Family and dog on the couch

5 Tips to Dating a Cuban – You’ve been Warned!

Let me guess. You went to Cuba for a long weekend and met a seemingly mysterious and charming local at Fabrica del Arte or at some other paladar in with live music. One kiss and exchange of social media handles later and you’re officially in a relationship. Welcome to Dating a Cuban.

Cubans are notorious for their charm and their confidence to show you it.  We don’t blame you for falling in lust in a weekend. No one does, not even Camila Caballo in her famous “Havana” hit song.

But, I hate to break it to you, you aren’t alone.

If I had a dollar every time someone messaged me (on Instagram) a version of that story, I could buy an overly priced motorcycle already on this damn island.

Dating a cuban and the love culture in general here is hard to explain and even more complicated to understand. Though, anyone who’s spent significant time here knows what I’m talking about.

In some unspoken language, we all do. We all know what’s happening and we all keep our mouths shut. I mean, after all, it isn’t our business. But I’m willing to share a few observations I’ve learned over the years.

So before you recharge a cell-phone or send any money through Western Union, let me try my best to describe and give you some tips on how things work here on the island of lust.

And by no means is this a blanket explanation of every Cuban-foreign relationship. I myself would be a hypocrite to state that, as I am a Cuban-American engaged to a Cuban-Russian born (its complicated…).

So no, this does not apply to everyone. But it does, indeed, apply.

Two cuban women in traditional wear kiss a foreigner on the cheek.
The Warm Up!

1. Cuba’s Bad Economy Creates Avenues of Desperation

First things first: Cuba’s economy. It’s no surprise to anyone that Cuba isn’t exactly experiencing its “Golden” age.

With wages low and opportunities even lower, for many the Cuban dream no longer is a dream inside the country.

Cubans look north. They look south. East and west. Just about anywhere but Cuba for their dreams for a better future.

It’s something everyone here seems to have in common. It unites the country in some bizarre melancholy way and everyone talks about it. It’s the social glue that bonds us all together.  

And because of this, Cubans have tried various different methods to leave the island or make their situation on it much more comfortable.

That’s where you come in.

2. Dating a Cuban 101: Jineteros

Text Jineteros en Cuba a cuban man and foreign woman on a balcony. Faces covered.
Cuban Jintereos : Dating a Cuban

To the seemingly naïve foreigner, many don’t know what a “Jinetero” is. Though, in Cuban culture, ‘jinetero” is a term we grow up with.

Jineteros or Jineteras in the simpliest form are hustlers in any way but most known for being in the sex industry. Whether for a day, a week, or for an entire relationship.

Yes, I said it- an entire relationship.

We have met some jineteros that will fake being in love to continue an ongoing relationship with a foreigner. It’s a sad truth, but it does happen. They will have their own families on the island and when the foreigner comes, their partner vacates the home and the rest of the family plays along.  They work together for the week.

Of course, like I said not every relationship is this way but if you expect to be dating a Cuban you will absolutely have to know what a jinetero is.

3. It will Be an Expensive Relationship

Expect to pay…. For everything.  Unfortunately, few Cubans have the money to take their partners on a proper date to wine and dine them.  That shit doesn’t happen here. 

If you’re used to your partners taking you different places and having them pay or sharing costs, this will definitely test you.

Because besides the costs of going out to dinner and dates, you will have to get to Cuba and most likely gift them things they and their family needs. Oh yes, the. Family is always included in Cuba. Always.

The real costs are maintaining the relationship.  Want to call Cuba? EXPENSIVE AF

Want to talk to them on the internet? EXPENSIVE AF

Want them to leave the country with you to start your life together? SUPER SUPER SUPER EXPENSIVE AFFF FOR YEARS.

But if they are worth it, then you won’t care. Here are some apps you’ll need in Cuba.

Man and Woman chatting on a videocall. Dating in Cuba
Yoel and I chatting on FaceBook Messenger

4. Cubans Cheat… A Lot

I know this is particularly hard and uncomfortable point to write, but they likelihood of your Cuban cheating on you while you’re not in Cuba is enormous.  Whether you’re okay with it or not, its really apart of the culture.

And weirdly because its so prevalent its still taboo to talk about.  Its like we all know its happening but pretending its not.

Ojos que no ven, Corazon que no siente (Eyes that do not see, heart that does not feel).

Really though: Cubans cheat and they do often.

When there’s nothing to do all day and the culture very open with sex in general, the field is wide open. Plus its also very hard to find out what you’re partner is doing inside the low connected island all day.

I recommend having an honest talk with yourself and your partner about what you expect and your values.

5. Dating a Cuban = Moving Incredibly Fast

I’m laughing writing this point up but here’s a typical storyline:

  • Day 1: You meet and have fun
  • Day 2: You Meet the Family
  • Day 3: The Proposal

Ok that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but true. Cubans date insanely fast compared to foreigners.

For example, foreigners take months to decide if they are actually in a relationship or not, Cubans are moved into their in-laws in a month, have a ring, and call each other “maridos (husband/wife). 

I’m serious.

In conclusion, don’t be weirded out (and I am warning you) If you get proposed to on your 3rd or 4th visit and already having their mom calling you her son or daughter in law.

If you think its going too fast, just try to explain to your partner how things are a bit faster than what you are used to. Don’t feel pressured into things if your gut is telling you something else.

Boys in a cuban neighborhood
Your new family isn’t just you in-laws… its the entire neighborhood too.

Overall:

If you’re traveling to Cuba as a female solo or in a group, please please read my tips on female travel in Cuba. In short, Cuba is a fun and extremely safe place for females. You’ll just get lots of catcalls! 🙂

Catching a Cuban eye is very very (extremely) easy to do, but knowing what to expect is hard.  They will charm the shit out of you but you have to be careful who really has good intentions, as in any relationship, with anyone, from anywhere.

Many Cuban-Foreign relationships are very beautiful and we know many long -lasting ones so of course take this blog with just precaution.

All I ask is that if he or she is constantly asking for money or material items to do a hard look. I advise strongly against be sending large amounts of money on the regular to your Cuban boo.

In other words, have fun and be safe!

If you need help planning, as always let us know!

EXPLAINED: Cuba Legal Travel After Trump in 2019

Cuba Legal Travel is still possible!

Cuba Legal Travel just got a bit more complicated. After Trump rolled back on travel liberations made by the Obama Administration, he cut off not only “people-to-people” visa category but now the group educational category that affects largely cruise ships.

But, No Need to Fear! Cuba Legal Travel is still here!

Trump might have disrupted cruisers (honestly, why would you come to an amazing place like Cuba on a ship for less than 24 hours I will never get) but the travel restriction did not affect flights

And most importantly….

