Cuba is a travel destination which many guests find surprisingly uncomplicated. No visa or vaccinations are required, so that a trip to Cuba can be started very spontaneously. Who has US dollars in small denominations will be able to solve most problems very quickly. Cubans are champions in replacing organization by improvisation and perfection by helpfulness every day. The traveller should bring some understanding for this and that the verdes, the green dollar bills, are a bare necessity for survival.
A passport, which must be valid for at least six more months, plus a tourist card (25 Euros, sold by us) is sufficient for a stay of up to 30 days and can be prolonged once inside Cuba.
Border clearance combines iron curtain procedures with Carribean charme, quite a change for guests from the "Schengen countries". Your baggage will be X-rayed by Cuban customs at entry and departure, so better observe regulations and allowances, which are within international rules anyway. If one of of the officers - usually directed from the background - searches your bags, he or she will do this with selected friendliness and apologize several times for the inconvenience. Importation of GPS devices, wireless phones, shortwave radios and any satellite equipment is prohibited.
Cuba has three currencies. As a tourist you are most likely to use only one of them: the US dollar, which buys virtually everything, including foreign products. The local equivalent is the "peso convertible", a sort of monopoly money, which is used when there are not enough US dollar bills available and can even be changed back into dollars. The value of the Cuban peso ("moneda nacional") officially is also 1:1 to the dollar, but the actual exchange rate moves around 27:1. In this currency Cubans receive their small salaries of ten to twenty dollars per month. Foreigners can use it when shopping for fruit and vegetables in farmer's markerts. Attention: the "$"-symbol is being used for all three sorts of money.
Cash can be easily changed at banks. Traveller's cheques and credit cards issued by American banks cannot be used because of the Amrican blockade, so don't bring American Express, Diners etc. A network of ATMs/cash dispensers is developing.
The American trade embargo very effectively keeps Cuban goods out of the US, thus causing a severe lack of hard currency in Cuba. However, via Canada and Mexico, Cuba's most important trading partners, all western goods and even original American brands like Coca Cola come into the country. By the way, Americans are under their present law actually allowed to travel to Cuba, but not to spend money there... so don't be surprised to find lots of yachts flying the star-spangled banner in the marinas.
The mobile network is now very well developed, roaming is possible and network coverage covers all cities and almost all localities in the country. The roaming prices are 3 euros per minute for calls to Europe. Local network providers sell prepaid cards for Cuban citizens. Domestic calls with Cuban prepaid phones are relatively cheap. Tip: For a small fee, a local may let you do your local call with his/her mobile phone.
No network is partly used for cross-country trips in areas with low development and on the touristically not developed islands.
In all cities WLAN hotspots are now installed at central locations. For a fee of 2 CUC (as of 2016) you can surf for an hour free. The Internet access also allows VPN and other secured transfers such as SSL or online banking. The prepaid cards are usually bought directly in the area of the hotspot. Nearby there is always somebody who sells the cards and also helps with the setup on the mobile phone, tablet or notebook.
To enter Cuba, no immunizations are necessary when coming from Europe or North America. Generally recommended protection against tetanus, diphtheria and polio should be renewed. Cuba is malaria-free. Despite a severe lack of imported medicine, the health system enjoys an excellent reputation, hotels have treatment rooms with nurses and doctors. Foreigners have to pay for medical treatment in hard currency, so don't forget insurance. Avoid tap water and uncooked and unpeeled food, and bring sun and mosquito protection and your personal medicine!
Cuba is a photographer's dream, and Cubans are talented and open-minded "actors". Rule of thumb: estimate your need of films, then bring at least twice as much. SC Card are not easy to find in the shops.
By renting cars, which are expensive and not always very well maintained, sleeping in private homes (casas particulares) and eating in private restaurants (paladares) this is no problem - you can move around freely and will always meet helpful Cubans. Bring a good guidebook and road map.