a Cuban vacation is exotic
We love Cuban cigars, Cuban women and Cuban beaches.
You have just completed your Godfather Trilogy Binge for the 50th time (no judgment, friend, we all have been there) and you are now curious about Cuba. Is it really all that is cracked up to be? Are Cuban cigars that superior? What’s the deal with the vintage cars? Well thanks to former President Obama (thanks Barak!) it is now easier for Americans to travel directly to Cuba. Before President 45 demolishes this new arrangement, here are my 10 tips for travelling to Cuba.
- Bring Cash. Although travel is easier to the island, the US and US banks still do not have any relationship with the Cuban government. This means you have zero access to your bank accounts or credit cards if you are American. There is also an additional penalty (13%) for exchanging USD to CUCs (Cuban currency). My suggestion, budget for about $100 a day, exchange your money to EUROs and exchange your EUROs to CUCs.
- Airbnb is your friend. I suggest staying in an Airbnb because not only do you get a real feel for how the locals live; you get more bang for your buck. You can arrange home cooked meals for about $5 per meal. A typical breakfast- Eggs any style (including omelets), Ham, fresh fruit, fresh juice, coffee and tea, and bread all for 5 bucks!
- Squeeze the Charmin. Toilet paper is at a premium. No matter if it is a high-end hotel or a roadside bar, you may only get a couple of sheets doled out to you by a very nice bathroom attendant. Bring toilet paper and/or wipes.
- Embrace the Art of the Deal. Be prepared to negotiate—cabs, souvenirs, etc. Be prepared to walk away if you have to but don’t fret. There is always someone who will give you a better price.
- Make Friends. It sounds simple, but making friends with the locals will get you not only a better chance of scoring the swag you would like to bring back home, but will enrich you in ways you never imagined. Everyone has a side hustle in Cuba, from Doctors to Sanitation workers, and you will get some of the best deals and experiences by listening to word of mouth.
- Cuba is more than Havana. The outlying areas of Havana, Varadero -Trinidad just to name a couple- are gorgeous. Where else would you find a horse-drawn school bus or streets that look as though a Spanish Colonist is going to turn the corner? Don’t be afraid to venture out, especially after following tip 5-they can help you find good places to see.
- Habla Español? Use it! While it was fairly easy to find English-Speakers, you will get better service and pricing (see tip 4), if you speak Spanish. Even the attempt will get you bonus points.
- Unplugged and Loving it! Wi-Fi is not free. You will have to pay anywhere from $2 dollars to $5 dollars for a couple of hours. The best deal I found was near the park where people will sell you a code to put in your phone.
- All good Scouts are prepared. You never know how your body is going to react to the food and since Cuba is still behind the Blockade, if you find yourself in the middle of an episode of gastric distress (i.e. explosive diarrhea), you will not be able to just run out and pick up Imodium or Pepto-Bismol. Bring meds and a bonus if you ask your doctor to give you a prescription for Cipro just in case things go really bad.
- Leave your preconceived notions at home. Lastly and most important savor the experience. Cuba is like unique in many ways, a perfect balance of decay and rebirth that you wouldn’t find in other parts of the sanitized, tourist friendly Caribbean. Open your mind and heart to this land and people.
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