It did not take away the “Support the Cuban People” visa category.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, MARI?

Well before we start, it is important to note that Cuba does NOT have an embargo against the United States. Regardless of what passport you carry or what country (if you come from a third country i.e. Cancun to Havana) in from, Cuba will welcome you with open arms, café, and most likely dance lessons.

Under current 31 CFR 515.560 law, Americans can use one of 12 reasons to enter the Cuba, one of those being Support of the Cuban People, Provision found in § 515.574 of the CACR, US government.

It defines the visa as activities are recognized human rights organization, independent organizations designed to promote democracy or individual’s organization that promote independent activity intendent to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Provision § 515.574(A) to this means the traveler must have a log of their itinerary for up to 5 years.

In English?

It means this visa has to record that you kept a full schedule seeing individuals or organization that directly help or show Cuban society.

You can’t you use your bank card to it, as that evidence against “supporting the Cuban people”..

But this visa category is extremely vague.  The OFAC does not or will have a list of such organizations or individuals that promote “democracy” or “civil society” in Cuba.  Nor can the OFAC track your cash money on the island.

What you need to do to fall under this category?

Like all categories, you must have a log of your itinerary for up to 5 years (501.601).  It also means that itinerary has to show at least 8 hours of cultural experience. You do NOT need to have an itinerary prepared before you go, but if you want I got you!

I offer customized Itineraries that Comply with Support the Cuban People

Itineraries of such activities can include several tourist experiences.

  1. Curating a local tour with a local guide
  2. Eating at a local paladar (restaurant) can be considered “support of the Cuban people”
  3. Buying Cigars from a cigar farm directly from the farmer, not the government
  4. Classic Car Tours with Private car owners!
  5. Taking a class at a private owned business like salsa dancing, mojito class, afro-cuban history, cuban history, cooking class, ETC! so Much!
  6. Staying at a local casa particular, found on Airbnb!
  7. MANY MORE!!!
Cuba LEgal Travel, girls sitting having cuban lunch at our family home
Cuba Legal Travel includes having lunch at my families home!!

How Do I get My Support the Cuban People Visa? Mari, Help!

When you book your flight to Cuba you will be warned on all airline websites. Check the box that says Support of the Cuban people (if prompted to do so, some airlines don’t even have you do this rather just put the warning).

When you get to the airport, check-in will ask you the purpose of your travel. You simply state “Support of the Cuban People.” If they ask you for an itinerary and you don’t have one, you simply state you didn’t produce a hard copy. Or, you can have me customize one for you 😉

After that, all you have to do is buy the visa right at the gate or check in. Remember, Cuba does not have an embargo on the US so Americans are welcomes with open arms in Cuba.

ITS THAT SIMPLE!

When you come back to the US, it is very rare you will asked further questions besides “what did you bring” question at Immigration. And if you do, if you followed your itinerary, you have nothing to worry about!!

And remember, Cubba is cash-only and totally guilt-free.

So please don’t let the travel ban stop you from visiting this INCREDIBLE ISLAND!

Women in red dress standing in front of the Cuban Flag Mural in an abandoned building
Travel to Cuba is still legal and enjoyable! Don’t let politics get in the way of an amazing vacation!

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People in 2019

Coming to Cuba as an American (or from an American city) under the Support the Cuban people visa category and wondering what the “f” does that mean? After Trumps latest sanctions don’t worry, I got you.

As you might already know, visiting Cuba is completely LEGAL under this visa category even after Trump Administrations sanctions in June of 2019 (that cut off largely group cruise ships).  While in Cuba, you’ll quickly discover no undercover American patrol unit is following you around making sure you’re behaving and not drinking the communist kool-aid.

But, legally speaking, what does “Support the Cuban People” actually mean? Well according to the law, Americans are required to participate in activities that support independent institutions.

The Office of Foreign Asset Control, the US department that regulates these laws, gives Americans some examples: “Staying at a casa particular” or “eating at a paladar (restaurant)” are some of the things Americans can do.

They go on to state that you’ll need to provide a full-day itinerary of activities that support the Cuban people on the VERY EXTREMELY RARE chance they question you.

Need not fear, my American dears! Here’s a list of suggested activities Americans can do that also do something pretty cool…. actually, support the Cuban people.

Hey, if you’re in Cuba you might as well give back to the many thousands of entrepreneurs, local taxi drivers, and everyday hustlers trying to make a life on an island that’s experiencing a pretty hard economic situation.

  1. Take a Day Tour of Havana!

    • You can take a tour of the beautiful Old Havana with a local guide (me hehe) that takes you through the many historical parts of the city and gives you a local perspective of how many Cubans live.
    • If interested in this tour, shoot me an email!

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      • Walk the streets of Habana Vieja with a local who gives you a different perspective
  1. Ride an American Classic Convertible

    • What is Cuba without the classic American cars? You can ride one as well around the city and its COMPLETELY LEGAL! The classic cars are owned by private citizens and help support the local economy.  Yes, its super touristy but it’s an absolute must DO!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      Whitney Riding The Malecon!

  1. Learn how to make Cuban food and eat some!

    • You can just eat at a local restaurant, but why don’t you learn how to make a Cuban dish prepared by a local chef!? That why you are taking an “educational class” and filling your belly at the same time! Plus you’ll learn how restaurants in socialist Cuba are adjusting to the everyday struggles of getting more supplies, the right amounts of food, and searching how to make their new client bases happy.. tourists!
    • Want to learn how to make incredible Cuban meal inside a families home? Shoot me an email 

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

A typical Cuban meal: Rice, Beans, Meat and Veggies

  1. Drink cocktails with a Cuban mixologist

    • Learn how to make the classic Cuba Libre, Daiquairi, and Mojitos with a mixologist! Our friends at Jibarao in Old Havana are trained doctors of Nuclear Physics turned restaurant owners so they know how to mix REALLY well.
    • Lets drink it up with this class! Shoot me an email 

    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      Learning how to Make Cocktails at Jibarao with our friends from New York!

  1. Smoke some Cubans in the Heart of Tobacco Country

    • Cuban cigars are infamous all over the world. I mean, if you’re coming to Cuba and NOT smoking a Cuban cigar, what are you even doing here?
    • Pinar del Rio, Cuba Is famous for growing Cuba’s best cigars and in the heart of the region stands Vinales, a small farming town. We take you there to meet our family friends who own a tobacco farm. Leo, Domingo, and Mingo will show you how to roll a cigar, educate you on how tobacco is run, and show you around our beautiful land!
    • Take this experience with me on my Vinales/Pinar del Rio tour!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

      See a Tobacco House where they grow the tobacco for the famous Cuban Cigar!

