CUBA: Traveling to Havana? Here’s what you need to know!

Traveling to Cuba as an American just got a little easier thanks to former president President Obama’s policy changes. You must be excited to be traveling to this fascinating mysterious island. Below are a few tips to help set your trip up for success.

MONEY
Cuba is one of the only countries with two active national currencies, the CUP and CUC. They do not accept American credit/debit cards or USD so before you leave, get euros.

Even though the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) is 1:1 with the dollar, there’s a 10-13% fee on USD. There’s no fee on any other foreign currency exchange. Tourist use the CUC and natives use both regular Cuban pesos (CUP) as well as CUC. 1 CUC is 25 CUP. You should have some of both. Fruit and vegetables at the agricultural market, street foods as well as local buses can be purchased with CUP. Food at restaurants, clothes, and souvenirs are paid for in CUC.

SB: I was there for 6 days and only brought the equivalent of $400 and was all good. The most I paid for a taxi was $25 to go to the beach about 30 minutes outside of the city. Local taxis were at most $10 and you can barter that.

SERVICE & WIFI
There’s no free Wi-Fi and you probably won’t be covered by your service provider which can get expensive real fast. You gotta buy the Wi-Fi card and you can only use it in certain places. If you see people lined up against a wall of something or and on their phones, you found a spot. Hotels are also spots. With the wifi, you sign it with the username and password on your card. I think it’s like 2 CUC for an hour and 5 hours for 10 CUC.

SB: I made an hour last 6 days. Snapchat didn’t work for me there and I spent about 5 minutes posting on Insta Facebook and checking emails.

FOOD
If you don’t eat pork it may be difficult for you. Pork is definitely a staple meat. Always confirm what you’re ordering, the menus may be in Spanish. There are tons of little restaurants with home cooked meals in Old Havana and people will be on the street trying to get you to dine there. It can get overwhelming. Get ready for lots of Cerveza. Some places to offer non-Cuban beers. Drink bottled water. You can buy bottled water at little cafeterias or the market. Wherever beverages are sold. Remember to stay hydrated.

SB: On confirming your order, I ordered bistec which I know translates to steak and it was pork steak. On drinking bottled water, my airbnb owner told us to and she lives there.

NIGHTLIFE & THINGS TO DO
The Malecón is incredibly lit at night. During the day it’s pretty active with people fishing and just hanging out. It’s an esplanade, roadway and seawall which stretches for 5 miles along the coast in Havana from the mouth of Havana Harbor in Old Havana, along the north side of the Centro Habana neighborhood, ending in the Vedado neighborhood. The street food vendors will be there selling delicious snacks. Also on corner where Calle 23 and the Malecón meet there’s a fountain that all the cool kids hang there.

FAC is the spot. Everyone goes and theres always a line; even on Sundays. It’s a gallery/museum/club and it’s massive. I loved it. It’s great for pictures and they serve food. Esencia is also a great club. They play the best reggaeton, rumba, salsa, and merengue. Everyone is dancing. The vibe is strong and everyone is having a good time. There’s food here as well.There are a lot of hidden clubs in residential areas what require you to be quiet when you are outside.

Old Havana is beautiful, but if you go too deep it can get pretty you can easily get lost. Kinda easy to get lost as well. If you’re not scared of cemeteries, you should go the the Necropolis of Cristobal Colon in Vedado. Massive mausoleums intricate statues, and large plots of families buried together. You can also pray at La Milagrosa’s grave. It’s the only tomb at the Colon cemetery in Havana city that is always covered by flowers. Part because of the legend that surrounds Amelia Goyri de la Hoz, “La Milagrosa” (The Miraculous One), tradition and faith have turned the site into a place of worship.It’s now a symbol of motherhood, love to children, and eternal passion between two lovers. It’s cost $5 to get into the cemetery.

The beach is a 15-30 minute drive out the city. To the west there’s Playa El Megano and Playa Santa Maria Del Mar and to the West are Playa Boca Ciega and Playa Guanabo. Most beaches offer chairs, tables, lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent. You can also snorkel and take the banana​ boats for a fee of course. There’s food as well. While some beaches are chill quiet there are beaches that are more popular thus having more people. Be sure to do your research.

MISC

  • Bring like travel wipes when you go out because some places don’t have rolls of toilet paper in the stalls. There will be a lady outside the bathroom giving you some toilet paper and sometimes they run out. Seriously. And hand sanitizer!
  • LEARN SOME SPANISH.
  • Confirm if your place will have hot water.
  • There are a lot of stray cats and dogs.
  • You taxi can be a regular car or an actual yellow taxi cab, hail one and find out.
  • Don’t take the bus, every time I saw one it was packed. Walk if you can.
  • Download the app Maps.me, you can download the map of Cuba and use it offline.
  • The locals are soooo nice. They really want you to enjoy Cuba. Make friends!
  • With that being said, work on your Spanish. Like for real. It’s so necessary.

Now get out there and enjoy your trip!

Afropunk Army, Afropunk

March 12, 2017

All photos were taken by Maxine Batchler

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