If you take a trip to Cuba, read this first.

16 Jul If you take a trip to Cuba, read this first.

Cuba or Cooba. Pronounce it how you like but one thing is true, it’s an adventure. Despite several issues we had with some poor planning ahead of time, my group had a blast and I learned quite a bit that I think will help you. So let’s dive right in.

Before you go:

  • Change your money to Euros
    • The local currency is CUC, not CUP as that is like paying with pennies.
    • There is a US to CUC tax in the country so if you change to Euros before you go then you skip on that tax.
  • You will have to buy a $50 Visa at the airport to enter the company
  • Make sure and bring enough money with you because none of our credit cards or debit cards worked and the banks tend to run out of money right after they open.
    • My fiance and I transferred $800 US to Euros before we went and we spent our money very liberally and almost ran out at the end. We paid for our AirBnB ahead of time so that money was only for eating, drinking, taxi rides, souvenirs, etc.
  • We stayed in an AirBnB very close to the Capitolio which seemed a little sketchy on the street but the place was very nice and had AC. I recommend staying near the Capitolio as it was such an easy landmark to tell cabs where we needed to go and as long as I made it back there ok I could find where we were staying. Plus it’s walking distance to Old Havana and a lot of things.

 

Landing in Country:

  • We changed our Euros to CUC at the airport and had no issues. I suggest this as it’s very hard to find a bank that you can trust outside of the airport
  • There are plenty of taxi drivers at the airport and around Old Havana so if you don’t have transportation planned before you get there it shouldn’t be an issue to just pick one up.
    • This guy spoke¬†pretty good English and was extremely helpful once we found him on day 4. We scheduled a roundtrip air-conditioned van for 7 to Vinales for $320 CUC total and a ride to the airport from Old Havana for $40.
      • Rafael Arocha – 53 5 283 2865 or rafael.arocha@nauta.cu

 

Where to go

  • DAY 1 – San Jose Market
    • Start at the Market because there are hundreds of vendors who are selling similar things so you can barter and walk back and forth to find the best deals.
  • Santa Maria Del Mar
    • If you are staying in Old Havana this beach is only a 30 minute drive and there is an awesome restaurant with good food and drinks right on the beach that has very cheap prices.
    • I recommend getting a cab to drop you off and come back at a certain time. Take a cooler and booze with you then rent chairs and an umbrella on the beach for $2 CUC for day.
  • Vinales
    • This is where the best tobacco in the country is made. Rafael took us to his friend’s tobacco farm where they taught us how cigars are made and they sold us fresh mango which is the best I’ve ever had. They also sold us cigars made there are the farm that seemed pretty expensive but were delicious. The season is in November and December so if you are a cigar nut that is the best time to go.
    • There’s also a look out spot with an amazing view for pictures
    • They have some pretty cool caves that you can pay $5 CUC to walk thru and then get a boat out the other side.

 

Other Recommendations

  • Gran Hotel Manzana
    • This place was brand new while we were there and it had an AMAZING rooftop pool/bar which was only supposed to be for guests but we ended up hanging out there a couple times. If you just go to take pictures of the view of Cuba I’d recommend it. Just walk right in and take the elevator to the top level. Also, the concierge helped us find Rafael(driver) even though we weren’t staying there.
  • Hotel Plaza
    • Directly north of Gran Hotel Manzana is this hotel and if you enter on the East side, walk straight to the back right and down the stairs to the cafe. You can buy internet cards that come with a drink for $4.5 CUC and then have coffee or breakfast and use the internet. I bought cards there then just came back and sat upstairs in their lounge and used the internet multiple times.
    • If you stay there they have this awesome looking breakfast buffet that I didn’t try but drooled over when I walked by.
  • Sloppy Joes
    • Found this place on the last night and it was actually pretty delicious and inexpensive

 

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