10 Things Not to Do in Cuba

Here are the 10 things not to do in Cuba if you are traveling there.  While diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba have thawed in the last year and leisurely travel is much easier for Americans now, there are some things you should educate yourself on if in fact you are planning a trip to the island nation.  We have already talked about traveling to Cuba and what to do once you are there, but it is equally important to know what not to do.

10 Things Not to Do in Cuba

Don’t Spit

There are a handful of cultural differences between the U.S. and Cuba that can make your trip tense and awkward.  Spitting and blowing your nose in public are considered rude in Cuba.

Don’t Badmouth Castro

While the communist hold in Cuba seems to be waning every day, Fidel Castro is engrained in the history of the nation and is still seen as a hero in the civilian’s eyes.  Just like it is not a good idea to talk politics at the dinner table in America, it would be best to avoid the subject in Cuba as well.

Don’t Forget to Keep Some Pesos With You

Although the American dollar is accepted in Cuba, there are certain things that you can only pay for in Pesos such as the airport departure tax.  This tax may not apply to your airline but it is always a good idea to keep some Pesos with you no matter what.

Don’t Fall for Local Tricks

The Cuban economy is not the most stable so its locals often try to trick tourists into giving them money.  They tell sob-stories or unsolicited guide services and giving into one of them may be enough to make you a mark for all of them.

Don’t Over-Tip

Yes the Cuban economy is not that great but the people still have dignity. It is considered rude to over-tip and makes the locals feel like you are just another fat cat American throwing money around even if you have the best intentions.

10 Things Not To Do In Cuba

10 Things Not To Do In Cuba

Don’t Call Attention to Yourself

Wearing gaudy jewelry, being excessively loud and spending lots of money in a very public way are to be avoided in Cuba where engaging in such acts will only make you a target for thieves and scammers.

Don’t Take Pictures of the Police or Military

This is actually a crime in Cuba and you may be arrested as a spy if you take pictures of armed guards, police, military personnel or even airport security.

Don’t Stay at A Resort

This is really more of a preference but why not experience the real Cuba as opposed to one that is sheltered and made to be as much like The States as possible.

Don’t Drink the Water

Montezuma’s revenge is a real thing even in Cuba and you can get very sick if you drink tap water.  Stick with bottled water on your visit instead.

Don’t Bring Traveler’s Checks

Traveler’s checks as well as some credit cards issued by American banks are not accepted in Cuba.

What to Expect in Cuba

While all this sounds like a lot you must avoid don’t for a minute think that you can’t still have a great time in Cuba. bYou can feel very safe in Cuba because the crime rate is very low and as long as you are not a complete idiot with your money, you will never encounter a street-hood or run into a bad situation.

Cuba has much to offer in culture with their numerous museums and architecture, great food, awesome Jazz and music clubs and of course, fine Cuban cigars so take this list of 10 things not to do in Cuba not as a guide of restrictions but as a way to successfully navigate the country and to find the many things there are to be enjoyed there.

Traveling to Cuba

As time goes by and hard relations thaw, so too does the opportunity for eager travelers to expand their horizons become an easier and more fluid process.

I am speaking of course of the loosening restrictions the U.S. government has held onto in regards to citizens traveling to the communist country of Cuba.

Traveling to Cuba has never been easier for regular people like you and me thanks to the efforts of President Obama as recently as September of 2015.

Of course, one has to also assume that economic factors played into these decisions and lifting of the travel ban.  Still, not everyone can simply board a plane and walk into Cuba.  There are certain loose restrictions still in place which I will discuss.

Businesses can now establish offices and outposts in Cuba and for casual travelers, there is a 12 category stipulation that you visit has to fall under in order to be granted a license for travel to Cuba.  This may not sound too free but trust me, you would have to try really hard not to qualify for a travel license in order to be rejected.

The stipulations allow for travel to Cuba if you are visiting a friend or close relative, academic purposes, journalistic purposes, religious purposes or even to attend a sporting event.

The two countries have already come to agreement that would allow U.S. commercial flights to land in Cuba.  So now that there is much broader access to this once off-limits country, what is one to do when there?

Traveling to Cuba

Traveling to Cuba

What to do When You Are Traveling to Cuba

Visiting the Country

One of the requirements to travel to Cuba for Americans is that visitors have a full schedule or itinerary planned once they are there and to keep receipts of their activities in the communist country for 5 years after the visit.  This is probably just to keep tabs on visits and make sure there is no shady business going on.  This however is not a hard task since Cuba has so much to do.

Take in Some Culture

Authentic Cuban travel offers so much without the boredom of a history lesson.  I suggest for example getting lost around Plaza Vieja.  You will be enthralled by the art galleries and be able to slake your thirst at the beer museum as well.  It is a lively place to spend an afternoon like a true Cubano.

