Cuba is one of those places you have to experience yourself. If you don’t know already it is still a communist country, recently there has been some visitation changes through the Trump administration. This does not mean American citizens aren’t allowed to visit. Read more into it please. As the headlines are very misleading. YOUR VISA YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PURCHASE AT THE AIRPORT. For instance I purchased mine in Miami airport via American Airlines which was $80. All airlines vary, I know delta is only $50.
When you purchase your plane ticket they may ask you to call to purchase if not it will prompt you to fill out information for your travels. Also checking in they will ask you for your reason for traveling to Cuba. YOU ARE SUPPORTING THE CUBAN PEOPLE (I cannot stress this enough).
I kept track of what of my receipts for all local bars, restaurants purchases etc. Incase when returning to the U.S. they asked. Entering Cuba going through customs the officers were very nice so you don't have to worry about getting in. Coming back is where people feel they may have an issue.
You can also create a small itinerary when you return if customs were to ask. However, It isn't necessary. Please don't stress this travel too much, it'll only take the fun experience out of it.
While I was there many of the Cubans were highly interested in talking about the politics, (conversation was initiated by THEM not US) the current relationship the United States and Cuba have. (I don’t recommend initiating the convo) on multiple occasions the Cubans emphasized that they weren’t bad people and they wanted us to really know that. It made me feel so sad that the media and our government has portrayed this country and it’s people as anti American or we’re anti Cuban. But I guess that’s politics right?
Let’s get into it...
I stayed at a wonderful Air BNB. Beatrix was an amazing host breakfast and she was very informative. Traveling to Cuba under “support the Cuban people” I would highly recommend staying at a Cuban home such as AirBnb’s etc to help the “Cuban people”... (makes sense?) rather than staying at Hotels owned by foreigners.
I found another Airbnb complex down the block from Hotel Presidente
I added a photo of it if you may be interested but I cannot vouch for it.
Keep in mind you will find WiFi but you have to purchase a ETECSA card for 2 CUC which allows you to use internet for 1 hr.
Hotel presidente across the street from our AIRBNB where you can purchase WiFi cards, exchange money etc.
Breakfast included eggs, omelets, fruits, fruit juice (which ever fruit is in season is what will be served) of course with my luck I dislike mangos and that's what I got lol
Canadian dollars, euros and American dollars are excepted in some places but you will receive CUC dollars/coins back as change. Be aware of the current exchange rate. Credit and debit cards are NOT accepted.
There are two cuban currencies CUC (for tourists) and CUP (for locals)
Things to do:
During my trip for my birthday I wanted to really “support the Cuban people” so the day of my birthday I went to the Finca specifically @Fincatungasuk on Instagram. What a great experience! The owners of the farm are actually Nicaraguan (Annabelle studied abroad in France at a culinary school and her Peruvian husband Alberto has travelled the world now building his farm with his family. From our Home it was about a 35-40 min ride. The cost to volunteer is 25 CUC (you will pay when you get there once you reserve she will book a car service for you. Which will be 30 CUC round trip, this is booked in advanced. Lunch is included.
Please spend an afternoon here, pay your dues and even enjoy an amazing lunch. Many celebrities have visited their farm within the last 5 years for food and/or Volunteer work.
You’re welcome to bring seeds and other simple farming items like gloves for the farm, I didn’t have a problem getting this through customs as I stated I had nothing to declare.
You're welcome to bring seeds and other simple farming necessities like gloves, boots, etc for the workers. I didn't have a problem bringing this into the country as I stated I had nothing to declare.
Unfortunately the Fabrica De Arte was closed for renovations but I HIGHLY recommend going... for me, take pictures and send them to me please and thank you :)
Walk along the shore "El Malecon" of the water beautiful views and where most of the locals hangout at night.
The Hop and Hop off bus is very convenient. For 10 CUC you can take this bus around the city till 7pm I believe. It is 1 way so you’d have to stay on the bus until it completes its route. (Totally worth the ride)
The Bici-Taxis are cool too for shorter distances.
Visit Plaza Vieja
The Old Square is a plaza located in Old Havana, Cuba. The plaza and its surroundings are also one of the seven consejos populares of the municipality of Old Havana
Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time in Cuba and definitely was visiting La Bodeguita del Medio often. This place has live music and gets packed. But it is wonderful there's people dancing salsa out front to the tunes of the gentlemen singing and playing their instruments.
For my birthday dinner we went to this place called “El Cañonazo”
It was ok. Didn’t think it was worth the price you’re pretty much paying for the atmosphere and live music.
Suit from Zara.com
We had better food at “Atrevete” which is a few blocks away from our AirBNB and other smaller restaurants.
I will say the best piña coladas I ever had was in Cuba. Literally anyplace I went. Topped with cinnamon and Havana Club rum.
Here are some other restaurants
This little restaurant above was marketed as a vegan/vegetarian option place and that instantly caught my attention. It was great they had green juices and many other delicious options to choose from. (meat options as well)
El Floridita ( Hemingway daiquiri)
Rooftop Ambos Mundos(drinks)
Hotel nacional Garden bar (Mojito)
Paladares in Vedado ( find Mediterráneo Havana, calle 13 entra E y F)
san Cristóbal (Obama visited here)
Los Naranjos (recommended)
Our last day we headed to the beach.
Terara Beach to be exact. If you choose to go here instead of Playa Varadero (which is 2 hrs away) be sure to bring your passport for each individual as it is a private beach where diplomats stay, security is strict. There is a small fee to enter and food beach chairs umbrellas are readily available got a small fee. Yes there are newer model cars but riding in a vintage 1950's gem is like no other. This is the fun part about visiting this time capsule. One of our rides broke down on our way to Terara beach, haha but it was interesting and it was perfect to have a little photo shoot.
Overall, traveling around Havana was an amazing experience. I felt safe. Apart of me believes that because I spoke the language the dynamic changed from me being a American tourist to me being a Spanish speaking American tourist which felt great.
The whole country felt welcoming. Keep I mind there is a lot of poverty. Some place do not have toilet paper, bring simple things such as
-if you want to donate items you can bring small things like a box of pencils for children
-Pack old clothes you’re willing to wear then leave at your place of stay like my family and I did (the house maid really appreciated this!)
You have to experience the place for yourself. Please be safe, enjoy your trip, keep and open mind. If you have any further questions do not hesitate to ask.