I finally made it to Cuba ,for a 5 days ( Long labor day week end) . It was on my bucket list. The arrival at the airport was a bit chaotic , and trying to find out how to exchange the money was confusing . They have money exchange ATM’s where you insert your passport and you get cash. Who knew !! Lol.
Be aware that although the official rate of exchange is 1:1 it’s actually 0,87 CUC . There is a 10% penalty on the US dollar. 10.00 US is only approx. 8.70 CUC. GUYS Cuba is not cheap. Bring lots of Cash , you will not have access to credit /debit cards. Bring more than you need ,I found that about $100 to $115 per day was enough and you can change your money little by little.
This is not readily available in Cuba. I personally just turned mine off , it was a nice break. if you absolutely must have it, you can purchase it by the hour at the hotels who have WIFI. The cost Approx about 5.30 CUC for an hour, and can only be used where WIFI is available..ie: inside the hotel or hotel grounds.
The first day in Havana : Torrential down pours, Thunder and lightning, this is not unusual as it is still rainy season. Was just hopping for better weather ,but hey !! not at work , good enough for me.
Jose the driver for most of the trip, made it easy. Always on time. With such a guide , you don’t see me bitching !!
Quick stop at the Melia Cohiba to exchange more cash .
A few old photographs from the Melia wall.
I did not stay in any of the fancy hotels. My accommodations, a casa particular set up by Letty’s Cuba tours , was quite modest .I m sure there are nicer places but it was clean ,and hot water was plentiful. Located one block from the Malecon and 2 blocks from the ” American embassy”.
Hostal y Paladar El Canonazo. Morro-Cabana, Casa 27
Good Cuban food and family owned. Definitely recommend. the average dish is about 14 CUC.
A little Cuban salsa for you while you eat.Damn they can dance!!
This restaurant happens to be walking distance from the Christ of Havana , the museum of Che , and Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña, where for 8 CUC you can see the ceremony of the canon .
The Christ of Havana is a large sculpture representing Jesus of Nazareth on a hilltop overlooking the bay in Havana. The work of the Cuban sculptor Jilma Madera. Was inaugurated on La Cabana hill on December 24, 1958. Just fifteen days after its inauguration, on January 8, 1959,Fidel Castro entered Havana during the Cuban Revolution. It can be seen pretty much from every where in Havana. It is also the second in size to the Christ in Rio Brazil.
Also the best view of bay of Havana
the famous cars that Cuba is well known for , I’m in the red One LOL.
Rum and mint cocktail – Mojito Cocktails
Mojito is a traditional Cuban blend, a rum and mint cocktail, invented in Cuba, which became trendy in the United States during the late 1890s. Ernest Hemingway was partial to the Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, his recipe had no sugar. This is how they prepare Mojito cocktails at La Bodeguita del Medio:
1 teaspoon of sugar
¼ ounce fresh limejuice,
2 mint sprigs
Add 1½ oz. white Cuban rum to 2 oz. soda water and 4 crushed ice cubes.
Stir well and garnish with a sprig of mint.
I tried to enter La Bodeguita Del Medio , it was a madhouse, packed wall to wall .As you can see from my pictures, it’s really a tiny whole in the wall with a band and a tiny bar. It’s a party!! This is a close as I got to getting in. Mob Scene. Mojito ! Mojito! Mojito! up the ying yang.
Havana Club rum Museum
Did not make it to this bar /restaurant on this trip but definitely on the bucket list for my next trip. Famous for the Daiquiri
Daiquiri is a family of Cuban cocktails whose main ingredients are rum and lime juice . Daiquiri is also the name of a beach near Santiago De Cuba, and an iron mine in that area. It is said that an American named Jennings Cox, an engineer who worked in the mine, invented the drink when he ran out of gin while entertaining guests. Daiquiri Natural is the basic mix, that serves as the starting point to the more complex cocktails of the family:
1.3 oz. light-dry Cuban rum
0.7 oz. limejuice
1 teaspoon sugar
Mix the ingredients in a shaker and serve.
I met some very nice people also on this trip. Sabrina, Wendy ( made our trip interesting for sure) Aixa , Christine , Aesa.
Havana left me with very mixed emotions and a bit of writers block. On the one hand there is no doubt that its a beautiful island , fertile , green and diverse. The people are kind and very helpful . Music is a big thing and every musician or band you encounter is fabulous, from the opera singers at The Hotel Nacional to the little trio in a bar or restaurant . I saw luxury and luxurious hotels frequented by tourist, in for rum and salsa week end or to take advantage of the beautiful beaches and the warm ocean.
Then there is another side, I ventured into some of the side streets where the people go about their daily live., people living in buildings whose former magnificence reminds of good days gone by. Beautiful architecture, Art Deco , Spanish colonial falling in ruins.Of course i did not stay long enough to really explore this side of Cuba, If Havana was fixed, it would surely be a museum city.
This is not a foodie destination I found. Most of the food looks quite good but had not much taste. In all fairness I wasn’t there long enough to really investigate the restaurants. I suppose that for along time, with the lack of certain necessities their priority was not to train chefs. There are however some exceptions.
La casa – Calle 30 #865 e/26 Y 41 Nuevo Vedado Family owned.
Who can resist these two perfectly grilled lobster tails with a super band playing Cuban music?.
Everywhere you look , you can find a clinic. If you are going to be sick somewhere, better it be in Cuba. I found Havana to be very safe for tourist and women , no street harassment, whether it be by people asking for money or heckling.
Don’t wait? It’s ok and legal to go, and so much simpler than I imagined. book your flight, fill out the form stating Aid to the Cuban people ( I filled mine at the counter at the airport) you can buy your visa (pink from the USA Blue everywhere else) for $50.00 also at the airport (check with your airline ) and away you go.
I know it’s obvious but you need a passport and everyone needs a Visa. Depending on where you live in the US , direct flights into Havana, easy to book. Casa particulars can be booked on booking.com. Also your host can be sometimes your best guide.
Hotel Nacional Havana-
Not on the list of hotels Americans cant go to. So go ahead and book it if you wish.
if you are not very adventurous , take a tour ,although Havana is not hard to navigate, it makes things much easier Specially if you don’t speak the language. Also it’s nice to get some of the history.
The Cubans have not lost their Joie de Vivre or kindness and it is a most enjoyable , colorful and interesting country, Just go !!! I sure as heck will go back. it’s not a one time destination , a lot to discover. if you happen to be an architecture buff , this is heaven.Open your eyes to the beauty of this country , it’s in every corner. Remember it’s not just rum, salsa , beaches and pour your own rum Pina coladas.
I would love to have your input, if you have been there and perhaps you can make my next trip to Cuba more interesting. I hope some of this information has been helpful and has removed some of the confusion about going to Cuba.