1. There's like zero internet in Cuba.
Remember when Pokémon Go came out and it was all the rage? And walking around downtown, you'd see pockets of people standing around a small area with their eyes glued to their phones? This is what wifi areas look like in Cuba. You don't need to look for signs, just look for the crowds of people hovering around on their phones. HOWEVER, when they say an area "has wifi", it doesn't actually mean there's wifi. It just means you can get internet in those areas but only if you buy internet cards with a pass code that last an hour. These cards go for about $2 - 4 USD each.
And even with the wifi cards, the connection areas are sparse and rare. That's why my instagram feed was periodically exploding with bursts of photo spam over the course of the trip.
And as much as people are like "you should disconnect from the world and enjoy your trip!" I'm like "yeah that's cool, buuut I also need the internet so no thanks". Yes, I'm aware this makes me sound like I have an addiction to social media, which I think most of you can admit to, but idgaf. I'm a #basicbitch and I know it. But oh man did the internet in Cuba make me so so grateful for the great connection we've got at home!
2. Cuba made up their own currency.
So there's the Cuban Peso (CUP) and then there's the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUC is like Monopoly money. They made it up to be on par with the rest of the world.
1 CUC = 1 USD, but 1 CUC also = 25 CUP.
So which do you use? The CUC. The CUC was created for tourists. Locals use CUP, tourist use CUC. You won't be able to exchange for CUP even if you tried. And most touristy places that you'll be going to will price everything in the CUC anyway. Just be careful for when you use CUC to pay and are given CUP as change.
PS. Because the currency isn't really real, you can't exchange it before you enter Cuba. And you can't exit Cuba with it either. So bring money with you to exchange to Cuban currency, but make sure you spend it all before heading home too. And don't bring change, because the currency exchange in Cuba won't accept coins, only bills.
And PPS. You should just bring as much cash as you want to spend there and exchange it all at once. I know typically people like to play it safe and only withdraw a certain amount to exchange and will visit a bank for more money if it comes down to it, but banks are very difficult to find.
PPPS. The currency exchange facilities are called a Cadeca (pronounced kah-day-kah).
3. Leave your plastic at home.
Most places don't accept credit or debit cards. Some major hotels do, but that's about it.
4. You need proof of health insurance.
Travel.gc.ca says that Canadians need proof of health insurance to enter Cuba. Legit, Kevin woke up in the middle of the night before our departure date, remembered we needed it and then got us health insurance the morning of. But they didn't even ask us for it, so I'm thinking it's a hit or miss. You can take the chance if you wish, but I'd probably get it just to be safe. Plus, you're not throwing money out the window, it's health insurance - always good to have.
5. Canadians need a visa to enter.
So normally, your visa is included in the cost of your flight and the airline provides you with the necessary papers required to enter the country on the flight there. Unleeeeeess you fly Air Canada. Air Canada is so great sometimes and so not great other times. But then again, there can be good and bad things said about everything amirite?
Typically, you'll get your immigration forms to fill out prior to landing and this is the time you'll get your visa too. But on our way there, Air Canada ran out of visas. The flight attendant's announcement to half the passengers on the flight who didn't get one was basically "holla at the agent you'll see to the left when you disembark and they'll tell you what to do". But little did we know that without a visa, you're gonna be forking out an extra $105 per person just to get into the country!
So off the plane we went, looking for the so-called agent, which we couldn't find on our way to customs. Looking like a bunch of lost souls, we just decided to line up with everyone else because we had zero clues on what was happening. It wasn't until the people in line ahead of us flashed their visas around that panic started to set in. But thanks to the ninja I was travelling with, he located the agent, heard her say "I've only got 16 visas left for all of you", swooped in, more or less tackled her for 2 visas and saved the day. The day wasn't the only thing saved though.
$210 = saved
It totally sucks for the passengers who weren't as swift as my ninja companion though - they basically paid for their visa twice. Here's to hoping Air Canada reimburses or compensates them!
6. No hablo inglés.
No one speaks English in Cuba aside from the odd person here and there working at resorts. But you'd think that for a touristy hot spot, there'd be more English speakers, right? Wrong. Have your Google Maps app (or an actual map) and your pointing finger ready to go when you get into a cab.
7. Cuba is the birthplace of the Mojito and the Daiquiri.
Mojitos = yum!
Daiquiris = flavourless in Cuba - ask for the pineapple ones, you'll be thanking me!
8. There used to be a $25 CUC fee to exit the country but that is no more.
So use it on rum and cigars instead!
9. Old cars vs. New cars.
The super cold cars are cool AF. But the rides are also expensive AF in comparison to a normal taxi. So for photo ops, because let's face it - we're all #basicbitches and we're gonna need some sick shots for our insta posts, take the taxi ride in an expensive car until your heart is full. Keep in mind a $15 cab ride in an old fancy car will cost you $5 in a regular cab.
Cubataxis are the wobbliest, dirtiest, smelliest, but also cheapest way to get around (next to walking).
10. $5-10 CUC is a good price to pay per person for a meal.
Touristy places and fancier restaurants are going to cost you quite a bit more (upwards of $30 per person) but if you wander into local (but safe) areas and sit down for a meal, you'll pay between $5 and $10.
11. Coffees are itty bitty in size, but they've got the strength of a 300lb Olympic weight lifter.
Don't be deceived when you're handed a coffee the size of your thumb. Also, don't drink too many of them to compensate for its size because you'll get hit hard. It'll feel like someone punched your brain and you'll 100% get the shakes.
I disagree with the age-old saying that size doesn't matter, but in this case it actually doesn't matter.