WELCOME TO HAVANA, CUBA

Cuba has become one of my happy places. I just need to perfect my Spanish now.

If you’re planning to go to Cuba to experience a touristy feel of things, then I advise you to think again. While Cuba is still predominantly undeveloped, it is still one of thee most authentic and vibrant countries right now to visit. My first trip to Havana, Cuba was full of trials and errors due to my unexpected, but expected reality of Cuba. Though I did loads of research prior to my trip, and even wrote a list of things that I wanted to do and see, it is still pretty difficult moving around as a “backpacker” or someone who someone who doesn’t need a tour guide.

DAY 1:

My sister and I had reservations to stay at an AirBnb, but when we got there the host wasn’t home. Long, story short: she didn’t think we would arrive at the house so quickly from the airport, so she went to make a quick run before we got there. But being that we’re in a new country, in a neighborhood that we didn’t even know, with no sort of immediate communication whatsoever, we had to make a decision to find another place to go. And with wifi being extremely limited in Cuba, our cab driver brought us to a nearby hotel that would have connection.

Note: You have to pay for an hour use of wifi.

We found another Airbnb, and booked it online. When we met up with the host at her home, we were greeted by a male family member who spoke a little bit English. Now, here goes this dilemma:

  1. The home that we met them at, was not the home that we would be staying at. It was their home. My question, why didn’t we just meet at the intended home of stay?
  2. They claimed that they were cleaning up the house and getting everything prepared before we go over there.
  3. After spending an hour and a half sitting down waiting to leave, finally the guy comes over and asks us “what is the address of the home that you’re staying at?” Now, say what now?
  4. We tell him that we booked it on Airbnb, and they would obviously know what home it was because they messaged us from the app to meet them here instead of the actual place. But no, he was so confused which in turned made us confused.
  5. We then asked him to allow us to show him the reservation confirmation that we made online, with the use of their wifi. After showing him, he again asked us “what was the address of that home?” Bottomline: They have a couple more homes that they rent out but they use the same photo for each one. Not a good idea on their part.
  6. So he said, okay lets cancel the unpaid reservation online and pay in person. The reservation online was about $400+, and he was charging $650.
  7. So we left, and ended up at our final destination: Hotel Vedado

Whew! We sent 6 hours going through that, but everything worked out. $60/night including breakfast and dinner.

DAY 2:

8am-9am: Breakfast and Wifi

9am: Hit the streets of Havana! Remember to bring a map! Your phone service will NOT work.

We took a stroll outside towards the Malecón strip, where a man on a tour bicycle approached us and presented his tour. He said it would be ten pesos each for the trip, but at the end it was explained to be ten pesos each hour! It surprised us, but it was still very much worth it because we still saw all of the main must-see places +more. I definitely recommended it over a car ride around town: cheaper and more convenient.

Visits:

DAY 3:

8am-9am: Breakfast and Wifi

11am: Nacional Zoo

2pm-4pm: Food, and Ice Cream! You have to check out Cuba’s Coppelia Ice Cream parlor. Tip: Long lines everyday, but they move pretty quickly!

DAY 4:

8am-10am: Breakfast and Wifi

12pm: Partagas Cigar Factory

Tamara was said to be a very popular name in Cuba, and throughout my whole trip the only person that I met with the same name as me was my tour guide for the cigar factory! She is amazing:)

Note:

  • You have to buy a ticket for the factory tour at your hotel before going. $10 pesos
  • Cigars aren’t sold at the factory, but your tour guide will most likely sell a couple after the tour.
  • DON’T buy cigars from anyone, especially if you’re planning on traveling with it. Even if they say that they have the seal and etc. better stay safe than sorry, just buy it from the actual cigar store. I think it was behind, or beside of the Capital Building.
  • Prices for a box of cigars range from $80 and up. Just know that you’ll have to spend a lot of money if you’re planning on investing in some cigars.

