Cuba Travel Tips

I recently wrote about my recent trip to Cuba, which I highly recommend you look into if you’re interested. I wanted to share a few tips that I learned from researching the trip and from experiencing it myself!

  • DSCF0093Brush up on your Spanish – at least some basic phrases. I took classes in college, but use the Duolingo app to get a refresh
  • Visa – if you’re traveling from the United States, you’ll need a Visa. I bought mine in advance from Cuba Travel Services ($85)
  • Documents – speaking of Visas, a general international travel tip is to make photocopies of all relevant documents (passport, ID, accommodations, visas, reservations, etc.)
  • DSCF0149Taxis – be sure to negotiate price before getting in the car. Almost every driver came down from the original price they offered
  • Airbnb – go for it! This is the best way to find affordable, trustworthy lodging and stay like a local and with locals! 
  • Internet/cell service – get of the grid and go without it! However, if you need Wi-Fi you’ll have to purchase an internet card. We found a hotel cafe that sold a one hour card for $2 CUC and also included a coffee
  • Forget the credit card – you’ll need cash for everything. See below…
  • Currency – There is a 10% fee for exchanging USD. I got Euros from my bank before I left the US. Then in Cuba, I could exchange the Euros for Cuban currency without the fee. There are two currencies in Cuba, the CUC and the CUP. We did run into both types but didn’t have an issue with the locals giving us correct change. Read this article to educate yourself
  • Safety – while using common sense, I never felt unsafe in Cuba. Since we were two young females, we did get a lot of “cat calls” but ignored them and kept walking. We also ran into people trying to get us to eat in their restaurants, buy their cigars or give us recommendations – we also politely said no to all of these offers and kept walking
  • Buy bottled water – I do this when traveling to any foreign country. We would buy 2 liter bottles from a sandwich stand near our Airbnb for 2 CUC. All restaurants serve bottled water as well
  • Wear comfortable shoes – Havana is very walkable – save some money and take advantage of that
  • Have fun – meet locals, try new food, take tons of photos, see everything you can while staying safe!

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Before and After: Coche Clasico in Havana

I am doing something different with the blog to focus more on practicing my photography and photo editing. I want to do a photo feature and include before/after editing almost weekly. So here it goes! This is a view of American classic car taxis in front of the Gran Teatro (Grand Theater) in Havana, Cuba (check out my last post for more about Cuba!).

Edits: Used Adobe Photoshop Elements to brighten sky and shadows and removed some people in background

Camera: Fuji Film XT-2

I’m going to add watermarks to these as well. Hoping to start selling prints so I want to protect my copyright. Thanks for understanding.

10 Things to do in Havana, Cuba (and a day in Viñales)

I recently returned from a trip to Havana, Cuba with a good girlfriend of mine and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about visiting the country. The architecture and beaches were colorful, the people were friendly and the food was delicious. I found Havana to be fairly walk-able and we were even able to squeeze in a day trip to Vinales.

Wondering what a trip to Havana would look like? Here’s a high-level look of what my friend and I did…

Meet some locals and stay in an Airbnb: we rented this one. It was super affordable and directly across the street from the Capitol which made for a gorgeous patio view. The hosts were extremely kind and the place itself was just what we needed – two beds, private bathroom and a/c. They even provided drinks in the mini fridge for 1-2 cucs and breakfast in the morning for a fair price. If you haven’t signed up – click here! That’s my referral link so we both get a credit to our accounts.

Walk around Habana Vieja: We had so much fun just strolling through the city and looking at all the buildings and plazas!

Try lots of different foods (it’s all affordable and delicious): I’ll admit, some places I travel to just for the food. Cuba wasn’t one of these, so I was very pleasantly surprised and some of the great meals we had at beautiful restaurants. La Lamparilla and Los Nardos (right next to our place and great atmosphere – we went twice!) stood out to me. We would also stop by a little stand on the corner next to Parque Central that sold hot and melty ham and cheese sandwiches for 50 cents. Another stand was selling fried “donuts” with guava jelly – also super cheap and delicious! On one of our walks we walked into a cafe that didn’t even have a sign – but it was one of my favorite meals – salty grilled pork with the perfect fried plantains. So have some fun exploring the different traditional foods of Cuba!

See a live music show: We went to the Havana Libre Hotel where they have a nightly live music show, El Turquino.

Visit the Hotel Nacional: We originally went to book a tour to Vinales with the concierge (see next topic!) but spent a few hours in the garden enjoying the shade, view and a few drinks.

Take a day trip to Vinales (tobacco farm): Through the Hotel Nacional, we booked a day tour to Vinales. It cost 100 cuc each which was fairly expensive compared to how affordable everything else had been. We scheduled the driver to pick us up the next day. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but ended up being a highlight of the trip. We thought we’d be getting an official “tour,” but a taxi driver shows up and asks us what we want to do! Luckily, this driver was a great guy – very friendly and knew where to take us. After a 2-3 hour drive, we went to a tobacco house where we learned the process of picking, drying and rolling tobacco. We could even purchase premium cigars for half the price than they are sold by the factory. Then we went to Cueva del Indio (with sugar cane juice and rum in hand) where we got to cool down in nature’s a/c and take a boat ride through the beautiful caves. Next stop was the Vinales Valley which was SUCH a beautiful view – it almost looks like Jurassic Park. Then we stopped by our driver’s friend’s house who was a sweet older woman who offered us coffee in her adorable pink house. It was such a fun day!

Find a roof top view: Because, why not? We ducked into Hotel Ambos Mundos to check out their roof top bar (pink hotel near the cathedral!) Unluckily for us… it started to rain as soon as we got up there!

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Ride in an American classic car: OK,  I have to say… this was one of the coolest things about Cuba visually. The gorgeous, well-kept classic cars are everywhere. Most of them are taxis, so take a ride – just make sure you agree on a price before hopping in the car.

Explore the local museums: There are quite a few museum choices in Havana! We went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) which had all genres of arts and only by Cuban artists. I wanted to go to the Revolution Museum but we did not have a chance.

Bus to the beach: we spent a morning at Santa Maria beach. From our Airbnb, it was a 5 minute walk to Parque Central where we caught the T-3 bus that took us there. It was 5 cuc round trip. The beach itself was beautiful and relaxing. You can rent beach chairs and buy drinks. It was not crowded at all and the water was gorgeous – I got in waist deep and could still see my toes.

So, have I convinced you? I’ve also posted some general travel tips for Cuba here.