Tips from staff who have been to Cuba
It's very easy to exchange money in Cuba as long as you have cash. I took sterling cash. You can exchange some money on arrival at the airport (maybe £100) or at the start hotel. Then you can exchange a bit more later on once you are about to run out of pesos. Most hotels (if not all) have exchange facilities and it won't take more than a minute to exchange cash. Some places will also accept credit cards (not debit ones though; credit cards can't be issues by an American bank).
Don't count on ATMs. There are a few in Havana, plus in other big cities but you'll spend some time walking around looking for them. It's best to take Sterling in £10 or £20 notes (not £50). If you have some spare CAD or euro you want to get rid of you can take it too.
Please see below average prices in Cuba - that should help you estimate the amount of money you are likely to spend.
Lunch - 8-15 CUC
Dinner - 10-25 CUC (usually 15-20; 25 for a lobster in Havana)
Beer - 1.5 CUC for a 0.33l can
Water - 1.5 CUC for 1.5L
Cocktails - 3-4 CUC
T-shirt - 10 CUC
Cigars - up to 20 CUC each for top end ones
Rum - 8 CUC for a standard Havana Club
Please remember to take extra money to cover the airport tax (25 CUC), tips and optional trips (prices in the Trip Notes).
Tips for keeping it safe? Just apply the same criteria you would at home, it's more common sense. Cuba isn't a dangerous or threathening place, and crime against tourists (and in general) is very rare. Most hotels have safety deposits and also most hotels have money exchange facilities.
Tipping is pretty much like here, for anything small if you like to give something. In better restuarants they'll add it to the bill, like here as well.
Any of the optional activities are decide locally and booked locally, so no need to do anything in advance.
I took a Universal Adaptor, which fits all plug types, and can be bought from Boots or similar for less than a tenner.
As far as I know you can easily take most electrical items into Cuba apart from GPS units. Officially it applies to all GPS' but in fact it more to do with stand-alone units and not the ones that are built in in a phone or a watch.
In the worst case they would confiscate such an item on your arrival and give it back to you on your departure (most likely you'd need to pay some fee for storage).
I have never come across anyone who specifically has had something removed, but I'm sure something like an iPhone or iPad would be ok.
Yes, lots! Cigars, maraccas, rum, lace, wooden carvings and definitely jewellery (I bought some lovely wooden earrings).
Gifts for local people
Anything like pens, crayons, colouring books are always appreciated. They also quite like any toiletries you don't want at the end of a trip, as these are quite hard to come by there, so shower gels, toothpaste, make up etc. Sounds odd, but it was really appreciated, and wasn't something I hadn't heard about before.
It wasn't anything threatening, but you could have someone just tap you on the shoulder in the middle of a city tour and ask for shampoo or toothpaste! It was mainly older and young people, and always very friendly. We collected the toiletries from the hotels and at the end of the tour just stood outside and had people swarm around to grab what we had!
I'm sure it's possible in the hotels where you stay two nights, although people in our group washed their own things. I think laundry can be expensive.
I would advise maybe taking some snacks like chocolate and biscuits from home, if you like those, as they can be limited in places.
Cubans are pretty eager to speak to tourists. If your Spanish is not too bad I'm sure you can have some nice conversations with them however if you only speak basic Spanish Cubans who speak English would probably want to switch to English. English in Cuba is spoken relatively widely.
Rachael Stone - Customer Services