7 Best Cuba Travel Insurance Plans Compared 2024

Updated on February 8, 2024, by Matthew H. Nash – Licensed Insurance Agent

Cuba’s pristine ocean waters, white sand beaches, stunning neoclassical architecture, delicious food, and electrifying nightlife attract travelers worldwide. With the landscape of travel continuously changing, having the best Cuba travel insurance plan will simplify your life. In fact, Cuba is one of the few nations in the world that requires all foreigners to show proof of travel insurance to enter the country. Trip insurance will shield you against the financial ramifications of trip delays and cancellations, lost or damaged luggage as well as medical emergencies. This article will walk you through the differences in policies, upgrade packages, the level of coverage you will need and your expected costs. We may receive compensation when you click on the affiliate links below.

  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to Cuba travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Comparing Policies

  • Compare dozens of the best Cuba travel insurance policies from all the major providers in one place
  • Easily filter for the features you want and get support from their award-winning customer service team
  • Founded in 2013, TravelInsurance.com has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers find affordable insurance coverage
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Travelers Aged 55+

  • Pre-existing medical conditions are covered for a reasonable fee and they offer “cancel for any reason” as an add-on
  • $2,000 COVID quarantine coverage available w/ Safe Travels Voyager plan
  • Founded in 1998 and underwritten by Nationwide and GBG Insurance
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Filtering Plans

  • This comparison website has the most comprehensive filters especially for Covid-19 which helps you search for the specific benefits you need
  • They have “Zero Complaint Guarantee” which promises a fair claims process
  • Established in 2003, Squaremouth has consistently been recognized for it’s exceptional customer service
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






An Established Brand

  • Well rounded, inexpensive travel insurance plans from an established and top rated global insurance company
  • AXA has plans that cover pre-existing conditions and their “Platinum” plan covers “cancel for any reason” with an optional add-on. They also offer helpful 24/7 Worldwide Travel Assistance Services
  • Founded in 1959 and underwritten by Nationwide
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Adventure Travel

  • Covers almost all adventure activities for a reasonable price for U.S. residents up to age 70 (worldwide up to age 65)
  • Can insure up to 9 people in one family and the signup process is super easy
  • Founded in 2002 and underwritten for U.S. travelers by Nationwide Insurance
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Family Travel

  • Their “Trip Interruption for any Reason” feature allows you to get a 75% reimbursement for any additional expenses if you decide to go home early from your trip
  • They have a variety of insurance products to suit any travel needs
  • Founded in 1993 and underwritten by Nationwide Insurance
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Long-term Travel

  • Ideal for digital nomads and long-term travel, available to anyone anywhere
  • Scored lower because short-term travel coverage isn’t as robust as competitors
  • Founded in 2018 and is underwritten by Lloyds of London

travel insurance
  • SwiftScore
      Our SwiftScore is a unique and proprietary insurance ranking system objectively comparing key metrics which are most important to travelers. Learn more at the end of this page.






Comparing Policies

  • Compare dozens of travel insurance policies from all the major providers in one place
  • Easily filter for the features you want and get support from their award-winning customer service team
  • Founded in 2013, TravelInsurance.com has helped hundreds of thousands of travelers find affordable insurance coverage

Cuba travel insurance FAQs

What are the most important things to look for in a Cuba travel insurance plan?

Always make sure that your travel insurance provider includes Cuba in their coverage. Depending on world events, insurers may exclude a handful of countries from policies at any given time. Also, make sure that any policy you choose covers you from your departure date through the return date. And with so many uncertainties remaining around travel, you may want to get a “Cancel for Any Reason” (CFAR) optional package. It would allow you to do just as it says and guarantee you reimbursement for 75% of your trip costs.

Lastly, you must decide whether you want to participate in adventure sports and activities in Cuba. Since Cuba has everything from scuba diving and swimming with dolphins to hiking and horseback riding, you should get a policy that covers such activities. In my experience, the comparison website SquareMouth.com has the best filter options, allowing you to see policies that cover you for your preferred sports and activities.

Can I buy Cuba trip insurance after my vacation has started?

