HNOW in CUBA!
Two weeks ago, I packed my bags with my girls and headed to Havana, Cuba to celebrate my darling friend Stacy's birthday. We'd been counting the days down for months since our original trip to Cuba for Memorial Day weekend had been cancelled. Our flight was at 9a and we got to the airport at 5a. We were not playing! Cuba is honestly one of the most culturally rich places I've been to, and I would 100% recommend everyone to visit (while we still can). A lot of people tried to push their apprehensions on us, telling us we wouldn't make it due to "the ban" but thankfully we left and came back in one piece. After a ton of questions reaching my inbox, here's what you need to know:
Do I need a Visa?
Yes, you need a visa to travel to and from Cuba. When purchasing my visa online, I selected "Journalistic Activities" but when my friends purchased their $50 visa at the desk, they werent questioned about their reasons for traveling. Honestly I think it's just a $50 tax that Americans need to pay for entering to Cuba and they make us carry the reciept. They stressed that we bring the Visa with us everywhere we went, which we did. But we made no use of it.
What money should I bring?
Prior to traveling, we were advised to change our monies from USD to Euros to then change to CUC when we arrived in Cuba. After all that exchanging you lose a lot of funds. You're better off waiting until you arrive in Cuba to exchange your US money at the Currency Exchange located directly outside of the airport. Debit and credit cards have no use in Cuba, and there are no ATMs. Have your cash ready to exchange prior to leaving the US.
Do I have to speak Spanish?
Yes you do. If you do not speak Spanish you will have difficulties communicating with people in Cuba. Not speaking Spanish will be ESPECIALLY difficult when trying to secure a cab! They try to speak a little English, but majority of the country speaks Spanish. Spanglish doesnt help either! If you can, travel with a Spanish speaker.
Hotel or AirBnB?
We stayed at an AirBnb. My friends and I appreciate the home feel while being on vacation. The apartment we secured had the most beautiful view of the Malecon river, and our cleaning lady Julita was a gem. When one of us got sick, she ran to the grocery store to get ingredients for a hangover cure. Staying at the AirBnb had its perks because our host provided us with a cab driver to pick us up from the airport so there was no uncertainty once we landed. We used Diego the entire span of our trip. His english was excellent, he was the perfect gentleman, and he was soo handsome! If you do choose to stay at a hotel it'll be easy for you to get Wi-Fi cards for connection, but the cabs you hail there are probably overpriced.
How are the people?
Black women...go to Cuba! I have never felt so much love from the male species than when I was in Cuba. Cuban men LOVED us! It wasn't hard to love them back, Cuban men are the most handsome men I've ever seen! If you made eye contact with a guy (young or old), they immediately smiled at you, blew kisses and hold their hearts for you. EACH ONE! Cubans are a beautiful people, and we had no issues with anyone while traveling around town. People warned us about crime in Cuba, but not once did we feel unsafe - even while traveling at night on foot.
Un-American tourists were happy to see us and we also met a few Americans who proved that it truly is a small world. One of the women we met lives 3 blocks away from me! What are the odds!?
How was the food?
The food was good....but its all pork. I tried to stay away from pork as much as possible because I rarely eat pork in America, so I had seafood pasta when I could. Most times sadly, it was inevitable. We stayed in Cuba for 4 days and only found chicken once on the menu of all our meals. Their bread is delicious, I'm not sure why. We were dying for an omelette from somewhere, anywhere but strangely enough, there were no eggs to be found. They were unavailable at every restaurant we went to. Orange Juice is also a rarity in Cuba. Most water that is offered is "natural" (Still) or carbonated mineral water. The taste is a little different, but nothing too distinctive.
What's the nightlife like in Cuba?
Nightlife in Cuba is lit! The people are just there to have fun, and because their culture is so sensual, dont be suprised if you notice things getting steamy on the dance floor! We met the most handsome Cuban men at the clubs. They flattered us so much and were very forward! Several guys simply asked us "Do you want to sex?" as casually as "Do you want to grab a drink?" It sounds crazy but like I said before, Cuban men loved us. The majority of music is reggaeton (obviously) but its great music! You can't not dance along. Many songs I wish I remembered to bring back to the US with me. One MAJOR downside: one club tried to charge us 33 dollars for a shot of Hennessy! Pero NO!
What's the technology like?
Wi-fi is SCARCE. When we turned our cellular data on, T-Mobile sent a text about their .50 per text fees. I have AT&T, and received no notifications at all. My phone stayed on Airplane Mode majority of the trip. To connect to Wi-Fi, you must have a Wi-Fi card. Do you remember having to go buy calling card for your mom to call home? This is how the Wi-fi Cards are set up. Each card allows 60 minutes of connectivity and only work in where Wi-Fi is available. We were told Wi-Fi hotspots were in the public areas like parks, and public squares, but we didnt find any. Our AirBnB had a Wi-Fi and we connected to the rest of the world while we were at home.
Overall, everything you've been told about Cuba (outside of this post) is up for debate. All of the things people told me they "heard" never happened to me during my stay in Havana. Dont listen to "they" because "they" will never experience things the way you will. Find things out for yourself and live your best life.