My social media platforms probably revealed that Cuba and Mexico left quite the impression on us, Cuba in particular! It was one of those incredible trips with amazing experiences that were impossible to forget. We learnt so much and met some truly interesting people. Cubans lead such a carefree life and we were in awe of them and their happy vibrant culture. I promise you will never see anything like it (you will see a glimpse of what it’s like in my travel music video below) . 🙂 They literally live their lives out in the open, enjoy each others company while socialising, listening to music and dancing. A family even dragged us into their house where they were salsa dancing so we could dance with them in their living room – no joke! That was one of our coolest memories from the trip. We stayed in Casa Particulars, which is an equivalent to a B&B – I highly recommend it. There is a misconception that Cuba is dangerous, believe me, I got influenced by the hype too. I can honestly tell you (from one of the biggest Scaredy Cats going around) that it is one of the safest places ever! Can you believe they pick up strangers and drive them home, just because they are so nice and helpful? Our tour guide actually was shocked when we told him we lock our houses and put alarms on in Australia.
After being in Cuba for 11 days, we visited Cancun and Playa Del Carmen in Mexico which are pretty touristy. They were so beautiful particularly if you want to relax and enjoy the beaches. Chichen Itza will take a whole day to explore so be prepared. A highlight here was swimming in the largest Cenote (sinkhole) – Ik Kil. I loved the Cenote experience so much because it was so surreal and Matt pretty much had to drag me out! Ha ha!
I have had so many people ask me for Cuba recommendations, so I’m going to list a few suggestions below. If there is anything else you want to know, please don’t hesitate to ask. 🙂
Tour Guide – Green Alligator tours (We actually booked it through Eclipse travel here in Australia, but this is the direct travel company in Cuba. Our tour guide was really helpful and we had him the whole time in Cuba. His name is Rene and you can call him directly on +53 52956182. Rene will organise the tour for you, even if you don’t want to do a tour and just have a driver for the day – he’s your man!)
Accomodation – This can also be organised by Rene at Green Alligator tours. As mentioned above, we stayed in Casa Particulars throughout Cuba and the experience was so cool! You feel like a local and they make you breakfast in the morning or dinner if you request it. We loved every Casa we stayed in and they were so friendly. The Casa in Cienfuegos even tried to get us to stay and eat with their family on New Years Eve. Ha ha! I will list all the ones we stayed in;
Havana – Casa Havana and Casa Villa Romero (We stayed in two, one at the start and one at the end of the trip. I loved both, but the location right in the city centre was better)
Trinidad – Casa Hostal El Porton (Beautiful, clean big Casa with a lovely young family)
Vinales – Casa Villa Aniesky (Simple, basic Casa. Danielle was very lovely and accomodating. Matt was sick on the second day and she even made him chicken soup!)
Cienfuegos – Casa Sol Bahia (Gorgeous Casa right on the waterfront with a picturesque view – the owner was very friendly)
Restaurants – Again, Renee will help with this. He took us to one of the best local restaurants in Havana where the food was the best on the whole trip – It was called Kala Kala. Another restaurant standout was in Trinidad called San Jose – so good we went twice! Be mindful that in some of the busy streets, there could be a long wait in restaurants with no real system so go very early!
Do’s and Dont’s – As amazing as Cuba is, there are a few things that are good to know before you go;
Internet – Ok, be prepared to hardly have any as Cuba is one of the most poorly connected countries in the world. You basically have to line up (once we did for about an hour) just to get into the store to buy an internet card. An hour of data will cost 2-3 Convertible Pesos. A little tip is to buy a few at once. Then you have to go to a designated WiFi area to use it and the connection is usually pretty weak.
Banks/Currency – Again, you will need to line up for a long while to get served. You cannot exchange Australian currency in Cuba, so buy Euros (US Dollars are charged 10% extra!) before you arrive and change them at the Havana airport when you arrive. Make sure you have ample foreign currency to exchange because almost all foreign bank and credit cards do not work. Finally, there are two currencies, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and Cuban Peso (CUP). The CUC is used everywhere for foreigners only, A common scam is to give you change back in CUP (It’s worth a lot less than CUC), so be very careful and try to exchange money only at the airport or banks.
Language – We only speak very little Spanish, but I would definitely suggest to learn your basics. It certainly didn’t make it impossible, but knowing the basics would have helped a lot 🙂
Visa – I just want to tell all Australian’s that getting the visa isn’t as hard as you think. We flew from Melbourne to LA, then LA to Mexico City where we obtained the visa at the airport counter with no problems at all. It probably took about an hour and was about $25 USD each. Keep it safe because if you bend the corners or make any mistakes, you will have to re buy it. If you’re flying to Cuba via another country please check with your travel agent well in advance before leaving.
I feel like it’s almost impossible to say or list everything about this trip so contact me for further questions. We had a lot of fun making this travel video too! It’s my tradition to make these music clip type videos, set to a song for our travels to give our videos a point of difference and memories to cherish forever. Be sure to check out the others in my travel section. Enjoy tsj xx
Awesome old cars in Havana
The Casa we stayed in Cuba, Trinidad