Havana, Ooh na na! For my 25th birthday, I was craving an authentic travel experience. I wanted to visit somewhere new. Even though I visited Halifax and Montego Bay a few years ago and South Coast and Negril a little over a month ago, the thoughts of Canada and Jamaica still danced in my head. It was just something about Cuba that kept calling me and I’m so happy I answered the call. With access being a little easier now than a few years ago, this destination is becoming more and more popular and I definitely can see why. There are some things to consider or at least be aware of before visiting, just to manage your expectations though. Here are my top 5 things to know before visiting Cuba, Havana in particular:
- Internet is not easily accessible: You probably have heard this before. However, you may not really realize the extent of this. Internet access is available wherever a router is; for example at a hotel, restaurant or even at your airbnb/ casa particular. You may be used to just asking for a password or automatically connecting but this is not the case in Cuba. Most Wifi access is granted via a 1 hour internet card which can vary in price depending on where you are buying them. Hotel Capri sells them for 1.50 CUC, while my airbnb sold them for 3 CUC. It is also important to note, that even though a router may be present and you have an internet card, it may still not work. Especially, if you originally connected on one router and try to use the remaining time on another.
2. Toilet seats & toilet paper are not always available: Touch down in Cuba and off to the bathroom I went. Only to discover that there was no seat on the toilet or any tissue in the stalls. Welcome to Havana, hey? I was advised to carry toilet paper and water, so I wasn’t too surprised about the lack of tissue. But the entire toilet seat, had me flabbergasted. Until I didn’t see it at about 3 public restrooms and realized that this was clearly a thing.
3. Cat Calling/ Tourist Targeting: “Beautiful Lady”, “I love you” and my favorite “Cuban boyfriend for free” were some of the phrases frequently said as my friends and I walked the streets of Havana. Cubans easily realized that we were tourists, simply by the way we dressed and our hairstyles. Being tourists attracted a lot of attention not only from men, but also women and children trying to either sell us something or asking for money.
4.Late Night Dining options are few: After a night out on the town, you’re probably starving and wanting a wings snack. Let me be the first to tell you, that is not happening in Havana, at least not that I saw. However, at 1am, Hotel Capri came through with a delicious hamburguesa con queso (hamburger with cheese). It was so good, we went back for another one the following morning.
5. Money, money, money: I can’t stress this enough, you need to carry cash. The cash you take on your trip to Cuba will be the money that you spend. Many establishments do not accept cards and will clearly state “Cash only”. Whether you have USD, CAD or even Euros, they will have to be exchanged in Cuba. The exchange rate depends on what you are exchanging and where you are exchanging it. The airport and my airbnb exchanged at a 0.93 rate, whereas Hotel Nacional had an exchange rate of 0.87 for every US dollar.
Have you ever visited Cuba before or are you interested in visiting? What are some of your tips? Let me know in the comments below.