How to get a Cuban Visa: Our Cuban visa was administered by our airline upon check in for $50.00. I read online that one could also obtain a visa in Havana’s airport but our airline , Jet Blue, wouldn’t even let us continue with check -in unless we purchased it through them. Passing through customs was no problem at all, it was as perfunctory as any other country I have been to. After reading online that travel to Cuba is only approved if you are traveling for one of 12 reasons:
- Educational activities in Cuba for schools, including people-to-people exchanges open to everyone
- Professional research and professional meetings in Cuba
- Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba
- Religious activities in Cuba
- Humanitarian projects in Cuba
- Journalistic activities in Cuba
- Family visits to close relatives in Cuba
- Activities in Cuba by private foundations, or research or educational institutes
- Any type of support for the Cuban people
- Exportation, importation, or transmission of information technologies or materials
- Certain authorized export transactions including agricultural and medical products, and tools, equipment and construction supplies for private use
- Official business of the US government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
I was prepared to express my visit had to do with journalistic activities, after all I do have a blog. Fortunately no one ever asked or seemed concerned as to why I was there.
Where to stay: When planning my trip to Cuba it quickly became apparent that there were limited options when it came to reserving a hotel. Air B N’ B was my next choice and I am so happy everything worked out the way it did. We ended up staying here at Rosy’s house and what a pleasant surprise it was. Rosy and her husband are so extremely sweet and genuine. On my friend’s birthday they surprised her with a birthday cake and we all sang HBD. We got amazing breakfast served to us every morning at our desired time along with suggestions and recommendations on things to do. On our last day they prepared a feast for us and we all ate dinner together, laughed, shared jokes and created memories that would last a lifetime. I 1000% recommend staying here on your visit to Cuba!
Transportation: Getting around in Cuba can easily add up to be quite expensive as taxi cab rides are the primary mode of transportation for most tourists. More affordable options include purchasing a Habana Tour bus Hop On/ Hop off day pass for 10.00 CUC. Tickets can be purchased right at the bus stops.
The public bus is another option but unless you speak Spanish it will be extremely difficult because there are no maps routes to follow, you have to already know where you are going. Fortunately for me my Air B n’ B was only a 4 minute walk to one of the Habana bus tour stops!
Things to do :
Parque Central – a great way to explore street art or have a seat and people watch. After walking all around Havana it was nice to be able to sit and relax.
San Jose Market - This somewhat of a flea market with many shops. Here you can purchase souvenirs , clothing, and walk through rows and rows of vibrant painting created by artists that are local and abroad.
Obispo street - I loved Obispo street, I enjoyed watching the street vendors sell their fruits, the tourists exploring and stopping to take pictures, the plethora of restaurants and bars, I loved it all! My favorite restaurant throughout my stay in Cuba was also located right off of Obispo street.
Paladar Don pucho located off of Obispo street was one of our FAVORITE places to eat. So much so that we had lunch there 3 days in a row! For 12.00 CUC we got a lobster meal, a mojito with flan and cappuccino for dessert!! The food was amazing, the staff was friendly and the live music out the icing on the cake! A definite MUST VISIT!
Get Lost! : Literally, start walking once you arrive to Havana and get lost. It was a pleasure stumbling into a local market and observing the locals wait in line to purchase meat freshly cut and hung out for sale by the butcher.
Havana Beaches: Throughout my stay the weather did not permit me to enjoy any beach days. After asking many many locals these are the two beaches that were repeatedly recommended. They are both near Havana and easy to get to.
Santa Maria del Mar and Playa de este.
Beware: When hungry look for restaurants that contain ” paladar” in their name. This is your indication that the restaurants are not government owned and more likely than not their prices will be most economical because they are privately owned.
Also pay attention to plain clothes locals hanging around and claiming to “help” you by recommending bars and restaurants. Some of them will even go as far escorting you to the destination which leads me to believe that they must get paid by the bar or restaurant if we decide to stay and eat. The establishments you will be taken to are usually high priced tourist traps.
DO NOT buy any cigars from street vendors. They are imitations, go to a cigar factory to purchase authentic Cuban cigars.
***Hire a car for day tours to Vinales and Varadero! Due to the of the unanticipated rainy weather that plagued the last 2 days of our trip I want able to go :-(.