  1. Have dinner in the Cuban countryside

    • Homemade Cuban dinner in the countryside is the epitome of heaven. Seriously….we aren’t joking. Cuba has 100% organic food, but it taste even better prepared by guajiros (Cuba’s countryside people) and farm fresh.
    • Get an intimate view on how most Cubans live outside of tourism in the countryside with my FAMILY! <3
    • Take this experience with me on my Vinales/Pinar del Rio tour

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

My beautiful Norwegian friends escaping the cold winters and eating at our families home in Pinar del Rio!

  1. Stay at a Casa Particular

    • Mentioned above, but Casa particulares (“private homes”) are a great way to support the Cuban people. Since the liberalization of small businesses, the island has boomed with casa particulares tourist can rent.
    • Tip: In many cases, casa particulares are much nicer than hotels run by government conglomerates. They pay special attention to their clients and cleanliness is a priority.
    • Interested in staying in a Casa particular in Cuba? Email me here!
  1. Learn how to Dance Salsa with a Salsero!

    • If its not the rum, the cigars, or the cars that bring you to Cuba, you need to add DANCING SALSA to that itinerary.. NOW! Cuban music is recognizable all over the world and salsa dance is something every tourist should experience!
    • Learn how to dance salsa with a professional. Honestly, I cant even dance that well and he taught me SO much in less than an hour!
    • Get your rumba on, here!
    • 10 Activities that Support the Cuban People

      Alyssa and Megan getting their rumba on with our friend Carlos!

  1. Explore Cuba’s Nature

  • Cuba is a gigantic island with many parts still left unconstructed and untouched. See the lush tropics and almost Jurassic park-ish feeling the island has.
  • Whether its waterfalls in Artemisa (1 hour outside Havana) and in Cienfuegos or cascading rivers in Trinidad, Cuba has something to offer everyone
  • Click here for more information on Cuba’s nature!

10 Activities that Support the Cuban People!

Me walking through the countryside!

  1. Go to the Beach

    • Now this one might seem that it isn’t part of “activities Supporting the Cuban people” but who says!? You can hire a private driver that can take you there, eat at a local restaurant, and go to a local beach!
    • There are beautiful beaches near Havana and all around the island.. you can take a tour there with us or stay at a casa particular if far that supports the Cuban people with some pretty amazing views!

10 Travel Tips for Solo Females in Cuba

Solo female travelers face a challenge when choosing their next travel destination.  Is the country relatively safe? Are the locals friendly? Will I be okay to travel around by myself?

Cuba not only checks off all of those concerns, but offers solo female adventures an experience they will never get anywhere else.

There is nowhere else in the world you can dance with locals until dawn and feel completely safe doing so.

And I can guarantee you there’s nowhere else in the world you can truly experience all of that without being constantly distracted with modern technology.

As someone who frequently travels around the country by myself, I have some tips for my fellow independent ladies!

  1. Go-With-The-Flow

This isn’t exclusive to female travelers, but anyone traveling here. Cuba doesn’t have internet accessible to you at all times of the day. There is wifi at the parksbut not around town.

This means you have to be open to new experiences and change of plans.  It’s okay to have a basic itinerary, but in a country where locals are always willing to invite you to places or direct you to a different spot, you have to be willing to change courses.

This is particularly true if you travel around the country.  Conception of time is not the same in Cuba as it is in western countries.  We wait in hour long lines to get nowhere or nothing. The driver doesn’t feel like driving, so you wait. Or the bus isn’t working (again) so you’ll have to take a taxi or other way of getting around.

Point is: just be open to an adventure!

  1. Machismo Culture

Cuban men are NOT shy when it comes to approaching you. And even more so when you’re a Yuma (a foreigner).

You are noticeable from the moment you get out of the airport until the minute you get back in a taxi to leave to the airport.

You’ll be stared at, cat-called, and woo’d.

Here’s my tip:  Most of the time, ignore the unwanted cat-calls.  We get them DAILY and CONSTANTLY and it’s just something you get over after a while.

  1. Be Careful of Jineteros

This is a taboo topic in Cuban culture.  Jineteros are Cubans, both male and female, that try to get money or other services from foreigners.

Jineteros in Cuban culture are associated with prostitution, but this is not always the case.  They tend to hang around tourist areas and have foreigners pay for their meals or drinks.

Jineteros sometimes like to make a romantic connections with their foreigner girl in order to get money and/or products from them when they leave back to their countries.

I’ll write more on Cuban love later, but given this, I want to say: its important not to think every local or man willing to dance with you is a jinetero.  Cubans are naturally warm and inviting people. Just be careful if they expect you to pay for everything.

  1. Stay in a casa particular

Cuba doesn’t have hostels (well, not that many) but it has the next best thing: Casa Particulares.

Casa Particulares are rooms/apartments rented by local families.  Many can be found on Airbnb or if you want my recommendations, you can email me.

Many times, if not all the time, casa owners are a great way to befriend locals. It is custom in Cuba to offer meals and coffee to your guest. They can recommend places and even sometimes offer to join you.  It’s a great way to get introduced to Cuban culture.

  1. Don’t dress like a tourist: Yes, no straw fedora hats.

As I mentioned before, its obvious you aren’t Cuban. I don’t care if you have darker complexion. Everyone knows.

But, if you want to try to blend in a bit more and not get hassled (especially in tourist areas), tone down the tourist look.

Some things that AUTOMATICALLY recognize you as the following

  1. Fedora Hats: No one wears these. No one. And Cuba isn’t the set of the godfather
  2. Off-the-shoulder ruffle dresses: Women in cuba don’t really wear flowy dresses….. at all.
  3. Travel Backpacks: Probably the most recognizable “look at me im a foreinger with lots of money” look. I never understood why travelers lug things around on their back when the invention of the wheel was over 5000 years ago
  1. Bring all your essential beauty/medical items with you

There’s no CVS in Cuba.  There’s no Sephora. There’s no Walmart.

Bring that hairspray. Bring that brush. Bring that makeup.  Bring some backup.

Beauty items, feminine products, and other essential things you can most likely pick up anywhere else in the world is not found here.  Yes, Havana has more items but to make sure you aren’t running around market to market, bring your own things and a backup just in case.

  1. Travel outside Havana

Transportation is an issue for most Cubans. We wait in lines, have to hitch-hike or plan days in ahead to get from one place to another.

Luckily, you wont have that problem.  Companies like Viazul  or Transtur  offer buses in between major tourist cities like Vinales, Varadero, Trinidad or Cienfuegos.

Book a ticket there (or at any major hotel in Havana) and go! Cuba is an entirely different country outside Havana.

