April 30, 2017

Hello! Thank you for checking out my blog on my recent trip to Cuba! Before I begin, I want to let you know I shot exactly 777 shots on my Canon 5DM4 camera, and I edited over 200 for you. A lot below, but all edited images can be viewed HERE and they are all for purchase too! So if you see something you like, buy a print or canvas! Coupon code for one week: ilovecuba will take off 25% until May 7, 2017. 🙂 Enjoy!

Ok, thanks again for being here… I had an overwhelming amount of questions from this trip, so I thought it’d be best to put here with all the details I can offer to help you on your next adventure to Cuba! I encourage everyone to go now, quick. I am not a historian or history buff at all, but I would bet that the entire country will change drastically in the next 5-10 years due to all the governmental/political changes that have happened and will happen. This blog post is completely my opinion from my personal perspective from going there April 6-10, 2017.

The Cuban people are friendly, happy, hospitable, and some speak English -some do not. I had a friend travel with me that spoke Spanish, so it was very easy to get around. Otherwise, I would foresee a bit of difficulty if I didn’t have a translator. Definitely wouldn’t have gotten to know the people in a more closer sense if I didn’t have my awesome translator friend. It’s possible of course to get around, but just beware that not everyone speaks English. I’ll try to keep this all simple and to the point for you that want to travel there… But first, let me say, that I have traveled to over 20 countries, and flying in to Havana was as simple as going to Kansas City. No joke. Easy! And even quicker! One-hour flight from Orlando! Cuba is only 90 miles south of Florida, and a completely different world. Mind-blowing. Ok…. travel details…

Wait… one more thing… I want to express what I found so fascinating about this country… NO COMMERCIALISM. That means, no advertisements, no brands, no choices of products! This is absolutely mind-blowing. A large group of people, a country, have lived for decades in communism -without choices! 🙁 I can’t even imagine. Watching TV at the AirBnB, there wasn’t commercials, there were breaks in the shows with history clips! No joke -history clips of Cuba or other countries. Not a toothpaste commercial! Absolutely no advertisements, no billboards. Again, mind blowing. The people are on the brink of a major change that will forever change the people, the land, and the culture. That’s why I recommend going to Cuba NOW! I was asked if I thought the people were depressed about their communist lifestyle… from my opinion… it seems they don’t know what they don’t know! They don’t know how to live with choices as we do in America. I met a very kind man on the beach and had a long chat with him and he explained to me that if I lived in Cuba, and wanted to have a photography business, the government would take away my camera and wouldn’t allow me to have a photography business. I couldn’t be an entrepreneur in Cuba. I wouldn’t have that choice, that freedom. This, again, is.. mind.. blowing! One hour flight from home, and this is the country that is south of me. Wow. Another thought… the Cuban people are incredibly resourceful and hopeful. Living without choice or freedom for so long, and without the import of products -such as cars- they had to survive and create on their own, the things they needed. One local told me they have been restoring cars for decades with parts that were Cuban made! They are survivors. Their resiliency I believe have the ability to transform at a quicker rate than we may think. Let’s all just watch… and help. Do what you can. My friend I traveled with brought an entire suitcase full of things for the people of Cuba. Toiletries, school supplies, baby supplies, toys, etc. They don’t have much. Literally, the few shops I went in to, the shelves were very scarce; and everything was behind glass. The one choice of saltine crackers were behind glass. You had to request your item and the clerk would fetch it for you and you’d pay before receiving. Anyway… I’m not judging their ways, I was surprised to see a country so close to America have lived in a repressed state for so long, and I never really knew about it. All of this repression due to relational conflicts between two countries, two governments, two people groups. Sad. But there is hope! The people are amazingly happy… and that is what will pull them through to new heights, I believe! They have the CHOICE to be HAPPY! 🙂 Construction was happening all over the place.. they are rebuilding. Watch out world, Cuba is coming alive. 🙂

Ok… for the travel info for real now… (thanks for reading my experience!)

