Havana Good Time: Cuba
Throwing it back to 2017. I didn’t have a blog to share all the goodness that is Cuba but better late than never. There have been many people who have since gone to Cuba, so this is more about my experience and all the beauty and culture I soaked up while I spent my time there; but this post may also be useful for those planning to go in the future. I don’t know what it is but it seems that my travel experiences are almost always life-altering. Maybe that’s why I am drawn to the travel life. I mean that’s really the point right? I just know there is something new to learn about myself, in addition to learning about the new country or city I visit.
In the above images, I literally hopped off the plane (hence my comfy attire), headed to the Airbnb to meet up with the girls, and went to eat at a local restaurant with live music.
Okay, so I went to Cuba and here’s the deal. There has been some changes since going in 2017 while Obama was still in office. The current president (45), reinstated some restrictions on travel and trade which in turn may make your experience in Cuba a little bit more expensive. A friend of mine went recently and she mentioned how everything was kind of expensive. If there are any recent Cuban visitors, please sound off in the comments if you had a similar experience.
Things to note:
Visas and Affadavits -
Visas can be purchased through a broker, a few airlines offer the service and through the Cuba visa services website here. The cost is about 85 bucks. It’s required. You can not enter the country without one. In addition to visas, the airlines will have you fill out an affidavit or a document stating your reason for the visit (choose support of the Cuban people). I flew Alaskan Airlines and this was my experience but please do your own research.
Currency - There are two types of currency CUP (used by Cubans) and CUC (which is used more commonly by foreigners and tourists). I provided a link for the differences here.
Wi-Fi - There is none (just kidding). There is but it’s very spotty and certain hotels will have wi-fi. There is a wi-fi hotspot in Havana but you must buy a wi-fi card which I believe you can only use up to an 1 hour at a time. Don’t quote me though. Prepare to be off the grid. Your IG fam will understand and can wait until you get back to the states.
Air Quality & Noise - Just a warning, the smog in the city of Havana is pretty bad. You may experience a headache. I know I did. The beach day and the trip to Viñales was a nice change of scenery, pace and air quality. Also if you are a light sleeper and you stay in Havana, it gets pretty noisy so invest in ear plugs.
DO’s and DONT’s
DO bring enough cash to last you the entire trip.
This includes money for any tours or excursions you want to take. Once you run out of money that is it. Americans can not use ATMs so its important that you bring enough.
DON’T carry around all of your money for the entire trip on you at all times.
Keep the rest of it locked away in a safe place at the hotel/airbnb. I would only bring the amount you think you need per day with you. FYI our airbnb link is located here.
DO exchange your USD before going to Cuba.
Why? USD are charged a 10% tax on top of the 3% exchange fee. I changed my USD to Euros or Canadian dollars, whichever currency gets you the best rate. You then can change that money to Cuban Pesos. Cuban airport lines to exchange money are long so plan accordingly. Baggage claim is also a very long wait, 2 hours some have experienced. I didn’t check a bag but if you have to, this may be a possibility.
DO print a copy of your passport and carry your paper copy with you. Leave your passport locked away in a safe place in your hotel.
DON’T get into to any ole vehicle that acts like a taxi.
We legit ended up in a car one night that was floorless and no inside handles, how can we escape?! The gentlemen who got us a taxi was just tryna help and it ended up being his friend, but nah, not going to lie, that was the scariest 10 seconds of our lives. You think this is bad? Wait on my Colombia blog post (whew chilaaay)! Anyhow, arrange one through your hotel or airbnb and stick to that driver the entire duration of the trip if you can.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Havana and we had the most amazing host. We were surrounded by the locals and I definitely recommend it. We ended up chatting with the locals across the street from our Airbnb about places to eat and what to get into. We did a bunch of walking just to explore but getting a taxi driver isn’t too hard to do. If you are there for a few days like we were, I suggest you take a day trip to Viñales, and a few beach cities like Varadero or Playa Estes. We were there for 4 days so were only able to visit Havana, Viñales, and Playa Estes.
We could have visited Varadero but we didn’t see a need to visit another beach that was more than twice as far away from Havana than Playa Estes. Playa Estes was only a 30 min drive and much more secluded (about 20 CUC versus 90 CUC one way to Varadero). Viñales is a day trip. It’s about 2.5 hours to and from so plan to spend the entire day there. Trinidad is furthest away and is about a 6 hour drive. It’s worth it to stay overnight there, because a 12 hour driving day is insane. Next time I return to Cuba I want to visit!
The food in Viñales was so damn good! The freshest of ingredients in everything! I wanted to eat all my meals from there for the rest of the trip. The day trip consists of horseback riding, lunch, a tour of the tobacco & coffee farm, visiting a gorgeous cave and a cigar rolling demo, which we got to smoke! I will get my video clips together and upload a vlog on Youtube! Ya’ll know I’m a vlogging newbie.
Cuba! You have my heart!