What I learned from traveling to Cuba was alot more than what I read. As planning to go to Cuba I looked at different sites, I read alot of blogs and watched some vlogs. I took in some of the advice given but in the end, it was useless. My trip took me on a different path which opened my eyes and heart even more. Cuba is beautiful if you are touring to really see the island and not just the tourist beach. The people I met on this trip have been kind, informative, funny and wonderful souls.
I booked my accommodation based on a recommendation from friends that go to Havana a lot. I choose an area where over 98% were Cuban, called Vedado which was a good 10 minutes drive from the tourist hotels. I loved being able to mingle with the locals so it was a great area. The accommodation was affordable and booked through Airbnb- helps the Cuban’s earn a living.
My Spanish is not good but with the few words I knew, I bargained with the taxi’s to get from place to place around the city. The taxies were run down but were enough to take 4 passengers and get rides for 2-10 CUC’s depending on where you want to go.
The food in Havana is not good, as supermarkets are not really what we have in the UK. The people in Cuba still live in ration books and they are only allowed a certain amount of food per month. It was even more heartbreaking to see at 6 am in the morning people line up to get vegetables and medication which come in once a month. This still did not make me want to stay in a hotel, as the hotel didn’t really have better food than what I already had at different restaurants. I did learn how much of a price difference between the Cuban area and tourist area to buy drinks. When it comes to restaurants I stuck to about 3 or 4 that I tried and were happy with.
New Years in Cuba is a little different from in Havana but yet so nice. My mum and I booked to a dinner at the Hotel Nacional which included a party after it. The room was filled with so many smiling faces from Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and more. We all sang and danced around the hall. It was a celebration filled with laughter, joy, and respect for each other.
The salary for Cuban’s is not much especially if you compare it to how some of us live abroad. I manage to talk to some Cuban’s about how much they make in a month and their currencies. I found out the most of the people if lucky £200 a month from their job. They are given their salary in CUP and have to usually buy in CUC which unfortunately ends up less money in their pockets. Whatever tourism that does come to the country is milked through the tourist area of Havana. I did look through the tourist areas and saw the difference in prices from where I was staying and what the tourist was actually being charged. A reminder – the tourist areas are all government-owned places and not privately owned.
This all may sound bad about Cuba, but these are just things I have learnt in just a week and a half I was there. The country has so much good people who work hard and try to live with what they have. They smile and don’t complain because a lot don’t have anything to compare it to. I feel blessed I had the chance to see Havana and more, and dance Cuban casino salsa. It was a dream come true for me.
More on my trip to Cuba—- CLICK HERE
15 thoughts on “What I Learned From Traveling To Havana, Cuba”
I visited it 18 years ago. It looked very sad because so many broken houses and shops had no food. There should have changes on the meantime and hope everything got better now.
It is alot better than it was even there are still a few broken houses, and shops still barely have food. It was a trip the certainly changed my life.
I have been to Cuba several times, I did stay at resorts but we always make sure to get off resort and explore actual places we are staying – not just the fantasy world of resorts. We have yet to make it to Havana but have both agreed on our next trip that we must go there to see the history of it. I appreciate your insight having stayed away from tourist spots and your take on what you saw. I have to agree that we met some of the very nicest and kindest people in Cuba, the locals are so friendly and welcoming!
I love Cuba. I visited about 3 years ago and it’s somewhere I would love to go back to. Thanks for the update on the ever changing situation out there. From what I’ve heard from several travellers it’s changed a lot in a short space of time. I’d love to go back and see this first hand 🙂
I’ve always wanted to visit Havana, but I’m a bit torn about it because of the living conditions experienced by many Cubans. Do you feel that an increase in tourism is beneficial for the people or is the government mainly the one profiting? I love the idea of celebrating NYE with people from around the world and it would be a great escape from the northern US winter weather that time of year.
We returned from Havana in May and had the best time. We didnt spend much time at the beach – all we did was learn about Cuban history (Spanish rule and the revolutionary era), talk to Cubans, learn to make a mojito and enjoyed great food and romantic moments on rooftops with my husband. Such a great place!
I’ve travelled to Cuba before but there’s still lots in this post that I didn’t know about! What were your favourite restaurants in Havana? Most of the ones we visited were in the tourist hotspots but the food was absolutely delicious. I bet it’s so different staying in self-catering accommodation so it’s interesting to hear your take on it
Cuba has been on my list for so long, this definitely helps to add context to the country and how to make the best decisions to support locals! Thanks for sharing your learnings 🙂
I’ve only ever been to Cayo Coco in Cuba, which was a beautiful (but isolated) place. This was both good and bad. Good because you’ve got beaches to yourself however, bad because you’re far away from the authentic Cuban life you talk about here. It’s on my list to go back and to see the real vida Cubana as you’ve mentioned. Thanks for sharing your perspective, it’s eye opening!
Cuba for me is the most fascinating country I’ve been to and somewhere I feel on the verge of big change. I visited last year for my 30th (it was a dream of mine since I was 15) I could talk all day about the hardships of the Cubans, but instead I’ll focus on all the good I saw there. Cuba is 100% the country that changed me.
It’s quite incredible to read about the local life and especially the cost of living. Glad you stayed with locals and did your part to support the local economy 🙂 Love the picture of the coconut and the background. It’s been my dream to go to Cuba and this “real” perspective is great. Thanks for sharing.
I am a huge fan of off the beaten track travel. What a fantastic chance to get to know the locals and really get a feel of the place! I hope to visit someday.
We also traveled to Cuba and stayed in the neighborhoods. It was a fantastic trip. I did get sick–just brushing my teeth with the water– oops. STILL a great trip!!!
I’m not been yet in Cuba before but I feel like already there when I read your article. I loved Beaches!
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