I really advise anyone to use tourist transportation, especially if you are a solo female traveler.

Vinales is a beautiful picturesque country town where most of the nation’s tobacco comes from.

Cienfuegos, nicknamed the pearl of the Caribbean, is exactly that. It’s a beautioful town set on the side of a bay.

Trinidad is a UNECO world heritage site. Its combled streets and old-spanish backdrop makes it a beautiful place to visit.

And, of course, tourist favorite…Varadero.  But, there’s better beaches.

  1. Learn a bit of Cubano

You might know Spanish or you might not, but heres a few terms in Cubano (yes, Cuban Spanish) that you should know to stay safe and understand a bit of what people are telling you:

Yuma: a foreigner aka YOU.

Chavito or Fula: CUC – Convertible pesos (not moneda nacional)

Que Bola: Hey, whats up!!

Acere: friend, amigo, pal

Por la izquierda: Under the table.  You might want to indicate money exchange by using this term

Jevita: Female girl or “girlfriend”

Dale: Not only pitbull’s term, but ours too. It means goodbye or “come on, hurry up!”

  1. Knowing the Art of Negotiation

Cubans are infamous for making petty scams like charging more to foreigners. I hate this! But I only justify it for the necessities we have economically.

Given this, you HAVE to negotioate! If you are not in a taxi collective (fixed route shared taxis, these are routes that pick up other passengers on the way to the destination.. it cost 10 CUP per person or  50 cents!), you have to negotiate the rate with the driver!

If they tell you $10 to go from Habana Vieja to Vedado (neighborhoods) they are overcharging you. Always try to negotiate down. Cubans will always try to hustle, but you have to too.  Be safe with your money, many times you can’t get more of it.

  1. Do Not Over Drink

This is by far the most obvious tip for being safe in Cuba. But its also not customary for women to get extremely drunk.  It’s just not something you really see in Cuban culture.

Yes, women drink, but not to the point of no control.

And in Cuba when a drink costs around $2-$3, it can get tempting to have another one.

It’s okay to enjoy yourself, but if traveling alone always be careful of your surroundings.

Want to  see Cuba like a local? Or go on a tour with other solo female travelers? Check my tour schedule! 

Best apps for Cuba

Apps For Cuba – The Top 5 You Need to Download Now

5 Essential Apps For Cuba (Updated June 2019)

best apps fo cuba

Millenial Cubans on their phones

In an island nation where dial-up is just starting to be introduced, your 2019 digitally dependent self has to know what essential apps for Cuba you need.

As you might know, data really doesn’t exist in Cuba for tourist yet but WiFi does exist in public parks and hotels. See my guide to learn how to get on the internet in Cuba.

That doesn’t really help when you’re walking around La Habana or going to Trinidad or on the beach in Varadero now does it?

You’ll need to download applications that run while being offline. Luckily for you, there are a few essential apps for Cuba and even some developed in Cuba by Cubans (yes! tech start-ups are a thing in Havana!).

Maps.Me

If there is any app you need to download for your trip to Cuba, its this one. Maps.me allows users GPS without being connected to the Internet.

Maps.me isn’t just your normal offline map, its pretty accurate with up-to-date information on where bars, restaurants and attractions are.

To get the map of Cuba, after you download the app you must go in, zoom into Cuba and download the map of Cuba.

You’ll thank me later.

Apple. Android.

apps for cuba - offline map

Maps.me best offline map of cuba

A La Mesa

A La Mesa is yelp a lo Cubano, kind-of. It lists all the restaurants in specific cities, their prices, and their contact information.

Developed in Havana, a La Mesa is one of the first Cuban made apps.

Apple. Android.

app for cuba - food app for cuba

ALaMesa, Cuban made app

SUBE 

Cuba’s first ride-sharing app!! Sort of like UBER but Cuban style! You will need to be connected to use this one, but with 3G on phones now and many new places for Wi-Fi this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Many times as a tourist you don’t know how much transportation is and you get ripped off just because you’re a tourist. With the app, the price is confirmed beforehand without the driver knowing country of origin a rider is from.  You pay the driver in CUC upon arrival.

Transportation is already tricky for tourist and locals alike. But with Sube this makes it even better!

The app is only available through Android but they are quickly working on releasing it for iPhone.

Just another amazing story of Cuban strength despite the technological and financial challenges.

While many news publications will compare Sube to Uber, perhaps Uber might learn something from a group of four techies in a country where tech is far from modern.

You can download Sube here and check out their Instagram and Website.

best apps for cuba - video chat in cuba

Cubans using IMO to see their loved ones

Google Translate

I think this is a pretty much no-brainer if you don’t speak fluent Spanish just make sure you download the Spanish dictionary before your flight to Cuba.

But don’t rely to heavily on Google Translate for everything. Cubans have our own unique way of speaking eloquently.

Apple. Android.

Zapya

Want to share a photo with your new Cuban friend? Or perhaps get that cool reggaeton song they have? Alas, Zapya. Cuba’s version of hacking the capabilities of sharing the internet without being on it.

Zapya allows you to connect remotely and internet-freely other devices around you using Bluetooth system. Its like Airdrop for Apple but works between any system! It’s a great way to share anything from device to device.

Apple. Android.

My 2 Cents

As the internet is slowly penetrating Cuba, change is happening both socially and politically. More Cubans can see how people live outside. With apps like IMO, we can now connect with your family members everyday if we wanted to.

The emotional farewells at Jose Marti are softened now knowing you can see your loved one in just a few hours.

All this being said, apps bring the once isolated nation a little closer to 2018.

Travel Inside Cuba: The Non-Confusing Guide

How to Travel Inside Cuba: The Non-Confusing Guide to Cuban Transportation

When it comes to travel inside Cuba, the island isn’t your typical get-a-way to the Bahamas.  It isn’t even your typical eco-adventure to Costa Rica. Cuba, is unlike any place in the world in EVERY aspect, including even the most basic: getting around.

One of the biggest questions I get is how to travel while inside Cuba. How can you get from one city to another? Should you rent a car or hire a driver? Or is there public transportation?

With the lack of information out there on transportation, making plans to go around the country can seem really daunting.

Before I get into the different ways, it’s important to know why Cuba doesn’t have an easy transportation system.  Gas is expensive and well, so are cars.  Transportation is a HUGE “lio” (problem) for EVERYONE. Tourists are no exception to that.

There is silver lining, though.  You, unlike the majority of Cubans, have more money to get around. So let’s see what the options are:

how to get to city to city inside cuba

Guide To Travel Inside Cuba

 

Travel Inside Cuba by Renting a car – The most flexible option but can be the most expensive

Renting a car allows flexibility, plain and simple. You can get in your car and drive to the next city, then the next without a schedule or itinerary to follow. With that kind of freedom, you’re now open to see parts of the country the tourist route doesn’t go to.

