Though you may not realise it, Havana is actually an incredibly safe destination for solo travel, and is one of the hot trending cities for travelling solo. That said, even hardened travellers can learn from the experience of others. Read on for our top advice and helpful tips for a successful solo trip to the Cuban capital.
- You’ll need cash!
Making sure you have enough cash is an absolute must when travelling solo in Havana (and Cuba generally). While at home you may be able to rely on a combination of card payments and easy access to ATMs, life is very different in the Cuban capital, where cash is definitely the only way to go. You’ll only be able to use credit or debit cards in the most expensive of hotels, and then only if you’re using a non-US brand, such as Visa (Mastercard is a big no-no).
Visitors use the CUC, or Cuban Convertible Peso, linked 1:1 with the US dollar. However, dollars have high exchange rates (and extra fees slapped on top of that), so even if coming from the States its well worth the time to get Euros or British Pound Sterling instead. It will have you a heap of money in the long run. Excluding accommodation, you’ll want around $60/day.
- When in Rome…
The best way to really get to know a place is to do as the locals do, and if anything, this is even easier when travelling solo than as a group. For the true lowdown on the hidden and hottest spots of the moment, consider spending some of your time one of the private tours in Havana on offer by local experts such as the Havana Tour Company.
Private tours such as these work at your pace, rather than the pace of a group, and the one-to-one connection with the guides used can unleash a whole city within a city you would otherwise miss, thanks to their keen eye and expert knowledge. Having a guide will also help cross any language barrier you may face, with the vast majority of Cubans speaking nothing but their mother tongue of Spanish.
- Learn the lingo
Even with a guide we think knowing the basics of Spanish can go a long way. And if you’re staying in casas particulares, the Cuban form of bed and breakfast, and eating at local paladares restaurants, a touch of Spanish will be a huge help. Cubans are extremely accommodating to visitors, but should they not know any English, knowing a few simple words and phrases is useful. Knowing the numbers is great for working out prices, while ‘how much is…?’ and ‘I would like…’ even if followed by a pointing finger can push things along and make it all a little easier. Don’t forget to learn ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ too of course!
- Be aware of web limitations
Wifi hotspots do exist in Havana, though there are nowhere near as many as you’re probably used too, meaning something of a digital detox. Most of the larger hotels have hotspots, and sell internet cards by the hour for guests and non-guests alike, with major parks and squares also offering a service to get online.
Internet will almost certainly be slower than you are used to at home too, so don’t rely on internet access for anything important, such as hotel locations or Spanish translators. Either print important documentation before you leave home, which is good advice for any destination round the globe, or ensure you’ve downloaded the many offline apps that now exist before reaching the island.
- Dress right
Even though Cuba is a conservative nation at heart, Havana’s warm days and nights mean the residents of the city won’t be shocked to see a little flesh, however pale and pasty. Aim to take lightweight breathable clothing, that can be worn on several different occasions, made from natural materials such as cotton or linen. Casual clothing is absolutely fine, but if you’re going to hit the latest nightspots in a big way, you might also like to have some more ‘dressy’ clothes with you – so you don’t stand out for all the wrong reasons!
Safe, dynamic, and astonishingly friendly, our advice and tips will see you through any solo travel in Havana.