9 Things You Have To Do Before You Visit Cuba

Monday, February 13, 2017




I have so much to say about this trip. But having literally just returned, I don't quite have the right words yet to describe how amazing this city was. The colors, the energy, the vibrance, it was unlike any place I've been before.

I also wasn't expecting to see buildings that looked like they had been bombed in a war zone, having crumbled from the inside out, no electricity in many, or even ceilings or walls, and yet still find the beauty of it all so unreal. It was crazy.

So before I get into all that, let's start with the basics; the more straightforward stuff you should know if you're thinking about booking a trip to Cuba.

1. Cuba Travel Requirements.
There are 12 general license categories you can use to travel to Cuba at this current time. We certified for "Educational Purposes." I feel like I now know so much about Havana I didn't before and I am SO intrigued to learn more. The city is simply amazing.

We did all of this through Southwest and they were extremely helpful.

The only time we were asked about the license was in Ft. Lauderdale. No one ever mentioned it again or asked to see a travel log of any sort.

2. Get a Visa.
Again, this was done through Southwest as they have partnered with Cuba Travel Services and it cost us $50 each and we did it all online. We were sent a "YOU NEED A VISA" email right after we booked our flights. And a few reminder emails.

Once you get to Ft. Lauderdale you just have to check in with the Southwest desk and they'll instruct you from there. I should also note Southwest isn't paying me to write this (however I wish they were haha...) but I have to say they made everything very easy.

Except for the fact I paid for Earlybird check-in and still only got B35. What the hell, Southwest? Anyway...

3. Money.
What you bring to Cuba is all that you have. As of now, plastic isn't accepted anywhere. At the end of our trip when we got to the airport all that we had left to our name was two CUCs (basically two dollars.) We spent it on a Sprite and enjoyed it like it was our last beverage ever.



We cut it a little too close for comfort but I'm partially to blame for that given our last night I ordered two prosciutto plates and two shrimp cocktails for the friends I had asked to join us for dinner. *said friends were several stray cats and dogs, but that is beside the point. You don't invite guests to dinner and then not offer to pay for their meal when you know they don't have any money, right? Exactly.

I have no regrets. Unless Chris is reading this and he's still annoyed with me about the "pickle" it put us in. In that case, I regret it.
*do not regret it.

4. Exchanging money.
We were told to bring Euros. I suggest exchanging your dollars for euros at least 7-10 days before your trip and not less than 12 hours before like I did. As it turns out, most U.S. banks take 7-10 days to get euros.

Once in Cuba, you can exchange your euros for CUCs at the airport in Cuba, but the rate isn't great. Instead, we found a bank near our Casa in Old Havana. You'll know the exchange banks right away because there will be long lines outside of them. Suck it up and wait. You'll also have to suck it up when the locals continue to cut you because that's just the way it works.

5. Don't count on your phone.
Like for anything. I knew we wouldn't get service or wifi (unless in specific spots) but I thought I was being smart by screen-shotting things I wanted to do/also writing down bullet points on my phone notepad. It was all fun and games until we touched down in Havana and my iphone went nuts on me and wouldn't leave the homescreen that simply said "Hola!"

For reasons I still don't know, it went into total reset mode and I couldn't access photos, notepad, anything, until I was able to find a wifi spot. Thank God Chris memorized the address of our Casa Particular where we were staying or we would have been in a real "pickle."

6. Where To Stay.
Generally speaking, there are two types of places to stay in Cuba- the hotels (most of which are government owned) or Casa Particulars (which are similar to Bed and Breakfasts and privately ran by families, usually.)

From just a little research, I saw the hotels were around $400-$700 night, and the casas are anywhere from $30- $300 (depending if you rent a room or the entire home.) Ours was roughly $50/night. It was in a great location (our fav being Old Havana) safe, clean-ish, but SO loud. I've never slept so bad in my life. The trucks outside, the pipes screaming, God only knows the other noises we heard, so for that reason, I won't share the name because I just can't recommend it. Keep it simple and just look on AirBnB. And if a review says "it's pretty loud," believe it.

8. Wifi.
You can buy 1 hour wifi cards at any hotel for around 4 CUCs. The best place to use the cards are in the big hotels or in the parks where you see herds of people with their phones out, meaning wifi is accessible.