Be aware that depending on where you’re going, roads can be pretty tough. Some roads, especially in Oriente and far west Pinar del Rio haven’t seen new pavement since Castro came along.  But between Pinar del Rio (city) to Camaguey, its pretty solid and clean.

How to reserve a rental car: There are a few companies (all government owned) where you can get your car from. Here are some

Price: Depends on what you prefer, when and how many days.   Economical cars are the cheapest and renting in low seasons (summer) is cheaper than during high (winter). Also, car companies will charge you less per day if you rent more days.

You have to rent at a minimum 3 days.  

If you rent more than 7, the price per day drops. Same with 10 and so on. Check the websites to see the price

Travel Inside Cuba Rental Car

Rental Car in Cuba

 

Hiring a Driver in Cuba- Ride around without the worry of where you’re going

Hiring a driver is an excellent option for those who really don’t want to drive or figure out the roads of Cuba.  Drivers can either stay with you during your trip (usually if you do a one day trip like to Vinales) or can take you to the next city.

If you want to hire a driver to take you on a round trip (meaning Havana to Vinales back to Havana), you can contact me here.

hire driver in cuba

Hiring a Driver in Cuba

Cuban Collectivo – cheap and fast way but not always the most comfortable

If you are planning on going to the next city and don’t mind sharing the car with other tourists or locals, here’s what you can do:

  1. Go to Omnibus terminal
  2. Outside on a side street are various cars parked outside – ask the drivers how much
  3. Don’t be afraid to barter! Make sure you want a collective car (collectivo) and be prepared to pay a bit more than your Cuban counterpart in the same car. Sorry, that’s just how it goes for tourists in Cuba!

shared taxi in Cuba

collectivo rides in Cuba

Bus in Cuba- for tourists only

Going on a bus like Viazul is your last option you have as a tourist in Cuba to see different sites.  The downfall to this is that many times bus departure times, like everything in Cuba, is not always accurate.

If you want to travel by bus, it is the cheapest option you have as a tourist for city-to-city, especially long distances. You can check out times and fares at Viazul’s website.

Note: Cuban nationals can ride with you on the tourist buses!

public transportation in cuba

Tourist Bus can take you around

Public Transportation in Cuba- inner cities only

Public busses are for everyone in Cuba but only in inner cities.  Riding the “guagua (bus)” with other locals is totally fine and you should definitely do it to get a better experience!

However, if you’re wondering if you can take a bus from city to city with other locals the short answer is “no”.

Cubans ask anyone going on a public bus for their carnet (ID) and because you don’t have one you most likely won’t be able to get on, that is, if you don’t know how to pay the chauffer off.  If you can manage to do that, you can score a bus ticket anywhere from $5 – $10 per person depending on how much you’re willing to give.

 

Just have a good time!

When in Cuba, you have to remember you’re in a totally different society with different cultural norms. It may not be easy to accept that you have to wait a couple hours to get going, but that’s just how it Is in Cuba! If you except to have an amazing time from city to city, just be sure you are flexible and have a “go-woth-the-flow” type of attitude. Anything can happen in Cuba, ANYTHING!

 

If you want to see Cuba like I do and experience it culturally (or however you want) and don’t want to plan all the confusing details, you can book a tour with me here.

Travel Cuba Legally in 2018: Here’s How

Malecon in Habana

View from Hotel Nacional, Tourist Hotel.

Despite Travel Warnings and Trump Reversals, You can Still Travel to Cuba Legally in 2017

Here is How:

After a significant change in US-Cuban relations under President Obama in 2015, Cuba experienced a wave of fresh Americans willing to see their closest Caribbean neighbor.

It was a new era.  People whispered quietly passed the ears of the CDR their hope Cuba’s economy would change for the better with the influx of tourism.  We waited and waited hopeful that Obama would officially end the 60 year (ridiculous) embargo.

We waited. Then waited some more.

Then Obama came. Here is comes!!!!! Finally!

…….Nope.

It’s okay, we thought. People are still coming, one day. One day.

Then November 2016 happened. President Trump months later reversed everything we had hoped for.

As if we clung on to the little hope we could finally see our families without diplomatic problems, send money to them without ridiculous fees, and call them to hear their voices only 90 miles away without being one of the most expensive places to call in the world.

President Trump, with one speech and one signature later, removed the essential visa category that made traveling to the island much easier. The individual “people-to-people” category.   This category was extremely vague in its description and did not require American citizens to officially sign up with a tour group.

Regardless of the removal of this category, going to Cuba is STILL LEGAL using different visa categories.

Legal visa to travel to Cuba

Cuban tourist visa

Let me break it down for you if you plan to come to Cuba from point of entry inside the United States or US territories.

Before we start, it is important to note that Cuba does NOT have an embargo against the United States. Regardless of what passport you carry or what country (if you come from a third country i.e. Cancun to Havana) in from, Cuba will welcome you with open arms, café, and most likely dance lessons.

Under current 31 CFR 515.560 law, Americans can use one of 12 reasons to enter the Cuba.  Here are the three most Americans can apply for:

  1. Support the Cuban-People visa

Provision found in § 515.574 of the CACR, US government.

It defines the visa as activities are recognized human rights organization, independent organizations designed to promote democracy or individual’s organization that promote independent activity intendent to strengthen civil society in Cuba. Provision § 515.574(A) to this means the traveler must have a log of their itinerary for up to 5 years.

In English?

It means this visa has to record that you kept a full schedule seeing individuals or organization that directly help or show Cuban society.

You can’t you use your bank card to it, as that evidence against “supporting the Cuban people”).

But this visa category is extremely vague.  The OFAC does not or will have a list of such organizations or individuals that promote “democracy” or “civil society” in Cuba.  Nor can the OFAC track your cash money on the island.

What you need to do to fall under this category?

Like all categories, you must have a log of your itinerary for up to 5 years (501.601).  It also means that itinerary has to show at least 8 hours of cultural experience.

Itineraries of such activities can include several tourist experiences. Curating a local tour with a local guide can be considered a “support of a Cuban” person.

Going to local paladar (restaurant) can be considered “support of the Cuban people”

Will you get caught?

There is a EXTREMELY rare chance that American customs will care that you went to Cuba. In fact, the last person who got fined was over 10 years ago.

Unless you caused extreme disturbance while on the island, you will be fine.

 

  1. Educational Activities Visa

Provision § 515.565.  This one is a bit trickier since most of you will not be enrolling in a college class in Habana or a university sponsoring a class in Cuba.

