Posts by tag: Cuba

Posts May 2, 2016 posted by

Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Travel Beaches Wanderlust Living small
If you’re traveling to Cuba and are going to be making your way down to Trinidad, I highly recommend taking a day trip out to Playa Ancon. This breathtaking peninsula is only 7 miles from the city center of Trinidad and well worth the $8 cab ride.

We actually stayed on Playa Ancon at Club Amigo Costasur Hotel. We decided to stay outside of Trinidad at the beach because we have children, and thought they would appreciate some beach time in between walking the streets of Havana and then Trinidad. Even if you don’t have children, staying at the beach is an excellent option.

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Lagoon pool Club Amigo Costasur Hotel

Playa Ancon Club Amigo Costasur Hotel Trinidad Cuba
Club Amigo Costasur hotel is a 3-star all inclusive hotel that was pretty basic and very dated, but it’s Cuba – nothing here is very fancy. There are only a few hotel options on Playa Ancon and we thought this one looked like the best option. We booked one of the beach view suites and we were literally steps to the beach with a gorgeous view. We had to book two suites because they only allow three people to a room in Cuba. (yes, it’s frustrating but you have to let it go.)

The suite had two rooms, a sitting room with a couch, chair and a TV and the other room had the two double beds. The double beds were comparable to an American full size bed. The room furnishings were very basic and the bathrooms were very small but it was indeed clean. Our suite came with two hours of free internet which was pretty much a joke, it was dial-up and Harris couldn’t even get into his email because they didn’t have the latest version of Internet Explorer installed.

*Please do not travel to Cuba if you cannot truly unplug and laugh at some of the modern conveniences they are lacking.

Club Amigo Costa Sur Playa Ancon Hoel Trinidad CubaClub Amigo Costa Sur Hotel Internet
Club Amigo CostaSur Hoel Pool Trinidad Cub Hotels

The hotel has a large pool, chess game, pool tables and two bars, one in the lobby area and one out by the pool. All the Rum you can possibly drink. There is a small snack bar by the pool that makes pizza, burgers and french fries in the afternoon. They did have some entertainment around the pool at night, but we missed these. There was a lady selling some clothing around the pool and I ended up buying a linen crocheted cover up for $10. I wear that cover up in Costa Rica and get complimented every time I wear it. I wish I could buy more of them!

Club Amigo Costasur Hotel Food Wanderlust Living
The food here is not great, but food in Cuba is not the greatest overall. Club Amigo’s buffet had fresh vegetables for making a salad, pasta salads, potato salads, rice and beans and a variety of meats and cheeses. My daughter loves salad and pasta so she ate well, but my son pretty much ate french fries and bread and butter for two days. Eating here one day was fine but be sure to head into Trinidad for the rest of your meals.

Also, while we were staying here two large busses filled with Russian tourists came in. So it is important to get to the food as soon as the restaurant opens, to avoid long lines and while it was still fresh and not picked over. If you show up later in the night, it does not look appetizing.

Playa Ancon Club Amigo Hotel Exploring the Grounds
There are not a whole lot of beach activities, but we did manage to find the guy that was renting snorkel equipment!

Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living Family Travel SnorkelingPlaya Ancon Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living Family Travel Kids
Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Travel Beaches Snorkeling Wanderlust Living
Trinidad Cuba Playa Ancon Wanderlust Living Andrea and Kids
Playa Ancon Trinidad Cuba Hotels Beaches Wanderlust Living Kids

My husband and I debated over going to Trinidad or going to the popular beach area of Varadero, but we were so glad we made our way to Trinidad. We were able to explore Trinidad and still spend some time relaxing at the beach. Playa Ancon wasn’t filled with tourists, it seemed to be more of a locals, and I rather skip the crowds and go where the locals go.

*If you are traveling to Cuba with kids, make sure to bring some cards, small games, books and other things to keep them busy back in the hotel room. Internet is not always available and as nice as it was to go off the grid and get the kids off their electronic devices, you don’t want to kill each other.

Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba
Travel April 28, 2016 posted by

Off the Grid: Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad Cuba Colorful Streets and Church Wanderlust Living

When we booked our trip to Cuba we knew that we would be spending most of our time wandering the streets of Havana, but we also wanted to either head over to the popular beach destination, Varadero (about 1 1/2 hour from Havana), or go down to Trinidad (about a 4-hour trip).

Since we live at the beach in Costa Rica, we decided to skip the beaches of Varadero and go spend three nights in Trinidad. Varadero looked beautiful, but it also seemed like a bunch of mid-level, all-inclusive resorts that would be filled with tourists. While Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, seemed to be one of those places you probably shouldn’t miss.

Getting to Trinidad from Havana

We could have hired a private cab ($500) or taken the local bus (about $30 each) from Havana to Trinidad. Typically, the Fellman way is to hire a private cab/shuttle (not gonna lie) but we opted to take the bus. We thought this option could make for a great story and it saved us some money.

Unfortunately, nothing fun or unexpected happened on the bus ride. The bus was a mix of  local Cubans, European backpackers and a few other tourists, and everyone pretty much just kept to themselves. I guess I should have been happy that the bus ride was uneventful, but I was secretly hoping for a fun story to tell.

When we finally arrived in Trinidad, we were dropped off at what looked like an old abandoned building with some benches and chairs. The only way to tell this was the bus station was the line of taxi drivers outside hoping for some business.

Trinidad Cuba Pedi Cab travel with Kids Wanderlust Living

My husband Harris quickly picked out a friendly looking chubby guy by making eye contact and giving him a little nod. The cab driver immediately grabbed my suitcase and lead us around the corner to where we assumed his car was parked. When we turned the corner he led us to his pedi-cab. My kids immediately jumped on, while I thought, “he cannot possibly pedal all four of us and our bags to our hotel.” When Harris told our cab driver where we were staying, a look of concern crossed his face, his eyes got really big and he immediately grabbed his phone to call someone.

What you need to understand is that most people stay in Trinidad at hotels known as casa particulars, which are rooms for rent in people’s homes. Casa particulars are essentially what is now known as Airbnb, but Cubans have been doing it for years. We were staying about 12 kilometers / 7 miles outside of Trinidad at Playa Ancon. Clearly this mode of transportation was not going to make it the 7 miles out to the beach.

With the Spanish that we did understand, we knew he was calling his dad who had a car. And sure enough, five minutes later a beat up old car came around the corner and pulled up right next to us. The pedi-cab driver’s Dad got out and started helping his son put our luggage in the trunk of his car. We all pile in and off we went!

So even though nothing wild and exciting happened on the bus ride, I’m happy that I have this memory of my kids playing on the pedi-cab and seeing this man call his father for help, and his father instantly be there for him. It’s small moments like these that I travel for.

Club Amigo Costa Sure Hotel Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba

Even though we skipped Varadero, we decided that it might still be good idea to stay at the beach near Trinidad to break up the trip for the kids. I could wander the streets of historic cities all day, but my kids cannot. So to keep everyone happy we booked a room at Hotel Club Amigo Costa Sur so the kids could play at the beach and we could keep cool in the pool.

Cuba does not allow more than three people to a room, so you have to book two rooms if you are traveling as a family of four. We booked two of the ocean front suites, that were side by side. Above is the photo of our suites, we had both the left and the right. The inside of the room was as basic as a hotel gets but we were only a few steps to this gorgeous beach (see photo below).

Casa Amigo Costa Sur Trinidad Cuba View from Bungalow

Costa Sur Trinidad Cuba Beach Wanderlust Living

Trinidad Cuba Playa Ancon Club Amigo Hotel Wanderlust Living

There are only a few hotel options in Playa Ancon and booking a hotel room in Cuba can be difficult if you are an American. You will need to go through a European or Canadian booking site. This will most likely change soon as the Cuban relationship with the United States keeps opening up, but for now you can use a booking site such as Gala Hotels. Hotels in Cuba are not fancy, a little dated and they’re not extremely service orientated, so don’t expect the American standard of customer service.

