Hola Havana!

Taking a brief respite from celebrating all things autumn to share a few snapshots of my brief visit to Havana, Cuba last week.




Visiting is a bit like taking a trip in time - no ATMs, no cell service, no Starbucks - but a city with a rich history and warm, welcoming people.  I'm so lucky (kudos to the mr. for sending me on such a memorable trip to celebrate the end of my 30s) that I got to see it now before it changes.  I absolutely plan on returning to see more but I suspect it will not be the same when I do.






Despite the lack of amenities we are used to, Havana was such a tourist friendly city.  We took a private tour in an old car (highly recommend Old Car Tours) which was a highlight - as much for the chance to speak at length with locals as the pleasure of driving around in style. Naturally we sampled the mojitos (the best at Hotel Los Frailes), Cuban food (a yummy dinner at Dona Eutimia) and coffee (Cafe La Luz) with great delight. We were even blessed with the weather - mostly dry days despite the threat of Hurricane Nate passing by.






All in all, a great time and I can't wait to return.








11 comments:

  1. We loved it, too. My husband and I would love to go back for a bicycle trip around the island.

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    1. That would be very cool! Although it was so hot the days were there I would probably die from dehydration :)

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  2. The BF and I traveled there in August and LOVED it! Highly recommend the horse drawn carriage ride. We had a large group of ten and it was about $20 per person. Riding in a 50's car down the Melecon is a MUST! We made sure to bring home roasted coffee beans, cigars and rum! Our experience was through a cruise ship.

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    1. We did it on a cruise too but now that Ive been, I think it's a pretty lousy way to see Cuba. We spent so much time getting there and coming back - flying direct would have been much faster/cheaper and we could have seen a lot more. But I'm still happy I went no matter how I got there :)

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  3. I thought trips to Cuba had to be part of an educational program or something similar? Is this not true anymore, or if it is still true and your trip fit the bill, could you elaborate on the details? thanks!

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    1. As of now (and of course this could change), you must use your time in either a educational program OR spend time "people to people". Meaning you can't just come and sit on the beach all day - you must be actively engaged with the Cuban people. Exactly what that means is open to interpretation and it's up to you to keep records of it (right now, no one seems to be checking) but I was happy to spend my time that way so it was pretty easy.

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  4. Hi - lovely write-up. Can you please share how many days you spent in Havana (and if you advise whether that was enough or not), if you took any day trips, and any insight on how you decided how much your cash budget would be? Meaning, without ATMs or reliable credit card use, how did you decide on an amount to bring (not asking for specific amount, just the thought process on figuring out said amount for Cuba's unique conditions)? Were you able to research in advance how much your activities would cost and then pad that amount, or did you just bring "more than enough"? Were your accommodations on the cruise ship? Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Allison. My husband sent my friend and I on a cruise to see Havana. While we had fun, it's not the most efficient or cost effective way to do it so I wouldn't really recommend going that way.

      We were there for 1.5 days and we spent the night on the ship (although we could have stayed out all night dancing, I'm far too much of an old lady to even try)


      We booked our tours privately via email before we arrived and it was very simple. If we return, I would use the same company again to see more. Alternatively you can hail old car taxis anywhere in the city but you wouldn't have the benefit of an english speaking tour guide with you.


      Figuring out how much cash to bring was definitely the most confusing part. Now that I have done it, I have a better sense. Your best bet is to bring too much cash (in your own currency) and then change as needed. You can also change back of course (for a fee) but it's easy enough to exchange more than once so you don't have to overdo it. I brought enough money for our private tour (that was our biggest expense), tips for the tour driver and guide (although Im sure they would have taken other currencies too), a few meals and drinks (food is not overly expensive here so you dont need to bring too much) and souvenirs (this was the biggest question mark for me). Now that I have been I can say there isn't a whole lot I wanted to buy - Cuba just doesn't have the same capitalistic leanings as other places. Most of the souvenirs were similar to what you would find at any other island so I didn't bring back much more than a t shirt and a doll for the kids. Cigars are very expensive so keep that in mind if you want those. I didn't find souvenirs to be especially cheap no matter what it was so I just didn't buy much at all. I had more than enough CUC to last me but I think many places would have taken USD if I didn't have CUC. Not all so I would be on the safe side but if you are running low, you could always ask.

      Hope that helps!

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  5. Love this! I'm turning 30 in February and I'm hoping to go for my birthday as well. Will definitely have to check out the car tour if we make it there.

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  6. Hi I took my entire family in April and I love it! This was my 3 time there. I was born there so I am partial! We stayed a week I recommend it for sure.

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