SO YOU WANNA GO TO CUBA?
Do it. Cause its more beautiful than you could have ever even imagined. I thought I'd write up a little tips and tricks blog for anyone who wants to go before it becomes a tourist trap! (And some specific tips for Americans because there are still limits on us going in as tourists.)
- For Americans right now the whole visa situation is not 100% okay for you to just go as a tourist. There are 12 sections of criteria to fit (journalist, religious work…. etc). SO to get around that, we flew to Mexico City and took Aeromexico to Havana. In the Aeromexico terminal there's a customer service booth and in that you can buy a tourist visa for about $17 and that works perfectly. Show that in Cuba and then when you come back into Mexico they’ll take it. No problems whatsoever. Going through customs in the U.S, the border guy was all excited and asked how Cuba was for me. So, wasn't a big deal at all. That's the only way to currently travel there (if you aren't with a tourist group), on a tourist visa.
- Bring breathable clothes! I brought different clothes for everyday but ending up LIVING in my little sheer romper. I could sweat hard in it and it'd dry super fast. I could wash it out in the sink and it was dry by morning. It was perfect because Havana is HUMID!
- Bring super comfortable shoes. Again, I brought a bunch of heels and NEVER once wore them. We walked CONSTANTLY and much of the time on cobble stones. Its so beautiful you'll want to walk, but also transportation is ridiculously expensive, so we chose to walk instead of ride to save money.
- Bring stomach meds - my travel partner got super sick for a little under 24 hours. And there are no little stores or anything to buy stuff. I HUNTED to try and find even lemon soda water to try and calm her stomach. Bring your own meds.
- Bring DayQuil and NyQuil - both our allergies went crazy for some reason. And much of the time you're sleeping in air conditioning.
- Bring power-bars or snacks with you. The country is stunning but the food was SO bad. We ate out of necessity, not desire. I don't know why, I think because the country is just so poor, but the food was very bad.
- Keep Toilet Paper in your purse. A lot of the bathrooms don't have any.
- Havana is WAY more expensive than I anticipated, so be prepared. it's not 3rd world country prices. Drinks and food aren't too bad, but transportation is VERY expensive. $25 to and $25 from the airport. Old cars cost $150 for 2 hours (unless you can talk them down. TRY! We got ours down to $60 for 2 hours.) And we took a taxi 3 miles one day and it cost $13. Yikes!
- GO to the Malecon and walk by the water! Sit there for a sunset! Go at night for the breeze and during the day for the views.
- Revolution Museum - $8. Mostly in Spanish but interesting to get Cuba's side of the revolution.
- OLD HAVANA! We slept there and mainly stuck around there our whole week and it was a blast! Live music in any bar, whether its 2pm or 2am. (And the live music is SO GOOD!)
- Eat on the boat by the Malecon.
- The 2 hour car ride of the city. They drive you all around to the most beautiful places. DO IT! ($150. We talked them down to $50. Depends on the car and the driver.)
- Go to the Hotel National (SO DREAMY! We went and just sat and drank daiquiris and read by the sea. So breathtaking.)
- Go to Ernest Hemmingway's house! We took an old car and paid $60 for 2 hours. The house is about 40 minutes away. Its so worth it! Magnificent. Dreamy. Especially if you're a writer (or even just long to be a writer), go. It's deeply inspiring to be on Hemmingway's property.
- Go to El Bosque - the forest. It is…. the most beautiful place i’ve ever been. Ask your driver to let you out for a bit and walk around in it.
- Go to Hemmingway's bar (called Floridita). The only place we found that had awesome food (AND AWESOME DAIQUIRIS!) Their cuban sandwich is to die for.
- There were hardly ANY Americans and definitely no millennials (that we saw!)
- Majority of tourists are olldddd. Very old and in a ton of tourist companies. Great for them but I would always advise to go on your own. Tourist companies are expensive and show you what they want you to see. You can totally go on your own and be fine!
- SO SAFE! I have lived overseas, and been to many places and never felt so safe in a place before.
- People are SO friendly and helpful (but they expect like $1 for their help.)
- Wifi cards and wifi hotspots at the hotels. We paid $5 an hour for a little card of wifi. We probably used 2 hours of wifi in our whole time there. At first its like trying to give up an addiction, but after a bit it was honestly so refreshing to be so cut off. I loved it!
- Go to RELAX! The vibe of the country is laid back and chill - let that soak into your bones. We could have squeezed so much in, but chose the chill route and it was seriously the best choice. Just take the place in. We sat on the street in little coffee shops and just took it all in; from the people to cars to just feel of the place. That ended up being so much more memorable than trying to do every little sight seeing experience.
- 14% tax/exchange rate on the American dollar. Ouch!
- Western union in old Havana is a LONG line so either go early morning right when it opens OR exchange your Mexican pesos at the airport when you arrive. (Mexican pesos are a better exchange rate)
- NO AMERICAN ATMS and NO AMERICAN CREDIT CARDS WORK! So you HAVE to bring all the cash you plan to use. Kinda freaky! Plan it out well!
- They have the same plug ins as ours in America so no need for adapters
- There are SO MANY SCAMMERS! They aren't dangerous but annoying and totally gunna scam you. They pretend like they know you from somewhere (the hotel or from the street yesterday or whatever) and they work together, so it’ll seem like ‘wait, do i know this person?’ they’re trying to scam you into buying fake cigars. they aren't mean or dangerous just ignore them or keep saying ‘no thanks’ and they’ll eventually go away.
- Hotels are expensive and not a real representation of Cuba, so stay in an air b&b. we stayed in 2 different Air B&B's and they were awesome! Right with the people, adorable, clean and wayyyy cheaper. Both of ours were in old Havana and it was a dream! So so so safe.
- Their cigars and rum really are worth writing home over.... yum. When you find Hemmingway's bar (The restaurant is called Floridita) there's a cigar shop right next to it upstairs. Amazing rum and cigars, authentic and great prices. (NEVER BUY CIGARS OFF THE STREETS! You will get scammed 100%.)
Honestly, Cuba surpassed my dreams. You feel like you got dropped into the 1950s. From the music, to the dancing, to the cars and buildings, to people's kindness and lingo. I have dreamt of going here for years and to finally make it a reality was one of my bucket list items checked off. I cant wait to go back. I think out of all the countries I've been, it's my favorite. If you have any desire, GO, especially before it becomes swarming with tourists and becomes one big fat tourist attraction. There's still a purity and innocence to the country. It's worth every penny.
Feel free to message me with any questions on my 'contact' page!