But there is a provision to the law under § 515.590( B) that states:

General license for people-to-people travel. The travel-related transactions  not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program are authorized, provided that:

(1) Travel-related transactions pursuant to this authorization must be for the purpose of engaging, while in Cuba, in a full-time schedule of activities intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities

(2) Each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba;

(3) The predominant portion of the activities engaged in by individual travelers is not with a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party,

(4) For travel conducted under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact, an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure that each traveler has a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities;

 

En Ingles?

Visa requirements include, like the Support of the Cuban-People, to obey the record keeping laws and record activities that engage Cuban people and have educational elements to it.

For example, if an individual plans to travel to Cuba to engage with local artists and have extended dialogue with farmers in Cuba and can demonstrate those activities in a log for up to 5 years, you fall under the visa category.

 

  1. Family Visa

This is probably the weirdest way to enter the country, but also the least recordkeeping needed.  Now, I know you’re thinking…wait, I’m not Cuban! I don’t have Cuban family in Cuba.

Well, you don’t. But that’s okay.

Under this general license, §  515.560 the US government states: “Persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and persons traveling with them who share a common dwelling as a family with them are authorized to engage in the travel-related transactions.”

You and those accompanying you can travel to a “close relative located in Cuba”

What’s a close relative?

According to § 515.339 a close relative is defined :

“as any person… who is no more than three generations removed from that person or from a common ancestor with that person”

Yes, you still don’t have anyone in Cuba.

But what is the likihood the US is going to commission a non-american to a DNA test? US has no jurisdiction to Cuban nationals.

This isn’t the “legal” way, but it is a way to get you out of logging things.

Tourists in Cuba

Americans enjoying La Habana!

 

 

Traveling to Cuba can be tricky, but we assure you that its possible and LEGAL. It can be even easier if you book a tour that provides you itineraries. I will be having set tour dates in 2018 that fall under these categories.  If you are interested, please reach out here:

And remember, you will only need the tourist visa to enter Cuba. The affidavit (where you put what category you are traveling on) will be provided to you at the embarkation point in the United States or abroad.  It’s a piece of paper you fill out and check what category. They keep the paper, you get the visa.  That is it.

 

When coming back to the US, customs MIGHT ask you where you came from and you say Cuba. They stamp your passport, and you go on your merry way.

 

For cultural and educational trips that go beyond tourist areas, check out my tours in 2018 here.

 

I can assure you, like yourself, Cubans are desperate to engage with Americans without this political nonsense.  It does nothing for either side when two nations cannot engage diplomatically.

In the end, it hurts relations for everyone.

 

But you don’t need to add to it. Come to Cuba worry free and enjoy your time in the most unique place in the world!

 

Nos vemos.

Mari.

Critical Items to Gift or Donate to Cubans

This blog post will help you know what you can donate to Cubans, how you can donate, and who you should donate to.

Updated: July 2019

First and foremost, THANK YOU.

When it comes to tourists coming to on holiday to Cuba, a question I often get is “Can I bring anything?” “How can I help the Cuban people?”

There’s probably no better question I love answering than that one.

There’s several reasons why the economic situation in Cuba is the way it is. The combination of the economic embargo alongside the internal situation has stifled the country at low monthly wages at high cost of living.

Unfortunately, many items that are easy to find in other countries become extremely hard to find in Cuba even if you have all the money in the world to buy it.

But as I sit here trying to google “donations to Cubans” that search becomes just as hard to find as the items Cuba needs.

I’m shocked there isn’t more out there in form of blog posts given the almost 2 million Cubans living in the United States alone.

So that’s why I’m here.

Here is a list of essential items you can donate to Cubans –

Many of them you’ll likely be packing for your vacation anyways.

  1. Medicine

There is nothing more necessary in Cuba than medicine. Sure, there’s free health care but care is limited when vital medicine is in low quantity. And, its really no secret.

Over the counter medication is in high demand. Some of these include:

  • Tylenol
  • NSAIDs
  • Anti-inflammatory cream (Cubans love Bengay)
  • Cough syrup for children
  • Tums
  • Bayer
  • Eyedrops
  • Cough drops (!!!!!)
  • Sudafed
  • VITAMINS OF ANY TYPE!!
  • Other over-the-counter

And Cuban Liquid Gold is always, always: BENGAY

As of 2019, pre-natal pills are in need. 

  1. Bandaids

Bandaids, gauze, and medicine tape are very expensive. A roll of medicine tape costs around $2CUC (a huge expense if you’re making $20 a month).

Bandaids are extremely light and small to pack and probably the most important item to gift a Cuban household.

  1. Toilet paper

Outside your Cuban resort and/or Cuban casa particular, toilet paper is a huge luxury for a lot of Cuban families. Its 90 cents a roll an trust me, its no Charmin.   A few rolls goes a long way.

  1. Deodorant

If deodorant was a drug, it could kill. Sweat and Smell go hand in hand on that island. That $1 bar from the 99 cent store costs nearly quadruple.

  1. Soap/ Shampoo/ Conditioner

See above for explanation

  1. Shoes

Good quality shoes are essential, especially for kids. It’s not rare to see people outside in the countryside especially barefoot or children running barefoot. Shoes are extremely expensive and very low quality.

Shoes break in 2 weeks if they aren’t an American recognizable brand. No joke. One time my shoes broke in the middle of the Olga Tanon concert in La Habana just by walking. No bueno.

Mari Pro Tip: If you want to bring shoes, working shoes in the countryside and boots are always needed. Many people in our little rural town of Pilotos have shoes with holes in them because of their long hours in the field.

  1. Brushes – Hair, Tooth

Here’s a story: It took me 3 days to find a hairbrush in Pinar. 3 days. Then it broke… 2 brushes later. #noesfacil

Toothbrushes and toothpaste are in huge demand as well. Children go nuts for the themed ones they sell outside the island.

  1. Sheet and Towels

Another two items that are in huge demand. You’ll likely see the same sheets in a Cuban home used for years.

  1. Other toiletries

Some items you’re likely already carrying are:

  • sun block
  • lotion
  • Wipes
  • Hair gel
  • Hairspray
  • Hair ties for the ladies!!!
  1. Feminine Products

Outside of high tourist areas like La Habana or Cienfuegos, many women have little to no access to choice within feminine products. Meaning, theres no tampons.

Tampons are light and small as well and will go a long way to helping any lady out.

  1. Toys

Children love toys and unfortunately toys are expensive in Cuba. The #1 item you can gift a girl of course is a Barbie. A boy? A soccer ball.   Move over baseball, soccer is HUGE in Cuba.

But most importantly are basic school supplies for Children: coloring books, pens, crayons, pencils, erasers.

