How to spend 10 days in Cuba

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Lonely PlanetWelcome back! I haven’t been posting anything since my last post of Croatia given a new job opportunity I’m working on. Now I’m very excited to share with you my recent adventure in Cuba!!

Travelling to Cuba can be the adventure you dreamed off! Specially, if your idea of adventure is to explore beautiful cities, hike through a jungle  or jump on a boat to go to a lost Cayo in the Caribbean sea!

Before you go to Cuba, there are a couple of things you need to consider:

  1. You need to buy a tourist VISA  that costs around 24€. I found a webpage that does it and they mail it to you in a couple of days (notice I said mail and not email jejeje). Find this webpage in this link: VISA FOR CUBA
  2. Also, it is very important to buy a health insurance. It seems very common that you get a stomach ache if you try any drink with ice. Not really sure why it happens but, the cost is not high and you can get good medical attention.

Once you have  your tourist visa and health insurance, you are good to go!

PLAN YOUR TRIP

Personally, I like to plan our trips around 2 months before departure. I heard somewhere, that flights cost lower until 52 days before the departure date. After that period, they seem to increase every monday. So yes, you probably figured out I booked on Sunday 🙂

HOTELS

Regarding Hotels, I cannot recommend a time to book in advance, as it depends if its high or low season. Also, for this trip, we decided to only book hotels during our first nights in La Habana and leave the rest as part of the adventure.

CASAS PARTICULARES

In Cuba, it is very common to sleep in people’s houses called “Casas Particulares” or Private homes. These are normal houses that locals adapt for tourist, and they offer every service a hostal or B&B could have. I really recommend this option for tight budgets and even for the experience itself. The cost can go from 15 to 40 CUC (Cuban Peso), which is around 12 to 35€ per night.

There are some webs where you can find these particular houses, but, I recommend to book them once you’re there or to look at the ones of the Lonely Planet Book of Cuba (I got this as birthday present in July…coincidence?) 😆

Enough chat!!! Our adventure began in…

La Habana

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MONEY EXCHANGE

First thing you want to do when you land in Cuba is change your chip. Get ready to be surprised, amazed and deceived.

Second thing you should do is change your money. In Cuba, there are 2 local currencies, CUC & CUP.

CUC, is the most used one and you normally get an exchange rate of 1€ = 1,14 CUCs.

CUP, is the currency in which the locals get their salary with 1 CUC = 25 CUPS.

We didn’t exchange any amount in CUPs just because we thought we wouldn’t need any and it was fine the whole trip.

The office to exchange currency is just outside the terminal. There is a cue that takes you around 20 minutes. It is probably smart if someone waits for the suitcase and the other goes to exchange money, everything can take you 20 min each.

Alright! Now you have money in your pockets and you are looking for a taxi, right? Well, Cuba is also special for that. There are normal taxis and “taxi colectivo”, which means a collective taxi or some type of Uber Pool, but without the app in your mobile.

However, at the airport we didn’t see any taxi colectivo and we went with the regular yellow ones. We paid 30 CUC for a ride to the center of La Habana.

Tip: Ask for the total cost of the ride before!

I heard there are buses that get you to the city center for 2 CUCs but, depends on the time you arrive, for us it was too late (22:00).

We made our first stop at a very nice boutique hotel in the area of Vedado called La Reserva Vedado. We chose this place as it seemed very peaceful and we wanted to enjoy a relaxed ambient during our first night. Simon, the owner, was very kind from the begining and also his staff. The hotel has design touches of minimalism with a little art deco, combined with a colonial-type arquitecture.

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Breakfast is full of everything you could imagine in the Caribbean: mango juices, french toasts, tropical fruit and excellent coffee and tea. You can also order any type of omelet or scrambeled eggs.

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There is a lady at La Reserva called Susel, who also helped us arranging our transports to the other locations we wanted to visit.

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Visit their nice rooms at www.lareservavedado.com !

The next morning  we started our exploration and we went to the Necropolis of Cristobal Colon. Once, the discoverer was burried there, but the Spanish authorities claimed his body back to Spain. The entrance, is 5 CUC, and I have to say, I’m not a big fan of graves, but I wanted to take a picture I really liked.

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Our next stop was “La plaza de la Revolución”, the official translation would be “The Revolution square”. This is where you can see 2 huge drawings of Ernesto Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.

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In that same square there is a huge tower that you can visit. The entrance is worth 1 CUC and if you take the elevator to the top it’s 3 CUC more. There are nice views from above and it is a good way to see La Habana and all the different districts.

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Going away from the Revolution square, you can get lost through La Habana vieja, which is the old part of the city. There you can find colorfull streets full of artists and musicians that will cheer you up!💃🏼

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Time for a drink! To enjoy a cold beer or cocktail, you can go to the new hotel in the city, The Kempinsky Gran Manzana. There is a nice rooftop bar with an infinity pool with excellent views of The Capitol.

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If you continue walking towards the Capitol, the street in front has many colorfull houses which I’m sure you’ve seen in some tour guides. It is a bit difficult and dangerous to take a great photo given there is traffic around you and you need to stop between the two lanes.

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It is very easy to get lost in the little streets of La Habana vieja (Old Habana) and bump into scenes like this one…

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Next to the little streets in La Habana vieja you can find the chinese district. We didn’t really go in and explore but, the ambient there is very nice with many low cost food options.

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Following the chinese district and almost about to finish our first day, we went to the famous Malecon. This is a concrete barrier in the sea shore of La Habana, that prevents the waves to go over it.

It is a must visit at sunset/sunrise, as you prefer. In front you can see El Morro, which is an ancient Spanish fortress when los conquistadores use to be here.

