This year has been a good year filled with lots of travel. With clients based in Spain (via my day job) as well as other holidays. You can read more about this in my ‘Business Travel Essentials with Kipling’ post. Last month I had a great time in Marrakech, exploring the city, culture and what it had to offer (Marrakech – Le Jardin Majorelle Yves Saint Laurent‘). Since then I have definitely caught the travel bug. Now with no more trips to look forward to, my holiday blues are pretty strong. Plenty of good content to come on the blog, as I had plenty of time to reflect due to the lack of WiFi.
I decided to go on this trip with two of my closest friends. I’ve known these ladies for over 10 years now and have travelled with both numerous times. So what better girls to go on this adventure with! To get a real feel for Cuba, and after a busy year with work for all of us, we decided to visit Havana first, for the city life and nightlife. Then, Varadero for the white beaches, cocktails and relaxation.
Why You Need to Visit Cuba
Cuba, being a colourful and vibrant country full of history, culture and music has been so interesting to me. I had read in the past about the countries mixed heritage, their way of life due to their political history. Only until recently, it wasn’t so easy to visit Cuba. I guess that what made me so intrigued about this beautiful place, the mystery and exclusivity of it.
Because of their political history, it meant that finding things like a can of Coke was virtually impossible. The roads are also filled with 1950’s and 1960’s old American cars, due to the import restrictions imposed after the revolution. Which has now become a big tourist attraction, especially for classic car lovers. Chrysler’s, Chevrolet, Buick, Ford and Cadillac’s to name a few, are some of the cars still driven from this era.
The buildings, houses and overall architecture is just beautiful. The pastel coloured streets, slightly frozen in time is just stunning. Music and dancing salsa is a big part of the culture in Cuba. The locals were beyond welcoming, and very proud of their culture. We had many ad hoc salsa dance classes in random spots, because the locals are so keen to show you their culture.
As trade restrictions are less strict now, I was able to track down a can of Coke on the third day. There are likely to be more changes due to improvements Obama made with Cuba trade and travel. The country has had a difficult history, however as they move on, there is true beauty to be discovered out there in their bubble of time. Tourism is also such a huge benefit to their economy. I feel if culture and history, mixed with white beaches and clear seas is for you then Cuba is a must visit. If so do it quickly!
Havana Guide & Culture
Overall, for a real taste of Cuban culture, Havana was the best. We decided to stay in an Airbnb in Havana, as hotels are ridiculously expensive there. By staying in an Airbnb you live in place surrounded by locals, who are more then happy to show you around and make you feel welcome.
We visited cool places like Old Havana, which is the city centre. This place is great for visiting the Grand Theatre home to their ballet. Old car tours, like the one in this post. Tour guides will drive you round town, and shown the main attractions. Old Havana is great for walking around and exploring. There are also many roof top bars to grab your Piña colada from, and swimming pools.
Nightlife, we went to Bar Roma one night which was fun. For my art and music lovers, Fábrica de Arte is also a must visit. You will have a night filled with contemporary art, music, dancing and drinks. It gets busy really quickly, so you may have to go early evening in order to get in and view exhibitions as well as party.
Food for us was amazing! We read bad reviews ahead of time about food, and people falling sick. However we quickly realised this was more likely to happen in casa’s perhaps using the local water which we can’t drink. Restaurants are fairly cheap in Havana, so we stuck to this. I’m kicking myself for not writing down the names of all the places we had really good food. One place we enjoyed was called La Familia for the fish and rum lobster. Interestingly, it has a lot of bad reviews on Trip Advisor…maybe we went on a good day haha!
Travel Tips in Cuba
- You need a visa to travel there, so do this ahead of time as it can take up to two weeks to arrive. This is vis Virgin Atlantic
- Do your research before you travel out there, and plan places to visit and excursions ahead of time. Internet is extremely limited, and only available in a few spots in town. You also have to pay for it!
- Depending on what you’re after from a holiday, for relaxation, Varadero is filled with gorgeous fluffy white beaches. Havana is better to experience Cuban culture. Expect to pay double in extremely touristy locations like Varadero
- Cuba has a closed currency for tourists, so you can only change your money when you get out there. Take as much cash as you need, as cash machines are also limited, and almost all places only accept cash
- Do not drink the local water, stick to bottled water and always make sure it’s sealed. This is a quick way to get sick!
- Tip as much as you can. No one asks for tips, but as most are on low salaries, they depend on tips. As a result, they go above and beyond for you