10 Travel Tips for Solo Females in Cuba

Solo female travelers face a challenge when choosing their next travel destination.  Is the country relatively safe? Are the locals friendly? Will I be okay to travel around by myself?

Cuba not only checks off all of those concerns, but offers solo female adventures an experience they will never get anywhere else.

There is nowhere else in the world you can dance with locals until dawn and feel completely safe doing so.

And I can guarantee you there’s nowhere else in the world you can truly experience all of that without being constantly distracted with modern technology.

As someone who frequently travels around the country by myself, I have some tips for my fellow independent ladies!

  1. Go-With-The-Flow

This isn’t exclusive to female travelers, but anyone traveling here. Cuba doesn’t have internet accessible to you at all times of the day. There is wifi at the parksbut not around town.

This means you have to be open to new experiences and change of plans.  It’s okay to have a basic itinerary, but in a country where locals are always willing to invite you to places or direct you to a different spot, you have to be willing to change courses.

This is particularly true if you travel around the country.  Conception of time is not the same in Cuba as it is in western countries.  We wait in hour long lines to get nowhere or nothing. The driver doesn’t feel like driving, so you wait. Or the bus isn’t working (again) so you’ll have to take a taxi or other way of getting around.

Point is: just be open to an adventure!

  1. Machismo Culture

Cuban men are NOT shy when it comes to approaching you. And even more so when you’re a Yuma (a foreigner).

You are noticeable from the moment you get out of the airport until the minute you get back in a taxi to leave to the airport.

You’ll be stared at, cat-called, and woo’d.

Here’s my tip:  Most of the time, ignore the unwanted cat-calls.  We get them DAILY and CONSTANTLY and it’s just something you get over after a while.

  1. Be Careful of Jineteros

This is a taboo topic in Cuban culture.  Jineteros are Cubans, both male and female, that try to get money or other services from foreigners.

Jineteros in Cuban culture are associated with prostitution, but this is not always the case.  They tend to hang around tourist areas and have foreigners pay for their meals or drinks.

Jineteros sometimes like to make a romantic connections with their foreigner girl in order to get money and/or products from them when they leave back to their countries.

I’ll write more on Cuban love later, but given this, I want to say: its important not to think every local or man willing to dance with you is a jinetero.  Cubans are naturally warm and inviting people. Just be careful if they expect you to pay for everything.

  1. Stay in a casa particular

Cuba doesn’t have hostels (well, not that many) but it has the next best thing: Casa Particulares.

Casa Particulares are rooms/apartments rented by local families.  Many can be found on Airbnb or if you want my recommendations, you can email me.

Many times, if not all the time, casa owners are a great way to befriend locals. It is custom in Cuba to offer meals and coffee to your guest. They can recommend places and even sometimes offer to join you.  It’s a great way to get introduced to Cuban culture.

  1. Don’t dress like a tourist: Yes, no straw fedora hats.

As I mentioned before, its obvious you aren’t Cuban. I don’t care if you have darker complexion. Everyone knows.

But, if you want to try to blend in a bit more and not get hassled (especially in tourist areas), tone down the tourist look.

Some things that AUTOMATICALLY recognize you as the following

  1. Fedora Hats: No one wears these. No one. And Cuba isn’t the set of the godfather
  2. Off-the-shoulder ruffle dresses: Women in cuba don’t really wear flowy dresses….. at all.
  3. Travel Backpacks: Probably the most recognizable “look at me im a foreinger with lots of money” look. I never understood why travelers lug things around on their back when the invention of the wheel was over 5000 years ago
  1. Bring all your essential beauty/medical items with you

There’s no CVS in Cuba.  There’s no Sephora. There’s no Walmart.

Bring that hairspray. Bring that brush. Bring that makeup.  Bring some backup.

Beauty items, feminine products, and other essential things you can most likely pick up anywhere else in the world is not found here.  Yes, Havana has more items but to make sure you aren’t running around market to market, bring your own things and a backup just in case.

  1. Travel outside Havana

Transportation is an issue for most Cubans. We wait in lines, have to hitch-hike or plan days in ahead to get from one place to another.

Luckily, you wont have that problem.  Companies like Viazul  or Transtur  offer buses in between major tourist cities like Vinales, Varadero, Trinidad or Cienfuegos.

Book a ticket there (or at any major hotel in Havana) and go! Cuba is an entirely different country outside Havana.

I really advise anyone to use tourist transportation, especially if you are a solo female traveler.

Vinales is a beautiful picturesque country town where most of the nation’s tobacco comes from.

Cienfuegos, nicknamed the pearl of the Caribbean, is exactly that. It’s a beautioful town set on the side of a bay.

Trinidad is a UNECO world heritage site. Its combled streets and old-spanish backdrop makes it a beautiful place to visit.

And, of course, tourist favorite…Varadero.  But, there’s better beaches.

