Viva La Cuba

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”I have travelled all over the world, but my trip to Cuba, was one of my favorites! The people were some of the warmest people I have ever met and the food, culture, architecture and colors grab you as soon as you get off the plane! At first, planning a trip to Cuba can seem a little frightening, but hopefully these tips will help put you at ease. ” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:300%20light%20regular%3A300%3Anormal”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Airlines/Visas” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23000000″ google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1510440074449-e8db75f9-fabb-5″ include=”1950,1949″][vc_column_text]

Most major airlines now offer direct flight to Cuba from the U.S. and around the world. You will need to buy a visa from the airlines. Visas run $50-$85 if traveling from the US and $20-25 when traveling from Mexico. You can order your visa ahead of time, but the shipping and processing fee makes it more economical to just purchase it at the airline gate.
 
Jet Blue: $50
Delta: $50
United: $75 ($50 VISA + $25 processing fee)
American: $85 ($50 VISA + $35 processing fee)
 
If you travel through the U.S., you need to fill out a form that designates your reason for travel. Whatever you choose, DO NOT SAY TOURISM. I believe the best option is “People to People.” But don’t worry, they really don’t ask you any questions or to show any proof when doing this. Some airlines may also say that you have to have proof of insurance when going. Check the requirements ahead of time.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Acommodations ” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23000000″ google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][vc_media_grid element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1510440074452-7db2482a-02d3-9″ include=”1955,1954″][vc_column_text]

We stayed in Vedado and found it pretty central to our needs. Vedado is considered “New Havana” and is within walking distance of Central Havana (10-15 minute walk) and Old Havana (30 minute walk).
 
There are a very limited number of hotels in Havana and they fill up quickly and cost a grip! So most will stay at an Airbnb where you can get so much for so little. Please look at reviews when selecting an Airbnb! I have heard horror stories of folks believing they were getting their rental to themselves for the weekend, but then the host was actually living there with them!  If your host offers to make you a traditional breakfast at their home, I would definitely partake and get an authentic taste of the culture!

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El Morro-A fortress guarding Havana Bay. You can go inside for great views and a taste of Cuban history for 6 CUC. Also at 9 o’clock each night they fire off the old canon.  
 
Colon Cemetery-is one of the biggest and most important cemetery’s in the world and named after Christopher Columbus. It is known for its elaborately sculpted memorials and houses over 500 major mausoleums.
 
Hotel Nacional– biggest hotel in Havana. Right on the water. Had  some good mojitos here and it’s nice to head to the outdoor terrace with a drink and watch the sunset. 
They also have a great Cabaret show that you can book in person or over the phone. You don’t pay until 45 minutes before the show. It cost $35 without dinner and I believe $60ish with dinner. 
 
*Cabaret Parisian is a cheaper, but more authentic version of the Tropicana cabaret show. Book online ahead of time if you can to save your cash! 
 
Malecon– is about a 7 mile strip of road with pretty colored buildings good for talking pictures in front of and is wrapped by the “seawall” which is a great spot to sit along at night with a bottle and people watch when you have nothing else to do. The wall and streets get packed full of people of all ages at about 10pm to 4am every night!! 
 
Ice cream park– “Copellia” is another nice hangout spot to grab some ice cream and people watch. 
 
Revolution Square– where you can find the El Che mural and Jose Marti memorial. You can go up into the memorial tower for views of the city. 
 
El Capitolio– Capitol building in the heart of the city, built to resemble our U.S. capitol. 
 
FOCSA hotel– tallest building in Havana, located in Vedado.  On the 33rd floor is the La Torre bar-restaurant with a tremendous view of the city. 
 
Old car tour: all cars in Havana are old! But if you want to ride in an old colorful drop top then I’d definitely book a tour. We booked through this site online: 
 
 
* if you sign up for their newsletter before you book then you get a $10 off coupon via email. 

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So wifi is actually illegal to have in homes in Havana, so if you are staying in a casa particular or Airbnb and it says that they have wifi they probably just mean they are near a wifi hotspot and if you buy a wifi card then you can access it. You will know you’ve hit a wifi hotspot because everyone will be looking down at their phone, and you’ll come across one about every few blocks.
 
Wifi cards can be bought off the street easily in Old Havana or at a ETECSA office stand. Cards come in 1 hour and 5 hour denominations and cost roughly $2 per hour, so $2 for a one hour card and up to $10 for a 5 hour card. I have heard you can bargain for a 5 hour card for about $7 closer to the airport. 
 
If you choose to buy the card at the ETECSA wifi office be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour. If you buy off the street make sure that the password and user I.D. Are not scratched off already. 