3pm: Ernest Hemingway’s House

Note: If it’s raining, they won’t let visitors inside of the house. But, you can still walk around and check out the rest of his place.

9pm: Fabrica

Note: Get there about 2 hours early. The lines are longgggg!

 

DAY 5:

8am-9am: Breakfast and Wifi

10am-3pm: Walk around, Buy souvenirs, and enjoy our last day in Havana!

9:30pm: Cabaret Parisien at Hotel Nacional

Tips and Notes:

  • Click Here for my reviews on the delicious food that I ate in Cuba!
  • Cuba has two currencies: CUC and CUP.
  • Bring a map from home, or buy one at your hotel.
  • Everyone has a friend. Be strict about where you want to go when it comes to buying cigars. Everyone would rather take you to their friend to buy from rather than the store itself.
  • When it rains a lot of places are either closed, or limited to their events.
  • Don’t be alarmed if electricity goes out during or after the rain.
  • Buy a case of water, or juice to keep in your rooms and bags.
  • Cab rides are usually 10 pesos, or less anywhere within the town area.
  • KNOW SOME SPANISH!

Thank you Cuba. See you again soon. xoxo.

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15 comments so far.

15 responses to “WELCOME TO HAVANA, CUBA”

  1. Brandy says:

    Beautiful photos! Sounds like you had a ball!

  2. Tanjee says:

    Beautiful photos! This was a very helpful blog!

  3. Canty says:

    Great Read!

  4. Canty says:

    Great Read!

  5. Gia says:

    Hi Tamara! Excellent post!
    I have a few questions I was hoping you’d answer. First, where did you get your visa from? Did you have to go to Mexico and then catch a flight to Cuba from there? Where would you recommend exchanging currency? Is it better to take euros as opposed to dollars?

    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Cheers,
    Gia.

    • tamara.smith.jl@gmail.com says:

      Hey Gia! Thank you:)
      -I was in Florida at the time of departure to Cuba. JetBlue provides you with the Cuban visa when you arrive at the airport. You’ll have to pay $50. So all you’ll have to do is purchase your ticket as usual, then they’ll send you a email letting you know that you’ll have to have a reason for your travel to Cuba (don’t worry too much about that) and the $50 prior to your flight for your visa at departure. Really simple;)
      -I highly recommend changing your money at a local bank here in the US or at the bank in Cuba. Never change at the airport because they give you a very low rate. If push comes to shove and you forgot to change your money when you arrived to Cuba, then change atlas $20-$40USD at the airport and then find a bank to exchange the rest at. Definiently take euros. My personal preference is to change what I think I need for the day or two, and then keep the rest as USD until I need to change it.

      • Gia says:

        Splendid! Thank you so much for your reply!

        I had a couple more questions! About how much CUC should one expect to spend per day on transportation, food, and just regular wandering around Havana? Also, is there a beach in the city of Havana or would you suggest taking the ride to Varadero?

        Thank you again!

        • tamara.smith.jl@gmail.com says:

          Of course! So, I would say $50-$85USD a day. Now, $85 is a ‘to be safe’ ceiling. Cuba has a stronger currency than the US dollar; cigars are pretty expensive, souvenirs are cheap, food is normal ranges of prices, transportation is going to be $10Pesos/pp within the area and then anywhere out of town will be more.
          I really wanted to go to the beach as well but sadly there isn’t any in Old Havana. You’ll have to go to Varadero, so you’ll need to set aside a whole day for that.
          Keep in mind that Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean so old places are a distance a way lol.

          • Gia says:

            Wonderful!

            Thank you so much for all the info! Can’t wait to go!

            Cheers!

  6. Brandi Graves says:

    about this floral outfit… I need it LOL where did you purchase???

  7. Velda L. Holmes says:

    Sounds exciting . Planning a trip in August 2018. Gonna find someone to teach me Spanish quick! Thanks for all your tips

    • tamara.smith.jl@gmail.com says:

      I hope you have a blast! And yes, please do learn some Spanish! That would be my #1 tip!:)

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