Hey guys I am just back from my visit to Cuba and what an amazing trip it was! I have already gotten tons of questions from friends and family so I figure it be best I share all about my experience, information and advice in one cohesive post so preparàte it’s going to be a long one ! First off Steven and I did not spend months planning this trip that really isn’t our style more like weeks. So no you do not have to feel overwhelmed if you have been considering going. Yes you will have to spend some hours researching online (which in America we should be grateful we can do in this in the comfort of our home).
After searching around we decided to fly for the first time Spirit Airlines (which I do NOT recommend) flying out of New York making a connection in Fort Lauderdale Florida. In Florida we purchased our visas which cost $100 per traveler. However Spirit does charge more than numerous airlines. We were misinformed that the visas would cost much less. I believe that you can pre-purchase which would allow you to save some bucks.
Once on our flight out of Fort Lauderdale we landed in Havana Cuba 35 minutes later. I found it so ironic that for one of the shortest flights I have ever taken I felt as if I had traveled the furthest! Since Steven and I wanted to see the beautiful beaches as well as the city we first stay in Royalton Hicacos All Inclusive Resort in Varadero. We checked in for our five day stay after a three hour cab ride which cost us $100 CUC.
One important note as an American traveling to Cuba it is very important to make sure you plan according when it comes to your spending. Everything is cash in Cuba and while you can exchange American Dollars for CUC pesos you can not take out money from an ATM or use American credit cards. With the current exchange rate you also receive back less about .87 cents CUC per $1.00. Additionally it is recommended you only exchange money in well established hotels such as Meliá Cohiba ,Riviera , Saragorta ,Cuba Nacional just to name a few in order to avoid counterfeit bills.
Wearing: ASOS Crochet Triangle Bikini Set Gold sold out 🙁
Additionally the employees all generally seem to expect tip, even within an all inclusive resort. Which although can seem and feel a bit uncomfortable in the moment, I can sympathize and easily give. While generally all of the employees which Steven and I came across were very pleasant and kind, the service you receive is different. It’s much more laxed and they will get to when they get to you.We found this to be true across all of Cuba. Again this is just a personal experience and I knew going on this trip that there would be major differences which I looked forwarded to. After talking to more people there was a general consensus that Cuba is already struggling with the amount of tourism it is receiving since there aren’t enough trained employees to adequately service all of the guest , or offer all of the amenities , snack bars daily.
Over all our resort was beautiful the beach mere minute walk from the pool, the rooms were spacious and clean! My favorite part about Cuba in comparison to other Caribbean islands was I did not get one mosiqutio bite nor did I come across and little critters in my room and this was true for our entire stay. I’m not sure if our timing February has anything to do with it but it was amazing! Our stay in Varadero lasted five days were we mostly enjoyed food (we preferred the buffet over any of the restaurants) cervzas,waves, dancing and some cigars.
Cuban cigars are renowned and while not smokers we did want to indulge in the experience whilst on the island. Hotels generally sell cigars which are a hot commodity and one you do not want to try to find a “bargain” on you will not find major differences in the price. Since the favorites are government runned. Anything that sounds too good is and you would be purchasing fake relabeled cigars. Cohiba are the best sellers and most popular. It was the preferred choice of Fiedel Castro and on the stronger side.
As the ever romantics we opted to buy Romeo y Julietta, which was a favorite of Churchill and a lighter smooth taste. In general the recommended limit for cigar purchases is 50 per traveler, to avoid any potential issues. Smoking was allowed nearly everywhere within the resort (which was adults-only).
We checked out Friday afternoon and made our way to Havana in a taxi which cost us 90 CUC this was a two hour ride. During our time in the city we stood in an Air B&B in Vedado walking distance from Meliá Cohiba which was very helpful. At first we were a little nervous only a very little though I guess the relax attitude rubbed off on us because we haven’t heard from our host via email however everything worked out just fine. The apartment was modern clean great AC , water pressure and even romantics florescene lighten lol. Our host for the weekend Robert was nice friendly and provided us a prepaid phone to contact him directly which came in handy.If you do choose to stay in an Air B&B I recommend a private apartment so you can have keys to come and go as your please without having to bother your host or their family to open any gates or main doors into apartment buildings.
Speaking of keys in Cuba it is common to have a gate in addition to a door so do not feel nervous , it’s not necessarily for safety.Everyone kept telling us it was very safe including our host and we were still cautious, but in all honesty it was. A taxi driver informed us that guns are not sold in Cuba and if people are even found carrying a knife they can serve up to five years in prison! We encountered no issues or did we ever feel threatened.
After settling in we walked to Meliá Cohiba although we were not guest of the hotel we were able to book our tour and the Cabaret Parisien Hotel Nacional show. The concierge also recommend we go to F.A.C Fabrica de Arte Cubano. It’s an old factory turned into an art exhibit with a little bit of everything bars, food,photography,music, and live performances. You receive a card that they write down all your chargers which you pay as you exit. For my fellow New Yorkers this place reminded me of Williamsburg, it gets extremely crowded so it’s better you get there at 8:30 when the doors open. Steven and I were able to walk there from our apartment thanks to his handy navigation skills and thankfully his ability to ignore my input lol ,but after all the fun and a few mojitos we decided to grab a taxi back.
The next day we woke up bright and early for a full day of touring the old and new Havana. We were considering a personal tour but opted for the group costing 25 CUC per person ,which ended up being awesome, informative and personal by the end with just us and our tour guide definitely more than worth the money. She shared with us all the beauty of her city and also the shocking realizations of how different life is for the Cuban people. Her including all of the Cuban people we came across were very genuine and honest. Even when sharing some of their hardships it was never in a way which seems to search for pity or display hints of jealousy.
If you plan to visit Havana wear comfortable shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking and there are countless museums to visit as well. If we had stayed longer in the city we would have delved into the museum tours as well but just being in the city and visiting monumental locations was enough for us. Since we were heading to the Cabernet that same night we wanted to have dinner close to our apartment and was recommended La Catedral on Calle 8 entre Calzada y Quinta (our apartment was on Calle 10). We were pre-warned about the service by our host , which I mentioned also before but by this point in our trip we were accustomed to it. While we did wait long the dinner was tasty and worth the cost for two entres drinks and an appiterzer with tip cost us 25 CUC. I would say if I could have redone more of anything it would have been to look into best places to eat before hand because I just wasn’t as in love with the food as I’d hope to be and I want to think it’s because we didn’t discover one of the great restaurants.
For our final evening we attend the Cabaret Parisien Hotel Nacional which was a great show lively,stunning costumes and performances.We did not opt for the dinner deal but still had a good night with a complimentary mojito of-course.This cost us 35 CUC per person. I would recommend getting there early or on time for best seating since it is first come first serve.
On our last morning we had breakfast again at La Catedral and enjoyed hanging out near the ocean cost off the main boulevard Miramar, which seemed like casual hang out spot.
Overall it was a wonderful and inspiring trip for me. Cuba is beautiful in a very raw way and I highly recommend visiting. I also wouldn’t buy into the rush of going soon before it changes because a country with such rich culture and history will always be worth it!
I hope you found this to be helpful and informative! Of course I also have to share the looks I choose for my Cuban Adventure, which apparently won over the people who kept assuming I was a Cubana myself 💃🏼.