It’s always a good idea to purchase Cuba trip insurance before leaving home, but you can always buy a policy once your vacation has begun. However, be aware that your plan will only be valid from the date of purchase. In other words, it will not cover anything that happened to you, your travel plans, or your possessions before the date of purchase.

Is “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage worth it?

Most travel insurance companies have optional Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) insurance packages you can add to your standard policy. It’s an excellent choice for people who want that extra peace of mind, knowing that they can cancel their trip for reasons not covered by their policy, such as changing their minds at the last minute and still getting reimbursed 75% of their total trip costs.

How long will my Cuba travel insurance policy be valid for?

It depends on whether you purchase a Single Trip, Annual or International Medical policy. Single-trip travel insurance plans will cover you door-to-door, meaning from the time you leave home on vacation until you return home. These plans usually come with trip cancellation benefits. However, plans without those particular benefits are known as International Medical policies. With these, cover usually lasts a year and is sometimes renewable for up to 3 years. Annual plans extend coverage to multiple trips within a given year for any medical or evacuation services you may need.

Is Cuba safe to visit?

While many people vacation in Cuba without experiencing any trouble, it’s always wise to consult the US Department of State’s Cuba Travel Advisory page for the most current guidance and information.

How do travel insurance companies define “total trip cost”? #21

Your insurers determine your policy’s benefits for Trip Interruption and Trip Cancellation based on your total trip cost. To figure out your total trip cost, add up the full cost of nonrefundable, prepaid expenses. These include airfare, hotels, ground transportation, cruise fares, retreats, event tickets as well as fees for lessons and activities. You must include everything you prepaid but wouldn’t get a 100% refund for should you cancel your trip. Also, always factor in cancellation penalties you would have to pay in your total trip cost. This is true even for those things that do not require prepayment.

When submitting your total trip cost to your travel insurance provider, round it up to the nearest dollar (not down). Do not submit a value lower than your actual trip costs to get a cheaper policy. Miscalculating the total trip cost or submitting the wrong total to your insurer could render you ineligible for the benefits listed in your policy.

How is baggage loss defined, and what does that benefit cover?

Trip insurance companies define baggage loss as your baggage or personal effects getting lost, stolen or damaged while traveling. Regardless if your bags are in the care of a hotel, travel supplier or common carrier, your insurer will reimburse you for such losses. Of course, they will do so up to the Maximum Benefit Amount listed in your policy, minus whatever the responsible party reimburses you.

Understanding baggage loss benefits and reimbursements can be tricky, so let’s walk through them. First, it’s essential to note that the Maximum Benefit Limit in your policy is applied on a per-person basis. Therefore, if your Maximum Benefit is $2,500, but you have 3 other people insured on your policy, they each get a $2,500 Maximum Benefit for baggage loss.

Next is the Per Article Benefit, which can be applied until you reach your policy’s Maximum Benefit Limit. The Per Article Benefit is the highest amount your insurer will reimburse you for each item.

Another aspect of baggage loss benefits is the Combined Article Limit, which pertains to items such as watches, jewelry, electronic devices (laptops, smartphones, cameras, video cameras, etc.) and furs. Should you lose one or more of the items mentioned above (or they get stolen or damaged), this is the most your insurer will reimburse you for all of them combined, regardless of each item’s value. (Note: Not all policies will have Combined Article Limits, as this depends on your state of residence.)

Imagine that you have a policy with a $2,500 Maximum Benefit, a $300 Per Article Benefit and a Combined Article Limit of $1,000. Should your baggage get lost, stolen or damaged, your trip insurance provider will reimburse you up to $300 per item based on each item’s actual value, but in total cannot exceed your $2,500 Maximum Benefit. For items that get classified under the Combined Article Limit, the most you can get from your insurer is $1,000, regardless of whether the item’s (or items’) value(s) exceed(s) that amount. Therefore, if you lose a laptop, its current value is $1,200. Your reimbursement would be capped at $1,000.

It’s worth mentioning that getting reimbursed in such instances requires sufficient documentation to establish ownership and loss. Photographs of the belongings you brought to Cuba and their receipts are perfect for the former. Letters from responsible parties and police reports should be sufficient for the latter. Always review the full details of any policy you are interested in before purchasing it.

