Havana oh na na🎶🎵🎶, sorry I just can’t seem to get that song out of my head! Half of my heart is in Havana oh na na! Any who, below are some important tips for your first visit to Havana, Cuba!
1. Visa-first things first, this is most important as you will not be able to enter the country without it. There are 12, now 11 categories of authorized travel to Cuba for Americans to go to visit Cuba. FYI I was not asked a reason at all. I purchased my ticket, brought a Visa for $75 and was on my way.
2. Internet- Internet is well… almost non existent. There are internet cards that you can buy for 1 cuc for one day if there is WiFi available to log in to. This is a good time to unplug from it all and just enjoy your time in Cuba. Plan ahead & take advantage of enjoying your travel partners!
3. Driver- this brings me to my 3rd tip, make sure to hire an English speaking driver/ tour guide ahead of time as you will not be able to google search, voice and map quest your way through Cuba. Galileo is an offline service that can be used like maps, but remember you will have to download this prior to traveling. There is nothing like having a guide who knows the city & can take you off the beaten path to experience some cool things google doesn’t direct you to!
4. T & T- towels and toilet paper are necessities that we Americans have grown accustom to. In Cuba washcloths/face towels are not common and are not available at most hotels and Air BNB’s. Neither is toilet paper. I expected this from my other travels abroad and remembered to bring personal Kleenex tissues and wipes.
5. Accommodations- Speaking of hotels and Air BnB’s as 45 (as the Cubans call him) has banned travel to Cuba under people to people, we are not allowed to stay in government owned hotels which is almost all of the hotels. Per my research we should stay in casa particulars or Air BnB’s only. Of course staying with family is allowed as it is on the list of authorized categories.
6. Beaches- When i think of an island, I think of all the beautiful beaches I will visit. Havana is quite different. There are not many beaches in Havana specifically. Upon building a road many beaches were in the way. Other beaches are filled with oil and waste dumps into them. I visited Varadero Beach which was absolutely beautiful, amazingly clear and the sand was super clean and non rocky! Its about 2.5 hours from Havana but definitely worth it.
7. Money- Cuba has two forms of money. CUC (Cuban convertible peso or Cuban dollar) is aligned to USD which tourist must use. CUP (Cuban national peso) which converts as 1 CUC =22 CUP. Non Cubans shouldn’t use or even have CUP. Most “host” will be happy to exchange your USD to CUC for cheaper than the government rate as they typically use the money in another country as it is worth more there than it is in Cuba. Take more than enough cash. They do not accept credit/debit cards, matter of fact they don’t even have credit cards period!
8. Food- Water first…don’t drink the water. Bottle water only. Be careful with ice cubes also. Of course we all want to have a drink or two or ten while on vacation but make sure to ask if the water is filtered. Most government organizations have filtered water, but be sure to ask. Food is cheap and depending where you go it can be miss or miss! I have come to the conclusion that my taste buds act just as funny as me so I’m not going to give any food tips except don’t expect too much!
9. Social media- lets be real we’ve all seen the beautiful, colorful pictures that have drawn us in to want to visit Cuba. I was really looking forward to finding the beautiful brown woman with the thick Cuban cigar in the colorful dress with huge flower hat! I was so sad to hear that she has fallen ill and had to retire! With the unbearable heat I can’t blame her! My biggest piece of advice would be just go! Experience it for yourself & make your own memories! For me Cuba was nothing like I expected or anything like I had seen on social media or in any pictures! It’s beyond humbling yet influential!
10. Cigars- because I definitely think of Cuban cigars & rum when I think of Cuba! You are able to bring back 2 liters of alcohol & up to 50 cigars! Indulge, share & enjoy!
As always, thanks for traveling along!💋