Cuba is now one of my favorite countries. It’s colorful, vibrant, and full of culture. Walking down the cobblestone roads make you feel like you’re traveling through Europe, but then the bright colorful buildings, old American classic cars, gorgeous Caribbean beaches and tropical weather confuse the heck out of you.
It’s a place like no other. But before you make your way to Havana, you need to know a few things before making the trip.
BEFORE YOU GO
Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – and the Cuban Peso (CUP). Tourists have to use the CUC and it is only available upon arrival in Cuba. There is a currency exchange office at the airport and I recommend exchanging your currency there. As a heads up, if you take USD with you, you will be charged an extra 10% penalty when converting your cash into CUC. Also, make sure to take out all your cash BEFORE leaving for Cuba, there are NO ATMs and they DO NOT accept credit cards in 99% of places.
TAXI FROM THE AIRPORT
Upon arrival, there will be plenty of taxi drivers waiting to take people to their hotels/casas particulares. The official government taxis are yellow, and the drivers wear light yellow shirts. However, license plates that start with ‘P’ are private, not government. Either are perfectly fine to use and should cost the same amount – we always opted for privately owned taxis to support the families. A trip should cost you no more than 25 CUC.
H A V A N A
WHAT TO DO
- Take a tour DAY ONE – We’re not tour people when we travel, but this came highly recommended and it was the PERFECT way to start our trip. Our first day in Havana we booked a tour with a young economist through AirBnb. Our tour guide showed us around Havana, explained to us the dirty little details of Cuban history and government, taught us how to get the cheapest taxi, and ended the tour drinking Cuban rum at his sisters house. He was an open book, and encouraged us to ask even those “I’m scared to ask this” questions….and we did.
- Walk the streets of Old Havana – You’ll instantly fall in love with the old architecture, colorful buildings, vibrant people, and classic cars. Get a mojito at a local cafe, there will most likely be live music there or nearby to listen to and enjoy.
- Visit the Malecon – The Malecon is a beautiful walkway along the Caribbean water where local Cubans grab a box of rum (a literal juice box of straight rum), and enjoy the sunset.
T R I N I D A D
WHAT TO DO
- Go to the BEACH – One of my favorite days of our entire trip was hanging at the beach in Trinidad. You can’t beat the crystal clear warm water, the drinks under the cabana, and those insane sunsets.
- Go dancing – Disco Ayala is an underground club IN A CAVE. It’s a must when in Trinidad.
- Walk to the top of the bell tower – The bell tower is the core of this little city. Trinidad looks and feels like it’s been set back in time even more so than Havana. This bell tower is no exception. Take the stairs to the top and you’ll see gorgeous views of the entire city. It’s worth it.
V I N A L E S
Vinales is the Yosemite of Cuba. It’s where all the tobacco and coffee farms are and is a huge beautiful valley that is protected by the government.
WHAT TO DO
- Take a tour on horseback trough the valley – We booked our tour through Airbnb and it was amazing. It was a 4 hour tour on horseback through the valley where we stopped at a tobacco farm and learned all about the famous Cuban cigars, then stopped at a coffee farm where we ground fresh coffee beans in an old hand grinder.