Can I get travel insurance through my credit card company?

Credit card companies often offer their cardholders something called “travel protection,” but it is not the same as travel insurance. First, any benefits will be limited to whichever aspects of your trip you purchase with that specific credit card, such as hotels, flights and rental cars. Be aware that almost no credit card companies provide emergency medical and evacuation coverage, and their overall benefits are usually far less robust than those of policies offered by companies that specialize in travel insurance.

Typical problems tourists may experience while traveling in Cuba and how to avoid them:


Most of the illnesses tourists experience in Cuba are from mosquitoes. The risks rise significantly during the rainy season, between May and October. That said, it’s important to note that mosquitoes are an issue year-round due to consistently hot and humid weather.

The two most common mosquito-borne illnesses are dengue fever and Zika. Symptoms of Zika include fever, headache, conjunctivitis and rashes. It poses the most significant risk to pregnant women, as it can cause miscarriage. However, most people who contract Zika show no symptoms.

On the other hand, dengue fever can leave you bedridden or dead if you do not get the proper care. With dengue, your blood platelet count drops extremely low, so hemorrhaging can occur. Symptoms to watch out for are fatigue, extreme body aches, sweating, vomiting, fever and rashes. Should you experience any, all or a combination of these symptoms, get to a hospital as soon as possible.

Being under medical supervision and getting fluids intravenously will be key to your recovery. Regaining your health can take up to 8 weeks, so be patient with the process and ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance to help cover your medical costs.

You can minimize your risk of contracting both by using a strong bug spray all over your body, including the tops and bottoms of your feet, especially when you’re not wearing closed shoes. Also, be mindful of staying hydrated. Avoid being out in the mid-afternoon sun and drinking too many caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. Instead, eat plenty of hydrating foods like fruits and vegetables and drink enough water.

Do not drink tap water in Cuba. Stick with bottled water. Also, avoid drinks in restaurants with ice, as they generally use tap water to make the ice. You will see locals drinking tap water, but their bodies are used to the bacteria in it and therefore do not have the same adverse reactions that tourists may have. Tap water in Cuba also runs the risk of being contaminated by old pipes, poor sanitation and more.


The most typical injuries that tourists in Cuba suffer are twisted or broken ankles, wrists and arms as well as scrapes from tripping and falling. Other accidents visitors have usually result from outdoor sports, such as cycling and hiking. Even though the roads in Cuba are relatively empty, they are littered with potholes, which can quickly cause you to crash if you’re not paying attention.


Pickpocketing happens in Cuba, particularly in crowded areas that appeal to tourists. Bag snatching is less common, but it still happens occasionally. If you flash money around, wear expensive jewelry or keep your electronics visible, you put a target on your back. See the Safety section below for more information.

Emergency resources for Cuba

Phone numbers

Dial 106 from any local phone to reach the police, 104 for ambulance services and 105 for the fire department. It’s worth mentioning that people working the dispatch lines rarely speak much English. Therefore, arm yourself with some relevant Spanish vocabulary in advance.

US embassy or consulate details

The United States has an embassy in the Cuban capital of Havana. If you need the Embassy’s address, phone number, opening hours or information regarding citizen services, check out the website.

If you want to take an extra safety measure before your vacation in Cuba, register your travel itinerary with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Once listed with STEP, you will receive Cuba safety alerts pertaining to your travel dates. Additionally, registration helps the US Embassy in Havana communicate with you and your family in an emergency.

Other local knowledge that is helpful for travelers


Regarding accommodations in Cuba, you will have a wide selection from which to choose, including international chain hotels, hostales, Cuban chain hotels, casas particulares, campismos, national-peso hotels and vacation rentals.

For those who want the best customer service, stay at the higher-end foreign hotels. You will have all the creature comforts you’re used to, including room service, and be cared for by an attentive staff. In terms of other large hotels, there are 5 locally-owned chains, but they aren’t all equal in quality. Cubanacán (including Encanto hotels), Habaguanex and Gran Caribe hotels will be the best locally-owned chains. Unfortunately, due to US government restrictions, US citizens cannot legally stay in state-run hotels.

