I’m fresh off a much-awaited Cuban adventure! Havana is just as amazing as I imagined, and with the new ease of travel, I highly suggest you pack your bags and plan a trip ASAP! Here are 6 things you need to know to make the most out of your trip!
1. Getting in and out was a breeze
We flew Delta direct from New York and back with a layover in Miami. Visas were available for purchase at the Delta gate at check in. On the way back, I was prepared for customs to put me through the ringer with questions about how we spent our time there, but nothing! She just asked how long we were there and if I had anything to declare. I’ve honestly had a harder time getting in and out of Europe!
2. But you still can’t go for tourism
Even though no one is checking in advance, if you are claiming “People to People” as the purpose of your trip, you need to have a full itinerary of educational and cultural activities. I customized one based on our interests which I can happily share if you fill out this request form. You can also contact me for help designing your own custom itinerary through my travel company.
3. If you want to eat well, be prepared
We had amazing meals in Cuba, largely because we did our research and made reservations. The only meal I didn’t love was at a very authentic hole in the wall we went to when we started running out of cash. It wasn’t bad, but definitely didn’t compare to the meals we ate at the paladares.
4. Plan your budget and spend carefully
The hardest thing about this trip was not having credit cards or ATMs to fall back on. We budgeted about 100 cuc a day, but really could have spent 25-40 more. There were times we decided to walk 30 minutes in the 90 degree heat because we were afraid of running out of cash, or had to choose between an appetizer or second drink when we got down to our last few bucks by our final dinner. I would have also loved to bring back more souvenirs, but just didn’t have the cash. Cuba is definitely more expensive than I thought, especially because you lose 10% when exchanging US dollars.
5. Infrastructure is still very weak, so manage your expectations and don’t be a diva!
Rubble in the streets, poor plumbing and water issues were common and unpredictable. Even though we had no issues in our apartment, we did find that the upscale Hotel Seville had no running water for 2 days! Same issue happened at the airport the day we were leaving. No running water = no functioning toilets so it was definitely a situation! I would have expected issues in individual apartments, but never in the airport, so just goes to show how unpredictable it can be.
6. Dress for incredibly hot weather and leave the heels at home
I went with a series of crop tops, off the shoulder and backless dresses, flowy shorts, paired with sneakers or comfortable sandals. For evening, maxi dresses or skirts with flat sandals fit the bill. Havana is not a city for stilettos, so don’t even bother!