Cuba: Fast Facts For Families

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Wandering The Streets Of Havana

We love Cuba for kids and as a family destination – and so do millions of other Canadians, Brits, Europeans, and Aussies.  Americans likely won’t be far behind.  If you’re considering traveling to Cuba with your baby or toddler, here are some basics to help you decide...

Cuba For Kids – Health:
Michael Moore may have exaggerated a little, but Cuba’s health care IS good, and tourists are well looked after should they require medical attention.  Most hotels and resorts have medical staff on site (or at least on call).
Aside from having your routine vaccination schedule up-to-date, no additional shots or vaccinations are required to visit Cuba.  Some choose to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A & B.

The CDC reports no known risk for malaria in Cuba, but since it is a tropical Caribbean country, there is a very small risk of dengue.  Protection from mosquito and insect bites is recommended.

The tap water is potable, and safe for bathing, toothbrushing, washing dishes, etc.  Bottled water (readily available) may be preferred for drinking and preparing formula, mixing cereal, etc.

Cuba For Kids – Safety:
Tourists are definitely safeguarded in Cuba, almost to the point of being insulated.  The biggest scams you are likely to encounter are sales of counterfeit cigars and being offered a  “tourist menu” (at tourist rates) for meals and drinks.  In Havana and other busy places, take your usual precautions against pickpocketing, purse snatching, etc.  Use your hotel room safe or safety deposit box for valuables.  (If it costs extra, it’s still worth it.)

 

Cuba For Kids – Accommodations:
In Cuba, you can stay in a hotel/resort (beach is usually all-inclusive) or at a Casa Particular, which is where someone is legally licenced to rent out rooms in their home to tourists (and often provide meals at reasonable prices).  Unfortunately, there really isn’t a self-catering option in Cuba, as groceries and supermarkets as we know them aren’t as accessible there.  There are no (or very few) beachfront Casas (I looked) but the resorts all vary in terms of size and amenities.  Note that a 5 Star in Cuba would not pass for a 5 Star in most other Caribbean destinations, but we’ve stayed at 3 Stars and been perfectly comfortable.  In keeping with the more recent demand for “boutique hotels”, there are a number of new resorts being built around the island, and others are being refurbished.

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Playa Jibacoa, Cuba

Cuba For Kids – Transportation:

If you booked your holiday as part of a package, you’ll likely be taken to your hotel in a modern, air-conditioned coach or mini-van.  Taxis are all state-licensed, new and in good repair (the red ones at the airports are bigger) – and you should have no trouble installing your car seat or booster (although some are lacking the anchor bolt for the tether).  In smaller resort areas, like Cayo Coco or Cayo Santa Maria, you may have difficulty finding taxis with rear seat belts. If you are planning on hiring a cab for a day tour, I recommend consulting with your hotel’s front desk and specifically requesting a taxi with rear seat belts. The Viazul bus service can get you around the island inexpensively in big, clean, air-conditioned (freezing!) buses – remember it’s a big island – and car rental is pretty expensive and should be booked in advance. Sometimes you’ll hear of ‘private taxis’ where you can be driven around in one of the cool ’50s cars, but this is illegal and, if caught, can get your driver in a lot of trouble.

Cuba For Kids – Availability of Baby/Toddler stuff:

Cuba is much better these days about the availability of baby and toddler items, but you’ll have better luck in Havana in terms of finding diapers and other baby goods. Keep in mine – selection is still limited and prices can still be high.  If you’re fussy about the brands you use, you’re best to bring yours from home.  A Casa owner or restaurant dining room would be only too happy to help prepare plain purees if your baby is on solids, but double-check to make sure they don’t add seasonings or salt.  In terms of gear rentals like car seats and playpens – not available in Cuba.  Most hotels have high chairs and/or boosters (the higher the Star the more likely they’ll have several) and can usually supply cribs or playpens with advance notice.  *Note – our tiny 3 Star had a brand new crib & bedding.  Our large 5 Star’s crib we needed to shore it up ourselves for safety.  If in doubt (and if co-sleeping’s not for you), bring your own!

Even things like sand toys are best brought from home, if you want to avoid paying $20 for a bucket and shovel in the hotel gift shop.  My packing list (which I get teased mercilessly about) is based on our first trip to Cuba – so you can start from there and edit as needed.