When booking our trip to Cuba, my husband was in a few email conversations with Cuba Travel Network and a local representative even met us at our hotel to give us a brief overview of Trinidad, points of interest and most importantly, where to eat. A cab ride from Playa Ancon to the city center of Trinidad was about $8 and I was happy with our decision to stay out at the beach.

Musicians on the street in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
Trinidad, Cuba

Our cab driver dropped us off at the bottom of the pedestrian only streets in Trinidad and from the second we got out of the cab it felt like a director just called “Action!” on a movie set. We came to an intersection that had musicians playing their instruments, horses pulling supplies in wagons, fruit vendors, local Cubans hanging out on the corner, store owners standing in their doorways, vintage cars parked randomly along the street and only a few other tourists roaming around. Yup, Trinidad was well worth the trip.

We really didn’t have a plan when we went into Trinidad. I hadn’t done much research either. We just walked around and explored the streets, wandering in and out of anything that seemed interesting  There are plenty of museums and historic mansions with colonial architecture to admire as well as unique shops and art studios to walk through. Many of the casa particulars let you walk through their main floor living area, which are more like exhibits of carefully placed furniture. One woman even lead us to her back garden and offered us a room to stay in as well.  Just be sure to give them a small donation for letting you walk through their home.

Trinidad Cuba horse and cart

Trinidad Cuba Local Guy Smoking a Cigar

Colorful Buildings Strees of Trinidad Cuba
Trinidad Cuba Street Musicians Wanderlust Living

Trinidad Cuba Musicians Wanderlust Living

Streets of Trinidad Cuba History Museum Wanderlust Living
The iconic yellow bell tower that is in most photos of Trinidad is the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos), An old convent that has been converted into a museum dedicated to the history of bandits. It’s worth a walk through mostly because you can climb the bell tower to see gorgeous views of Trinidad.

Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living Street 1
Trinidad Cuba Travel with Kids Wanderlust Living
Museo Historico Municipal Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living

Cafe Don Pepe Trinidad Cuba Coffee Shop
Across from Trinidad’s famous bell tower is Cafe Don Pepe, a small garden cafe that is a perfect hideaway to grab some shade on a hot day. They have a full menu or you can just stop for a coffee, lemonade or a mojito.

Trinidad Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living

San Jose Restauratn Trinidad Cuba
We were told that San Jose Restaurant was one of the best restaurants in Trinidad, and at first we walked right past it. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, just a doorway with a small sign, but inside was a beautiful restaurant with exposed brick walls with framed photographs and dark wood furnishings.  The restaurant is narrow but keeps going further and further. After the first dining room there is an enclosed glass bar area, a second dining room, the kitchen and then a back garden dining room.

We were told to get there early because it fills up fast. Playing our cautious card, we got there so early we were the only ones there, except for a few people sitting at the bar. The service and food was fantastic and the kids didn’t complain about having pizza and milk shakes for dinner.

Pottery in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
After dinner we stumbled upon this beautiful art gallery filled with clay pottery just a few doors down from the San Jose Restaurant. I wanted to buy every. single. piece. I had a horrible time deciding which ceramic vase, lantern and pot to buy, but I did limited myself to only two pieces.

Shopping local artists in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
This woman weaves these little handbags by hand with colorful straw. McKenna and I each bought one. There are plenty of hand painted pieces of art to buy as well as other interesting pieces of jewelry, wooden cigar boxes and small musical instruments at shops throughout the town.

Taberva Botija

Taberna La Botija Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
We ended our night at Taberna La Botija which is a must while in Trinidad. This little tavern is dedicated to the history of the thousands of West African slaves that worked in the sugar mills near Trinidad. I am certain you have never seen this decor in a restaurant before. Hanging on the walls are chains, shackles and knives and the wait staff are dressed as slaves. Taberna La Botija is open 24 hours and there is live music every night. I wished we had ate dinner here to try the food, but we only stopped in for drinks, dessert and to listen to some music.

