Cuba is on almost everyone’s bucket list due to how fun and colorful the culture looks and how mysterious it seems from the outside. But how do you prepare yourself and your family for a trip to such a place? Here are Gringa Traveling Mom’s recommendations.
Cuba is one of those places that was a huge mystery to many of us for a long time. But after they opened their doors again to tourism from the US, I decided that this was a place that my family and I had to experience.
So I made it happen. But because there was so little information out there, I don’t feel like I was completely prepared to face their colorful culture and the way they use their two currencies (see the currency section below for more details).
This visit to Cuba was truly an enriching experience for all of us.
General Information for Visiting Havana Cuba with Kids
Currency: There are two kinds that you will be using. The Cuban peso is what most locals use, so you will need it for markets, street stalls, etc. Then there is the Cuban convertible peso, which is for more luxurious items such as casa owners, tour guides, taxi drivers, and hotel staff.
When it comes to the exchange rate, Cuban peso and the US dollar are exactly the same, USD 1 = CUP 1
Visa: All visitors (except from these 18 countries) to Cuba need a visa. You can get one from the Cuban diplomatic missions, travel agencies or authorized airlines unless.
To get one you need valid return tickets, medical insurance, proof of financial solvency of at least US$50 per day and a valid passport for at least two months from the arrival date.
Tips aren’t expected most of the time but it is always a nice thing to do for a great service. At restaurants, 10% is usually the acceptable thing. For helpful hotel staff, $1 is good.
For tour guides, it depends on the length of the tour, but $2 to $5 per day is the normal thing.
– Food from $3 to $15 per meal
– Accommodations start at 20 CUC and go all the way up to 1,700 CUC
Things to Do in and Around Havana with Kids
National Aquarium: It was founded back in 1960 mainly to found investigation and to promote conservation of local species. There are attractions like mangroves, islands, caves, reefs and a few other. you could easily spend a whole morning here. There is also a restaurant where you can have lunch after exploring.
Fuster’s House: José Rodríguez Fuster is a well know artist in Cuba who turned his house and an entire neighborhood into a work of art. It is called Jaimanitas in the northwestern edge of Havana.
If you are into stuff like the artwork and aesthetic in Güel Park in Spain you will certainly have a great time looking at Fuster’s work.
Have fun with the Street Performers: You might find small groups of people on the streets playing some kind of traditional and lively music. This is the perfect chance for you to enjoy the local culture, you might even get a free dancing lesson from some local walking by who feels like dancing.
Also, leave the musicians a small tip, they will be extremely grateful.
Take a stroll down Havana Vieja: Almost all of the old cities in the world have an area that is as old a the city, featuring the oldest and most historic landmarks. That is what Havana Vieja is.
The area is small and it won’t take you more than one day of walking around to explore its unique and beautiful streets.
Plaza de la Revolución: The place isn’t like one of the many tiny parks you find all over Latin America with gardens and ball courts. Actually, besides a few monuments and the paintings on the surrounding buildings, there isn’t much to be seen. However, it has a lot of historic importance. So go for a visit and sit on a bench to read a bit about what happened there and tell your kids all about it.
There is no better way to learn than being in the place where it all happened.
What to Eat in Havana
Food in Cuba is amazing, try to stick to their traditional dishes while trying to decide what to eat.
Coppelia Ice Cream: Icecream in Cuba will not be the best you have ever tried. But it seems to be a big deal in the country. Don’t get me wrong, it is tasty, my sons really enjoyed it. It is really easy to find one of these stores, you will find one opposite the Habana Libre Hotel.
Mojitos and Bucanero Beer: Ok, this is not a kid-friendly option but these are two of the most representative drinks that Cuba offers to the world. For me, that one Cuban mojito I had was actually the best I had ever tried.
Cuban Sandwich: Restaurants in Cuba were good, we had some awesome meals in it. But, what stood out the most to my family were the sandwiches that we kept finding as part of the menu of almost every small street food stall.
They are made with pork or beef and other complementary ingredients that make it taste amazing.
Try the coffee: You can’t come to Cuba and not try the coffee. It is a staple in each home. Wherever you go, someone will offer you a cup of coffee. It is delicious and a part of daily life.
But the best food to eat always is at your casa particular. This will give you a real taste of what Cuban food tastes like.
Accommodations for families in Havana
There are to different lodging options in Havana.
First, there is your regular hotel option here you get all of the amenities that you are already used to. The most famous an luxurious is Hotel Nacional, but there are others all over Havana for you to choose from.
Then there are also Casas Particulares which for me and my family are the best option. It is almost like a B&B. They are homes where the family allow you to take one of the rooms of their home and take care of you.
Our experience at one of these was priceless. This is the only way to truly get to know the culture of the people, plus our hosts were amazing. So nice and welcoming.
Additional Tips for Traveling with Kids
- When it comes to transportation you get to pick among taxis, car rentals, airport transfers, shuttles, and public buses. If you are traveling with kids I would recommend having a car rental, it is the most comfortable option and it is pretty cost effective too.
- Cuba is one of those countries with amazing weather year long, even when it rains the temperatures are still warm. The only time you need to be cautious is between July and November. It is hurricane season, but if you keep yourself informed you can leave the country before anything ever happens.
- When it comes to packing, I am going to go against the advice I give for traveling to most other places. Bring everything you and your kids might need; don’t worry about over packing. Cuba is known for economic hardship, so finding stuff other than basics might not be realistic.
Now you have most of the information that you might need to be able to have a fun and safe time in cuba with kids. I know I must have forgotten about some stuff so feel free to leave your comment with additional information that you might think is essential.