CUBA DONE RIGHT
For the young, professional traveler who loves new places.
Cuba, a beautiful country of colors, amazing people, and while traveling there was iffy at first, it blew away all my reservations and expectations, and solidified that it’s imperative to travel with an open mind and little presumption.
7 Tips for Traveling To Cuba
#1 TP is a luxury.
They don’t flush it down the toilets, not all spots have it… so carry baby wipes and hand sanitizer… you’ll thank me later.
#2 Food is Delicious & Cheap
Some people that went to Cuba before me told me the food was bland/tasteless because of limited resources – WRONG! We went to one touristy spot by the hotel that exemplified that… everywhere else (most recommended by Cuban people) was amazing. The best meal we had was in Trinidad, Cuba. Breakfast for two cost $13 CUC, the most we paid for dinner for two including drinks/cigars/the whole nine, was $50 CUC. Fresh lobster can also be found on nearly every menu for $10-15 CUC.
#3 Air BNB > Hotel
If you want the full experience, AirBNB is the way to go. You can find a really nice place with a bed & breakfast, for $20-30 a night. When we traveled to Trinidad, Cuba which was about 4 hours away, we snagged an AirBNB for $28 CUC, and was served a wonderful breakfast in the morning (shown above). Trinidad is known for it’s nightlife, music, and beaches; so going for a full day is the way to go.
#4 The People
We walked the streets of Habana at 2/3am and felt extremely safe. The people there are warm, welcoming, and helpful. They genuinely want to show you their country and their culture. Like any other country, watch out for the street hustlers that sell fake cigars, and try and take you to restaurants as they get commissions off of referrals – again this is mostly in super touristy areas like Old Havana.
#5 The American Mentality
Try not to go down there thinking Cuba is non-resourceful and will benefit from your presence. While their political state has been taught to us as the Voldermort of politics, there actually aren’t any homeless or hungry beggars on the streets. It’s insanely clean and well kept. Enjoy the views and the colors, and all it has to offer. If you come across a television, don’t expect to see CNN, even in the airport all they played was music videos. Yes, even Ricky Martin’s new song. We even offered a tip to a local for advice on where to grab some cigars and he responded, “you work hard for your money at home, please I don’t need it.” #perspective
#6 Bringing that GOOD Back
Yes, you can bring back cigars/rum/etc.… and here’s how: put them jawns in your checked baggage. Any cigars in your carry on need to have the seal so it’s official; however, if you have some hand-rolled fresh puppies – your checked bags will do. Same deal with any rum bought prior to the duty-free airport checkpoint. If you don’t get to make it to the spots before the airport, rum will run you $6+ CUC and the official Cohiba Cigars will be $75++
TIP: if you’re flying from panama, any liquor NEEDS to be in your checked baggage, even if you purchased it duty free in Cuba.
#7 Visas, Health Insurance & Actually Getting There
The number one question I had when booking my trip to Cuba was what is the deal with the Visa’s needed. I’m sure you may have heard that tourism isn’t legal there and that a visa is required; and you’d be correct. Further research will show that the reasons listed to obtain a visa cover pretty much everything: journalism, education, and my favorite, “support of the Cuban people”. What this means is that you need to pay about $50 from the airport you are traveling from to Cuba to get the Visa. You do not need it in advance; you can buy it at the airport. You don’t need to provide proof of the reason of your choice (I would just be aware of it), and YES, you will get a stamp in your passport – the best part of traveling, right?! If you fly JetBlue, they cover your health insurance while you’re out there. They didn’t ask me if I had it, but I purchased some in advance from a website for $7 as I traveled with Copa Airlines. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry, but know Cuba is known for having some of the best doctors in the world, if anything were to happen, God forbid. Once we touched down, it was a breeze to exchange our Euros to CUC
TIP: bring cash, your card will not work, and changing from Euros to CUC is a better rate than American Dollar to CUC – get Euros from your local bank before you travel.
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