12 Days in Cuba: Basic Info & Tips

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After spending 12 days in Cuba, I can come away knowing the island has impacted me in many ways. Its people are welcoming, festive, skillful, resourceful and love to have a good time.
I traveled most of the island with a school backpack full of clothes, sunblock (I'm fancy), toothpaste and toothbrush, my camera bag with 4 lenses and without difficulty. In fact, with $400 I was able to travel and enjoy the island for 12 amazing days. Yes, with that budget I was restrained in certain aspects. I didn't stay at hotels. I didn't have access to the Internet for most of my trip, I walked or took public transportation, and I didn't eat in fancy restaurants daily. Instead, I got to stay in people's homes. I ate home cooked meals, local foods, and went where the locals went to eat. 


I rented a room for two days in most cities I visited and got to talk with the families who opened their doors. We drank Havana Club rum while discussing America and Cuban politics, life, the joys of Cuba and America, and the hardships of living under a communist regiment. As night became dawn, we enjoyed the early morning cafecito after long philosophical and Hypothetical discussions.
My travel consisted of Havana, Pinar del Río, Viñales, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. Each city was completely different from the other.
I tried to hang out with the locals to get their perspective on things. See them on their daily grind to earn their keep, how gender roles are at times antiquated in an island that by its very core has stood still in time and its antique infrastructure, which lends to its beauty, is also a sign of how much change there needs to be for this island to be restored to its glory.

Things to know

1. Go to a bank and exchange your USD for Canadian Dollars. 
At the time I was in Cuba, the USD exchanged $1 to $1 Cuban Convertible (C.U.C.) on top of that, there's a 10% penalty for using USD. So the exchange is more at $.90 (+/-) cents per (CUC) Cuban Convertible + the exchange fee.
Canadian Dollar trades at $1.26 to every $1 CUC, with no penalty. 

2. When you do exchange your money for CUCs also exchange about $20 CUC into Cuban Pesos. It's a 24(CUP) - 1 (CUC) rate on the Cuban Pesos. It's also the currency used in most local areas and public transportation.

3. If you stay in someone's home and if you like it make a home base. When I travel to different countries, I try to have a place that I liked, the owners were nice, and where I could leave stuff or always come back to in case anything happens. 

4. If you stay at a home, ask the people at the home if they know of anyone renting a room in the cities you're traveling to. This makes things easier and people know when to expect you and how to get to their home the easiest way possible. As a bonus, you can negotiate a better deal at times.

5. Carry adhesive bandages with you. If you like to walk and explore the island chances are you will get one of many blisters. Adhesive bandages will help you deal with the daily punishment you will give your feet. I came back with 3 blisters, and 2 of them had a blister within a blister. This was because I forgot about the adhesive bandages

PLACES I STAYED AT


Havana: Casa de Gregorio
Here is their AIRBNB page. Phone: (53) 54633931
I booked this place through AirBNB. It was $10 a day.
The place is ideally located with an amazing view. The couple who own the location (Gregorio and Arneri) are amazing people and very accommodating. The house is just outside of Havana Vieja and down the street from El Malecon. Trust me when I say, this place is an ideal location.You get your own private room with a wall fan to help with the summer heat. The place was never hot and it was quite comfortable.
Black and White photos of Havana         Color Photos of Havana


Below are photos of the view.
Down the street is El Malecon

The view from the roof top. Here you can see El Morro and bits of Havana Vieja.


Cienfuegos: Casa de Carlos y Nancy
Location: Calle 39 #2008 Phone: (53) 43-520055

I actually found this place because the house I was going to stay at was too full. The lady who runs the house looked around and found a place for $20 CUCs for me. The house is ideally located a block away from Cienfuegos' Malecon. It is walking distance from Punta Gorda and La Plaza Vieja. If you do go tell them "Roberto from Puerto Rico" recommended you and they will discount $5 CUC. Which means you can rent a room for $15. They do offer food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I got to stay at the new room on the second floor and it was great. It has its own bathroom, fridge, and A/C unit.
Photos of Cienfuegos
 

Casa de Carlos y Nancy

Trinidad: Casa Nena y Roberto
Location: Agustin Bernaz (Paz) 32 e/ Jesis Menendez (Alamdeda) y Julio A. Mella (Guasima)
Phone: (53) 08-2450
This house is not too far off from the new plaza and old plaza. In fact, it is ideally located between both. They offer a pretty good breakfast and the owners are very nice. The place does have A/C, its own bathroom, and depending on the room, a TV. I paid $20 because I met someone who knew the family. I lucked out. The house is very pretty and definitely recommended.
Photos of Trinidad


 Viñales: Los Moros
I stayed at this place and I was somewhat disatisfied. Their grandfather was in the house most of the time and he is hard of hearing. So during the day you can't really sleep because everyone is talking so loud. Also, since I did not to eat often at the house (because I wanted to try different places) they charged me $9 for one meal and though the food was good it was not worth $9. They even charged me a 225% mark up on the water.
If you speak Spanish, there's an amazing tour guide named Edirberto Cruz. He only charged me $20 for a 4 hour tour of the national park.

Photos of Viñales


I have to thank Jorge Valls (786) 547-5461 and his travel agency for facilitating the trip to Cuba. Contact him for all of your travel needs or questions. jvalls8@yahoo.com



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