When the embargo from Cuba was lifted for the United States under the Obama Administration many folks, self included, were extremely excited about the prospect of seeing the Havana and stepping back into the 50s while collecting rum and Cuban cigars. Last week I had the good fortune of being able to actually visit Havana with my family. You can check out my adventure on my YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8LJodgOZMw&t=41s . While I was there I thought a lot about the things that I wish I had known before I stepped foot in Havana. This is what I thought I’d share with you.
- Be aware of the exchange policy. The is a 10-14% tax on the US dollars. Before you leave the States you might consider exchanging your USD to CAN or EUR before getting to Cuba.
- Bring baby wipes. I love walking around barefoot but I hate dirty feet in the bed. I would have loved to wipe my feet off.
- Bottled water and grocery stores are hard to come by. We were lucky because our Air BnB supplied us with large liters of water for purchase. If you do come across a place to purchase bottled water, stock up.
- Cuban people are very kind. Many of the local people speak very little English but they will try if you try. Be patient.
- The government regulates coffee, rum, and cigars. If you are solicited on the street to buy cigars, they may not be authentic.
- Eat at the paladors! These are small home style restaurants that are much cheaper and have more authentic food than bigger restaurants. I think I may have spend between 5-12 CUC for any of my meals.
- Get a private tour guide. Planned tours are more expensive and you don’t have much room to change the schedule. We rode in a vintage car all day and our tour guide catered our day to our interests.
- Go see the covered free market but it is overwhelming! There are so many vendors. I am an introvert so I was not very happy in the market but there was everything from art to fresh fruit drinks. Go check it out.
- Make sure that you can call a cab. Taxis don’t necessarily stop for anyone, native or tourist. The only place that we were able to easily get a cab was at the airport. Our host called our taxi to the airport for us.
- Many places have no toilet seats. Do not be alarmed. Cultural differences. Again baby wipes or Lysol wipes would have be clutch right about here.
- Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. You will get hit.
- People will solicit photos and expect a tip or payment. Especially in Habana Centro. Don’t get got.
- If you go into a Cathedral you have to take off your hat and cover your shorts if they are above the knee.
- Most of the tourists are in Habana Centro and Habana Viejo. Things are more accessible but also more expensive.
- Be open! Havana is an amazing city but you should be flexible and let your adventure unfold. We did not get to the beach but still had a an amazing adventure through the city itself.