Cuba: Everything You Need To Know
Many of you have reached out to me about my current trip to Cuba. Instead of sending numerous emails and DM's about the same thing over and over again, I decided to centralize all the information in one place.
Special thanks to Destinee Swindell for helping me in the planning process for my recent trip to Cuba.
Ok, now lets get to it!
Here's everything you need to know about your upcoming trip to Cuba.
How to get to Cuba from the U.S.?
There are many of airlines that are now permitted to fly from the U.S. to Cuba. I flew on American Airlines from LGA (LaGuardia) to VRA (Varadero) airport in Cuba.
Is there a connecting flight?
Yes. All flights connect in Miami. You have roughly a 25-30min layover and then you're on your way to Cuba.
How were you permitted into Cuba?
You need three documents in order to enter Cuba:
1. U.S. Passport
3. Cuban Health Insurance (really don't need but they say you do. No one checked for it.)
American Airlines provided a third-party service with Cuban Travel Services in order for American Airlines travelers to purchase their tourist visa for their upcoming trip. You must select one (1) of the twelve (12) approved reasons by the OFAC for traveling to Cuba. I selected, "Educational activities and people-to-people exchanges."
For more information on the 12 approved reasons to travel to Cuba from U.S., click here.
Where did you stay in Cuba?
AirBnB is your best friend. Since its a very popular way for travelers to book accommodations in Cuba, I would book that ASAP!
Here is the Airbnb I stayed in: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9436175
I stayed in La Habana. Which is located in Vedado. It's a newer part of Havana. My AirBnB was one block from the U.S. Embassy, so a very safe neighborhood.
My host, Yoan, was wonderful and very responsive with any questions that I had leading up to my trip and during my stay. He also coordinated transportation for me and my friends to and from Varadero to Havana, which is a 2 hour trip.
NOTE: Please manage your expectations when it comes to housing accommodations. Cuba is a very poor country, so if you are looking for the W hotel in Havana then you may not want to visit Cuba. This is not to say they don't have hotels. You are more than welcome to book hotel accommodations, but its still not on the same level as the hotel accommodations we are used to in America. Personally, the AirBnB accommodation gave me a more native local Cuban experience.
Apps To Download Before Your Trip:
Google Translate. Download the app and have it ready for English to Spanish translation when offline. This way you can use it the entire time during your trip.
TripAdvisor Map. This allows you to see places you have been within the country or where you need to go if you are lost and need to give directions to your taxi driver.
What was your budget for the trip?
$500 for 5 days and 4 nights.
I would advise you to take lots of cash since there are no ATMs for your debit cards and you can't use your credit cards.
Where do you recommend going in Cuba?
Remember, I selected, "Educational activities and people-to-people exchanges," as my reason for visiting Cuba. Everything listed below falls into that category in some form or fashion. If you selected a different category, the below may not be applicable for your trip.
1. Taste authentic Cuban cuisine.
- El Litoral
- El Del Frente
- San Cristobal
- 304 O'Reilly
- El Cocinero
- Restaurant Paladar La Guarida
- Cafe Laurent
* All restaurants above will need reservations in advance unless you are going during lunch time.
2. Drink a Mojito or Daquiri!
- El Del Frente
- Hotel Nacional
- 304 O'Reilly
- Sarao Bar
- La Bodeguita del Medio
3. Watch a live concert by a local musician.
4. Go Salsa Dancing!
5. Have a photo shoot in Old Town, Havana.
6. Visit Las Terrazas. (Tour info here)
7. Do a Classic Car Tour. (Tour info here)
8. Visit Fabrica De Arte Cubano. (Arrive no later than 9p for entry)
For a full look at my Cuba itinerary, visit here.
Final Tips & Tricks While In Cuba
Pack toilet tissue with you at all times
Never leave your bag unattended and always strap it to the front of you
Do not buy black market products (this goes for cigars) or trust super-friendly folks off the street.
Don't get hustled by the taxi driver. Always negotiate for a cheaper rate.
If you need wifi, visit the nearest hotel and buy a wifi card for 2 CUC. You will get wifi access for an 1 hr.
If you get tired, order a Cuban espresso. Cuba is known for their coffee!
Electricity outages happen every now and then. So, be prepared! :-)
At night, you must keep quiet in public. So, please be mindful of noise level while wondering the streets of Havana.