Cuba: What you need to know before you go!

I just returned from a fabulous girls trip to Cuba and I couldn’t recommend traveling to the country more. It was eye opening, beautiful, affordable, and will make you appreciate everything we have here in America.

Here’s a rundown of my recommendations, a recap of my trip, and some fun photos. Be sure to check the latest news and policies before you book your trip (President Trump has decided to change travel restrictions).

How to Get there:

Traveling to Cuba couldn’t have been easier. I would highly recommended flying with Southwest Airlines. $300 round trip from DC to Havana, they take care of your visa which you pick up at the airport, your health insurance (your visa is your proof of health insurance), and the flight is quick. Just 4 hours in total travel.

Where to Stay:

There’s two ways to go in Cuba…with a tour group which will have you staying at a decent hotel, or hostels and airbnb’s. We decided to go with a hostel. It’s not for the 5 star traveler but if you’re adventurous like we were, I would go for it. The accommodations are clean but basic. We had a bed, a sheet, AC, and a lovely breakfast. I HIGHLY recommend staying at a Hostel called “Hostal Imperio” with Senores Alberto y Lili Isabel. They were both beyond LOVELY and sweet. Every morning we had fresh eggs, fruit, and cafe con leches, I was in love. Alberto will give you the lay of the land. He’ll tell you when you’re being charged too much by a cab driver and the best sightseeing spots in the city. Alberto’s home and neighborhood was very safe at all hours of the day and night.

Alberto’s email:

Where to eat:

This one is tricky. The food in Cuba is hit or miss. The food is always fresh but I found it to be more on the bland side. The best spots were FAC, Ivan Chef Justo, and the best mojito’s were at a little spot called Mamaine (they don’t have a website). I learned that mojito’s aren’t supposed to be sweet. Just good rum, double mint, a little sugar, and club soda…divine.

Where to Go:

We mostly explored Havana for the 3 days I was there and there was plenty to do. My opinion is 3 days is plenty of time in Havana – there’s a lot to see in the country and many beautiful spots. FAC was amazing. It’s a hip art, food, dance space that will make you feel more like you’re in NYC than Cuba. It’s where everyone gorgeous, artsy, and trendy goes. The art, music, and people watching will have you entertained all night. There’s lots of museums to visit so add some of those to your list, and then for just $35 or $40 roundtrip hire a taxi and head to the beach. There’s a relaxing beach, Santa Maria del Mar about 30 minutes outside of Havana. The beach is pretty quite and the water is gorgeous. I will say the actual beach wasn’t very clean, so bring your sandals for walking around 🙁 There was lots of trash on the beach…something I’m not used to since I grew up in Maine. Mainers respect their beaches, you hardly ever see trash.

Things to know and love:

  • SUPER Safe – Awesome place for the family or girls trip. Very little crime. We walked the city at all hours of the night as a group and never once felt nervous
  • SO CHEAP – You can live high on $60 a day. I’m talking breakfast, lunch, dinner, and most travel around town.
  • Weather – Freaking gorgeous. 80’s and a quick shower or thunderstorm in the afternoon
  • No Time change – Personally for our us EST people I love traveling to spots that I don’t have time change. You’ll appreciate feeling worlds away with little impact on your bod
  • You don’t need to bring your own toilet paper – Unless you’re heading out to the country on a hiking trip but in cities you’re all set. You’ll see this suggestion all over the internet but not true if you’re going to Havana. Same goes for snacks, there’s plenty of food and no long lines.
  • Cuban people are WONDERFUL – Very welcoming and enjoy Americans.

Thing to avoid and be aware of:

  • A LOT OF HUSTLERS – Look, it takes a lot to offend me but there was a lot of catcalling in Cuba and a lot of hustle. When you travel on your own get ready to haggle over everything. Cabs, drinks, getting a table, food at the beach. It can be WAY too much. SO was the catcalling. It’s fine a couple times but when men are constantly doing it it gets old. It was even hard to relax at the beach. Every 5 mins someone was pushing something on you.
  • URGH, The Scams are real – Ok, so every where you go you get hustled and it’s big time on cigars. I got scammed. I agreed to buy cigars from a very convincing man at a discounted rate. They were ‘cuban made’ cigars but they were not the named brands as promised. DO your research on real cigars and rum. There’s a ton of scams including hostels and Airbnb owners who claim to have a legit ‘friend’
  • Cuba can look like a bombed out war zone – There were spots in Cuba where you’d swear you were in war torn Syria. I didn’t expect that. Also, I’ve become an OCD American, it wasn’t uncommon to have less than clean eating spots or to see a restaurant hacking up a chicken to cook right in front of you. I know I should be more worldly and grateful for fresh food but that was hard for me to stomach.
  • Your American dollar doesn’t go as far as Euros. Be sure to change your money into Euro’s in the US and than convert your money to CUCS in Cuba – more bang for your buck

Have you been to Cuba? I’d love to hear what you liked and disliked…comment below and help another Hey Frase community member enjoy their trip.

xoxo, Frase

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Response (2)
  1. Loved reading this. I’ve heard that about the beaches – so disappointing!

  2. Rose

    Hi, I was really looking forward for some info like this about Cuba. Thank you so much.

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