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. Tourists are well looked after should they require medical attention. Most hotels and resorts have medical staff on site (or at least on call).
Medical insurance is required for Cuba and must cover any type of medical emergency including Covid-19.
Since January 1, 2022, travelers must complete the customs and health declaration form, this is done online here. All travelers must complete this information online 48 hours before traveling to Cuba. Once the form is completed, you will receive a QR code by email. You must show an electronic or printed version of the QR code to the authorities upon arrival.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
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. Proof of vaccination against Covid-19 is no longer required.
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.
Covid in Cuba:
Cuba has fared ok during the Covid-19 pandemic and there are still recommended precautions for visiting Cuba in place.
Proof of Covid-19 vaccination and/or negative Covid tests are no longer required for entry to Cuba. Depending on your return destination, rapid test and antigen tests are available in Cuba, either at your resort or at the airport.
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 aren’t full self-catering options 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 resort 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.
So What’s the Deal with the Food in Cuba?
Probably the biggest complaint about visiting Cuba is the food. Granted, a buffet is going to get stale no matter where you stay. It also largely depends on where in Cuba you’re staying. Know this, the food in Cuba can be bland or repetitive. If you are a true foodie you may be disappointed. Basics like bread, pasta, rice, etc. are fine, and the fruit is usually very good, especially if it’s in season. The ice cream is usually awesome but not so much the desserts (in our non-foodie opinion). The coffee is usually also pretty great – cafe con leche is our go-to.
The milk in Cuba is always safe but is likely from a tetra pack or may even be powdered. It’s fine in coffee or cereal but may be gross on its own.
If condiments like ketchup or hot sauce are musts for you, save up packets from fast food restaurants and bring them along. Same goes for things like peanut butter if that’s a staple your kids can’t live without.
Cuba for Kids – Transportation:
Entry to Cuba
If travelling direct from Canada to Cuba, you need a valid Canadian passport. If your passport is from another country, you need your Canadian resident card or a work or study permit that includes a multiple-entry permit attached to your passport. For entry to Cuba you need the tourist card provided by your travel company or airline on board.
Getting Around Cuba
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. There are private taxis in the old, cool ’50s cars, but it is illegal to be under the age of 12 in the back seat.
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 mind – 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 travel crib!
Even things like sand toys and other beach items 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.
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: The local currency is Cuban peso (CUP). The Convertible Peso has been discontinued and is not accepted anymore.
US dollars are not accepted in cash anywhere in Cuba, while Canadian currency is widely accepted.
At the hotels and resort areas payments are accepted only with Debit/Visa or Visa credit cards from non-US banks. Visitors who don’t have a credit card can purchase a pre-paid card in Cuba at the airport, exchange houses, and resort areas.
Exchange Canadian dollars or other non-USD currency into pesos as you need them and only if you are planning to travel around outside tourist zones. It is not possible to exchange any remaining Cuban Pesos back into your national currency when returning home.
The best currency for tips is Canadian dollars.
Luckily, there’s not that much to spend money on – especially if you’re staying all-inclusive. You likely won’t need more than a few hundred dollars for tips, cigars, and 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, you can bring traveler’s cheques (how retro!) Make sure that they are not American Express and that you have the receipt of purchase with you also.
Cuba for Kids – Viva Cuba!
We were truly amazed by how our kids were welcomed in Cuba as babies. They were treated like rock stars! As an infant our daughter 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!
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