ART Takes Cuba: The Basics

*Cues Mura Masa “What If I go

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I’ve been wanting to go to Havana, Cuba for a while. I think the fascination started when I realized that I could actually go. I didn’t know too much about the country, but I saw it was rich in culture and quite affordable. I also was intrigued by the fact that the country had not yet been crowded with American tourists. It seemed authentic and I was ready to experience it.

Traveling to Cuba is not as hard as some people may think. When you purchase your flight, it includes the health insurance they require, so the only other thing you need is a visa, which you purchase at the airport on your departure day. The plane tickets range anywhere from $180-$350. It all depends on when you’re traveling and how high-maintenance you are. We took a Delta direct flight for around $300.

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It was only a two-hour flight to the José Martí International Airport, Havana’s main airport. I was surprised it was so close, but also gracious. Once you get off of the plane, it can be a little confusing. You have to go through their immigration process, which can take a little while. NOTE:  Be prepared to take a picture. Unfortunately, you can’t smile.

Money

Once you get done going through the immigration process, you get your bags checked and then you are basically on your way. The first thing you do is exchange your money for CUC, the Cuban currency for foreigners.

NOTE: Exchange your money for Euros or Canadian Dollars. Then you will exchange your money for CUC. They do not accept US Dollars in Cuba, so be prepared to carry cash.

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My suggestion is to take at least $100 per day of your stay, then an extra $100 for any emergencies. Depending on your spending habits, you may not spend that much money, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. There is no feasible way to get extra money, so prepare accordingly.

Transportation

You’ll probably spend most of your money on transportation. It’s about $30 to get from the airport to Old Havana. You can negotiate fares, but this is the average. When traveling in the city, you can spend anywhere from $5-$15 dollars to get where you need to go. I would say I spent about $75-$100 on transportation for my four-day trip.

It’s also nice to ride in the vintage taxis! They don’t have the amenities of the newer cars, but the experience is definitely worth it. The coco taxi has to be one of my favorites to ride. The breeze is great and it puts you closer to the people. 20170513_170226

Accommodations

We stayed at an Airbnb that was $25 a night, that included two beds. The room had air condition, as well as a refrigerator full of drinks that came in handy. The Airbnb wasn’t a private residence as we originally thought, but was set-up more like a hostel. There were four rooms, all separated.  We did have to share a bathroom, but it was never busy. Everyone was really nice, but it definitely helped that we could speak Spanish.20170515_110343

We stayed at Obispo 360. It was right in the middle of Old Havana, which was perfect. They had a terrace that overlooked the street, which was always filled with people. It never seemed to be too loud, but rather lively. Walking outside of the Airbnb, we were put right amid the locals and tourists. It definitely was a gem for first-time visitors. They also offered breakfast on the terrace for $5. I would recommend staying at an Airbnb or Casa Particular than a hotel. The accommodations aren’t quite up-to-date like American standards but comfortable for a vacation.20170514_100453

Food

There is a lot of good food in Cuba that will blow your mind. The issue is finding the really good food because there are a lot of people who get paid to show you menus. You may end up in a sub-par restaurant that will hurt your feelings. One thing that these rather “average” restaurants have, is amazing atmospheres! I danced salsa and listened to a man sing his heart out to us while eating a less than inspiring chicken breast. I’ll say that I remember the man more than the meal, so it’s still a win for me.

Meals can range anywhere from $10-$30, depending on drinks. Please don’t skip on the drink, most of them do not disappoint. Another tip is to do your research before you leave the country on restaurants to try. The Internet is limited and most people get paid to give you recommendations.

Some of my favorite restaurants were O’Reilly 304, Paladar Los Mercaderes and Azucar Lounge & Bar.

Here’s to Part One of ART in Cuba: The Basics. Look for more coming soon!

Signed,

ART simply Undone

 

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