If you are planning on going to Cuba you are making the right choice, such a charming country! In this post I’m gonna share my Cuban adventure along with things you should do, tips and general info that you need to know and might be very helpful once you get there!
Cuba has been on my mind for some time now and I heard (and read) from a lot of people that the time to go is now so I decided to make it my first adventure of 2017.
I went last month (middle February) with one of my best friends and stayed for one week, but I wish I would’ve stayed longer, it has so many places to explore! Cuba really is like going back on time, the people, the streets, the cute colorful houses, the old cars and the whole vibe is something else.
It’s amazing how they don’t live in the best situation but still are so nice and happy, they don’t have much but they are always with a great attitude and you can feel their warmth almost everywhere you go. While you are there if you have the chance to talk to them please do, they have so much to say and they love to tell stories and show you how they live.
Important to note before you go
The currency is the CUC and the Cuban Peso but the CUC is the one used almost everywhere for tourists. It’s approximately €1 (euro) for every CUC and is more convenient to bring euros and exchange them there for CUC. If you bring dollars they will charge some kind of fee to exchange them so you will get less money. ALWAYS exchange your money in CADECA (Official exchange offices) or banks, don’t do it with any person from the street. When you leave you can exchange the euros or the dollars you have left at the airport.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted unless they are issued in the United States, but in Cuba is better to carry cash with you, it’s a very safe country so you don’t have to worry about bringing cash with you at all times. They have a few ATM around.
Costa Rican citizens need a tourist visa. It costs $20 and you can get it either in the embassy in San José or in the layover, just ask at the airline’s counter. If you are from other country make sure to check if you need one.
From Jose Martí International Airport to La Havana or Vedado a taxi costs between 30-40 CUC and it takes around 20-30 minutes. There are drivers or taxis right outside the airport or you can ask to the place you are gonna stay if they offer the service.
Where to stay
My recommendation is to stay in “Casas particulares”. These are private rooms, apartments or houses provided by Cuban families. If you stay in casas particulares besides helping a family instead of a hotel, you get to experience more of their culture, the way they live and get to know them a little more if you want to.
We wanted to stay in Vedado the first 3 days so we booked in advance a casa particular with airbnb but in La Havana and Trinidad there are plenty of casas particulares once you get there. Accommodation in Cuba is not expensive.
Every house that is a casa particular has a sign that has like a big rounded blue T letter and is outside either in the wall or the door of the house so you can easily identify them.
Staying in Vedado or Old Havana?
If you want to stay in a less crowded place not full of tourists stay at Vedado. That’s what we did the first days. Is really close to El Malecón and is just like 5 minutes drive from La Havana Vieja (Old Havana).
If you prefer to stay in a more busy area, more restaurants close (but lots of tourists around) then stay at Old Havana. Either way you are gonna like it and you have to go to both at least once anyways.
Wifi and getting online
As you might heard is difficult to get online in Cuba. And even tho when you get online is a little slow and is not steady. If you want to get wifi first you need to buy a card in ETECSA (around 8CUC for 5 hours) then find a place that has a wifi connection and get online with the number and password in the card. Some hotels offer wifi and sell it to you by the hour (like Hotel Nacional). There’re public spaces around Old Havana and Trinidad that offer a public wifi so you can connect with your card but there aren’t many and the connection is super slow because everyone is trying.
Where to eat
Try to eat at “los paladares” . Is authentic Cuban food, some of them look like restaurants but some of them are in their houses. We tried one in Vedado called “M en A” it was the best moros con cristianos I had in Cuba! We really liked the famous “La bodeguita del Medio” we had to go at least once and actually was pretty good, the mojitos just average. And in Trinidad we went to a restaurant called “La Botija” amazing food and place.
Things to do and not to miss
- La Havana Vieja (Old Havana): I fell in love with this place, it’s so lovely in every corner. Cobblestone streets, vintage cars, photogenic colorful houses, stunning architecture, carriages, little restaurants outside the alleys etc… You’ll love it!
- Go to Trinidad: It’s gorgeous! A lot of people skip this city and go to Varadero instead. I’m not saying Varadero doesn’t have its thing but is so touristy and is pretty much hotels by the beach (a gorgeous one) but in Trinidad you can feel more of the Cuban essence, you can find a little fairy tale town and way less tourists. It also has a nice beach like 10 minutes away called Ancón. Trinidad is almost 4 hours driving from La Havana and you can experience a lot more than you do in the capital. I’ll write a different post only for Trinidad but believe me, you don’t want to miss it if you go to Cuba!
- El Malecón: Is really cool at any time of the day, but by sunset and by night is so nice. People get around, some of them put salsa on, there is dancing and happy people all around. The sunset is really nice from there.
- Take the Hop-on Hop-off bus: I’ve never been fan of those buses and they usually are not worth to take, but in this case they work perfectly. Only for 10 CUC or 5 CUC (depending on the route) you get to see a lot of spots you can’t miss in La Havana. Otherwise you would have to take a taxi or a driver to see them. The difference is that you can get in and out of the bus as many times as you want for that price (one ticket counts for one day). It’s from 9-6pm with more than 20 stops. Make sure to go to the second floor to have a better view 😉
- Have a Mojito at Hotel Nacional: You can enjoy a mojito with a great view of El Malecón and for sunset is great too. The mojitos are only 5CUC there.
- Plaza de la Revolución: Is one of the largest public squares in the world. Very important historic place for the Cubans and witness of a lot of political events during the Cuban Revolution (Revolución Cubana).
- Rent a vintage car: They are everywhere and it costs around 30-40 CUC for an hour. The driver can take you around La Habana and Vedado. It’s very popular for tourists, I don’t think there’s someone who goes to Cuba without at least getting in one!
- Mercado de San José in La Habana: Is a big market where you can buy all kinds of cool souvenirs, hats, paintings and other stuff. It’s open from 10-6pm.
- Museo del Ron: The rum museum. You can buy Havana Club rum here and also Cuban cigars at very good price.
- Have a Daiquiri at La Floridita: Located in Havana Vieja is the cradle of the Daiquiri. Hemingway used to go all the time, there’s even a statue of him in the bar. The place is really nice to have drinks or dinner as well.
- Wander and get lost in the streets of Vedado and Havana Vieja by day and night!
- Drink all the mojitos and canchanchara you can: Because remember, is Cuba!
- Santa Clara, Viñales, Cienfuegos, Santiago: In one week I only had the chance to go to Havana, Vedado and Trinidad but if you have more time you should try to go to these places, they’re not that far from the Capital and everybody kept telling us how nice they are.
*** The only thing I didn’t like and I think I should mention is the catcalling. They don’t say rude or disgusting things at all but they keep calling you things like linda, pretty lady, talk to me, and stuff that sometimes is a little too much. I never felt in danger or anything like that but it was annoying sometimes. So if you are a girl traveling alone or with other girls you should know is gonna happen. Once again, nothing to be scared of just kind of annoying.
Cuba is a wonderful country and one worth to explore as soon as you have the opportunity. Cubans are so nice and if you can help them in any way they’ll be so grateful.
Have you been to Cuba before? Is it in your plans any time soon? Thanks for reading and I would love to read your comments!
Have a great week and happy adventures 😀
Photos by me