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After enjoying a beautiful sunset at El Malecon, we went to our next boutique hotel in Old La Habana.

Revolution boutique hotel is located in the very heart of La Habana, near a very popular street called Obispo. This great boutique hotel has 4 rooms and each one of them expresses comfort and relax.

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At the Revolution hotel you will find peace in this active district. The staff is very kind and hospital. We really enjoyed the tropical breakfast with fresh squeezed passion fruit juice! The rooms are very comfy, specially the bed.

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What I enjoyed the most is having a nice cup of coffee in the mini garden type terrace.

Visit their site at https://www.revolution.boutique

The next morning we grabbed a shared taxi and went to Trinidad. Usually, shared taxis have other travellers, but, for some reason we went on our own. It costed us 100 CUC and it took us 4 hours from La Habana.

Trinidad

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Trinidad is a beautifull colonial city. The best conserved colonial city in Latin America! Many people are shocked by their nice buildings when they arrive, and I must say, it feels like if you go back in time like 50 years.

The town itself is not very big and the streets have this little stones all over the road, which feels a bit uncomfortable to walk in sandals.

Trinidad is full of colorfull houses and nice restaurants to eat almost any type of food.

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Really nice streets to have a stroll and enjoy the colorfull views of the city!

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In Trinidad there are 2 wifi spots only. To get internet acces you have to buy an internet card at the ETECSA store (phone company) and with a code you enter it and you can connect. However, there are 100 people connecting to the same wifi and speed is something you need to remove from your expectations. The cost of 1 hour is 1 CUC (1,00$)

The next morning we hired a shared taxi with some new friends and we went to a beach called Playa Ancon.

The ride was 4 CUC each couple and it took us only 20 min to get there.

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Playa Ancón was very calm, not many tourist there and you could go under an umbrela for free.

Later, there was a beach bar that you could have lunch, it wasn’t super great quality, but we enjoyed it.

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Endless white sand beaches to enjoy nice strolls!

By mid afternoon, we went back with another shared cab. That day, we decided to visit all the little streets we didn’t see at the begining and suddenly, we turned into a street full of artists sharing their paintings and other pieces of art!

I have to say we already had the idea of buying a little cuban painting but…I wasn’t expecting to fall in love at first sight😍. This huge painting of a little cuban boy smiling like if there was no tomorrow, struck me to my deepest feelings.

I promise I will share a photo once I’m able to buy a frame, but I’m still looking for the best one.

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After two days in Trinidad of good food, great ambient and very kind people, we took a bus to Cienfuegos!

The regular line that goes there is called Viazul. The ride costs 6 CUC and it takes around 1 hour. Check out their fares and routes here.

Cienfuegos

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We decided to stay only 1 day in Cienfuegos as we didn’t see many spectacular sights in our Lonely Planet guide. However, I must say, the city itself has a french touch fruit from the first settlers back in the 1800’s.

In Cienfuegos, there is an active night life towards the bay called “Punta Gorda”, where most of the hotels are. We went to watch the sunset there and then we also had dinner in a restaurant close to the bay.

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To move around Cienfuegos , it is easier to grab a tricycle, they are a bit slow, but they will take you almost anywhere for 2 CUC. We decided to grab one and we went to Punta Gorda to watch the sunset.
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This view was from one of the buildings in the square which is transformed as a museum. To visit the building costs 1 cuc and as you can see you have great views from above.
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As I was saying, we went to Punta gorda to enjoy of a beautifull sunset while sipping a Mojito. Sadly, that Mojito made me sick for the next 2 days. I mentioned it at the begining of this post, if you order a cocktail or even a glass of water, make sure you ask how are the ice cubes made. Unless they specify they are made with bottled water, ask to remove the icecubs from your drinks.
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Next morning, in order to avoid a long trip from Cienfuegos to our next stop, Viñales, we decided to grab a taxi. It only cost us 50 CUC and it took us 4 hours to get there. By bus, it is probably cheaper, but, it takes longer and in my situation, I preferred to be able to stop.

Viñales

Viñales is known for the tabaco fields, the red soil and the beautiful landscapes. We stayed in Viñales for 2 nights, but I can guarantee I could have stayed 1 week.

On our arrivial, we met Doña Hilda, I would say the best shared house in Viñales but, we only went to 1. However, I can say it was the best shared house we rented in Cuba!

Doña Hilda is a lady over her 50’s that has a house with 4 individual rooms, right at the entrance of Viñales. Ana, her grand daughter, took care of us the whole time. She noticed I was feeling sick, so they adapted the meals for me.

That first day, we had like 4 hours left of light so, we decided to do the tour through the valley. You can either do it by horse (typical) or walking, which is a 3 hour hike with lots of photo spots.

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After a long day on the road sick, and 3 hour tour through the fields of Viñales, it was time for some rest.

Next morning we decided to visit Cayo Levisa. Many people recommended this one day trip from Viñales, and I must say it is was definetly worth it. In the center of tourism in Viñales, you can buy a 1 day tour to Cayo Levisa for 35 cuc each. First, you take a 1 hour bus to the coast, and then you grab a mini boat that takes 30 min to the island.

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Cayo Levisa is this, white sand beaches with not many people. There is also an hotel in the island, which in my opinion, as there isn’t much to do there.

Sadly, this was our last day in Cuba, so I hope you have enjoyed this post and you are now adding Cuba on your bucket list 😉

Please let me know your comments and any questions you might need to know for your trip –> acecoolture@gmail.com

FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM FOR MORE ADVENTURES!

@ACECOOLTUREHave a great day and thanks for reading!

Ivan

 

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