  1. Learn a bit of Cubano

You might know Spanish or you might not, but heres a few terms in Cubano (yes, Cuban Spanish) that you should know to stay safe and understand a bit of what people are telling you:

Yuma: a foreigner aka YOU.

Chavito or Fula: CUC – Convertible pesos (not moneda nacional)

Que Bola: Hey, whats up!!

Acere: friend, amigo, pal

Por la izquierda: Under the table.  You might want to indicate money exchange by using this term

Jevita: Female girl or “girlfriend”

Dale: Not only pitbull’s term, but ours too. It means goodbye or “come on, hurry up!”

  1. Knowing the Art of Negotiation

Cubans are infamous for making petty scams like charging more to foreigners. I hate this! But I only justify it for the necessities we have economically.

Given this, you HAVE to negotioate! If you are not in a taxi collective (fixed route shared taxis, these are routes that pick up other passengers on the way to the destination.. it cost 10 CUP per person or  50 cents!), you have to negotiate the rate with the driver!

If they tell you $10 to go from Habana Vieja to Vedado (neighborhoods) they are overcharging you. Always try to negotiate down. Cubans will always try to hustle, but you have to too.  Be safe with your money, many times you can’t get more of it.

  1. Do Not Over Drink

This is by far the most obvious tip for being safe in Cuba. But its also not customary for women to get extremely drunk.  It’s just not something you really see in Cuban culture.

Yes, women drink, but not to the point of no control.

And in Cuba when a drink costs around $2-$3, it can get tempting to have another one.

It’s okay to enjoy yourself, but if traveling alone always be careful of your surroundings.

Want to  see Cuba like a local? Or go on a tour with other solo female travelers? Check my tour schedule! 

Best apps for Cuba

Apps For Cuba – The Top 5 You Need to Download Now

5 Essential Apps For Cuba (Updated June 2019)

best apps fo cuba

Millenial Cubans on their phones

In an island nation where dial-up is just starting to be introduced, your 2019 digitally dependent self has to know what essential apps for Cuba you need.

As you might know, data really doesn’t exist in Cuba for tourist yet but WiFi does exist in public parks and hotels. See my guide to learn how to get on the internet in Cuba.

That doesn’t really help when you’re walking around La Habana or going to Trinidad or on the beach in Varadero now does it?

You’ll need to download applications that run while being offline. Luckily for you, there are a few essential apps for Cuba and even some developed in Cuba by Cubans (yes! tech start-ups are a thing in Havana!).

Maps.Me

If there is any app you need to download for your trip to Cuba, its this one. Maps.me allows users GPS without being connected to the Internet.

Maps.me isn’t just your normal offline map, its pretty accurate with up-to-date information on where bars, restaurants and attractions are.

To get the map of Cuba, after you download the app you must go in, zoom into Cuba and download the map of Cuba.

You’ll thank me later.

Apple. Android.

apps for cuba - offline map

Maps.me best offline map of cuba

A La Mesa

A La Mesa is yelp a lo Cubano, kind-of. It lists all the restaurants in specific cities, their prices, and their contact information.

Developed in Havana, a La Mesa is one of the first Cuban made apps.

Apple. Android.

app for cuba - food app for cuba

ALaMesa, Cuban made app

SUBE 

Cuba’s first ride-sharing app!! Sort of like UBER but Cuban style! You will need to be connected to use this one, but with 3G on phones now and many new places for Wi-Fi this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Many times as a tourist you don’t know how much transportation is and you get ripped off just because you’re a tourist. With the app, the price is confirmed beforehand without the driver knowing country of origin a rider is from.  You pay the driver in CUC upon arrival.

Transportation is already tricky for tourist and locals alike. But with Sube this makes it even better!

The app is only available through Android but they are quickly working on releasing it for iPhone.

Just another amazing story of Cuban strength despite the technological and financial challenges.

While many news publications will compare Sube to Uber, perhaps Uber might learn something from a group of four techies in a country where tech is far from modern.

You can download Sube here and check out their Instagram and Website.

best apps for cuba - video chat in cuba

Cubans using IMO to see their loved ones

Google Translate

I think this is a pretty much no-brainer if you don’t speak fluent Spanish just make sure you download the Spanish dictionary before your flight to Cuba.

But don’t rely to heavily on Google Translate for everything. Cubans have our own unique way of speaking eloquently.

Apple. Android.

Zapya

Want to share a photo with your new Cuban friend? Or perhaps get that cool reggaeton song they have? Alas, Zapya. Cuba’s version of hacking the capabilities of sharing the internet without being on it.

Zapya allows you to connect remotely and internet-freely other devices around you using Bluetooth system. Its like Airdrop for Apple but works between any system! It’s a great way to share anything from device to device.

Apple. Android.

