Cuba has always been a destination I never thought I would reach. Being born and raised second generation Miami (one grandmother was also born and raised in Miami), I know of its importance. The island was a holiday for many until the revolution. The revolution changed everything. I had teachers who were Mariletios and knew of those who were considered balseros. The impact it had on our culture and political dynamics was immeasurable. But what of those that stayed and why. What did it mean to visit Cuba? Was I betraying any of those that fled persecution? Was I visiting somewhere one of my grandmothers visited and appreciating the island for what it had to offer?
There were unclear rules for many years that actually allowed Americans to visit Cuba (besides those that chose to go through Mexico or another avenue). After President Obama modified existing regulations, it made it more clear as to how travelers could travel to the island and why. I talked a big game and pondered for quite some time, before my current fella encouraged me to finally make my decision. We visited Havana in March 2017.
I feel like many have critiques over whether or not to visit Cuba have no correlation with human rights violations or anything that matters. It's like with wine or music something has become too main stream or played out. To those people I say -
As you can see from my photos and some of my text above, I was grateful to visit Cuba. It was an amazing opportunity that until travel restrictions that have been promised return us to days past go into place, it is a very affordable and life changing experience. My basic tips for Cuba would be simply the following:
- Practice some Spanish to be able to more appropriately speak to people in their own language. My Spanish was not up to par, but was good enough. It was though tiring at times to be a translator.
- Toilet paper is a premium. It's about 1 CUC per 2-3 squares at most public places, which includes bars and restaurants.
- Don't flush toilet paper. There will be a tiny trash can next to the toilet for you to use.
- Change currency possibly to Euro or something else before arriving as there is penalty. You will not be able to use credit card.
- Internet is a luxury. We went to an Internet shack to buy cards that also sold calling cards. Also, don't get angry when people skip the line as it is bound to happen.
- Most cocktails cost 2-3 CUC and food is quite affordable.
- For some unknown reason some places put Agnostura bitters in your mojito at the end. This. is. awful. Perhaps ask for no bitters depending the venue.
- When ordering a cocktail such as daiquri, you will prefer it natural (or not frozen). If you can, order it natural and not frappe (frozen).
- There is very little fear of crime as a visitor of the country. People will greet you and may want to discuss politics or sell you on restaurants or cigars. You can politely decline and move on. However, if you go to the restaurant they recommend they will probably get a cut and you will probably enjoy yourself. Something to think about.
- Under current regulations (which may change after recent speeches), you can buy a visa at the border from your airline.
- Times have changed, and many paladars are not what they once were. But we found some that were quite enjoyable.
- As I have said in the past, sometimes you must avoid finding what is to be the best recommended place and simply stumble into one place and enjoy yourself. One of our favorite spots, was simply a local spot that had cheap beer and would pull up metal shutters and serve coffee in the morning.
- Many people have traveled to Cuba and there are so many recommendations out there. Do some research, but don't go too crazy and overwhelm yourself (again).
- If you can, stay local such as Airbnb. We loved our Airbnb, which was quite affordable and she recommended us to a local taxi driver who was quite responsive.
- Visit outside Havana. We stayed in Havana near Malecon and visited Habana Vieja regularly. I wish we had seen more of the country side.
I truly loved my experience there and glad I finally did it when I could. What are some other Cuban recommendations?