  • Airline: JetBlue.
  • Ticket price: $180 (although it was only $100 a few weeks prior, I waited too long.) This includes the required health insurance that is needed to fly to Cuba.
  • Visa: $50 (buy this at the JetBlue counter upon check-in. Super easy!)
  • Check the box: “people to people.”
    To be honest, I can’t remember if JetBlue emailed documents to fill out about your reason for traveling to Cuba or if I just filled it out on the little slip of paper they hand you while boarding the plane. Either way, check the box that states you are going to Cuba to support “people to people” of Cuba. Here is a short article that explains it further if you’d like to read HERE. You’ll hand this over when going through customs when you arrive Havana.
  • Hotel: AirBnB.com all the way! I stayed at the sweetest little older couple’s Old Havana City condo on the 4th floor (70 steps up to get to their front door tho! Lol. No elevator.) (I’m pictured with them kissing me, at the end of my blog. The photo thereafter is their daughter who is a big help in preparing coffee and breakfast daily.) Their AirBnB link: HERE. (Or their card info: “Casa Miriam, Calle Refugio #108, 3er piso e/ Prado y Morro. La Habana Vieja. La Habana, Cuba. #(53)7-867-4990, (53)5-834-5173. email: casamiriam108@gmail.com.) Awesome location with a view down the street from a museum. It was their entire goal and mission to make me comfortable and happy. Opening their home is their retirement money basically -so support the people! It was only $35 a night for their place. Many many options on AirBnB, just look for good reviews and you’ll be fine. I prefer to stay in the Old Havana City so I could walk anywhere (except the beach… I’ll explain that below.)
  • Beach: It was a $5 bus ride (30min) to the incredible crystal clear beach, Santa Maria Del Mar, Playa, Cuba. I heard there was an even better beach but it was further away. This one was amazing, as you can see photos below. We walked from our AirBnB to this bus stop which was centrally located. The great thing about staying with Miriam and her husband at the AirBnB… they explained everything and SET UP EVERYTHING for us! No joke. So they gave us directions to the bus stop. I forgot to mention -they even arranged a taxi to pick us up from the airport! A sweet man stood with a sign with my name on it. Got in the cab, and he took me directly to my AirBnB. So nice! So… back to the beach… great time. A few food vendors selling drinks and snacks -try them all! So fun and great. Cheap. Peanuts, tamales, etc.
  • Food: Bring your own snacks. There isn’t a lot of snacks in shops or on the streets, only restaurants and meals. Unfortunately I caught a bit of bug that upset my stomach for a week after I returned back home. 🙁 No fun. The meals were fantastic, so not sure where I caught the bug -probably from “filtered” water. (I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water they boil.) I recommend when you see gallons of water, buy them! Sunday evening came and I ran out of water, so walked the streets -and no shops were open! And the few bars that were open did not have water! Ugh, I need water. Only option was sparkling water at a hotel bar down the street, so that’s what I had. Anyway… just saying, stock up on clean bottled water and bring your own snacks. The meals ranged anywhere from $20-60 for two people with drinks. It wasn’t as cheap as I thought, but reasonable. Mojitos were $5 most places. Yes, I tried a few. So tasty! Glass FULL of fresh mint leaves every time. Loved it.
  • Transportation + Tobacco Farm: I only rode the bus once -to the beach. Taxi’s a few times, and tri-shaws once. (See my driving a tri-shaw in the photos below! Haha!) Staying in Old Havana City allowed me to walk most places; and I went there to experience the culture and people -so staying in Old Havana was my most favorite -to see the life of the locals. My AirBnB, as I stated above, arranged the taxi from airport to airBnB -which was so convenient. They also called and arranged the taxi for our day trip to the countryside, which was so worth it! I think it was about $60 round trip for that day (9am-8pm). The driver and the guide took us to more places than we expected! Even included a stop at a cave with a quick boat ride down the river to get out of the cave. The highlight was visiting the organic tobacco farmers and watching a Cuban cigar rolled and dipped in honey! Yes, I tried it. But not for me. Lol. Honey was tasty tho! 🙂 I was impressed the ’57 Chevy taxi got us around without a problem all day long driving to these places and across the countryside to Vinales. See HERE for more info on Vinales. I highly recommend getting to the countryside of Cuba, it’s another world apart from Havana. A must see. So beautiful.

I hope all this info helps. As I said, I recommend experiencing Cuba NOW as it is a time capsule. Magical. Go.

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