My 2 Cents

As the internet is slowly penetrating Cuba, change is happening both socially and politically. More Cubans can see how people live outside. With apps like IMO, we can now connect with your family members everyday if we wanted to.

The emotional farewells at Jose Marti are softened now knowing you can see your loved one in just a few hours.

All this being said, apps bring the once isolated nation a little closer to 2018.

Travel Inside Cuba: The Non-Confusing Guide

How to Travel Inside Cuba: The Non-Confusing Guide to Cuban Transportation

When it comes to travel inside Cuba, the island isn’t your typical get-a-way to the Bahamas.  It isn’t even your typical eco-adventure to Costa Rica. Cuba, is unlike any place in the world in EVERY aspect, including even the most basic: getting around.

One of the biggest questions I get is how to travel while inside Cuba. How can you get from one city to another? Should you rent a car or hire a driver? Or is there public transportation?

With the lack of information out there on transportation, making plans to go around the country can seem really daunting.

Before I get into the different ways, it’s important to know why Cuba doesn’t have an easy transportation system.  Gas is expensive and well, so are cars.  Transportation is a HUGE “lio” (problem) for EVERYONE. Tourists are no exception to that.

There is silver lining, though.  You, unlike the majority of Cubans, have more money to get around. So let’s see what the options are:

how to get to city to city inside cuba

Guide To Travel Inside Cuba

 

Travel Inside Cuba by Renting a car – The most flexible option but can be the most expensive

Renting a car allows flexibility, plain and simple. You can get in your car and drive to the next city, then the next without a schedule or itinerary to follow. With that kind of freedom, you’re now open to see parts of the country the tourist route doesn’t go to.

Be aware that depending on where you’re going, roads can be pretty tough. Some roads, especially in Oriente and far west Pinar del Rio haven’t seen new pavement since Castro came along.  But between Pinar del Rio (city) to Camaguey, its pretty solid and clean.

How to reserve a rental car: There are a few companies (all government owned) where you can get your car from. Here are some

Price: Depends on what you prefer, when and how many days.   Economical cars are the cheapest and renting in low seasons (summer) is cheaper than during high (winter). Also, car companies will charge you less per day if you rent more days.

You have to rent at a minimum 3 days.  

If you rent more than 7, the price per day drops. Same with 10 and so on. Check the websites to see the price

Travel Inside Cuba Rental Car

Rental Car in Cuba

 

Hiring a Driver in Cuba- Ride around without the worry of where you’re going

Hiring a driver is an excellent option for those who really don’t want to drive or figure out the roads of Cuba.  Drivers can either stay with you during your trip (usually if you do a one day trip like to Vinales) or can take you to the next city.

If you want to hire a driver to take you on a round trip (meaning Havana to Vinales back to Havana), you can contact me here.

hire driver in cuba

Hiring a Driver in Cuba

Cuban Collectivo – cheap and fast way but not always the most comfortable

If you are planning on going to the next city and don’t mind sharing the car with other tourists or locals, here’s what you can do:

  1. Go to Omnibus terminal
  2. Outside on a side street are various cars parked outside – ask the drivers how much
  3. Don’t be afraid to barter! Make sure you want a collective car (collectivo) and be prepared to pay a bit more than your Cuban counterpart in the same car. Sorry, that’s just how it goes for tourists in Cuba!
shared taxi in Cuba

collectivo rides in Cuba

Bus in Cuba- for tourists only

Going on a bus like Viazul is your last option you have as a tourist in Cuba to see different sites.  The downfall to this is that many times bus departure times, like everything in Cuba, is not always accurate.

If you want to travel by bus, it is the cheapest option you have as a tourist for city-to-city, especially long distances. You can check out times and fares at Viazul’s website.

Note: Cuban nationals can ride with you on the tourist buses!

public transportation in cuba

Tourist Bus can take you around

Public Transportation in Cuba- inner cities only

Public busses are for everyone in Cuba but only in inner cities.  Riding the “guagua (bus)” with other locals is totally fine and you should definitely do it to get a better experience!

However, if you’re wondering if you can take a bus from city to city with other locals the short answer is “no”.

Cubans ask anyone going on a public bus for their carnet (ID) and because you don’t have one you most likely won’t be able to get on, that is, if you don’t know how to pay the chauffer off.  If you can manage to do that, you can score a bus ticket anywhere from $5 – $10 per person depending on how much you’re willing to give.

 

Just have a good time!

When in Cuba, you have to remember you’re in a totally different society with different cultural norms. It may not be easy to accept that you have to wait a couple hours to get going, but that’s just how it Is in Cuba! If you except to have an amazing time from city to city, just be sure you are flexible and have a “go-woth-the-flow” type of attitude. Anything can happen in Cuba, ANYTHING!

 

If you want to see Cuba like I do and experience it culturally (or however you want) and don’t want to plan all the confusing details, you can book a tour with me here.