Cuba, is a forbidden land full of beauty and hidden treasures!
My husband, Blake has always had Cuba on his bucket list. This paradise of an island was the perfect country to explore on holiday with two of our fellow traveling friends Jess and Dustin. The day after Christmas our bags were packed, and we were south bound. I’ve been getting a lot of questions via Instagram, and thought I could share FAQs here.
We were able to get direct flights from Atlanta to Cuba. Luckily there haven’t been any more restrictions imposed as of yet, but, in order to go to Cuba you need to declare a reason for your trip. Your reasoning can be anything from religious to journalism, and we only had to state our reason at the check in kiosk at the airport. Just in case print out your itinerary and all your lodging documents for back up!
Yes, you need a visa for your travel. You can get one in advance for more money, or get it at the check in kiosk at the airport.
Book as much of your trip as possible before you go! Cuba does not recognize American banks, currency or credit/debit cards. We got out Euros and then exchanged them for CUC’s once we got to Cuba (one of the two Cuban currencies). 1 CUC is roughly equivalent to 1 USD (as of last week). Plan accordingly, you can always exchange back!
On our trip we wanted to make 3 stops: Havana, Veradero and Vinales. We used Airbnb for our accommodations, but you can also use casa particulares (Cuba’s version of Airbnb). There are a lot more available through the site, but I had a hard time getting contact back (spotty wifi is an understatement). You can book when you get there too if you’re feeling adventurous. Government run hotels were crazy expensive! A five star hotel in Cuba = a three star here.
To get around we booked bus fare from Havana to Veradero, then a mini van taxi from Veradero to Vinales. On the trek back we rode a classic car from Vinales to Havana. If you get car sick easily, skip this option. A short classic car ride in the city is a fun way to see the sights!
Brush up on those Spanish skills. Luckily Dustin had a good handle on communication, because otherwise there was a lot of Spanglish going on. We’ll put my 6 years of French to the test next month, ha!
I read article after article about the food being rather bland, and they were mostly true. There was a lot of rice, beans, pork and rum at most restaurants. I learned mid trip that it may be better to get reservations through your host than solo. I tried at a few locations (La Guarida and San Cristobal) to no avail. The best food we had were the breakfasts provided by the Airbnb hosts and Italian surprisingly! Almost everything is government run still, but look for paladars, restaurants run by families. Tipping in Cuba is 10%!
- Veradero reminded me a lot of the Florida beaches that I grew up near, so it was a nice change to swim in one of many natural caves!
- Vinales is the country and it is beautiful! Our Airbnb hosts arranged a 4 hour horseback excursion that took us through tobacco fields, cigar making, coffee bean roasting and more.
- In Havana we took a guided tour through Old Havana full of history and the most gorgeous sites. Book tickets at the famous Tropicana Caberet Show (so fun!).
- Don’t drink the water/ ice.
- You pay for TP at each restroom stop, and fully functioning plumbing is rare.
- Hot showers are a luxury
- Prices are negotiable
- Cuban people are super friendly
- Even Havana late at night feels very safe
- Go into it with an open mind… the world is different and exciting
Cuba is a stunning country, and amazing to experience. Here’s a few photos to recap our trip!
Until the next…