13.  Diapers – Baby and Adult

Diapers are extremely expensive in Cuba. A package of 8 can cost $10! For an American salary, thats A LOT so imagine for a Cuban one.  Many older citizens, like our grandma, are bed stricken due to illnesses such as  arthritis.  Getting them cleaned is a LOT of work and causes bed sores. Diapers would really help.

Same thing for babys. While its common to use clothe diapers, many babies are sensitive and can only use diapers. Please bring if willing, a variety of sizes.

How to Donate to Cubans?

GOING OUTSIDE THE RESORTS- Tour Cuba Locally!

The biggest help you can give is is tourism.  Tourism helps the economy in so many different ways: From helping the taxi man earn more money, the the dancer on the street getting tips.  Its funnels through the economy.

There’s no better way to spend your time in Cuba than actually SEEING THE COUNTRY. Forget the cheap resorts you can find anywhere else in the Caribbean. This is a unique island with unique culture and we’d love for you to see it as authentic as possible.

Donations can be done multiple ways, but one thing is for certain. DO NOT DONATE PUBLICALLY ON THE STREETS. The Cuban government is concerned not only for saftey but its public image. No one wants to be seen as the country who needs American saviors for basic items, especially when there is already so much political tension.

Cuba is tricky when it comes to donations. If you are bringing large quantities of 1 thing, Cuban government officials might get a bit suspicious you’re trying to supply black markets than donating.

Mari tip: If you are so kind enough to donate, please bring a variety of things. Do not bring 50 USB sticks or a luggage full of shoes.  

To get customized tours email me here. For small-group tours, you can see our itinerary. 

Who to Donate To?

Cubans are inventors, but you might not know there are different economic classes on the island like any other country. Most casa particulares owners are living very well off tourism and same goes with any tourist driven employee (that’s why its so hard to get a tourist license).

We suggest going to places that are off-the-grid. In Havana alone there are several marginalized communities who would love donations. We can help in arranging that.

I also suggest thati f you don’t have time to go outside of Havana to leave donations at Cuba Libro.  Cuba Libro is a local coffee shop run by an American. They always take in donation and do their best to distribute.

Mari Tip: I suggest if you want to give to please donate items to a community project or any family living in the countryside (not Vinales because, again, very touristy). Many Cubans are not as fortunate to have family on the outside that can send them remittances. Plus, you’ll get a very local and cultural experience doing it that way!

If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

AND MIL MIL GRACIAS!

Cuba 101: Intro Guide to Traveling to Cuba

Trust me: This is Everything you need to know about going to Cuba

It seems that all-of-the-sudden the world figured out the largest island in the Caribbean still exists. Maybe it was the cars, maybe it was the Kardashians.  Either way, Cuba has become a major hot spot for all the world’s coolest travel blogger Instagrams.

And now you want to go. You want the vintage picture. You want to say, “I went before it changes” (more on that later).

But, I know like many, you might not know a single thing about Cuba. Or you’re interested but you have no idea where to start.  Lonely Planet says one thing, that really awesome travel blogger says another.  Or you suddenly get caught reading  into a political battle.  

And now you’re here. But, don’t worry, like we say, “Tranquilo” (calm). Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Cuba before you jump onto that plane.

WHY CUBA?- CUBITA LINDA

Cuba is literally 35 minutes away to the closest major USA airport. From Cancun, 1 hour.   You take longer figuring out what outfit to wear for that club than it takes to get to Cuba.

Cuba’s rich history combined with its culture and of course, its disconnectivity to the world makes it alluring, mysterious and most-of-all, fun.

It’s the only place in the world where you’re immediately welcomed with a cup of coffee, a hug and reassurance that whatever you need is not a problem. It’s also one of the only places in the world where you hear music coming from all directions ALL THE TIME (yes, if you’re sensitive, bring ear plugs… ).

Plus there’s all the other amazing things like salsa dancing on the beach, drinking mojitos on the Malecon, and riding in antique cars.

THE VISA- YUMAS

If you’re American, you need one annnnddddd its complicated.  I wont get into the nitty gritty details (like I did here), but I will say:

 

YOU CAN STILL GO TO CUBA (as of September 2017)

I offer legal and hassle-free itineraries you need to make your trip legal in the eyes of Uncle Sam. But even more rewarding is that they will help the Cuban people and you’ll get to explore our culture much more than if you went to Cubano-Med (Club Med).

The visa costs around $100 and you can purchase it from Cuba Travel Services before or at check-in.  You’ll mark either “education” or “support the Cuban people” as one of the 11 categories.

Because the government of Cuba does not have an embargo on the United States, no one in Cuba cares why you’re there- they are just glad you are.  Immediately seeing your passport, they will ask you if you want it stamped. Up to you now but more on this in my other dedicated visa blog post.

MONEY –  FULA, DINERO

In case you didn’t already know, your credit card won’t work in Cuba. Sorry, no travel points for you.

You MUST bring cash. I don’t care if you’re Canadian, Spanish, German or Martian… bring it. And lots of it.

ATMs are only seen in major cities and the only place I know that accepts credit cards as a form of payment are in hotels.  SWIPE OR INSERT CHIP HERE does not translate in Cuban.  It just simply doesn’t exist.

And to complicate things even more, Cuba has not one but two currencies.  TWO.

Lets take the Cuba Currency 101 Course:

  1. CUC (pronounced “cuuk” or C-U-C) is peso convertible.  This is the currency banks and hotels will give you.  Its valued at 1 CUC = 1 USD.
  2. CUP (coup or peso cubano) is peso nacional.  This is the currency small business and people on the street use.   Its valued at 25 CUP = 1 CUC

SO HERE’S THE BREAKDOWN:

25 CUP= 1 CUC = 1 USD

Left: CUP (Peso Cubano, Nacional) Right: CUC (Convertible Peso)

How can you tell if something is in CUC or CUP? Well, if you’re ordering a pizza from a fast food stand and the menu says “12”, put your gringo hat on and think “$12 for one pizza?” Nope. That’s CUP. So 12 peso cubano which is about half a cuc is roughly 50 cents.  

MARI MUNDO TIP:  Most places in Havana will use CUC in restaurants. Anywhere outside will either charge in CUP (small places) or give you an option.

Now that you (hopefully) understand the valuation of currency, how do you get it?

SPECIAL BONUS MARI MUNDO TIP: Well, luckily for you I have amazing tips that you wont find anywhere else here that will save you a bunch of money when getting hit by the Cuban tax (especially if you’re American).

I will say that all banks will trade your currency. They are called cadecas.  The most common are: Canadian Dollar (CAD), Pound Sterling (GBP), Euro (EUR), Dollar (USD), Russian Ruble (RUB), and Swiss Franc (CHF).  Some places will also have the Mexican peso and the Japanese yen.

