Cuba was a hard country to get prepared for because there’s so little information out there. I had researched extensively on what to do/not to do in Cuba, but some things need to be experienced firsthand. There was plenty I was wrong about (like my phone working – yeah right!), but that made it all the more fun. I loved experiencing a country on my own without little information to go off of. Here’s what I expected and what it’s really like to go to Cuba.
Going Through Immigration is Painless
I think I had more fear about getting through Cuba due to people (who haven’t been to Cuba) telling me they were worried. When it was my turn to talk to the officer, I had my printed itinerary in hand along with all the information I thought I’d need. The lady in Cuba simply asked for my name and to look at the camera. When she handed me back my passport, I was shocked that was it.
Going back into the US is supposedly the harder part, but I didn’t experience that at all. They didn’t even ask where I’d been! I still recommend being prepared in case you need to show documentation, but that was way easier than I thought. Getting my visa was the hardest part, and that wasn’t even difficult.
Your Phone Won’t Work
I should have expected this, but contrary to what they said, AT&T did not work in Cuba. Not that I was planning on calling anyone, but I wanted to see if I could at least get a signal if I needed to. My friend had T-Mobile, which also told her she could get coverage and even a hot spot, but that didn’t work either. Use this time to enjoy your break from the internet – Cuba is a beautiful country that you shouldn’t be glued to your phone for anyways! I’d recommend having information you may need printed out, such as your hotel reservations.
Taxi Prices Always Have to Be Negotiated
I was picturing a slow-life, happy go lucky taxi driver each time. While the majority of the drivers there are nice, just confirm before you get in the car how much a ride is. There was so much negotiation that went on with each ride every time, especially in the main part of Havana. A price would be offered, and then it had to be confirmed that the price they said was for everyone in the car. Once we had a bicycle taxi tell us only 5 CUC total, but later changed it three times the price because he said it was now per person. It’s not quite as easy as countries that have Uber!
Not Everyone Knows English
I don’t know why, but I really thought more people would know more English. Those in tourism know enough to have a conversation to help with their job, but besides that many didn’t know more than a few words. I improved my Spanish skills fast though, which I didn’t mind!
That said, this was one of the best parts. It’s amazing how much you can still communicate when you don’t speak each other’s languages fluently. I had the funniest host at my casa particular who had me cracking up even though it was all in Spanish. Some of the taxi drivers also shared insider knowledge, which was better than my Lonely Planet Cuba guidebook.
All Food Isn’t Bland
I heard over and over how bad the food is in Cuba due to the lack of spices, but I didn’t think it was that bad! I had an amazing host who made most meals and did a great job flavoring the food. He’d even start prepping food for breakfast the night before – that’s dedication! I enjoyed every meal I have.
Souvenirs Are Pricey
Maybe because my last big trip before Cuba was India, I was spoiled into thinking all future trips would have super cheap souvenirs. Cuba is catching on to the tourism trend and has adjusted their prices accordingly. I even feel like I overpaid for a crochet top I bought. Again, try negotiating or buying multiple items to get the price lower. This is where knowing Spanish comes in handy.
You’ll Feel Like You’re Stuck in Time
This was one of my favorite parts about being in Cuba. Every morning I really did feel like we were living in another decade. The classic cars, the colorful houses, and the relaxed lifestyle didn’t feel like 2017. There’s something so relaxing about being forced to be offline. We need to do it more, even when we’re not traveling!
While I was there with my group from Fit Life Creation, it was so nice to be able to focus on them each morning without the distraction of phones. We all caught up on reading, relaxing, and getting to know each other. I made myself a mental promise to take more time to be offline, whether I’m at home or traveling.
This post is in partnership with Fit Life Creation, but all opinions are my own.
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