However, if you want to experience Cuban culture, casas particulares are the way to go. The closest equivalent of casas particulares in the United States is bed and breakfasts or inns. While a select few casas feel like small boutique hotels, most are formalized versions of homestays, and they are much more affordable than chain hotels.

Sometimes, it may not be obvious where the closest casa is, so if a street vendor stops you, offering cigars or other goods, decline their wares but ask them if they know of any casas particulares. Most are more than happy to take you to one at no charge. Of course, the casa will pay them a commission directly, but you’re always welcome to give them a $1-2 tip if you wish. And your current host can recommend a casa in the next town or city you plan to visit next.

With casas, you can expect similar rates across the board but only settle on a price once you have seen the room being offered. All casas only accept cash payments. You’ll pay only a fraction of the standard high-season rate during the low season. Websites like MS Casa Particular Cuba and CasasParticulares.net are two resources for finding casas nationwide. Note that casas with orange insignias near their front doors only cater to Cubans, while those with blue insignias are open to foreigners.

If you prefer the atmosphere of a boutique hotel, hostales are the right choice for you. They are the best choice outside Havana, mainly if you stay in provincial cities and larger towns. You will get good service and quality for what you pay, and you will often get to stay in stunning neoclassical buildings, but do not expect upmarket luxury.

Even though national-peso hotels are the cheapest accommodations available in Cuba, they are not necessarily recommended. You will likely find them in disrepair, including broken furniture, torn sheets and unpleasant bathrooms.

If you want more adventurous and affordable accommodations, campismos may be just what you want. Campismos are small, basic, concrete cabins near beaches and rivers. They either come with a barbecue area or the grounds have a small canteen for all guests. Keep in mind that Cubans always get priority for reservations, especially during June and July holidays.

It is worth noting that no accommodations grant you access to a kitchen beside the entire apartment/house short-term rentals you book via Airbnb. This can pose a challenge to those traveling with children or who have specific diets.

Just be aware that Airbnbs may not be available in every town or city you plan to visit. Also worth mentioning is that the Airbnb app does not work in Cuba. You will have to communicate with your hosts via the website and email. If you struggle to access the website, try quitting your browser, connecting to the internet using a VPN and visiting Airbnb’s site.

Adventure Activities & Extreme Sports

Cuba is a stunning country with an exquisite landscape, making it perfect for many outdoor adventure sports and activities. Biking, kayaking, exploring and diving in caves, scuba diving, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, snorkeling, taking nature walks to identify birds, flora and fauna, and swimming in waterfall pools are all popular activities among tourists.

Diving seems to be the country’s standout sport since Cuba’s waters are crystal clear and unpolluted. The water is also warm and the coral reef and aquatic life is vibrant and aplenty. And there’s no shortage of shipwrecks to checkout. Cuba attracts excellent international talent when it comes to dive masters, and the country’s 25 diving centers have safe gear, even if it’s not the newest. Marlin Naútica y Marinas run most centers. If you aren’t a PADI-certified diver, most dive centers offer certification courses for as little as a few hundred dollars.

While there are professional tour agencies that organize such excursions outside of Cuba, many private individuals offer outdoor guide services. (Yes! It’s legal.) Most operate out of casas particulares, so be sure to ask your host to help you plan some activities for your stay. You can generally access decent gear rentals in Cuba. However, if you decide to bring your own from home but don’t want to carry it back with you, consider donating them. Your gift will be met with immense appreciation.


Keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues back in the United States, while you’re in Cuba, is rather straightforward, just as it is if you were traveling to other countries. US-based mobile phone carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint offer international roaming plans for Cuba. The only significant difference between roaming plans for Cuba and most other countries is that data roaming in Cuba costs a small fortune. You can pay as much as $2 per MB (not GB!). Stick to a calling and texting plan only. Reception is usually quite good throughout most of the country, save for a few remote corners.

The upshot is that you can access the internet via WiFi hotspots across Cuba. Sure, the internet speed may not be what you’re used to, but you will be able to get online and do whatever you need. You may find that your hotel or vacation rental has WiFi, but you’ll also find that many public spaces offer access, including public squares, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls and more. You’ll know when WiFi is available because you’ll stumble upon a mass of people staring at their devices, which is not necessarily a common sight in Cuba.

