Hi, everyone! I just got back from Cuba and the first thing I have to say is “What an experience!”
On this trip, I learned a lot and I started to see the world in a very different way.
If you are also thinking of spending a few days in Cuba, be ready to leave your cell phone and social networks aside, as access to the internet is very difficult. As soon as we landed on Cuban territory, we received messages from our mobile operators saying that if we wanted to use the internet, the price would be US$ 2 per megabyte, what means if I decided to watch a 5-minute video on Youtube in a 720p quality, I Would have to spend about $ 75 !!! Crazy, right?
Despite this difficulty, I confess it was one of the most important parts of the whole experience. I learned to value more moments of conversation with my friends at a bar table without getting a flood of notifications on the cell phone or stop talking to scroll my feed.
I also discovered that, yes, 24 hours is enough for a day! lol … You can do a lot when you do not spend so much time on your cell phone.
But if you’re wondering if Cubans still use flip phones, the answer is: no! Almost all of them have smartphones, but the difference is that they only use the internet from time to time. Since to be able to connect, you have to go to a hotel or park where wi-fi available. In general, they only come to post something or download some app that works offline.
We wanted to get the complete experience with Cubans and without all the standardization of hotel services. So, we rented a house on Airbnb and it was definitely a very good decision.
The hostesses were wonderful people and were very concerned about making us feel comfortable. They gave us several tips and were always very nice to us.
If you want to do the same, there are many options available, but I will leave the link of the house that we stayed at the end of this post.
This was what worried me the most since I am a vegetarian and some people had told me I would have a hard time finding food. But, for my surprise, it was not as difficult as I expected.
Two restaurants had specific options for vegetarians. The first one was called “Ideas.” I had an amazing mushroom and vegetable risotto that Ideas served. We went back there 3 times because it was so good! The other one is called Casa Miglis, where I had fried stuffed eggplant dish while enjoying live music and actually become friends with a couple who were part of the band. The night didn’t stop there though. We then went with them to dance and drink some Mojitos in a local bar. Do not expect to have too many snacks during the day, as the only thing I saw people “snacking” on the street was a giant loaf that that is sold by a bakery on the street we stayed in.
Unfortunately, public transportation is very precarious and the best option is taxi. However, not all taxis have a meter, so it is important to ask the price before entering and negotiate, so you will not end up paying too much for a 5-minute ride.
Cubans are a wonderful and very happy people! Even with few resources, they have a lot of fun and they are extremely kind. Wherever you go, you will always find people willing to help you.
In addition, they are extremely patient people!! That was another valuable lesson I learned from them. Because of the technology, we are used to being impatient, we don’t like waiting for anything. Cuba teaches you patience! And every time we complained about how long something was taking, a Cuban we met called Daniel looked at us calmly and sang “Despacito” (a Luis Fonsi’s song), which means “Slowly” in English. We definitely have a lot to learn from them!
The famous cigars
It’s nearly impossible to talk about Cuba without mentioning Cuban cigars.
Since I do not smoke, that was not a big deal for me, but my husband was very excited to try fresh Cuban cigars – since they are hard to come by in the United States.
Well, make no mistake, many people will offer you unique opportunities to buy boxes at better prices on places called “cooperativas”. These people say it’s a government-authorized sale that only happens once a month and brings together employees from the tobacco factories. All chatting !!! The cigars are original but much more expensive than in the official stores. Keep an eye on it because we fall for it. It is more worth buying at the airport than from these people selling at home.
It doesn’t matter how hard you insist. Cubans do not talk about politics!
Many of them deny that they can not speak because of the dictatorial regime, but every time we asked, the answer was the same: “I do not talk about politics.”
However, everyone is unanimous in saying that even with the country’s bad situation, they pride themselves on having free health and education, having no children living on the streets and practically no violence – it means, if you go to Cuba, you don’t have to worry about using your cell phone on the streets, jewelry, expensive cameras or walking late at night because the city is very safe.
One of them even confessed me that he does not like the economic policies adopted in the country and another one said he does not like the lack of free speech, but it was the most that I could hear from them.
What to do in Havana
Plaza de La Revolución: Plaza famous for the famous murals with the photos of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.
Memorial a José Martí: Located in front of the Plaza de la Revolución is the monument dedicated to José Martí.
Plaza de La Catedral: Square where you can find the baroque-style cathedral called San Cristobal de la Havana Cathedral.
Capitólio Nacional: An imposing building from the 1920s that is worth checking out.
Old car’s ride: You can find many of these cars available to ride in the Central Plaza of Havana and the price is charged per hour.
Playa Santa Maria del Mar (Mar Azul): The beach of Varadero is unmatched, but if you are a little bit of time to lose on the road, an alternative is a local beach, Playa Mar Azul, which has much fewer tourists and is Just 25 minutes from downtown Havana.