Want to experience Cuba like a local right? Therefore you don’t want to advertise the fact that you’re on holiday and make yourself a target for touts etc. There are a few ways to experience Cuba like a local… so leave that darn selfie stick at home!

1. A Little Spanish Can Be a Big Help

You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish in order to experience the best of Cuba. However there are times when it’s going to be quite helpful. You’ll find that English is widely spoken but a little Spanish is a good back up. Learn the pleasantries; a hello, goodbye, or thank you in the native language shows you’re making an effort. Some language barriers might be experienced in the more rural areas, but it’s unlikely to pose a massive problem. If you are going to be spending a large amount of time off the beaten track, hunt for a translation app (that works offline) and have it on your smartphone just in case the need should arise.

2. Pack Everything You’ll Need

You might be in the habit of packing light to the point of only taking carry on baggage. This is a philosophy that works in Cuba… but only up to a point. You can’t just pick up many essential items once you arrive, since some basic purchases can be hard to track down. Make sure you bring all toiletries, cosmetics, and any over the counter medication you’ll be using. These items can be found in Cuba, but you might need to do some major hunting in order to find something that is seemingly rather basic. Chances are you’ll feel a little awkward in Cuba if you found yourself unable to find any deodorant!

3. A Little Modesty Goes a Long Way

One way to experience Cuba like a local is to blend in (and more on that in a moment). You will find that expensive accessories (call it bling if you have to) will really make you look like a tourist. It’s not as though the locals refrain from accessorising altogether, but it’s done with more modesty, without drawing attention to oneself. Keep those expensive accessories at home.

4. Dress Appropriately

This also comes under the heading of blending in. Try not to treat Cuba like it’s one big beach resort, since shorts and flip flops aren’t going to be appropriate everywhere. It’s not an overly formal society, and yet there are instances where being too casual might attract a few curious glances. So when packing your bag, have something on hand that wouldn’t look out of place if the occasion called for a little more formality than you might be anticipating.

5. A Rough Schedule Can Be Beneficial

Planning your every waking minute has a tendency to suck the fun right out of your vacation. It’s not as though you need to schedule each and every thing you plan to do in Cuba days in advance, but it’s the sort of place where having at least a vague schedule can be extremely beneficial. It’s not so much an itinerary of your day as it is working out how you’re going to get from place to place. 

Public transport can be difficult to navigate, even in a major city like Havana, so when you have a rough idea of what you’ll want to see on any given day, also work out how far it is from each point of interest to the other, and decide if it’s walkable or if you’re better off in a taxi. This rough plan stops you from getting lost and allows you to get the most of of your time in the country. You’re not going to experience Cuba like a local if you’re strolling down the street in scorching heat, looking anxiously down at your map before peering up at street signs.

6. Be Social to Experience Cuba at Its Best

Don’t be afraid to become more than an observer when you visit Cuba. It’s a warmly social country, so don’t be so passive when everyone else in the restaurant hits the dance floor for some impromptu salsa as the night wears on.

Nobody is going to expect you to participate when it comes to dancing, drinking, or even conversation at the bar, but it’s a place where you can very quickly feel included… no matter how bad at salsa dancing you might be.

6. Hang Out on El Malecon and Experience Cuba like a Local

experience cuba like a local
El Malecon is a boardwalk that stretches from Havana Vieja to Vedado and is a social hub for the locals of Havana. Head down at sunset when it’s at its most vibrant. Oh and its coolest!
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