Another route you could take is to get a SIM card once you arrive. It will be much more affordable than adding an international roaming plan with your mobile phone company in the US. However, if you choose to get a local SIM, you must ensure your phone is unlocked before leaving the States. If unsure, check with the company you pay for phone service.

The SIM card options at the airport are limited, especially for those needing data plans. You’ll get better deals by visiting a local mobile service provider’s store. Cubacel (website only in Spanish) and C-com are the only two mobile carriers in Cuba. If you’re uncertain where to find one of their retail locations, ask your hotel concierge or vacation rental host.

Keep in mind that many websites, including those requiring payment processing via US-based banks, are often not accessible in Cuba due to the US sanctions/embargo and censorship. However, you can get around these virtual blockades using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. Most VPN services range from $5-15 per month.


The national currency, the Cuban peso (CUP), is only available in the country. Therefore, you must exchange your US dollars for Cuban pesos once you arrive in Cuba. Unlike when you visit other countries, bringing all the cash you need for your trip is essential, especially as Cuban banks can often have very long lines and are only open from 9 am to 3pm, ATMs can be difficult to locate and the exchange rate can be highly unfavorable.

Bring mostly $100 bills, as many money changers rarely accept smaller foreign bills. You will want to bring plenty of bills in smaller denominations for giving as tips. (More on this in the Tipping section below.) Avoid changing your dollars at the airport or CADECA money exchange locations. You can lose up to four times the amount you would get elsewhere. Check with your hotel’s concierge or front desk staff for advice on where you can get the best exchange rate.

Businesses in Cuba do not accept credit and debit cards issued by American banks. If you’re from a country other than the US, remember that nearly no private businesses have credit card processing machines. Cuba is a cash-based economy. However, state-run enterprises will accept many foreign credit and debit cards. Remember to notify your bank or credit card company of your travel dates and destination so they don’t block you from using your card while on vacation.

Note: Cuba used to have two currencies: the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), but the latter was removed from circulation as of early 2022. Many businesses are slow to update their prices and menus online, so just remember that such things may be inaccurate when researching your trip.


Cuba is famous for its rich and electrifying music and dance scene and their sensual rhythms and moves. It’s so vibrant that it keeps locals and visitors alike grooving and partying until the sun comes up. What astonishes many tourists, though, is how unabashed and unself-conscious Cubans are when it comes to dancing. They leave it all on the dance floor, so don’t be afraid to do so as well.

The national dance of Cuba is the danzón. It started as a polite,group-centric ballroom dance and evolved by the early 1900s into a sassier, fiery dance for couples. You may also hear it called charanga, danzón-chá and danzonete.

Cuba is also the birthplace of the rumba, which was born out of drumming circles by formerly enslaved Africans in Matanzas and Havana. As time progressed, the drumming became more complex and vocals were added. An inevitable result is the development of a dance style with three variations: columbia, guaguancó and yambú.

Jazz and salsa clubs abound in Cuba, and you can’t go far without hearing such tunes as people in public squares or basement clubs. Same is true for salsa, cha-cha-cha, mambo, trova, timba or reggaeton. Much credit is owed to the Afro-Cuban community for countless contributions to shaping this spectacular country’s music and dance culture.

Entry Requirements

Contrary to popular belief, United States citizens can travel to Cuba. You will need a few documents to enter the country:

  • A copy of your travel itinerary (proof that you have a ticket out of the country).
  • Proof of travel insurance (medical, including Covid-19 coverage).
  • A passport with at least 6 months left before expiration.
  • A tourist card and a completed D’Viajeros health and information form.

You can complete the D’Viajeros form up to 48 hours before arrival, but the earlier you do so, the better. Just visit the website, click “Request Form,” and fill it out. After you finish the several pages, submit it online. You will be required to show your airline proof of its completion at check-in or the departure gate. A printed or digital copy is acceptable, though having both in case of emergencies is advised.