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“Your Example LIVES”

Cuba For Kids – Other Important Information:

Power: Cuba is 110 volts/60Hz, but most hotels and resorts have 220 volts or both.  Double check with your hotel in advance.
Currency: Here is where traveling to Cuba can be a bit of a pain.  Visitors use the Convertible Peso (CUC) – which is roughly par with the US dollar.  However, don’t bring US dollars to spend there, you won’t be able to.  In fact, you can’t use any credit cards that are issued with American banks, or American Express traveler’s cheques.  Your best bet is to bring Canadian dollars or Pounds or Euros and exchange once you’re there.  ATMs are starting to sprout up around Cuba, but again, your debit card can’t be with an American bank and you have to make sure you have an International PIN.  Luckily, there’s not that much to spend money on – especially if you’re staying all-inclusive – so you likely won’t need more than a few hundred dollars for tips, cigars & rum!  We’ve brought what cash we figured we’d need (try to bring new-ish bills if possible) and taken cash advances on our credit card at the hotel if necessary.  If bringing cash makes you nervous, do bring traveler’s cheques (how retro!) but make sure that they are not Amex and that you have the receipt of purchase with you also.

Cuba For Kids – Viva Cuba!
We were truly amazed by how our daughter was welcomed in Cuba – she was treated like a rock star! Both times when we returned home she seemed disappointed that not everyone on the street would stop to fawn over her.   Right now, Cuba is affordable, safe, and clean – highly recommended for a family vacation!

More Useful Articles:
Cuba Destination Information
Cuba Trip Reports
Is It Safe For My Toddler Drink The Milk In Cuba?
A Month In Cuba With A Baby & Toddler

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38 Responses to Cuba: Fast Facts For Families

  1. Heather at 20:27 #

    Thanks for the great tips. My husband and I have been to Varadero on 3 occasions but are planning a first trip with our 21 month old son. Our only concern is with a car seat. I assume from what I have read we will need to bring our own. Are there seatbelts on the buses from the airport to attach the carseat with? If we took a day trip to Havana do you think we would get a bus/van that could accomodate a car seat? I need to get answers to these questions before booking a trip.
    Thanks
    Heather

  2. Corinne at 10:20 #

    Hi Heather!
    The bus will likely be a coach-style in which you won’t require a car seat. However, we brought our seat and used it for our day trip to Havana (we hired a taxi for the day).
    All the taxis and minivans that are used for tourism purposes are new and have functioning seat belts – they may not have the anchor bolt for the tether strap.
    Have a wonderful trip with your son! He’ll be fawned over like a movie star!

  3. Actually, Cuba is known to have the best medical care in ALL of latin america. since they spend most of their lives in school, becasue there are no jobs, they come out with the best education:)

    Also, the whole hype about Che, is a facade. Castro practically kicked him out when he started to go too ‘revolutionary on him’ and started to gain popularity!

  4. Corinne at 09:43 #

    Are you sure about the Che thing? Read Castro’s autobiography and didn’t get that at all…

    • There are tons of rumors about Fidel not wanting Che to continue with his head on Revolutionary ways, that’s why he was happy to send him off to the Congo.

  5. Amber at 02:05 #

    Hi! I’m heading to Cuba for a vacation soon and was also wondering about carseats…My daughter will be 20 months old and we will be staying at an all-inclusive. In your opinion, should I bring a carseat or just leave it at home?

    I really appreciate all the info you have on your blog!

  6. Amber at 02:06 #

    Oooh, I also have a question about Traveller’s Diarrhea (sorry LOL). Is it something that “happens to everyone” or something that can be avoided fairly easily?

    Thanks. :)

  7. Corinne at 09:12 #

    Hi Amber!

    If you’re planning on doing any excursions, than I might bring the car seat just in case. Likely your transfer to and from the airport will be in a coach bus where no car seat is needed.

    We’ve always brought our car seat, and when we went to Cuba we used it when we hired a cab for the day to trip around Havana. Other then that my daughter sat in it in our room to eat her snacks!

    So to make a short answer long – you probably won’t need your car seat, but it can’t hurt to bring it along.

    Traveler’s Diarrhea can usually be avoided with scrupulous hand washing and/or use of hand sanitizer. If you have a particularly sensitive tummy, stick to the old Peace Corps. saying of “If you can’t peel it, or heat it, don’t eat it.” Water is Cuba is potable, but may have micro-organisms that can throw your system out of whack. Stick to bottled water for drinking & teeth brushing and you should be fine.

    Have an awesome time!

  8. Amber at 18:01 #

    Thanks so much! :)

  9. Emma at 04:26 #

    Hi Corinne,

    We fly out to Varadero in 4 weeks. Last time we travelled to Cuba we did not have vaccines, and with no problems we didnt think having them this time either, Now we will be travelling with our 22mnth old son, and when i spoke to a clinic they told me they did not recommend the vaccine for under 2′s

    What is your view on the Hep A vaccine for youngsters?

  10. Corinne at 11:07 #

    Hi Emma!

    We didn’t give our daughter the vaccine before our trips to Cuba and Mexico with her, as my Dr. didn’t feel it was necessary.

