Welcome back to another one of our “I WENT TO…” series!
This time, I WENT TO… CUBA!!!!!!!
Over the summer, my cousins and I traveled to Havana, Vinales, and Varadero as a graduation gift! We went to Cuba for 10 days and stayed in an Airbnb outside of the capitol. This is my experience!
AS A SIDE NOTE: I would attach more videos and photos of this beautiful country, but I left my phone in a taxi early on.
Tips before traveling to Cuba:
Cuba does not have ATM machines, so you must withdraw all the cash you expect to use prior to landing in the country. I exchanged all my money from USD to EUROS because the Cuban government has a higher exchange rate for USD. Then, one in Cuba, I exchanged my EUROS to Cuban PESOS. I highly suggest exchanging your money to get the most for your buck.
Also, please do not travel to Cuba expecting it will be a vacation like Cancun, Mexico. You are there to LEARN about the government, the people, and the history of Cuba. After returning to the US, I realized I would only go back if we had a touring agency because I would love to learn more! Doing it on your own is fun, but I really feel I could have learned so much more with some guidance while I was there.
An important item to bring to Cuba is… bug repellent! I normally do well with bugs, but this was a MUST! Also, make sure you apply every single time you step out!
In terms of currency, Cuba uses two types of money: local and tourist. You should always pay with the tourist money and expect your change in the form of tourist money. It is the best way to shop and travel around the country, but it is also less confusing when you are trying to do the math yourself.
My favorite part about the trip to Cuba was… the food!!!! It was amazing! I tried everything and anything! Although I am not vegetarian, I loved the dishes I tried! I realized that Cuba is very vegetables based in their dishes and I was there for all of it!
Lastly, my family and I traveled through Mexico City to get cheaper visas for $20 instead of paying the 100 dollar fee in the US. You can also ask the airport agents NOT to stamp your passport, if you like.
While in Cuba, stayed in the same Airbnb for the entire trip and we would drive 2 or 3 hours to get to Vinales and Varadero.
In Havana, we toured the capitol, ate good food, and did most of our shopping there.
As a side note, Cuba is not as cheap as I expected it to be. I thought it would be cheap like Mexico, but their services and goods are almost the same price as it would be in Los Angeles!
Every night at 9PM they would have a show where they would fire a cannon as if they were Spanish soldiers. You can also still tour the outside of the castles and forts at the Havana port.
You can also go to an art museum Friday, Saturday and Sunday that the locals built that is amazing! Please, take the time to appreciate and experience these small historical places found in Cuba. Especially if the locals are involved, they work very hard to educate tourist about the country they love.
In Vinales, we toured the agricultural fields, such as the coffee plantations and tobacco fields. We did this all while riding a horse! This tour lasted about 2 hours and cost about 20 USD.
One of the most impactful experiences I had in Cuba was when my family and Iwere able to make a Cuban cigar! The workers were kind enough to explain the entire process and how the government keeps 90% of their production. This is why Cuban cigars in the US are such a big deal!
Also, the educational parts of our tour were given to us in English and we learned about how their honey is actually made underground! We also witnessed the processing of coffee and their famous Guayabita alcoholic beverage. The honey, coffee, and alcohol are all only produced in Vinales. They produce about 15,000 bottles of their famous alcohol, so you CANNOT get this bottle anywhere else in the world, unlike their cigar (although still a rare find outside of Cuba).
We were also able to tour inside of a Cave on a small boat and I loved the water there!
Varadero is known for their CLEAR water and white sands. It was so clear that we were able to see the ocean floor and snorkel with the fish in clear water! I loved it!
At this beach, there was very affordable services. You could parasail, but we were unable to get to it. We actually rented a paddle boat for an hour as well as chairs and umbrellas for the day. We relaxed on the beach all day and enjoyed every minute of it!
Also important to note is that in all parts of Cuba, it was super humid and the rain will come and go. While we were in Varadero it started to pour and we had to get indoors.
The entire trip was beautiful!!
As I learned more about the country, the people, the cultures and its history, I learned more and more about myself as well. I loved how the people interacted with each other, even if they did not know each other. The people are still very poor. They do receive some free foods and an allowance every month, but unfortunately, it is not enough.
The US government still illegally occupies Guantanamo Bay and retaliates against Cuba. Education and healthcare is 100% free in Cuba!
I definitely plan to go back and expose myself to more Cuban culture and history! Have you been to Cuba? Let us know in the comments!
Review By: LatinoChiko