Cuba requires visitors from the US to obtain a tourist card, also known as La Tarjeta del Turista, to enter the country. Most airlines will not allow you to board your flight to Havana without it. Americans must get a pink tourist card and Canadians, a green. Tourist cards run anywhere from $25-85, depending on where you purchase yours.

You have several options for getting your Tourist Card. To do so, you will need your passport, a completed Tourist Card application, a copy of your travel itinerary and proof of travel insurance. If you booked your trip through a travel agency, they will be the best and easiest option and can help you take care of everything. Another option is to purchase it online in advance via companies such as Easy Tourist Card. Otherwise, you can buy it from your airline at your flight’s check-in desk or departure gate. Some airlines may include the cost of the Tourist Card in the price of your plane ticket, while some may require you to pay for it separately. It’s always a good idea to confirm with your airline in advance. The last and most time-consuming option is to get it through the nearest Cuban embassy or consulate.

Food & Drink

Cuban cuisine has heavy Spanish, African, native Taíno and Caribbean influences. Heavy in pork, chicken, beef, potatoes (sweet and regular), yucca (cassava), beans, rice, carrots, onions, garlic, coconut, seafood, plantains and other fruit. You will have several types of establishments to eat at while in Cuba.

First, foreign hotels and resorts have all-inclusive packages, often including breakfast and dinner buffets. However, it would be a shame to miss out on the variety Cuban cuisine offers. Therefore, avoid all-inclusive packages.

An alternative is state-run restaurants. These will be the cheapest of all your dining-out choices. Quality and service span a wide range. In the provinces, you may have limited selections, lower quality food and rations. However, many state-run restaurants in Havana sell delicious food and provide great service.

The next best choice is private restaurants, also known as paladares. While these are more expensive than state-run restaurants, you’re guaranteed meals made from fresher, higher quality ingredients and significantly better service. Food ranges from comfort food to high-end fusion cuisine.

The most interesting option, but not always available, is dinner at whichever casa particular (see the Accommodation section) you may be staying. Breakfast and dinner usually come at an extra charge. Most travelers who have the privilege of getting a home-cooked dinner at a casa will rave about it for years to come – yes, it’s that delicious! However, keep in mind that breakfasts are usually simple: eggs, fruit and toast. It’s worth asking your host, though, as all meals vary from casa to casa.

Ropa vieja is easily one of the most popular dishes in Cuba. It’s made of shredded beef stewed in a tomato sauce, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, and red wine. They typically serve it with rice, avocado, and tostones (pressed and fried plantains) or maduros (sweet plantains). In fact, ropa vieja means old clothes in English—an appropriate name given the appearance of shredded beef.

Another is vaca frita, which translates as ‘fried cow.’ It’s a dish of beef strips marinated in garlic, salt and lime, then fried. As it’s frying, some cooks add bay leaves, cumin or oregano and then serve it with black beans and white rice.

Fricasé de pollo is probably the most well-liked chicken dish in Cuba. It’s chicken stewed in a tomato and red wine-based sauce with peas, potatoes, olives, capers, bell peppers, garlic, onions, lime juice and spices.

Of course, a trip to Cuba would not be complete without trying at least one or two of the country’s mouth-watering fish or seafood dishes. Pecado con leche de coco is fish sauteed in a tomato and coconut milk sauce with garlic and spices. Lobster, shrimp and other seafood will often take the place of fish.

Lastly, you must try a medianoche, which literally means midnight in Spanish. It got its name because clubs serve it as a late-night snack or meal. The medianoche resembles the famous Cuban sandwich (el cubano) that working-class Cuban immigrants in the United States made famous. It comes with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, and they serve it on sweet egg bread instead of the traditional crispy, baguette-like Cuban bread.

For the gourmet capital of Cuba, head to Baracoa in the southeastern corner of the country. You will find incredibly delicious fish and seafood dishes and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Be aware that due to a struggling economy and currency (high inflation), shortages are a normal part of everyday life in Cuba. As a result, people eat what is available and what they can afford, not necessarily what they want. This may make it difficult for those with strict dietary requirements, such as vegan, vegetarian and, to a lesser extent, gluten-free. That said, you will find plenty of street cart vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables wherever you go.

