Visiting Cuba is a no brainer,
it has history, beauty, old cars and freindly people. As we raced to see Cuba before it changed, we found a few things you must know to travel to Cuba from the US.
Let’s talk, hotels, transportation, wifi & money.
First, Hotels Sell Out, Book directly from the Hotel Website, and as Quickly as Possible! (I searched on TripAdvisor.com then googled each hotel separately to review and book.)
Jared and I chose to stay at a hotel, along the coastline, about 15 minutes outside of Old Havana. It was the Melia Habana. The best thing about this hotel was the pool. It was big, beautiful, and served food, and drinks. The rest of the hotel was just ok. The room was expensive, like $300 a night expensive. We had a two queen room, with a bathroom, and private balcony. There was a breakfast buffet included in that rate, which was quite good. The hotel was clean, but the beds were horribly uncomfortable, and it was a little outdated. It was also about 15 minutes from Old Town, which in Havana is a $15 to $25 taxi ride depending on the driver you get. The hotel is on the water, but the beach is dead coral, so do not expect sand.
I did not stay at any of these hotels, but toured a few, and read reviews on others. Check them out for yourself to be sure they will accommodate your needs. Remember Havana is old, the hotels also reflect this.
Iberostar Parque Central (Old Town Location)
Hotel Nacional de Cuba (tons of history, and beautiful grounds, in a great location)
Going back, I would rent an Airbnb, right in the center of Old Town. Drawbacks are no wifi, and no pool. You also have to ask a lot of questions, and diligently read reviews!! Water and Electricity can sometimes be an issue, so check with your owner to assure the location is not one that deals with shortages of either!
The rates seemed to run about $50 a night per person for a room with a private bathroom. A group I chatted with rented a 5 bedroom house at $50.00 a night each, with $5.00 a day to add in breakfast. They rented the entire house, and said the accommodations were fabulous! The information for that location is listed below.
Casa Flamboyn. Boutique Guest House ( Alex is the contact ) Calle 19 #459 Bajos Apto. 1 e/E y F Municipal, Plaza (Vedado), Havana Cuba
We took taxis everywhere. As in any country, there is a black market of civilians trying to provide taxi service as side income. We know this from China, and stuck to the taxi line, (until we didn’t, and that is a story in itself). The taxis are clearly marked, and although had no meters, charged consistently each time we used them.
Generally, taxis ran us between $15 CUC, to $25 CUC. The best part is that most taxis are old American Cars. I loved being in them, and didn’t mind the price to take a ride from the old days!
It’s pretty close to non existent. We learned that Cuba has one line coming in from Venezuela for internet. Because of US sanctions currently still in place they cannot get anymore, and the Wifi they have is government controlled. Our hotel had wifi, but only in my room, sometimes at the pool, and I never got it to work in the lobby. Besides that, it kicked me off constantly. Those I talked to who stayed in Airbnb had none. I have Sprint, and was able to get cell service, so I had texting and calling, but they informed me, it would be so expensive for wifi to turn off cellular data before leaving the US. (side note, sprint fees: $2.49 a minute for calling, free receiving of texts, and $.50 to send a text)
Havana truly is a place to be removed from day to day life. If, like me you have kids to communicate with, plan ahead. I was able FaceTime them each day, but with difficulties. It was always a blessing when it finally connected!!
This is a big one. Your US credit cards will not work!! Bring Cash. You will take a hit on the exchange from US dollar to CUC, (which is there currency for tourists), of somewhere between 10-13%. We were told to exchange our money to Euro, then switch to CUC from there, but we didn’t have time. Those who did, took a hit, exchanging from US to Euro, then Euro to CUC. We exchanged at the airport in Havana, and were charged a 13% fee for doing so.
Note: The CUC is equal to the US dollar, so everything is an equal crossover.
Staying in Havana is a little extra work. There is tons of information on the internet. Put in the leg work, and your trip will be amazing! Nothing worth doing, was ever done without a little effort.