    Here we have the duo vaccine for Hep. A and Hep. B – and my doctor explained that Hep. A doesn’t cause long term liver damage and infants and toddlers are low risk for Hep. B as it’s transmitted via blood and bodily fluids. Hep. A is best avoided by vigilant hand-washing and choosing well-heated foods, and you’re likely doing that anyway.

    Even though they aren’t necessary, many of my friends and family members have chosen to get their tots vaccinated before their trips down South. Here kids do get vaccinated against Hep. B when they’re a little older, so I decided to wait until then.

    Hope this helps and have a fantastic trip! Can’t wait to hear all about it ;-)

  11. Rhonda Harrison at 14:45 #

    I there we are planning a trip to cuba with our 10month old son. I am nervous but mommy and daddy definately need a vacation. My question is do we need to bring a car seat? We do not plan on leaving the resort only to and from the airport. Any tips/ suggestions greatly appreciated.

  12. Rhonda Harrison at 14:46 #

    Question 2 is it worth it or will mommy and daddy need another vacation when they return lol

    • Corinne at 15:10 #

      Hi Rhonda – congrats on taking your first vacation with your baby!

      If you do not plan on leaving the resort, than there is no need to bring along your car seat. Most transfers are by large coach buses (and most actually have seat belts), but since you don’t use a car seat when you travel by bus at home, I think it’s overkill to install it once you’re there. This depends on where you are going and how long the bus ride is, of course. We’ve never been on the bus for much longer than 20min but some resorts are further out and may take an hour or more. Then it will depend on your comfort as well – a squirming baby can be a pain to hold in your lap for that long so you both may be more comfortable if you lugged the seat along.

      LOL to your 2nd question! If you have the expectation that this trip will involve a lot of lying on the beach or by the pool, than you may be disappointed. However, if you’re prepared for playing in the shade in the sand or splashing by the pool, spelling each other off for naps (if your baby will nap in the room), walks around the resort (bring your stroller) and generally having your baby treated like a rock star, than you’ll be ok. Cuba is a wonderful place to vacation with a baby, but trips with your son will not be your previous definition of relaxing for some time!

      We’ve been to Cuba 3 times in the past 3 years (daughter 11mos, daughter 23mos, and now daughter 4 and son 8mos.) so if you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  13. nancy at 20:33 #

    Hi Corinne,

    Thanks so much for all the great info.

    My husband and I are planning on travelling to Cuba with our 21 month old. I was wondering about the milk in Cuba. Did your children drink the milk provided at the resort? Is the milk safe?

    Thanks so much for your time.

    • Corinne at 16:50 #

      Hi Nancy!

      Some swear that the milk they serve at resorts is powdered, some swear that it’s goat’s milk. Personally, I’ve only ever seen the blue tetra packs – and that’s pasteurized cow’s milk.

      We find the Cuban milk to be a bit sweeter and creamier than we’re used to. My daughter didn’t really like it, but it’s not unsafe.

  14. Anna at 23:34 #

    Any ideas on the best car seat when traveling with a 2 year old? A car seat that’s easy to assemble and not too heavy would be ideal. There seems to be a lot of opinions on the Web.

  15. Erna at 18:43 #

    Hello, thank’s for the useful information:) It is improtant to know everything before we go with our baby. Which resort would you recommend best? We are planning our vacation to Cuba (with our baby girl of 12 months) this month (october). I’ve read Cayo Coco is best. But what is your oppinion?

    • Corinne at 12:03 #

      Hi Erna!
      Cayo Coco is a good choice if you have no intention or desire to leave the resort. If it’s your first trip to Cuba and you’d like to get out and experience a bit, I’d recommend Varadero. It’s a decent driving distance to Havana, has a lovely little park in town, and the beach is fantastic.
      Bon Voyage!

  16. lillian at 21:21 #

    Hey just a heads up to say thanks for the answer on what is the best way to obtain a child’s car seat when we come for a visit. More information would be of some help in knowing what the laws are in Cuba.

  17. Car Seat Traveler at 17:46 #

    Good to know that the taxis can handle car seats! We’re traveling to Cuba this summer and wanted to make sure that since we weren’t getting a rental car, that the taxis could handle a car seat. Thanks for the great travel tips!

  18. Veronica at 14:38 #

    My husband and I want to bring our 17 month old son to Cuba this March. He drinks approximately 30 oz of Homogenized milk each day. We do not know if it is safe for him to drink the milk in Cuba. Does anyone have suggestions as to what we should do regarding bringing milk to Cuba or buying milk in Cuba? My husband and I do not drink milk and have been to Cuba many times. We can’t remember if the resorts had milk for us to drink.
    Thank you for any advice you may have.

    Veronica

  19. Corinne at 16:16 #

    Hi Veronica!

