Ever since I was a little boy, it was a dream of mine to travel to Cuba, and finally after more or less 20 years it happened. Short but meaningful, exhausting but eyeopening. Let me tell you the story. Shall we begin?
I don’t know, why is that? Why should it be Cuba? Perhaps I totally got attracted to the fact that it’s just so different. It always has been one of those aggressively closed countries along with their soulmate North Korea. The music, the passionated people, the infinite emotions, different way of speaking Spanish and well, those are enough, no?
After an unbelievably comfortable rode on Volaris, I finally made it to Havana, the capital of Cuba. They kind of request you a visa to submit, you may ask “why kind of”? Technically it’s just a piece of paper that you can easily buy in the airport. I paid only 20$ to get the paper in Mexico City Airport, be aware that price is always up to the airport you are flying from. Upon your arrival you are asked to present the paper to the immigration desk along with your passport. They officially call it a visa but don’t bother yourself about it, it’s easier than anything else to get.
I think it’s not only in Cuba but if you speak fluent Spanish, you will have a far better life. Some people try to speak English to tourists but most people aren’t familiar with speaking English yet.
Note – Spanish in Cuba is very hard to understand (at least) to me. They speak fast with more emotions.
As soon as you show yourself up in the airport, taxi drivers will spring out at you. Apparently they are the wealthiest people in Cuba, they often cheat tourists to get more money, so you better pay attentions. To begin with, the price for getting to the downtown is already settled, approximately around 20$. Before speaking of getting into the city center, I think I’d better inform you that Cuba has 2 banknotes. In order to avoid being fooled by locals you’d better make sure which banknote you are paying. When they say CuC, that means money for foreigners, on the other hand if they say “Peso” that is supposed to mean local money. It’s so complicating, right? I was a bit frustrated to be honest to get used it but not really a big deal afterwards.
Ready for an eyeopening experience?
Honestly I don’t use expressions like “eyeopening” or “life changing” unless they really are. However traveling to Cuba and talking to Cubans are simply eyeopening, so awakening and new. You don’t get this experience anywhere else I think, well obviously in a good way.
I loved walking through the old Havana. All the buildings are so colorful and beautiful. I can’t simply get over how fascinating all those vintage iron giants are. And also the fact that the rest of the world disposed of them extremely quickly. Well, now you should have noticed how my first impression on Havana was.
I wished I were able to drive a non-automatic car then I probably could have driven an old cuban car. I stayed with Ismell, a hungry cuban guy for getting to know the rest of the world and his home is sort of out of town and it made my adventure even more interesting because I either took a shared car or a crowded cuban bus only locals use. I hardly saw foreigners using those. If you are seeking for a fun experience you can perhaps try these things in Havana. A shared car is nearly ten times cheaper than A taxi in Havana, of course it’s slower and you are asked to be more patient as they take maximum 8 people in the car. But yeah, It’s Cuba, so why not?
Most backpackers usually stay in Cuba for a month for a better exploration and I’m sure it’s worthy. Cuba is not only about Havana which is becoming americanized sadly but the others are still okay, although I decided to. not go there and ended up staying in Havana. Santiago de Cuba has been talked as a real treasure of Cuba, well It’s really far from Havana (16-17 hours by bus) so it’s all up to your decision to go or not. Trinidad, Santa Clara and Varadero are must-go places in Cuba.
Me on the other hand, I didn’t really get attracted to traveling in bus for more than 12 hours since I know how my works in such a hot country like Cuba, thus I put more time and efforts on wandering Havana better.
Besides the old Havana, it’s also a good idea visiting the Basilica Manor de San Francisco de Asis, it’s basically just next to the old town so not really hard to get there. If you go up you will be able to see a beautiful view of Havana including the incredible beach. According to my host Ismell, the most beautiful and tourist-free beach in the city is la Playa boca ciega. If you look for a crazy party, Santa Maria Del Mar is yours.
Music is definitely something you should NEVER miss in Havana. Cubans like to express their feelings by singing, dancing and playing instruments. You know, the typical stereotype of latinos, being emotional, dancing like pros even though they are not. I questioned myself if they just are born with such a movement. Compared to them, I’m just too clumsy. Cubans are also fond of celebrating, even really small things that can be considered as nothing in the rest of the world. That’s actually what I learned in my trip in Cuba. So everywhere you go, you will be surrounded by people signing, playing guitar and even dancing.
The biggest struggle you most likely face in Cuba is staying away from internet. Practically you are able to use internet, as long as you have bought an internet card and manage to find a wifi spot but it’s limited, both time and speed. I enjoyed being unconnected for two days but after that I was eager to check things online and get information for next destination.
Little tips for future Cuba travelers
Literally means “last” in Spanish. Cubans always line up and you will have big troubles in case you try to butt in line, seriously, they hate it. So if you see a line, speak out “ultimo!” and someone will answer “yo” which means “me”. What should you do next? Line up behind that person.
2.Don’t get offended
Cuban culture is supposedly different from what we are used to. Oftentimes you may feel offended by their bad jokes or behaviors but don’t feel bad about, perhaps they just mock you but not in a serious way (I hope). Especially if you’re a beautiful woman you will have hard times to avoid those cheeky cuban men. There actually is an expression, if you are a woman, no matter pretty or not, you are already a princess in Cuba.
3.Try Cuban coffee & Cigar
Try them. I have nothing to say. Cuban coffee is incredibly great.
Cuba is different and you never know what’s going to happen in a minute. Even if so, don’t panic and try to enjoy every minute.
My trip in Havana couldn’t ever be better, I learned a lot more things than I could ever have imagined, from the specific way of thinking of Cubans to a new mindset about my following trips.
Have you been to Havana? How was your adventure out there?
All the love,