Getting Around

Getting around Cuba is not as smooth and straightforward as it may first seem. Since trains in Cuba are slow, infrequent and generally uncomfortable, and domestic flights are unreliable, the simplest way to travel between provinces is by bus. Buses are safe and clean. Your best bet will be Víazul if you want air-conditioning. Always buy your tickets directly at your nearest bus station at least 2-4 hours in advance, and 2-3 days in advance during high seasons if you want to guarantee your reservation since the online booking system can sometimes be questionable.

The next option will be taxis. You can book these for full-day tours, not only one-way trips. The most popular choice among tourists is the almendrones, the classic American cars, and the other is the yellow taxis, which private drivers or state-controlled agencies operate. Both have comparable rates, but take a coco-taxi if you want to get around Havana. These are yellow, motorized tricycle cars, more modern versions of Southeast Asia’s auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks).

With Cuba having such low car ownership and gas shortages being the norm off-and-on for several decades, cycling has been a preferred mode of transportation. Most roads have bike lanes to the right of car lanes, and since potholes abound, poncheras (bike tire repair stalls) exist across the country. The great news is that you can cycle all over Cuba without fear of battling for space on the road with tons of cars. Companies like Bicycle Breeze, Cubyke and Vélo Cuba (website in Spanish) are reliable.

Rental cars are pricey in Cuba, and with the roads in such rough shape, it’s not the ideal mode of transportation despite the roads being relatively empty. Daily rates tend to start around US $80, and you will have to pay $175 (or higher) ‘guarantee deposit.’ This deposit is refundable if you return the car without damage or tickets. Should you wish to pick up your rental at the airport, expect to pay an extra airport pick-up fee. Since most rental car agencies are government-run, Americans may find it difficult to rent a car using a credit or debit card linked to a US bank. Therefore, organizing your car rental and other adventures around Cuba with a travel agency is a good idea.

Wherever you are in Cuba, you will notice that local buses abound. They are very cheap to ride, but be aware that many Cubans do not want tourists onboard. Therefore, if you show up at a bus station, depot or stop, don’t be surprised if locals pretend that the buses aren’t running. For the sake of all, you are better off taking a taxi.


The national language of Cuba is Spanish, with words from some West African languages tossed in for good measure. It’s often called español cubano or cubañol. Cubans speak extra fast, so even those non-native speakers with a trained ear for Spanish will take some time to get used to it.

For those who speak Spanish, it’s essential to know that Cubans often use the informal tú form of verbs instead of the formal usted, even if they don’t know you. However, using the usted form is best unless a local tells you it’s unnecessary. You can also address a man you don’t know as señor or a woman you don’t know as señora.

Here are some useful Spanish words and phrases to help you through your travels:

  • hello – hola
  • goodbye – adiós or chao (pronounced chow)
  • good morning – buenos días
  • good afternoon/evening – buenas tardes
  • good night – buenas noches
  • see you later – hasta luego
  • How are you? – ¿Qué tal? or ¿Cómo estás?
  • good/fine – bien 
  • very good – muy bien
  • so-so – así así
  • yes – sí
  • no – no
  • please – por favor
  • thank you – gracias
  • thank you very much – muchas gracias
  • you’re welcome – de nada
  • sorry – lo siento
  • excuse me – perdon
  • I don’t understand. – Yo no entiendo.
  • Do you speak English? – ¿Habla inglés, senor/a?
  • Where is the ______? – ¿Dónde está ______ ?
  • post office – oficina de correos
  • ticket office – la taquilla 
  • airport – aeropuerto
  • bus station – la estación de autobús
  • bus stop – la parada de autobús
  • gas station – gasolinera 
  • train station – la estación de trén/ferrocarril 
  • bathroom – los servicios or el baño
  • men – los caballeros (cowboys)
  • women – las mujeres (pronounced moo-hey-rez)
  • left – la izquierda (eez-kee-air-da)
  • right – la derecha 
  • next to – al lado de 
  • opposite/across from – frente a 
  • in front of – enfrente de 
  • behind – detrás de
  • on/at the corner – en la esquina 
  • near/close to – cerca (de)
  • far from – lejos (de) (lay-hoz)
  • I would like a room, please. – ¿Quisiera una habitación? (kee-see-ay-rah 
  • oo-na aw-bee-tas-ee-on)
  • air conditioner – aire acondicionado
  • Single room – una habitación individual
  • double room – una habitación doble
  • car – un coche
  • truck – camion
  • helmet – casco

