Surprise! Cuba is not a complicated country to travel to, there are no requirements of visa or vaccines, so a trip to Cuba may be prepared from one day to the next. Those who have American dollars could quickly solve every arising problem. Cubans are experts in changing their standard procedures for the sake of lending a helping hand. Travel with an open mind and heart and know that to survive the almighty Euro or Dollar are indispensable, so bring them by all means.
A passport will suffice (valid for at least six months), in addition to buying a tourist card (approx. 25 Euros/USD, available at the Cuban Embassies, Travel Agencies and Air Companies) valid for 30 days, with only one extension possible. Custom clearance procedures are similar to that of any European custom office, except without the Caribbean charm. The luggage is X-rayed while arriving and leaving, so the international regulations have to be observed .
At present, Cuba has three different monetary systems, although as a tourist you will probably only come in contact with one: the American dollar, with which practically everything can be purchased in this country. The "convertible peso" is fixed to the American dollar, and is somewhat regarded as a monopoly currency, but of course accepted and even exchanged.
Attention! The $ symbol is used for the three currencies! Exchanging European currency can be done without any difficulty at banks and hotels. Travel checks and credit cards are also accepted UNLESS they are from US banks (payments are prohibited by U.S. government so American Express, Diners, etc., will not work here.)
The American embargo is effective only against the Cuban merchandises. The existing scarcity in Cuba is mainly of hard currency. The American markets supply the country from Canada and Mexico, so even Coca-Cola is readily available.
You may buy calling cards with direct access to anywhere in the US and Europe, though relatively expensive. Phone cards of 10 USD only works for two and a half minutes! European cellular phones do not work in Cuba, but they can be rented if needed.
Health & Vaccinations
No protection vaccination is required for traveling to Cuba. But just in case you may want to reactivate your general immunization vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio for example. Cuba is free from malaria.
In spite of the existing medicaments scarcity, the health system is very good - there are nurses and sometimes even doctors in all hotels. Though a consequence of the lack of hard currency is that pharmacies are almost empty. Hence, bring you own supply (especially mosquito repellents), and what you have left, even if only aspirin, will be gratefully received by the locals at the end of your vacation. Tourists pay medical services with hard currency, so do not forget your insurance against illness abroad! Avoid drinking unbolted water or unpeeled fruits.
Films and Photos
Cuba is a dream country for photographers and film makers. Cubans are naturally born talented actors and musicians, as well as being very friendly and open. Try to estimate the amount of rolls you’ll need, then bring twice the amount.
There is no problem with renting a car, although relatively expensive and not always very clean. You are allowed to move freely and will always find help from the Cubans. A good travel guide is, however, recommended.