Visit the Malecón

Did you think I wasn’t going to talk about night life in this corner of the internet?  Traveling to Cuba practically requires a relaxed night of sipping Mojitos and dancing into the dawn.

The Malecón has something going on all night including live musicians, street vendors and of course plenty of rum flowing against the contrasting background of the Atlantic Ocean.

Music and History

I am a jazz lover but Cuba has so many great music clubs spanning genres from jazz to bossa nova to danzón.  The University of Havana is a great place to reflect on Cuban history and what Cuba is today.  It is where the Castro brothers studied and it remains the center of political action to this day.

Natural Beauty

Last but not least, if you squander the opportunity to lounge on one of the gorgeous beaches that Cuba has to offer, you may regret for the rest of your life.

Some playas (beaches) of note are Sirena Beach, Playa Paraiso, and Veradero Beach but for a more comprehensive list of beaches in Cuba, take a look at my Best Cuban Beaches article.

Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico facts was an interesting topic to research and an interesting piece to write and I hope that it will be an interesting article for you, the reader because Puerto Rico has a very rich history, geography and culture.

My main goal for this article was to come up with facts about the country that you would not normally know. Whether this incites a visit or simply further research into this archipelago country is entirely up to the reader but my hope is that it will motivate something inside you.

One of the more fun facts about Puerto Rico is that it boasts the world’s highest collection of bioluminescent waters.

What are bioluminescent waters? Well, in layman’s term, they are ocean waters that glow an ethereal blue. More technically, bioluminescent waters are the result of a gathering of dinoflagellates which are single-celled organisms that live in the ocean and have the bioluminescent ability to glow a bluish-green.

Some of the most astounding pictures of this natural phenomenon have been taken off the coasts of the Puerto Rican islands.

His Name is John?

Yes, or at least, his name was John. This is the motto of Puerto Rican and it comes from a Bible verse and more recently from the original name given to the archipelago that we know now as Puerto Rico, San Juan Bautista. For those who don’t know, Juan is the Spanish version of John. Hence the motto, “His Name is John.”

One of the more fun geographical facts about Puerto Rico (especially for those who live in the States and are use to a fluctuation in seasons and daylight hours) is that the country gets pretty much the same amount of sunlight all year round. Since the country is located so close to the equator, the sun sets at almost 7pm local time all year round.

Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico Facts

Have you ever seen the James Bond movie GoldenEye? Do you remember the climax sequence when James is doing battle with the Bond villain on what looks like a giant antenna? That is actually the world’s largest radio telescope and it is located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico also served as the gateway to the Caribbean. It was discovered in 1493 and was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain and has one of the most frequented harbors in the Caribbean Sea. The Spanish resisted many invasion attempts by the French, Dutch and the British but today, if you are born in Puerto Rico, guess what? You are an American citizen!

Puerto Ricans first began migrating to the States (mainly New York in the mid-19th century but the country was still under Spanish rule. Then after the Spanish-American war, they were Puerto Rican Citizens. Today, Puerto Ricans are essentially Americans and can even run for office in the states.

Looking for more useful Puerto Rico facts?

Try these on for size: if you are thinking about traveling to the country you don’t need a passport just a valid ID like a driver’s license. You also have no need to exchange your US dollars because the national currency of Puerto Rico is the USD.

The national holiday of Puerto Rico falls on November 19th and is the day that it was discovered. There is much more to know about Puerto Rico facts in my Puerto Rican Holidays and festivals article.

Aside from these fun and interesting Puerto Rico facts, you may also find it useful to know that in Puerto Rico, the legal drinking age is 20 and the rum flows like water. Enjoy responsibly!

Visiting the Best Cuban Beaches

Salsa music on the beach, old world flavor and incredible authentic food is what awaits you as a traveler to the best Cuban beaches. With over 5,000 km of shoreline, 289 beaches, and hundreds of jaw- droopingly beautiful vistas, it’s hard to decide where to spend your beach holiday in Cuba.

I have to confess…I have never been to Cuba but I heard from close Cuban friends that no matter where you go, you will find clear turquoise waters, fine white or golden sand, and plenty of sunshine. The tip they shared with me is that the best Cuban beaches for you depend on what style of vacation you want to enjoy.

 

Best Cuban Beaches

Resort Life – Varadero Beach

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If you enjoy big-name, all-inclusive resorts, where you can party or be pampered around the clock, you should check out Cuba’s Varadero beach.

Varadero’s narrow, 20 km long stretch of pure white sand is lined by 25 resort hotels, each of which offers restaurants, bars, and entertainment.

You can participate in tons of activities, from snorkeling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, and other water activities to sky diving, salsa dancing, volleyball, and tennis.

