba Travel Guide.

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