Cuba is high up on many Australians bucket lists, and with good reason! We welcome many Australian tourists to Cuba every year to take part in our tours and adventures and they all seem to leave saying the same thing. “It’s not what I was expecting – but in a good way!"
Travel to Cuba isn’t easy for anyone, and for Australians travelling to Cuba there is the added difficulty of the sheer distance. Flying to Cuba from Australia often involves at least two and maybe even three layovers. We’ve written this handy guide on the best way to get to Cuba from Australia. Here is everything else you need to know about travel to Cuba.
The first thing you will need to do is secure your Cuba Visa. You won’t be able to board your flight or enter Cuba without it. The Cuba tourist card is valid for 30 days from entry. You can extended it for a further 30 days once you are in the country. A Cuba visa will not allow you to work in Cuba.
Some travel agents will arrange the Cuba visa through all inclusive packages. If you are travelling independently, you will need to contact the nearest Cuban embassy or Consulate of Cuba to arrange your visa. If you are unsure about your visa requirements, we can offer advice when you book your Vamos Cuba tour.
When choosing your flights, you should ensure you aren’t connecting through America with an American-owned airline. American-owned airlines cannot issue boarding cards to non-American citizens flying to Cuba. To make it easier, you should consider connecting through a South American or European airport.
You will also need comprehensive travel insurance to be able to enter Cuba. Travel insurance is available for a low cost and it will prevent you from being turned away at the border. Even if you usually chance it and travel without, you will need to buy travel insurance before you can travel to Cuba.
If you have issues with your Australian passport while in Cuba, there isn’t an Australian consulate in the country. However, the Canadian consulate in Havana can offer assistance to Australian citizens.
Many Australians travelling to Cuba encounter issues related to money, this is because their credit cards often don’t work if they are owned by American companies. Australian dollars won’t be accepted in exchange for local currency. US dollars are also an issue because they incur an additional 10% fee which means you will get less for your money. The best solution is to travel with Euros and then change them at the airport when you arrive.
It’s also important to note that there are two local currencies, the CUC and the CUP. The CUC (pronounced ‘cook’) is the tourist currency and the CUP is local currency. There’s a 25:1 exchange rate between the two, so it has become a common scam to try to sell unwitting tourists the CUP.
Changing your money at the airport will ensure you don’t run into any issues. Also, remember to change any leftover currency before you leave Cuba as it is illegal to take CUC out of the country.
The level of English spoken will vary depending on where you go. In heavily populated tourist areas, you can expect to find a good level of spoken English, but if you venture off the beaten track you will find a little Spanish under your belt very helpful.
You will find the experience much more enjoyable if you can communicate with everyone you meet, so learning some Spanish before you arrive is advised.
One of the most important things you can bring to Cuba is mosquito repellant due to the risk of Zika virus and Dengue Fever. Find a repellent that works for you, whether that is a spray, wristband or cream. Invest in a portable mosquito net if you are unsure if they will be provided in your accommodation.
It’s also more difficult to access medicines and personal hygiene products. Stock up on pain medication, antacids, rehydration salts, plasters, antiseptic cream, feminine hygiene products (if needed), shampoo and soap. You should also take plenty of high protection sunscreen as the Cuban sun is very powerful .Even if you don’t use everything, any unopened items will be a welcome gift for the people you meet during your trip.
Cuban people live on strict rationing and many things which we could consider to be essential are difficult to come by. Other items you may consider taking as gifts include things like notebooks and pencils for children, and toothbrushes and toothpaste for adults and children.
There are some items you will not be able to bring into Cuba. These are mainly items which draw a lot of electricity and communication items, including those that use satellite technology. Items such as walkie talkies, handheld GPS systems, satellite phones, air conditioners and televisions will be confiscated on entry.
A trip to Cuba is often a once in a lifetime trip, so we want to make sure Australians travelling to Cuba are able to make the most of their trip. Here are our top 4 tips for Australians travelling to Cuba.
Get out of the city. Cuba has so much more to offer than just Havana. We would recommend flying into Havana and then exploring the surrounding areas. Our 8-day tour is ideal for small groups travelling to Cuba. You’ll get to see everything, from the stunning countryside to the incredible Caribbean coast and even an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stay in a casa particular. This is without doubt the best way to get to know this beautiful country. Staying with a local family in a casa particular is a great way to support the local people and engage in responsible tourism.
Eat at a local Palidar. Like the casa particular experience, eating in a local palidar is a great way to get to know the local people. The food is often a much higher standard than the state-run restaurants and cost per meal is very low.
Practice your salsa. The Cuban people love to dance, and this love is entirely infectious. Even the most reluctant and shy people will soon find they are more confident on the dance floor.
If you’re ready to book your dream trip from Australia to Cuba, get in touch today to find out how we can make your once in a lifetime trip a reality.