Airports in the US have recently opened their gates with direct flights to Havana, Cuba. I bought my flight last minute with Delta Airlines, so it was pricey, compared to some of my friends who paid as little as $280 round trip, I paid $768 to be exact, your flight ticket also includes health insurance which is necessary during your stay in the largest Caribbean island, you must keep your boarding pass with you at all times as a proof of your health coverage. I also had to pay an additional $50 to purchase the Cuba travel visa which is NOT included in the flight, you can buy it over the phone with your airline or at check-in before your flight departures.
If you are an American citizen, Visiting Cuba for tourism is still not permitted, you need to fall within one of the 13 categories allowed to travel to Cuba. Which was not hard at all, went with a group of teachers, Educational Activities was my reason and it’s probably the most common purpose of Americans traveling to Cuba. I made sure I had an itinerary printed during my travel , with my intended activities for each day that supports my reason for traveling. You will need this because you may have to show it while going through U.S customs upon your return. I personally did not have to show it nor did my friends, but is best to be prepared.
For detailed information on how to travel to Cuba read “How To Travel To Cuba From USA”
The departing date to the tropical island was finally here. I had no issues checking in or boarding. The flight from JFK to Jose Marti airport is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes long. Everything went smooth from the flight to claiming my bag. We took a Cab to our AirBnB, the drive was 30 mins from the airport, it was 7 of us in our apartment. I loved the place we stayed in, it was big, clean, had 2 bathrooms. Our host was amazing, gave us tips, sightseeing suggestions, personal cab numbers.
Changing dollars to Cuban Convertibles “CUC“ (Exchange rate of $1 CUC = .85 USD), not to be confused with Cuban Pesos “CUP” (Exchange rate of $1 CUC = $24 CUP). This was one of the not so great experience about CUBA, exchanging money. The line at the bank was long, you need your passport as proof of ID at all times, they would not exchange a slightly rip, written, dirty, wrinkled or old dollar bill from you. Wish I knew this before going. By the way American debit and credit cards do not work in Cuba, yet. Make sure to take enough cash. I spent all the money I took with me, $300 for 5 days. If you don’t know the good and affordable paladares in the island, I recommend to take at least $100 per day.
WiFi was also one of my biggest problems, I’m addicted to my phone and the internet, Cuba’s wifi availability is very scarce. Had to learn to live without my phone for a few days.
We mainly took cabs to different destination in the Havana, but once there we would walk for hours. There is so much to see. I felt in love with La Havana Vieja (Old Havana), is like going back decades: the old fashion structures, cars, live music playing son, salsa and chacha inside and outside restaurants, bars and parks. You must visit Bodeguita del Medio, it claims to be the originator of the first mojito. ($5 CUC a drink).
We stayed in La Havana for two days, after that 14 of my friends decided to do a road trip to Cienfuegos and Trinidad. I personally took the shorter route to Varadero. I stayed in the northern city for 3 days with the remaining 4 traveler friends. The city is a 2 hour drive from Havana. I needed those days to relax and educate myself. I sure don’t regret it, the northern part of Cuba has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, the white sand, the clear water, the golden sunrise and sunset are Aaaaaamazing. The view was spectacular..
The hotel wasn’t impressive, the food was decent, the drinks nothing to brag about, although one of the main chefs happened to be Dominican, he went out of his way to make us feel extra special, making our stay at outdated hotel worth it.
Cuba was a great choice, I definitely recommend it, it was a wonderful experience. I would love to go back and if I do, I will probably stay in La Vieja Havana and explore.