Trinidad Cuba at night street scene Wanderlust Living
Hudson Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living

We spent a full day and one night walking around Trinidad, and I felt it was plenty of time to explore this charming city (especially, if you are traveling with kids). I would have liked to experience staying at a casa particular, however –  I was very happy that we were able to go back to the beach. I would highly recommend this option to anyone traveling to Trinidad with kids. It really helped keep the family dynamic in check and our kids were entertained in between all the walking around the streets of Trinidad.

Trinidad, Cuba Travel Wanderlust Living

Off the Grid: Trinidad, Cuba
Hotels June 12, 2015 posted by

Two great hotels in Havana Cuba!

Booking Hotels in Cuba

When looking for hotels in Havana Cuba it can be a little more difficult then you are used to if you are American. Right now, you can not book through a US booking agency like Hotels.com or Expedia, You will need to either book through a European booking agency online, through a tour company or you may need to pick up the phone and call the hotels directly.

Booking a hotel room in Cuba as a family can also be challenging. The hotels in Cuba do not allow more than three persons to a room, therefore you need to book two rooms for a family of four or if you call the hotel, they may have a suite as an available option. Most rooms have two twin or full size beds so sharing these beds with older children might be a little tight anyways.

After doing some initial research online I stumbled upon Hotel Florida and we ended up calling and speaking to the manager, Jose. He told us he had a family suite available at the other hotel he manages which was right next door, Hotel Marques Prado de Ameno. These two beautiful hotels are actually connected by a small hallway, and if you stay here you can experience the beauty of both hotels!

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba

Hotel Florida Havana

Hotel Florida is a great location and walking distance to many points if interest. Located on the corner of Obispo and Cuba Street. Obispo is a very popular pedestrian only street which has many restaurants, a small outdoor artisan market (that we loved) and this street leads you right down to Central Park and the Capital building.

When we arrived at midnight and walked passed the smokey bar with music pumping and very crowded dance floor. It was the exact scene I had hoped to find in Cuba and seeing this the very first night was the perfect welcome to Cuba.  As it turns out, Hotel Florida is a very popular spot for dancing!

There is a small cover charge to go into the bar at night, but free if you are staying at the hotel. I highly recommend you get down there and have a mojito and soak up this vibrant energy.  Apparently, some of the men that dance here are the best in Havana and they are there because they want to teach you how to dance. And yes, even I got up enough courage to hit the dance floor, I had no idea what I was doing but my teacher was patient and very kind. It’s so much fun and anyone can give it a try, no one is judging you, so go for it!

The breakfast in the morning was not your typical style of breakfast, it was an assortment of meats, cheeses, breads and fruit. One morning they did have scramble eggs. If you have read anything about Cuba, they are not known for their food, so don’t expect much.

I recommend heading down the street to the bakery or one of the small cafes to grab your morning coffee and a pastry. There is also a very well known coffee shop and cafe called O’Neils that is just around the corner. We also stumbled upon the Black Cat Cafe one morning, which was very charming and had an assortment of pastry options. Just ask at the front desk and they will point you in the right direction to get to either of these places.

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba Wanderlust Living Travel

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba

Hotel Florida Rooms

We did not stay in one of these rooms, but I asked to take a peek inside. The rooms are furnished with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture and they are a bit smaller then you might be used but very nice and clean.

HOtel Marques de Prado Ameno Havana Cuba

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno

We arrived late at night the brick archways were glowing and the plants dangling down from the second floor made it look like an enchanted garden. Our room was a large suite with a queen size bed and they brought in two twin size beds for our children, which had no trouble fitting in the space.  The suite also had a nice sitting area and three large blue doors that opened up to a small balcony. The room is dark with only a few lamps, until you open up the large blue doors and let the natural light from the street fill the room.  The bathroom was very large, but with older fixtures and plumbing and our shower did leak a bit.

There is a lovely courtyard in the center of Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno and a small restaurant and bar downstairs. We actually never ate there but we did go down to get the kids some water and soda one afternoon which was very convenient.