Don’t expect to see the real Cuba from these big resorts. To see the real beauty of Cuba you must venture out of the area to visit its surroundings while enjoying the all inclusive lifestyle.

Varadero is by far the most popular of the Cuban beaches amongst turists, attracting about a third of Cuba’s visitors each year. However, because the Cuban government tries to keep tourists and locals from mingling too much, Varadero doesn’t really feel authentically Cuban.

If you want to know the true Cuban keep in mind that since you’re within the resort compound, you will hardly know you are in Cuba as opposed to some other Caribbean nation.

Unspoiled – Cayo Largo

If you prefer a quieter, less developed beach, you might like Cayo Largo. Cayo Largo is a small island south of Cuba, which can only be reached by a short flight or a 6-hour ferry ride.

Because the island is off the beaten path, it is very quiet with just a few restaurants and low-key resort hotels. The main focus is where it should be: on the beach and the sea!

Why is Cayo Largo one of the best Cuban beaches? Because it is near some of Cuba’s most lush and unspoiled coral reefs making it a perfect diving spot. At this beach you can also see a lot of wildlife from shore or while wading in the shallow waters of the island’s two main beaches, Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena.

One thing to be aware of on Cayo Largo is that many of the beaches have designated nudist areas.

Authentic Cuba – Playa Santa María del Mar

If you want to really experience Cuban beaches like a local, you should visit one of the beaches near Havana, such as Playa Santa María del Mar. Just don’t eat at the hotel restaurants–their food isn’t that great and you can get better Cuban cooking elsewhere.

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If you stay in Havana, you can easily reach this beach in 20 minutes by car. Playa Santa Maria del Mar is a nice, broad sandy beach that bustles with activity on the weekends as Cubans from Havana pour out of the city to enjoy the sea and sun.

The waves will be a bit rougher here than on the south side of Cuba, but still safe for swimming. The beauty of Playa Santa María is that here you can find lots of fun with authentic Cuban people. You can enjoy lots of volleyball games and live bands playing music for salsa dancing.

This is one of the best Cuban beaches for couples or for having a very relaxed vacation. A popular salsa club is also located near the beach. You can dance the night away there. These three beaches are top choices and have beautiful settings, each of them in a very different way.

Cycling Cuba

Cycle Cuba

Cycle Cuba

Leave the resorts of Varadero behind and discover the real Cuba on this 8-day active adventure. Get your blood pumping cycling the hills of the Guaniguanico and El Rosario mountain ranges and marvel at scenic vistas that will take your breath away. Tour a tobacco plantation for a taste of iconic Cuban culture. With its lush scenery, vibrant culture, and incredible beaches, this active cycling adventure will have you exploring a side of this island few get to know.






4-Must Remember Tips When Traveling to Cuba

  •  Electric Appliances. Until not long ago Cuba didn’t allow you to enter with electric appliances like flat ironing, consoles for videogames, electric razors, etc. This is not the case anymore. Today you can visit Cuba with no issues if traveling with electronics including laptops.
  • Don’t Forget Your Medicines, Tampons and Condoms. In Cuba you can’t find any brand of products like the ones you normally buy in the U.S.A., therefore prepare your little medicine travel kit with diarrhea medication, Ibuprofen or any pain killer you normally find in the U.S. as an over the counter product.

Don’t forget your tampons and condoms as they are difficult to obtain there, as well as your sunscreen and mosquito repellent and your favorite cosmetics.

  • About Illegal Drugs. Cuba has the death penalty for introducing or using illegal drugs. Avoid trouble by not taking any narcotics or receiving any illegal drugs from anybody as you can face the death penalty.
  • You Need a Visa to Go to Cuba. If you are an American you need to know this: “Although Cuba may issue visas upon arrival to U.S. citizens, all travelers to Cuba, including religious workers, should contact the Cuban Interests Section in Washington to have the appropriate type of visa ahead of time and, if required, specific authorization from Cuban authorities.” Check the source at Travel.State.Gov website.

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Cuban Currency

Cuban currency can be confusing for tourists because they have 2 kinds of national currency, the peso nacional and the convertible peso. A Cuban worker gets his salary in both, one portion in national Peso and another in convertible Peso which are way more valuable.

When traveling be aware that dollars can’t be accepted in Cuba. You need convertible Pesos to be able to shop. Furthermore, shops and businesses in Cuba don’t accept credit cards issued by U.S. banks.

If you are from Great Britain or the E.U. you are o.k. to take your currency. Just make sure before departing that you know exactly how the Cuban currency works.

You can exchange your money at the Cadeca or Money Exchange Bureau. Make sure you count your money well and know exactly how many Convertible Pesos you are getting. Ask for a receipt and review again your money against the receipt.