There’s a lot you need to know before going to a place like Cuba but most of that information will be provided by your tour operator. Some things they might not mention (or at least not before arrival), however, are…
1. Emails & Internet. If you need to be in touch with your office or home or need to confirm or change travel plans, it can be challenging in Cuba given that Internet availability is extremely limited. The best bet for success is in a big city, such as Havana. Go to a hotel and purchase an Internet card for lobby Wi-Fi. The cost is about $5 for half an hour.
2. Cash is king. Most travelers these days tend to carry very little cash, opting to use credit cards and ATMs. But when traveling to Cuba you will need cash that you will exchange for pesos.
3. Be careful what you eat. The only options for dining out in Cuba are government-operated cafeterias and paladares. The food taste terrible at most government eateries so it is advisable to eat at paladares, which are restaurants that are run out of private homes. The food is usually quite good and what better way to experience cultural immersion?
4. Bring a map. Don’t rely on GPS or Google or whatever to find your hotel or beach. Remember that Internet service is not widely available.
5. Bring all essentials. There are only a few stores in Havana so it is a challenge to find deodorant, hat, sunscreen, aspirin or a toothbrush if you don’t pack it.
UPDATE: You still need a visa to get into Cuba but the ban on American credit and debit cards has been lifted. There are still no commercial flights and independent travel is not recommended. Travelers should use an authorized tour operator that arranges everything, including the charter flight and helps with visa application.
Like with all travel, I recommend those going to Cuba be flexible and patient. Learn to adapt and enjoy the adventure! Click on this link for more about traveling to Cuba.