I’ve been to Havana, Cuba three times and I still can’t get enough. Havana feels like home. Cuba was my bucket list country and I finally made it. I’ll never forget crying while standing in the middle of Plaza De La Revolucion overcome with emotions (I did other things there too, but I’m not trying to get arrested-plus it’s not my fault since it took 2 hours to find a car to take us back to our casas). Known for vintage cars, cigars, and the Malecon, Havana, Cuba is a beauty; the people, culture, and architect summons you as you take in your surroundings. Here are some tips from my visits.
Buy a plane ticket. Duh. Several airlines fly to Havana and other cities in Cuba. Although many have cut back on the number of flights, there are still plenty of options. I’ve flown Southwest and American Airlines. Get your visa. You can purchase it at the airport or online. I purchased at the airport on the day of my departure. Your airline will provide you with instructions and you can choose what’s most convenient for you. You’ll have to select 1 of the 12 reasons because it is illegal for Americans to visit Cuba for tourism purposes. Secure lodging on Innclusive; this will ensure that you have a more culturally immersed experience and also support the Cuban people.
Bring cash. You cannot use American credit/debit cards. It is recommended and I highly encourage you to exchange American dollars for Euros and once in Cuba exchange for CUCs. You can exchange American dollars but you’re going to lose 10-15%. I purchased Euros from my bank in the United States prior to departure. While we are on the money, there are two types of currency in Cuba; CUC for tourist and CUP for locals. CUCs have monuments on them and CUPs have faces of local heroes. The CUP is considerably less than CUC so pay attention when you are conducting any type of monetary transaction to make sure you are receiving the correct currency.
Finding transportation is easy, just bargain. If you’re in a group, even better, as you can split the cost. It’s approximately 25-30 CUC from the airport to Central Havana. I usually connect with one driver while I am there and have him chauffeur me around for the duration of my trip. No Cuban time here (my Miami folks know what I am talking about), my drivers have always been prompt and timely.
Phone? Internet? LOL, #staphit like seriously just start preparing yourself to be off the grid; although, after two days that ish is for des oiseaux. Get a Wi-Fi card (don’t pay more than 4 CUCs). The connection is weak and will not let you be great on FB or IG. But enjoy it or end up like me with hundreds of dollars in phone bills (yeah, I have to learn to take my own advice). Look out for the crowd with their heads buried in their phones on the corner and you’ve spotted the Wi-Fi spot. The accommodations I secured on Innclusive all had Wi-Fi available so I can’t relate didn’t have to go searching for Wi-Fi spots.
First time I went to Cuba, my crew and I did not have the best experience with food; we ate enough to “fill the hole.” But we didn’t really take the time to truly explore all of our options. The second time I went alone and had a completely different experience. I tried many different restaurants and was very satisfied. There are mix reviews of the food in Cuba, but keep in mind that with the embargo, Cubans don’t have access to the same spices that we do so you’re welcome to bring your own seasoning I got hot sauce in my bag, swag if you want a little more kick. I’ve experienced great and not so great food. Your experience doesn’t have to be like mine; get lost and search. The drinks are cheap, plentiful, and yummy.
Things to Do
Visit Vinales, Malecon, Plaza De La Revolucion, museums, Santa Maria Beach (some people take the 2-hour drive to Varadero Beach), walk around the city and get lost (maps.me will be your best friend), classic car tours-#doitforthegram, try different restaurants and clubs. There’s so much to see and do and just being in Havana, walking around, and interacting with the locals was happiness to me.
The people are amazing, helpful and kind. They are the best part of Cuba. Their soul, hustle, and passion are endearing.
Check your privilege.
Get to know the locals.
Bring Pepto. #imjussayin
Until next time,