Because we can all use another travel post about Cuba.
By now, you’ve seen an influx of travel photos from Havana, Cuba. In late 2016 and all of 2017, Cuba was one of the top travel destinations for people in the United States. After my visit, I can understand why. Cuba embodies unique characteristics like no other country around. Havana is loud, dirty and drenched in history. Despite the garbage in the street, random piles of shit and potholes on the ground, there is an overwhelming sense of richness that fills the air. The Cuban people walk with a bold confidence. They’re happy, carefree and taken care of. Although their lifestyle is funded by the government (rent, food, toiletries are provided as long as everyone works), money is still an enabler to bad behavior. It is definitely common practice to have the locals try to con you out of your money. Pay extra attention to the store-owners, bankers and waitresses who handle your money. Beyond that minor detail, the streets of Cuba are extremely safe and full of culture.
When it came to money, I had tons of questions. Before I left New York, I was told by various people to change my money to Euros. Then I was told to change it to the Canadian dollar. It was explained to me that, “you can’t really use USD there. They charge 10% on the exchange. You’ll end up losing more money if you change USD to CUC.” Throughout my stay, I learned that you can not only pay certain people in USD, there are TONS of people who will change your money for LESS THAN the 10% rate. Everything is a hustle. If you’re going to visit Cuba, feel confident that you can bring the US dollar and not endure a big loss financially. Please note, you can’t use credit or debit cards.
Cuba’s multi-faceted appearance is alluring. Travel through the raw, vintage architecture in Havana, visit the countryside in Vinales or take a drive to Varadero to experience gorgeous beaches.
I was told the food was no good. “Bring salt and pepper,” the said. “The food isn’t well-seasoned,” they said. All lies! The Cuban food palette was completely amazing. Shrimp, lobster, steak, sweet potatoes, rice and beans, eggs, cheese, bread, you name it, they made it. I had freshly squeezed guava juice in the morning. I ordered French fries that were made from scratch before they came out to my table. The food was completely fresh and amazingly tasty. I ate like a queen!
Cows, water buffaloes, bulls, horses, chickens, deer, crocodiles, dogs, cats, you name it, I saw it. As an animal lover, I took full advantage of every opportunity I had to embrace the wild life.
Cuba pumps art through their veins. Everywhere I went, I was able to see amazing street art and portraits. Because the artistic expression was so rich, I stocked up on handmade souvenirs and paintings.
God is definitely the best artist out there. I was completely infatuated with the natural beauty that Cuba holds. The imagery was vivid ad lively. Bright flowers, deep greens, blue skies and crystal clear waters. It was like a painting!
Where to stay
There are tons of Airbnb‘s in Cuba. Literally every block of every town you visit. If you don’t have an account, sign up here! There are hotels, but they’re more costly and not as comfortable as the Airbnb.
What to do
Prior to my arrival, I arranged for transportation to and from the airport as well as a few tours during the day. My tour and transportation total was 249CUC, or $249 per person. Each tour included pickup and drop off, entry to various tour sites and an English-speaking tour guide. The company I used was http://www.cubantripcompass.com. They were timely, resourceful and fun!
Overall, my trip to Cuban was lots of fun! I learned so much about a population of people who have endured so much. I would definitely visit again. What about you? Is Cuba on your travel list?