Travel Guide: Havana, Cuba
Thinking about visiting Havana, Cuba? If you're on the fence and ask me, I’ll tell you yes - go visit NOW! Havana, Cuba is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited so far because it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been! You’re pretty off the grid as most places don't have any wifi and it truly feels like you’re set back in a movie scene. Most other countries, even if culturally unique from that of our own, still feel modern in a way and up to date with the current times. Stepping into Cuba is like stepping back in time, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The old cars are everywhere, the aesthetics are frozen in time, and the place just feels like you've teleported back through time.
So, top recommendations and tips?
1) Travel to Cuba under the “Ban”
Let's start here. Everyone always asks if it’s possible & how we were able to go to Cuba with the current restrictions. (You Can Totally Travel to Cuba via Forbes.) But we found it really easy. We decided to proceed under the authorized category of “supporting the Cuban people.” We booked our tickets and our accommodation, and once in the Florida airport and at the gate for Cuba, we purchased our visa without question. If we were questioned, our proof of supporting the Cuban people would be our Airbnb bookings (accommodation and tours). Hotels are run by the government, and we had heard from friends of ours that by using Airbnb, we are supporting the Cubans, which leads me to my next topic!
2) Where to Stay
Airbnb! All the way! We had an amazing Airbnb host. (This is the place we booked.) He was so accommodating and gave us so many amazing suggestions, even walking us to a recommended location for dinner on our first night.
3) Where to Eat
- You must try El Cafe for breakfast and lunch. They have fresh squeezed juices, coffee, and veggie options! I think we came back twice or three times over our short stay. It was that good!
-Cafe Bohemia in Plaze Vieja - amazing vegan options and a great place to people watch from the outskirts of the plaza, especially in the early morning.
-304 O’Reilly - a trendy hippe eatery with great cocktails. I had the veggie tacos & loved them!
-Paladar Los Mercaderes - amazing dinner with live music. This was our fancy date night spot and I was in awe of the food.
-La Guarida - a famous restaruant that used to be a palace. We didn't make it here for dinner, but we walked by and the staircase is beautiful. I also heard the desserts are insane!
-Download a map that works offline. (Rememer, there's no wifi or phone service!) You may also want to screenshot these tips too :)
-For wifi, stop at Hotel Sevilla. [Wifi was down everywhere when we were in town, so we were completely disconnected for 4-5 days.]
-Visa: You’ll get a visa at your gate for your flight to Cuba. (We had a layover in Ft. Lauderdale airport and purchased our visas at the gate there.) They take the payment ($50 per person) and you fill out both sides. Be sure not to make any mistakes because a new one costs $50, and hold onto it because you’ll need it when you return!
-Bring medicine with you, otherwise aspirin, tylenol, etc. is hard to find
-If possible, don’t check a bag. We only brought carry-ons, but I've heard that even though the flight from Florida is only 40 minutes, the wait for your bag can be hours.
-Bring cash (cards won’t work). I exchanged money at my bank at home about two weeks ahead of time. (They need time to order it and then you have to pick it up from the bank). I exchanged US Dollars into Canadian, and then at the Havana airport I exchanged the Canadian dollars into CUC. You can avoid fees and extra rates this way!
-There are two types of currencies. The CUC and the CUP. The CUC is what you’ll get when you exchange money. 1 CUC = $1 US Dollar. The CUP is another form of currency, which is worth only .24 CUP to 1 CUC. Be careful when getting change back, and especially because CUP is not always accepted everywhere.
-Try to visit Vinales (we did not visit but it was highly recommended!) - You can go to Papa Ernesto in Plaza Vieja to book a one day Vinales tour.