Cuba is one of the countries that I get asked most about because of the rules and regulations required when visiting. I hope this entry can help clear up any questions you may have about visiting. This one is filled with a lot of logistical information, because getting there is work sometimes but definitely worth it!
I was super excited to visit Cuba because it would be my 10th country and I’d be going to the land of my father’s family. He was hesitant about me going, well both of my parents actually, but I got their blessing and was on my way.
- We flew Southwest to Fort Lauderdale and from there it was a quick flight to Cuba. Southwest is very helpful in obtaining the visa that you’ll need to visit. They email you a link to purchase your visa and it’ll be held at the airport for you when you go board your flight. This is the link to purchase your visa, it was $50 when I went but the prices may have changed since then. https://cubavisaservices.com/product/touristvisa-card/
- There are certain restrictions for U.S. citizens when visiting, so I chose “Support for the Cuban People” as my reason for visiting and did not have any issues. I’ve seen other travelers who have had to show their visas and were asked questions upon arriving in Cuba, but I didn’t have to show mine or anything.
- I would recommend carrying on your luggage if you can, the Havana airport can run slowly, and people have waited hours for their bags.
- Bring Canadian Dollars or Euros to exchange, check the rates before you go to see which will give you a better rate. In our case, we had a better deal with Canadian Dollars. Do not bring US Dollars, you’ll get taxed more! Also, remember no US credit cards will work on the island so you must have cash to exchange into CUC. They also have CUP, but that’s mainly used by the locals.
Our Airbnb provided transportation for us so leaving the airport was no issue. Try to arrange that in advanced if you can! Here’s the link to the Airbnb we stayed at, the beds are by far the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. I highly recommend this place, it’s in a quiet neighborhood and you can walk to hotels and a park for wifi. There’s also several restaurants and a convenience store within walking distance.
- You have to take a ride in an old car to get your photo op and cross it off your bucket list, but other than that they can be super expensive to get around in. One tip is to take those cheesy red double decker buses that are the bane of every local’s existence in other cities, but in Cuba they’re only $10 for all day pass and they do actually take you to everywhere you’d like to go! You can even wave them down in the rain like we did. Other wise we walked to most of the places we wanted to visit, bring comfortable shoes. The Havana streets can be rough in some areas.
- We took a day trip to Varadero by bus using Viaazul https://www.viazul.com/ , you can book in advanced and our trip cost us only $20 each.
- Check out some restaurants you’d like to visit before you head to Cuba, some do require reservations which can be made online.
- Otherwise, the paladars are your best bet. They are private owned restaurants and very affordable. The first one we sat down at (Pepe’s), a rum and coke cost only 2 CUC, needless to say we stayed a while!
- Visiting my grandmother's old house which is a school now!
- Sipping a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio (fun fact, they also have one in Costa Rica and Mexico!)
- Ropa Vieja made with pork, I had never had it this way but I did enjoy it.
- You'll have cafecito everywhere you go! I don't normally do coffee because it makes me too jittery but I couldn't pass up some of the best coffee in the world.
- At la Universidad de la Habana, where several of my family members attended!
- The birthplace of the daiquiri, made for an excellent escape from the rain.