Local Customs & Etiquette

Cuba is a relatively easy country to adjust to regarding etiquette since the people tend to be informal and laid back. Shorts, skirts (of a reasonable length), light pants, t-shirts, and tank tops are acceptable, but save bikini tops or provocative clothes for the beach. Dress appropriately for the weather and not too flashy, and you will avoid sticking out like a sore thumb.

Despite the communist state declaring Cuba an atheistic country, the citizens still treat churches as places of worship and respect them accordingly. Therefore, dress for the occasion: no shorts, short skirts, tank tops or sandals. All shirts must cover your shoulders, and skirts and pants must fall below the knee. Also, be aware that topless or nude sunbathing is illegal.

When greeting Cubans you do not know, shaking hands is appropriate. However, if you have friends in Cuba, feel free to greet them with a kiss on each cheek (appropriate between women and men and women). Men familiar with each other will still shake hands or hug one another.

Only discuss politics with locals if they bring it up on their own. The Communist Party has ruled Cuba since the Revolution in 1959. Cubans have endured a great deal of hardship, including food shortages, rationing, and minimal or no access to news and information beyond the country’s borders. As a result, they do not necessarily welcome complaints from visitors about challenges or problems they may be having with their vacation.


Cuba is a very safe country to visit. It has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the Americas. That said, always take common sense precautions in public, especially in desolate urban areas and at night. Lock all your valuables in your hotel room safe, do not wear expensive watches or jewelry in public and carry all cash in a money belt or a chest purse/bag. These steps will ward off pickpockets and help you keep track of your things in busy, crowded places. Another thing to be aware of is that changing your cash with money changers on the street means you risk getting forged notes.


With the opening up of Cuba over the years, the country has developed a strong tipping culture. Expect to tip hotel, cafe, bar and restaurant staff, tour guides and other employees in tourist-centric businesses. Workers depend heavily on tips to make a livable wage, as they usually get paid very little. US dollars are in high demand in Cuba, and it is standard practice to tip in dollars. As mentioned in the currency section, bring plenty of $1 and $5 bills from the US.

Of course, do not tip all workers the same. In restaurants, you may see a 5% service charge tacked onto your bill. However, leaving a 10% tip cash tip is still common. The same goes for bartenders. However, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, tip $1 for every 2-3 drinks. In hotels, tip the housekeepers $2-5/night and the bellhops $1-2/bag at check-in and check-out, but a minimum of $3. $1-2 should do for parking valets. For spa technicians, 10-15% is the norm.

Unlike in the United States, it’s standard in Cuba, even among locals, to tip shopkeepers and cashiers. You do so by simply rounding up your purchase to the nearest dollar. Just tell the cashier to keep the change. You will also find that most bathrooms have attendants. Most bathrooms require you to pay a fee, and tipping the attendant $0.25-0.50 is appropriate.

There are a host of other people you should tip while on vacation in Cuba. The first is tax drivers. $1-3 should suffice for shorter trips, but feel free to tip more if they help you with luggage, provide recommendations, or give you walking directions. Tip street artists and musicians anywhere from $1-2. For outdoor activity and private tour guides, $5-10 per person is the norm. Bus tour guides should get $3-5 per person and the tour bus drivers $2-3 per person. Free walking tour guides volunteer their time, so they should receive a much higher tip of $10-20/per person for a 2-hour tour or more if it’s longer. Museum docents are used to getting $1-2 per person.

While this is just a guide to help you, feel free to tip more or less as you see fit. By tipping hotel staff well upon arrival, you will receive much better service than you would if you tipped normally. In Cuba, the high tip usually precedes excellent service.

A final note about travel insurance for the Cuba

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SwiftScore Ranking Methodology

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  • Cancel for any reason (CFAR)
  • AM Best rating of the underwriter
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