Black & Abroad had the chance to take a trip to Havana in October and experience the "forbidden fruit" that is Cuba. Our advice to you is to try your best to get down to Cuba before the restrictions are fully lifted. Why? Because this is probably the last chance you’ll have to experience Havana in its perfect purity.
Here’s five things we learned during our trip:
1. Cuba is incredibly safe.
You would think that the island was seriously dangerous for the U.S. to prevent its citizens to go freely, but the country is one of the safest. We were able to walk the streets at all hours of the night without worry of being a victim to theft or harassment.
2. Casa particulares can be a great alternative to staying in a hotel, but there’s a catch.
Before AirBNB came to Cuba, the government allowed its citizens to use their homes as rental properties for tourists visiting the country.
In some casas, you are essentially staying in these people’s homes as a guest. Be prepared to hear everything that’s going on in the house. If you want a more luxurious accommodation with complete privacy, a hotel might be your best bet.
3. Cuba isn’t as cheap as we thought.
The CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos, the currency for tourists in Cuba, pronounced “kook”) is pretty neck and neck with the value of the U.S. dollar, so don’t expect the crazy deals you might find in Thailand or South Africa. On the plus side, food & alcohol are incredibly affordable compared to what we are used to paying back in the States, and you can eat & drink like royalty on what feels like pennies. Mojitos were anywhere between 2-4 CUC, and didn’t skimp on the rum!
TRAVEL HACK: Convert some of your CUC over to CUP (Cuban Pesos, the local currency, pronounced “coupe”) and hit up one of the many home-based food spots in Old Havana for a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice (for about 8 cents) and freshly baked Cuban pizza (for about 40 cents). One CUC is equivalent to twenty-four CUP.
4. Four days is probably enough to experience Havana.
We were there for six days and although we both agree that the city is a great place, it could probably be done in about 4 days. If you plan on staying longer, try to venture to other areas of Cuba like Trinidad or Matanzas.
5. There’s no other place like it.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another decade once you land. The classic cars and vintage architecture will surely help enable that emotion. You’ll also start to appreciate that time when you too were disconnected from the internet and really appreciated those around you.