A Guide to Cuba: The Basics

What I knew. What I didn’t know. What I hope you remember.

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This post is not to give you the ultimate guide to Cuba, nor to help you plan the most culturally infused Cuban experience. You grasp Cuba through trial and error. For me, Cuba is a destination based on forced experiences. You learn so SO much from the people. I really encourage anyone who is planning a visit, to really disconnect for a moment. It gives you the opportunity to really take the country in for what it is. It gave me a solid appreciation for making the most of what I have.

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  1. Exchange your $US Dollars into Canadian Dollars or European Euros before exchanging them to Cuban Pesos. More bang for your buck.
  2. BRING. ENOUGH. CASH. Using American credit cards in Cuba does not exist. You will be hugely disappointed if you manage to run out of funds on this trip – Not that I know what that feels like or anything. Budgeting is your best bet.
  3. There is no Wi-Fi. If you are in dire need of communicating with the outside world, there are wifi cards for purchase in the neighborhood parks (usually sold for about 3 pesos). These hotspots – no pun intended- also serve as locations to find Wi-Fi.
  4. AirBNBs are way cheaper than hotels. The homes are large, vintage, agape doored high-ceiling fortresses where roosters will wake you up at sunrise and the crickets sing you to sleep. My AirBNB home was located in Playa which is the neighboring city of Havana (roughly 10 minutes) and a calmer option to the busier city streets that you venture to each day.
  5. When traveling to further cities like Veradero (a beach town with the clearest blue water you have ever seen) or Viñales (notorious for its cigar rolling excursions) your best bet is to rent a driver for the day. He will take you whatever destination you please and if you split the cost with your traveling buddies, it makes out to the same amount it would’ve costed you all to take the public bus (which is said to be unreliable in terms of abiding by the schedules).
  6. Haggle your taxi prices, you will spend a lot on taxis and their unwavering taxi prices.  The cost range between the first taxi you take and the last will dramatically decline.
  7. Fabrico de Arte Cubano – A juge art community. The warehouse has art galleries, live shows, a disco, restaurants and bars on every floor. Get here around 10pm since they stop letting people in once they have hit capacity.
  8. 1831 — One of the more popular salsa clubs right alongside the coast of Malecón.
  9. Take advantage of the lobster. Take advantage of the shrimp. Take advantage of the mojitos. Take advantage of the Cuba Libres.
  10. Callejon de Hamel – Every Sunday from 12-3pm, people gather here in unison and vibe. A steel pan playing, whistle blowing town hall where Cubans flood the area and dance, drink, and catch up with one another
  11. Watch the sun set from Malecón. You won’t regret it. It’s indescribable.

 

The list is infinite for the things you can discover and re-discover about Havana. I urge you to go there with more of an open mind and a little less of an official itinerary. Cuba will prove its grandeur in ways you didn’t even think possible.

-Jihan

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