Be aware if you plan on going to a Cadeca, you will be waiting in line especially if in Havana (as with everything in Cuba… a line).

TRANSPORTATION

 

The biggest hurdle of daily life for Cubans is transportation.  As a tourist, it’s a bit easier, but you can easily join the Cuban club when it comes to moving around the island.

Transportation can be tricky but depending on where you are, you can still get around.

TAXIS- MAQUINAS, ALMENDRONS

Taxis come two ways in Cuba: colectivos (shared fixed routes) or pick-up style (traditional, private).  Like New York, just put your hand out and grab a taxi.

IMPORTANT: Always negotiate a price BEFORE you get into a taxi. Rides around La Habana Vieja- El Vedado shouldn’t cost more than $3cuc and to Miramar $10cuc.  

And like its own intuitive uber system, prices always raise at night due to fewer cars.

Collectivos are always fijo (fixed). They run certain routes and these taxi’s cost 20 peso cubano per person per ride (or like if you took my Cuban Currency class right above is almost $1 cuc).  You can usually find colectivos where you see Cubans lined up and cars picking them up (most common for tourists is in Plaza Central across the street from Hotel Inglatera or on the corner of Copelia Ice Cream and 23rd.  

The taxi driver will come up to you and you tell him where you’re going.  He will say yes or no.  You get in if obviously yes. Along the way he will pick up other people going the same direction. They come and go.

If you need a taxi from the airport to your destination (and most of you will) you can always contact me and for $30 CUC you can get yourself to your Airbnb.

BUS – LA GUAGUA

Viazul Bus – Tourism.

Cubans call buses GUAGUA for the noise it makes: waaa-waaaaaaa. There are plently of inner-city buses in La Habana but I really don’t recommend it unless you want to get extremely close to a random Cuban while sweating and not know where you’re going.  But if you’re in the mood to adventure or you’re a budget traveler, Cubans are always willing to help anyone get to where they are going. You just have to ask.

If you plan on taking a bus from city to city, tourists buses are run by Viazul. Viazul sells tickets either online or at certain stations.

A bit of caution: As with everything else in Cuba, Viazul is not reliable form of transportation. They are infamous for being late and/or breaking down.  I cant say its 100% guarantee this will happen, but something to keep in the back of your mind when going from one city to another- flexibility and a “go-with-the-flow” mentality.

RENTAL CARS

Tourist cars are marked by “T” on the license plate.

For the most flexibility and freedom, I always recommend travelers to rent a car especially if they want to see other parts of the country Viazul does not go through.

They are, though, expensive.  The most economic car during peak tourist season will run you almost $80 a day not including the very expensive gas.

You will also be required to get premium or special gas as all tourists cars (marked by a T on the license plate) is by law required to purchase that gas. Although, if you bat your eyes or give a little tip to the worker he might let you slide with normal gas.

You can rent cars here and prepay them with a credit card.  Please be aware that you need to rent a car for at least 3 days with a $150-$200 deposit (in cash).

MARI MUNDO TIP: If you decide to rent a car do not rent at the airport as you will have to pay a $20 airport fee and they will only give you back your deposit in your national currency with a penalty.  I suggest renting from Paseo y 3 in La Habana across the street from Hotel Melia Cohiba. They are 24 hours unlike other places.

 

THE MOST ASKED TOPIC: INTERNET

Ay, if I had a CUC for every time someone asked me how to get internet on the island I could fund my own internet company.

Yes, there’s Internet in Cuba.  Yes, you can get it. Yes, I get it.  And yes, it sucks.

For $1.50 an hour you can buy this ETESCA card and connect to the internet following the instructions:

Prepaid Internet Card

  1. Buy a ETECSA card from anywhere that says “recarga” or at hotels
  2. Go to a public park or inside hotel lobbies that offer wi-fi
  3. Jump on ETECSA wi-fi
  4. Wait (sometimes impatiently) for the log-in page to appear
  5. Enter the two codes
  6. Online! But this is Cuba not Starbucks. It isn’t fast. It isn’t reliable.  

Want to know what applications work and will make your life much easier? I list them here.

FOOD – JAMA

Cubans rely heavily on inventing new ways everyday to eat.  Ration cards leave much to be desired and hardly support anyone for a week much less an entire month.  

Cuba is infamously known for pork, lechon or puerco.  It’s the national dish and a staple along with white rice and beans.  Sweet potato (or bonito) and plantains are always always a side dish.

But what you know is this: Ropa Vieja.  How much I love ropa vieja.  But did you know, its illegal to kill a cow in Cuba? Yup.

La Habana has the best food by far in the island. It’s the capitol and surprisingly you can find many cuisines from around the world.   The combination of increased tourism with the uprising of private restaurants has paved the way for a new generation of Cuban cuisine.  Here are some of my recommendations in La Habana.

SAFETY

I am willing to put money that Cuba is by far the safest island in the Caribbean, the saftest country in Latin America and probably North and South America when it comes to violent crimes.

It is however not crime-free, of course.   The biggest thing as a tourist you must look out for is petty scams.  It happens and it happens all the time.

Tourists are EXTREMELY easy to spot.  Even if you are Cuban-American, your clothes, your attitude, your skin color, and everything about you is noticeable.  You aren’t from here.  

And Cubans know that.  Many times they will trick you into going into a restaurant and you will pay more than the normal price. Or taxi drivers will charge you much more. Worst offense is confusing you with the double currency.

But, as with every other country, it happens and you cannot let it affect your vacation.  After all you should be enjoying experiencing a new culture and understand many of this is due to necessity.

Cuba does redeem itself in all other terms when it comes to safety.  As long as you aren’t a drunk idiot (screaming wheres the marijuana in the middle of Habana vieja at 2 am…. Yes, I rescued an American girl doing this last year) you’ll be safe anywhere in the island you go to.

I cannot overstate enough of friendly, welcoming and helpful Cuban people are.  You are NEVER alone or lost on the island. Never.

Itinerary in Cuba

Throughout this blog, you’ll see many places to go.  Of course, I cannot make a website and not mention the most popular places in Havana

  • La Habana (La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana, El Vedado, Miramar, Playa)
  • Trinidad
  • Cienfuegos
  • Varadero
  • Vinales
  • Cayo Coco/Santa Maria

Those are the most common and tourist centric places in Cuba. Its where you’ll find most information on the internet and where all the other travel bloggers have mentioned in their “ultimate guide to cuba”

But, keep on the look out for some places you never knew existed. Those are the exciting ones.  And I’m so excited to show the world a Cuba its never seen before.