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Cuba has the standard Caribbean dishes such as rice and beans and yucca potatoes. We got sick of this very quickly and had to do some exploring to find food that was more to our liking. I have complied a list of the top restaurants we came across. For the popular restaurants I would book a reservation ahead of time on-line or on your first day there for the rest of your stay.
 
Notre Dame des Bijoux (closed on Sundays) Obama ate here! Has a nice rooftop and live music. Reservation needed! 
 
La Guarida– some of the best food in Havana! But you must make a reservation way ahead of time!! Cute rooftop terrace with nice views and known for its amazing chocolate desserts. And Beyoncé ate here! 
 
Casa Miglis– Owned by a Swiss chef. Great food but smaller portions. Dope bilingual menu. 
 
El Cocinero– it’s a newer more trendy spot with a rooftop and cute decor. You must make a reservation here as well! 
 
El Literol– amazing seafood for cheap in Miramar (the rich part of town). We ate here twice because we loved it so much! 

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FAC– “Fabrica de Arte Cuba” a wonderful gigantic art gallery/club that only costs $2 to get in!!! They have Mojito XL for only $10 and wonderful live music and poetry. It’s super hip and everyone cool goes there so get there early (before 10) because there will be a long line. It is right next to El Cocinero so if you book a reservation for there I’d make it for the same night to save on cab fare. Friday would be best! 
 
Obisbo Street– hip street full of bars in old Havana. 
 
Callejon de Hamel– is a Street in Vedado that celebrates Afro-Cuban culture every Sunday from 12-3. There is live music and dancing and a nice art gallery to check out. 

[/vc_column_text][vc_media_grid element_width=”12″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1510440074454-33667b31-b620-0″ include=”1952″][vc_custom_heading text=”Apps” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23000000″ google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]

Download “Galileo” and download the Cuba map before your trip (listed under Caribbean) to use offline for streets and walking directions. 
 
Download “TunnelBear” to set up a personal VPN on your phone to bypass the Snapchat restriction! 
 
Download “Mobile Passport” before leaving the US and upload your passport info and take a selfie! This was amazing when I got back to the states! Completely bypasssed customs lines and didn’t have to fill out any forms at all! You just scan a barcode they give you once you answer 4 general customs questions through the app (can be answered up to 4 hours before heading through customs back in the US). 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Cellphones:” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23000000″ google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][vc_column_text]Cell phones work but only on roaming, so texts and phone calls will work but at an extremely high cost. I left my phone on airplane mode the whole time. Trust me…you CAN live without social media! The break from reality was actually really refreshing. Screen shot all of the important info you will need before the trip and make sure you have the address of the place you’re going once you land in Cuba.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Money” font_container=”tag:h1|text_align:left|color:%23000000″ google_fonts=”font_family:Lato%3A100%2C100italic%2C300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C700%2C700italic%2C900%2C900italic|font_style:900%20bold%20regular%3A900%3Anormal”][vc_media_grid element_width=”12″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1510440074456-f556060a-53d1-1″ include=”1953″][vc_column_text]

As far as I could tell it was best to exchange your U.S. dollars to Euros before departing then U.S. and then converting your Euros to CUC (Cuban Concertible Peso aka the currency tourists use) once arriving at the Havana airport. 
 
Regular bank branches do not carry Euros unless you call and order them at least a week ahead of time. If you wait to convert your US dollars to Euros at the airport convert $600 or more to avoid exchange rate fees! 
 
Please come up with a budget and stick to it!! Wait until the end of your trip to buy souvenirs to make sure you have enough money. We literally had $22 CUC combined left on our last day to pay for our taxi ride back to the airport and it cost $25! So needless to say we got cursed out by the cab driver in Spanish! Lol, so bring more money than you think you’ll need!
 
I’d say put aside about $75 a day for food, taxis, etc. 
If you have time before your trip I’d book all excursions, tours, shows and day trips online ahead of time so that you can use your credit card or debit card and save all your spending cash for the trip. 

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Best beach- Varadero, about a 2 hour drive outside of Havana with plenty to do. 
 
If you are trying to save money on transportation then check out Santa Maria Del Mar beach which is only about 45 minutes outside of Havana and about a $20 cab ride. Beach chairs cost $2 for all day! 
 
If you are staying 5 or less days in Havana try a day trip to Vinales which is about 2 hours outside of Havana and is where you will see lush valleys and tobacco farms. If traveling to Vinales, I would purchase my cigars while there. They will have less fillers in them and be much cheaper than in Havana. You may also have the opportunity to go horseback riding. We booked our transportation and tour on this website: 

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Mango– means you’re an attractive female 
 
Mulatto– light skinned or mixed person 
 
Ropa Viejo– one of the national dishes of Cuba, consisting of stewed beef with vegetables. 
 
Palador– Cuban restaurant 

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Now go off and have a great time!! 

Xoxo Heather Davis 
@divadavis18 

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