“Visiting other countries and peoples today has helped many to realize that we are truly one human family and that we have the potential of living together on earth in peace [source].”
Aside from experiencing a glimpse into a beautifully unique culture, visiting Cuba allows you the opportunity to practice responsible tourism and sustainable practices which, aside from minimizing negative social impacts, will generate greater economic benefits for locals. For me, this meant enjoying my travels on a much higher level.
One way we were responsible tourists was by making real connections with the locals, many of which found it hard to believe that we weren’t Cuban. See, whenever we travel, my husband and I make it a goal to spend time with locals who share our faith. We include it in our itinerary to share meals with them, visit their places of worship, and engage in spiritual activities with them as we find that it strengthens our faith and we’re able to build meaningful relationships with them. By doing this in Cuba, we made so many friends in every city we visited, and my only complaint is that keeping in touch will be so 90’s which will make for delayed communication.
Here are my tips for “Responsible Tourism” in Cuba:
Frequently Asked Questions (by me to other Cubans)
What should I expect while in Cuba?
Glam travel has never appealed to me. Thankfully, because it’s definitely not what Cuba has to offer. Sure, you can spend hundreds of dollars a night on an overpriced hotel with internet. However, it’s definitely not worth it because once you step out of your hotel, you’ll be hit with the reality that most places can’t serve anything but pork or chicken, bottled water can be hard to come by, and you still need to bring your own toiletries no matter where you stay. By choosing to stay at a Casa Particular, not only are you helping out a Cuban family, but you’re getting a much more authentic experience for half the price.
What about getting around?
If you know how to drive an automatic car, renting a car is not such a bad option. At first we were afraid because we didn’t know how GPS systems would work, etc. But of all the countries we’ve visited, driving here seems the safest.
There are taxis for hire, always look for the license plate marked with a T for tourism. These cars have been registered and found to be safe, and the taxi drivers are held accountable for their treatment and exchanges with tourists. It’s technically illegal for anyone else to drive you around.
Regardless of which transportation option you use, install the MAPS.ME app and be sure to download the Cuba map before arriving to the island. Once there, the app works perfectly well offline with your location
What about the visa for Americans and the required medical insurance?
We filed for our visa with Airline Brokers two weeks prior to traveling. We filed as “Support for Cuban People” and to be honest it’s not as much of an issue as we thought it might be. As for the medical insurance, which is included in the airfare, you’re given a document to keep on you at all times, should you need medical care while you’re there.
Update: Since the date this was posted, changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba including possible travel restrictions have been announced.
What should I take to Cuba?
I must admit, we were over-prepared for this trip. We packed light, to make more room for the food, medical items, etc. that we were taking some of the local families. However, I was still able to pack all of the following items which made my life so much easier in Cuba.
Where should I go in Cuba?
Here’s our itinerary and interactive map.
- Viñales Valley 3-4 days
- Parque Nacional Valle del Silencio, hay una notable ‘playita’ y Casa del Café
- Canopy/Zip Line
- Cueva del Indio
- Mural de la Prehistoria
- Mirador Los Jazmines
- Rio La Jagua, Ranchón el Rio
- Havana 3-4 days
- Old Havana
- Bars: La Bodeguita del Medio, El Floridita, Havana Club
- Parque Central
- Historic Hotels
- Plazas (so many Plazas)
- Los Marinos
- Barrio Chino
- Pizza Cubana La Juliana
- El Vedado
- Old Havana
- Varadero Beach 1-2 days