    In replying to this comment, I just about wrote a book. I’m going to create a whole post about this, as I realize it’s a fairly common (and important!) concern.

  20. Cornelius Aesop at 14:51 #

    It is interesting to read about how things in Cuba are changing, I read a book “Around the Bloc” by Stephanie Elizondo Griest and she talks about sneaking over to Cuba via Mexico in the early 90′s and her experiences there.

  21. Rachelle at 15:26 #

    I hope Americans are able to go soon! It’s so close to where I am in Florida … such a shame that they haven’t lifted the embargo.

    Thanks for the tips!

  22. jade at 10:20 #

    I would also like to travel to Cuba- hopefully soon our governments can work something out.

    • Corinne at 21:40 #

      Rachelle and Jade: as soon as you are able to – GO!

  23. Can’t wait to see it all for myself, we’re off in 1 month!!! We decided on Havana. there is sooo much to do and since my friend just moved there, it will give me plenty reasons to keep coming back for more and more!

    thanks for your help,

  24. Diana at 18:53 #

    Hi there have been researching around but i am still not 100% sure ( a lil confusing) we are travelling to Santa Clara -CUBA this Sept and i have a 1 year old and a 3 year old does anyone know if i should be taking car seats… for when leaving the resort or even when going to the resort from the airport…. ??? Please and Thank You (it will be our first Vacation)

  25. Diana at 18:55 #

    Hi there have been researching around but i am still not 100% sure ( a lil confusing) we are travelling to Santa Clara -CUBA this Sept and i have a 1 year old and a 3 year old does anyone know if i should be taking car seats… for when leaving the resort or even when going to the resort from the airport…. ??? Please and Thank You (it will be our first Vacation) also does anyone know if my daughter (1 year old) Needs her own seat on the plane and how do they travel on the plane? car seat? From Vancouver to Cuba???

    • Corinne at 11:14 #

      Hi Diane!

      It is entirely up to you if you want to purchase a seat on the plane for your 1-year-old, but if you do she will need a car seat on the plane. Vancouver to Cuba is a long flight so it might be worth the expense for your sanity. Your 3-year-old will not need a car seat on the plane, but you might want to consider using it if you think he or she will be more comfy in it, then it is worth the hassle.

      Your transfers from Santa Clara will likely be by coach bus, where a car seat is not necessary, but *if* there are seat belts you can still install them. It’s about 90min to Cayo Santa Maria from Santa Clara airport – it’s actually a nice drive but going over the causeway feels long. If you think you won’t do any day trips in a taxi or a car, then I wouldn’t bother bringing the seats. However, if you want to check out all the Che stuff in Santa Clara for the day, then I would bring their seats and hire a cab – request a taxi with seat belts in the back – not all of them have them.

      The car seats we travel with are inexpensive and lightweight (Cosco Scenera). If yours are super heavy and bulky and you think you might travel more, it might be worth it to invest in the secondary seats as well.

      We loved that part of Cuba – have a wonderful time!

      • Melissa at 12:05 #

        We are going to Marea Del Portillo 90 min from Manzanillo airport in January with my 2 daughters. 20 months at time of trip and a 4 year old. This will be our first vacation. I have been reading a lot of the above posts and am wondering if anyone knows if the milk is homogenized at this particular resort? Also my dad told me there was no seatbelts in the taxi’s so I wouldn’t need a car seat. Is this true?? For the plane are you supposed to have a car seat or not?? Or is it that it is just easier to contain the wiggely little toddlers in a car seat instead of just a lap belt? Does anybody have any other advise on what I should be packing and such? My children have never flown and I have only been on a plane once. What do I need to know about flying with children??
        P.S. This site is great!!!

        • Corinne at 21:52 #

          Hi Melissa! Sorry for the delay in responding to you!

          I can’t say for certain if the milk is homogenized at this particular resort. You don’t mention if you’re buying a seat for your 20-month-old on the plane. If you are, she will definitely need her car seat on the plane. Your transfers will likely be by a coach bus, that may or may not have seat belts. Car seats are not required on these buses, but if your kids are wigglers, your life might be easier if you can strap them in! Your dad is right, a lot of taxis outside of Havana and Varadero don’t have rear seat belts – many cut them out. Because I knew we wanted to do day trips by taxi, I brought our car seats (and later booster for my daughter) and then arranged either through the front desk or our tour rep for an English-speaking driver with rear belts. It wasn’t easy to locate one in Cayo Coco or Cayo Santa Maria, but they did come through! I arranged this when we first got there, even though I knew I wanted to do our excursions later in the week.

          Check out my packing list and carry on packing list here on the site – they are based on trips to Cuba where it can be tough to locate necessities.

          Hope this helps!

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