What No One Tells You About Traveling to Cuba

As the plane lifted off the runway in New York and began the three-hour journey to Havana, Cuba, the excitement among travelers was palpable. The girl sitting next to me offered to share a crumpled copy of her itinerary while the usually quiet cabin was abuzz with chatter as complete strangers exchanged tips.

This curious situation was one of the reasons I was eager to visit Cuba. Almost nonexistent internet and few U.S. travelers mean that the only way to plan your trip to the Caribbean island is by word of mouth—a refreshingly old-school way to travel in the age of social media, apps, and online reviews.

While the lack of information was what initially inspired me to visit Cuba, it also proved frustrating when we arrived. Restaurants listed in guidebooks had closed down, I had no idea how or where to exchange money, and I wasn't fully prepared to explore a foreign country with zero internet connection. It was an incredible travel experience, but there are some basic insights that I wish someone had shared with me before I touched down in Havana.

If you're planning a trip to Cuba, don't make the same mistakes I did. These are the top six tips every first-time visitor needs to know for an unforgettable vacation. 

This post was originally published on March 1, 2017, and has since been updated.