Had a FANTASTIC trip to Havana Cuba! JetBlue was having a phenomenal sale with direct flights to Havana from JFK and we figured why not explore a country that has been off limits to Americans for nearly 60 years?
We are so glad we did. We only explored Havana for 1 week and wished we had a few more days there! My upcoming Travel Minute videos will explore the process of how to independently travel to CUBA since up until now you could only travel there either illegally via Mexico or Canada or legally as part of a tour group who has an approved license to go and would charge you an arm and a leg for the trip! My husband and I traveled there independently under the educational license—watch the upcoming Travel Minute for more information.
From cigars to vintage cars – it’s a country one should not hesitate to visit. But be aware –Cuba’s way of doing things may not be what you’re accustomed to – everything is on Cuban Time! Wi-Fi is there but to access it you need to buy an access card and then find a Wi-Fi spot.
You should also know that Cuba does not accept American issued credit or debit cards – so bring enough cash with you for the entire trip. If you don’t – you’re out of luck! Plus the country has 2 currencies – the one for locals -- CUP and the one for tourists -- CUC. So when you exchange money as an American tourist, you’ll receive CUC and be charged a 10% penalty fee for the exchange. The only way to avoid the fee is to find locals who can exchange the money for you as opposed to doing the exchange at an official exchange house.
I have even more useful tips in another upcoming Travel Minute! So stay tuned!
As for accommodations – we went with a Casa Particular -- which is bookable on Airbnb or you can stay at a hotel. I personally found the hotels to be too expensive – for example the Hotel Nacional was charging around $400 per night. My casa – which was a studio apartment, was about $30 per night! Yep – I have another travel minute on that too! :)
If by chance you have a Cuban ancestry like my husband and want to see where your relatives lived – make sure you have as much information with you as possible. Cuba’s archive system is not digitized and different offices have different information. Some addresses no longer exist & some street names have been changed. If you’re lucky and the building still exists, you’ll get to see where your relatives lived. Be aware though that the current occupants may be suspicious of you and understandably so since they may think you want to get your family’s home back! But all in all -- they are very welcoming and want to help you find out more about your relatives and maybe help you meet some you may not be aware existed!
Cuba is definitely a bucket list trip and if I were you I’d go sooner as opposed to later just in case our current President overturns the current policy and reinstates the travel ban.
Total cost: We spent about $1800 total for 2 of us for one week – that includes airfare, accommodations, meals, attractions and souvenirs!