Most importantly, as I am writing this on August 31, 2019, you are still allowed to go to Cuba from the United States!!
Before my breast cancer diagnosis, Garth and I had planned a trip to Ireland but due to the uncertainty of what was ahead for me, it had to be cancelled. After learning that I wouldn’t have to have chemo or radiation a friend of mine, Mandi, asked about a trip. We landed on Cuba!
Cuba was absolutely amazing. I left part of my heart there and I cannot wait to return! Honestly, traveling there was quite simple. We probably over-prepared for our trip but it’s better to do that since you never know when you’ll have internet in Cuba. Now to get down to the details…
Preparing for Cuba:
- We used Airbnb for all of our Casa Particulars (which is what you’ll need to stay in unless you stay in a non-government run hotel) and our experiences.
- Download Maps.Me App before leaving and get familiar with it. You can bookmark key places so you can find your way back to them. It will also sync with Airbnb locations.
- Download Google Translate. Make sure to download the dictionary part, otherwise it won’t work offline.
- We flew Delta to Fort Lauderdale, FL. Delta flies into Terminal 2 and SouthWest (which we flew to Havana), flies out of Terminal 4. Use the airport shuttle to get between terminals (pay attention to the horrible signage to make sure you get to the right spot).
- At the SouthWest check-in, there’s a kiosk right next to it that you can get your Visa (also known as a tourist card) if you didn’t purchase it prior to your trip online. Pricing wise, it was $75 per visa and that was cheaper than what it was online at the time. You can purchase them online here, if you are interested.
- When you’re on the plane to Havana, you will receive two different pieces of paper to fill out- one is a customs sheet and the other is a health questionnaire (You have to have health insurance to go to Cuba – this is included in the price of your plane ticket).
- When you arrive in Havana you will go through and get your passport stamped and your visa stamped. Then you will go through security. As soon as you pass through security there will be a small table in the middle of the room where you will drop off your health questionnaire and then as you exit there will be someone to take your customs form.
- Out of Terminal 2, you’ll exit out of the airport and go to the left for Currency Exchange and WiFi Cards (which we didn’t find until returning to leave). For WiFi cards, I would highly encourage you to only buy 1 hour cards. We never could figure out a way to log-off the internet. If you buy a 5 hour card, make sure you know how to log-off otherwise you’ve wasted 5 hours! Also, if you are traveling with someone or staying in a shared Airbnb, ask if you need your own WiFi card or if you can use the same one. We got lucky and we were able to connect when others were on or we could just use one single card.
- If you cannot find the WiFi cards at the airport, you can go to ETESCA stands to purchase them.
- As females, we did get catcalls but nothing that we felt uncomfortable with really. But, be prepared for people asking you to go to a place that’s “Only open today for specials on X (cigars, rum, coffee, souvenirs)” Don’t fall for scams!
Here was our itinerary:
August 10-12 – Havana
August 13-14 – Cienfuegos
August 15-17 – Trinidad
August 17/18 – Mantanzas (we were only here for one afternoon/evening)
August 18-20 – Havana