Cuba Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Whether compelled to submerge yourself in a constantly changing country steeped in political history or if you just enjoy sun, sea and cheap rum - Cuba is the place to be! Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in Cuba.
Activities in Cuba
Travel to Cuba
Our Cuba destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this special country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, tips for places to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Cuba today!
- Capital: Havana (population 2,100,000 approx)
- Population: 11,500,000 approx
- Money: Cuban Peso (CUP) + Cuban Convertable Peso (CUC)
- Area: 115,000 km2
- International Calling Code +53
Top Reasons to Visit Cuba
There are so many great reasons why you should choose to travel to Cuba, here are some of them:
- Warm climate
- Untouched by globalisation
- Authentic experience
- Great value for money
- Friendly locals
- Incredible locations, from historic cities to spectacular islands
Top Places to Visit in Cuba
When visiting Cuba expect European style buildings, 1950s cars and a distinctly chilled Caribbean vibe. Everywhere you turn Che’s iconic image stares back at you.
Here are some of the best places to add to your Cuba itinerary:
- Varadero (if you are looking for a resort break)
- Santiago de Cuba
- Jardines del Rey
- Maria la Gorda
- Cayo Largo del Sur
Travelling & Backpacking in Cuba
Visiting Cuba feels like entering in on a moment in history because with the slightest provocation it could change irrevocably. You might not know but when Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba in 1492 he thought it was China! One of the first things you notice about Cuba is the complete lack of brands and commercial shops that overwhelm western countries. Since the ban on trade with the states, Cuba has developed distinctly differently to its neighbouring islands. As a communist country the way of life is very different and it is a real eye opener to visitors.
Authentic experiences can include exploring Havana, visiting the tourist town of Varadero which has beautiful beaches, seeing wildlife in Ciénaga de Zapata and going diving Punta Francés - one of the Caribbean's best diving spots. You could visit Castro's childhood home - Birán, which is now a museum, check in at the colonial city of Camagüey full of history or go hiking and see waterfalls in Topes de Collantes. Another recommendation for something different to do and what is sometimes included in itineraries is to go fishing in Cayo Coco & Cayo Guillermo or head to Santa Clara and check out Che Guevara memorabilia.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, is one of the greatest attractions of the island. It is the first port of call for many visitors on holiday here and contains several unmissable sights and things to do like getting lost and walk around the old streets, this is a special place which will probably be unlike anywhere you have been before and getting off the beaten track is a great way to see more of this city. Another option is to ride around the city in an old car, you can book this experience in advance or with local travel agents and in large hotels. You could also do a day visit a beach, some are only 20 minutes away and have beautiful sandy white beaches.
Salsa is very popular and every visitor should experience the Cuban salsa scene. Do not worry if you are not a good dancer, the atmosphere is very friendly and encouraging and there are many places to visit to indulge in salsa dancing both in central Havana and on the outskirts. Most venues play a mixture of live music and DJ sets. Salsa is not the only night time entertainment available, cabaret is also very popular in Cuba. Try to enjoy the nightlife and dance the night away with locals showing off their dancing skills. Many of the bars in Havana attract customers by professing that Hemmingway use to be a regular visitor there.
If you want to know more about the history of the country visit the Museum of Revolution which has a moving collection of revolution memorabilia and a fascinating insight into why Cubans revere the Argentinian born Ernesto Che Guevara. This museum is very informative and gives an interesting albeit slightly biased portrayal of Cuban history and the revolution. Anyone interested in literature may find Havana appealing because it was the home of Ernest Hemmingway from in the 1930s-40s. You could also head to the cigar museum.
Our travel experiences are perfect for solo travelers, groups and families who want to immerse yourself in the local culture and escape the tourist resorts.
Gap Year in Cuba
If you have ever dreamed about visiting icon destinations like Havana, or visiting some of the best beaches in the Caribbean then Cuba will appeal to you. Find gap year programs in Cuba perfect for students and graduates where you will be able to experience the unique culture and heritage whilst enjoy the sights and sounds of the country.
If you are researching ideas for the best things to do on your gap year in Cuba our directory will help you plan the dream experience. Expect colonial architecture, Che Guevera murals, lively nightlife, white sandy beaches, salsa and 1950s cars - not many countries compare to this.
- Exploring Havana seeing incredible old buildings and cars
- Going island hopping
- Joining a structured program
- Practising your Spanish
Cuba gap year tips:
- Try to pick up some basic words and phrases this will make the whole experience easier
- If you are worried about travelling solo or the language barrier book a structured experience
- Cuba isn't the cheapest destinations in the world so if you are looking to backpack on a budget you might want to search other destinations in this region
- Book flights in advance to secure the best deals
"I initially didn't have Cuba on my round the world trip but I managed to get a cheap flight from the US so I jumped at the chance. This country is so real, no fast food joints and things like that. Just go and get there soon before it gets ruined." - Jon, UK