Havana Here We Come!
I hopped on a plane, last month, to the island of Cuba. With 7 years of Spanish under my belt, and only a scant handful of sentences and words that I could actually remember, I settled in for the short plane ride to my mysterious island neighbor. I will be posting a video very soon about my trip, but I thought I would share some tips to help you plan your very own Cuban adventure.
Travel from the Bahamas to Cuba has never been hindered by the same travel restrictions as the United States. Bahamians have always been free to visit the arguably controversial country, be it for vacations or for medical purposes. However, this was the first time that I was able to visit.
In the wake of the United States lifting many of the travel restrictions for Americans visiting Cuba, the country has gotten a greater level of exposure to the outside world, and companies like AirBnB have begun operating there. Despite the influx in visitors, travel information for Cuba is still not as readily available, online, as it is for many other countries.
For this trip, I decided to use a Cuban tour booking company that specializes in travel arrangements and booking tours. I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience with the company, located in Nassau. Due to a lack of timely communication, knowledgeable team members, and an overall confusing and vexing book experience, I will be booking on my own from now on. (For these reasons, the company shall not be named.)
Unnamed company did do the job of securing a flight on Bahamasair, hotel accommodations, a Cuban visa, travel insurance, and a city tour package. The tour company was mainly used to secure a visa, because the process isn’t clearly outlined online. However, I soon found out that the visa can be purchased for $15 from the Bahamasair agents at the airport…so, there you go!
Cuba is beautiful and full of culture. I’ll tell you a bit more about that later, but here are a few more practical tips for your Cuban adventure.
Currency: There are two types of currency used in Cuba. There is the Cuban Peso and CUC. The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is basically tourist money, and this is what you will more than likely be using. Once you arrive in Cuba, there are currency exchange kiosks where you can exchange your money. However, be sure to bring an approved exchange currency. (They do not exchange Bahamian currency.) It costs anywhere from 5-13% to exchange your currency into CUC, and it is cheaper to do so at the airport, opposed to hotels.
Getting Around: Get a taxi. Yes, there is public transportation, but it is very cramped and crowded. I recommend shelling out the money for a taxi ride, especially if it is your first visit.
Accommodations: The hotel included with my package, from the unnamed booking company, was the Copacabana. The only thing I really knew about the hotel were vague memories of a song, but a Cuban friend of mine noted that it was lovely when she stayed there. She was also quick to note that her visit was about 10 years prior, and she couldn’t confirm what state the hotel was currently in.
The Copacabana received decent reviews on Trip Advisor, with many visitors noting that the grounds were very clean, and the staff was friendly, but the hotel was in need of renovations. This was certainly the case.
Many hotels in Cuba were built man years ago, so don’t expect brand new accommodations. AirBnB is currently available in the country, so this might be a great option if you are looking for affordable lodging.
Like I said. I will be putting out a video, very soon, and I will also be answering more of your Cuban vacation questions! So, stay tuned…