crucial things you need to know before going to Cuba
Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that have double currency: the national peso (CUP) and the convertible peso (CUC). The convertible peso is what tourists are using and it equals 25 national pesos. It can be very confusing at the beginning but once you arrive to Cuba you get used to it. I would recommend you to take with you euros and sterling pounds because the American dollar has a 10% tax charge. You should only exchange money at the CADECA (authorized state exchange offices).
Cuba is not a cheap country. Because of the dual currency and the lack of economical ways of travel, you will need to be prepared to spend at least 75 CUCs a day. A room in a casa particular will cost you around 30-35 CUCs in high season and 20-25 CUCs otherwise. If you want to stay in one of the iconic hotels of Havana, like Hotel National, Hotel Inglaterra or Hotel Parc Central, prepare to get out of your pocket up to £150 a night.
The cultural experience
Cuba is a country like no other you have visited before. At soon as you land and get into the airport you will feel that you have stepped back in time, 60 years ago. I come from an ex-communist country and for me, a lot of things seemed to be familiar and a lot of other things started to make sense.
Due to the American Embargo you can’t fly to Cuba directly or via the States. From Europe there are two main options to get to Havana: a direct flight from Madrid or a connection flight through Toronto or Montreal. I chose the second option, which offered me a 20 hours layover in Toronto, enough time to explore the city.
Everybody who visits Cuba needs to obtain the tourist card. If you are flying to Cuba with certain airlines, like Air Canada for example, you will receive the tourist card on the plane, for free. Sometimes, you can ask for it at the desk counter of Air Canada, in Toronto or Montreal Airports. There is no need to apply for a Visa at the consulate, unless you are sure the airline won’t provide it. Besides the travel card, you will need to have a travel health insurance also.