9. Book dinner reservations.
Where? That's coming in post two!

Don't you worry, as soon I hit publish on this post I'll start working on the Dos and Don'ts of Havana. Things like excursions, where to eat, drink, renting a car, IBS, ext!

If you'd like to know something specific, ask below so I can tie it in tomorrow.

All in all, Havana was the most beautiful crumbling city I have ever seen. I wasn't expecting it to be what it was, but I must have said at least 50 times "this place is unreal." You won't get it until you visit it for yourself.






22 comments:

  1. Ahhh I want to visit!! Can't wait to read more of your posts about Cuba!

    Her Heartland Soul
    herheartlandsoul.com

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    1. ih mdtjlo; Ahhh I want to visit!! Can't wait to read more of your posts about Cuba!

      Her Heartland Soul
      herheartlandsoul.com

      Reply

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  2. So beautiful and colorful! It seems like the city energized you despite the lack of sleep. Can't wait for the next post!!

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  3. You took some beautiful pictures on your trip! Can't wait to hear more about it.

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  4. Love this! So, did you still keep documentation just in case? Beach or no ever? I know I've read Americans can't do that.... like could you even go snorkeling? I mean that's people to people....right or fishing with locals? About how much $ per person per day? Will we die from heat if we plan on going in June? Can I eat the fruit (I only ask bc I ate fruit, not at a resort in another Caribbean location and ended up in the hospital when I got home bc of a bacterial infection in my bloodstream bc they cut the fruit w/ a contaminated knife). Does your entire day have to be full of educational activities? I know I read on the govt website that had to have an appropriate ratio of your reason for being there vs not being there. I guess one could argue doing anythingtobacco farm, fishing, caving, is all educational/people to people....no?

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    1. Sorry for all the questions. 😳 I think the whole license thing is what scares me, honestly.... I just want to make sure I know what I can and can't do. Lol oh, and what I can and can't eat, so I don't end up dying over there. I googled those hospitals.... and I don't want to go there. ;) Thank you again for capturing a beautiful country that I cannot wait to visit this summer with my family. We are so very excited to visit and experience.

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    3. I went in May and it is HOT, really, really hot. And while most casas will have air con in the rooms the country as a whole isn't air con friendly. You won't die but you will be very sweaty. I've eaten fruit tons of times in Cuba with no negative effects.

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  5. On our last two cruises we passed right by Cuba and every time I told my husband how badly I want to stop there! It looks like such a beautiful and interesting place!

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  6. I want to go to Cuba so bad! I can't wait to read more about it. So since American's need a legit reason to go to Cuba was your whole day filled with educational things or did you get to spend any time just relaxing? Did you get approved to go before you booked a place to stay or do they want to know where you're staying before you're approved to visit Cuba?

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  8. It seems as though it stopped in time...the cars, etc! So intriguing, but I don't think I have the balls to go there...because what happens if all of the sudden they hate us and want us all dead? I just can't, but glad y'all went and I can live vicariously through you.

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  9. Wow! Your pictures are great and makes me want to Cuba even more.

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  10. I love your take on the city! I loved Havana too. I I visited with my mom and 10 month old daughter at the end of
    January, and am also currently going through a Cuba phase on my blog (toandfroblog.com). Fridays post will be all about traveling to Cuba with kids, because I definitely learned a lot! It's interesting to hear the sort of hoops that Americans have to jump through to get to Cuba. It is much easier for us canadians at the moment. Can't wait to read more!

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  11. Number 10 Cuban people do not hate any person who visit our country, just receive any foreigner as a friend, no matter you come from USA or Japan, China or Canada, no one ask you if you are a Christian, a Muslim or even if you believe or not in God.
    Most of Cubans are educated citizens and our cities are generally safe, and safer than many others.

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  12. look at you being all helpful and stuff! saving for if i ever go!!

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  13. We want to go, this is so helpful. Thank you! And did I read IBS?

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  14. Thanks for the read .... they do accept some credit card as long as there not American.... they accept Mastercard we used it at the bank in varadero in April 2016 .... outside havana it's much cheaper if u stay out of the main tourist spots 10$ cuc can last a day or more ..... Get out of the tourist spots and enjoy the real cuba it's a blast .... I will be in Cuba March 29-April 8 come join in our fun off the grid

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