As HOV said, “Welcome to Havana, smoking Cubanos with Castro in cabanas” (and you have to make sure to buy some before leaving!)
So as soon as Trump became a serious candidate for President, I knew it would be in my best interest to visit Cuba sooner than later. And it just so happened that Inauguration weekend the flights on Southwest we DIRT CHEAP (I mean $210 RT cheap)! So it was a win/win for me, especially since I live in the DMV.
First things first, let’s answer the question “What type of Visa did you get, and what category did you qualify for?” Let me tell you, it’s super easy, at with Southwest it is. When purchasing your ticket online, you have the option to choose which category you would like (I chose the Support of Cuban People) and pay $50.00. If you pay online, you have to do it at least a week in advance so that you are able to pick it up at the check-in gate. I did the second option, which was to purchase it at the gate just in case there could possibly be a mishap. It wasn’t! You just check the box, pay your money and that’s it. No paperwork or itinerary on what my plans were in Cuba.
Now, where to stay?! Cuba isn’t a touristy place, so hotels are super expensive and often times booked way in advance. Your best bet is an Airbnb, which I am a huge fan of considering the average Cuban family makes between $30-$60 a MONTH! Using Airbnb you get to have a authentic experience while helping locals! I stayed in Downtown Havana, walking distance to bars, restaurants, and shows.
How to get around? I will say everything in Cuba is dirt cheap EXCEPT transportation. It’s about $60 round trip from the José Martí International Airport to downtown Cuba. I spoke with my Airbnb host prior to arriving and he reserved a driver to be there waiting at the airport for us. It was absolutely seamless this way and I recommend this considering the airport was quite hectic. Once you’re downtown it’s super easy to hail an old school Chevy or Cadillac to take you around!
What to do?! Cuba is beautiful and with so much history, so I scheduled a tour so that I would be able to see and learn about Havana. After doing some research, Cuba Irresistible seemed to be the best deal. For $60.00 a driver (in a 1971 Chevy) and tour guide picked me up from my Airbnb, they took us to Old Square, Old Havana, a wonderful flea market, Revolution Square, President’s Avenue, Punta Park, and about 8 other spots! The tour was about 4.5 hours (online it’s listed as 3 hours). I recommend this tour company, and wearing walking shoes!
Visiting Hotel Nacional de Cuba is an ABSOLUTE MUST! This hotel is so beautiful and has so many historic rooms and artifacts! You are able to go out back and have the BEST mojitos and margaritas you will ever have and for about $4.50 per drink! From 9:00 pm to 2:00 am Cabaret Parisien show that is absolutely amazing. The singing, dancing and costumes are all out of this world. The entry includes light appetizers and one alcoholic beverage. If you buy the ticket at the door you are able to get a better deal than buying it from the ticket booth during the day.
And last but definitely not least, internet! You must buy a internet card from a wifi cafe. These are about $2/hour, and you must be in a location that has a router. I saw wifi cafes on about every other corner in Havana, so it’s not hard to find, but don’t think you’ll be able to Snapchat your vacay in the moment. But considering how addicted to social media we are, my break from the internet and texting was quite relaxing!
Now it’s time to pack your bags and Viva la Cuba!