Both of these hotels are in a great location, really in the center of it all and walking distance to almost everything.
I loved staying here for the beauty that surrounded us and for the location. We were able to enjoy two hotels at once. The hotels are a bit older and might not have very modern amenities or furnishings but that is also the charm of being in Cuba and enjoying the historic buildings for what they are.

Havana Hotels Wanderlustliving

 

Courtyard Hotel Florida Cuba

Marques de Prado Ameno

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno



Hotels in Cuba
Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno Courtyard Havana Cuba

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno Wanderlust Living

Disclosure: I was given a small media rate. However, all my opinions are my own.

Two great hotels in Havana Cuba!
Adventure May 4, 2015 posted by

What was it about Cuba?


Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living

What was it about Cuba?

Some trips are just really hard to put into words. When people ask me “How was Cuba?” I start rambling on about how cool and unique it was, while my brain starts scrambling to find the perfect BIG words to actually define and describe it. I travel a lot, I’ve been to some unique destinations, but what was it about Cuba that made it so special? And why did Cuba make me cry?

Cuba is refreshingly disconnected

We were forced to unplug – completely. We did not use the internet for seven days. (No, this was not the reason I cried) but it might be the key reason I loved this trip so much. Harris and I don’t go on vacation; we go on work-cations, so for both of us to not be cramming a few hours of work in each day, checking email or posting to social media was, well, something pretty extraordinary.

That might sound sad to some, but really it’s not. It’s who we are and why we get to do what we do.

This was the first trip that I wasn’t at the dinner table checking Instagram or responding to some email that wasn’t urgent. I let it all go. I was completely present. Shockingly, it only took about a day to seize this opportunity and not even try to get online.

Being unplugged and unreachable was freeing – and finding this freedom in a Communist country was pretty ironic.

Internet in Cuba

There is internet in Cuba. Some hotels even have wi-fi, but not many. We stayed at Hotel Florida and they are currently working on getting wi-fi but while we were there only the manager’s computer had Internet. He told Harris and I we could use it whenever we wanted. Harris used it twice, but it was only to look up a few travel-related things.

(When booking at Hotel Florida ask for Jose – tell him the Fellman’s sent you! )

Yes, some people in Cuba have cell phones, but I hardly saw them and they certainly weren’t walking down the street or sitting at dinner totally glued to them. In fact, when I brought mine out at a few restaurants to take photos I felt awkward. I could feel curious eyes on me. Probably wondering either what the hell is that in her hands? or why on Earth is she taking pictures of her food?

Traveling to Cuba Internet
Our second hotel when we traveled down to Trinidad, Cuba had one computer in the lobby and with our upgraded bungalow room reservation we were given 1 hour of free internet a day, which we needed a token for. BAH! When Harris went to use this Internet it had such an old version of Internet Explorer that it did not have gmail.

We had traveled back in time – literally.

Travel like it’s 1995

Traveling to Cuba was old school and I liked it! We were getting back to our roots like when we backpacked through Europe with no internet and no apps or maps to tell us where to go. You had to ask questions, seek advice and just go with the flow. You might think this would be frustrating, but it wasn’t. It was refreshing.

There is beauty in being in the moment, getting lost or stumbling upon things by accident.

Instead of hiring a private taxi/shuttle to take us down to Trinidad, Cuba we took the bus. I realize this is not old fashioned, plenty of people take the bus, but with no internet we needed to find the bus station, which meant Harris physically going there by cab to find out what time the bus departs, when we needed to be there and how much it would cost. For Harris – this was old school.

The other thing about taking the bus is that you open yourself up for a possible story to tell later, or we might meet someone interesting or learn something. I secretly wanted something crazy to happen at the bus station, unfortunately nothing did. However, while at the bus station this is where I really understood how behind Cuba is in regards to technology.

While waiting for the bus we let the kids take out their iPads and the people around us were mesmerized by these electronic devices. Two people literally stood behind our kids and stared at their screens with the look of honest concern. They were unable to process what the hell it was.

It wasn’t as if we were from the future – we WERE from the future.

Cuba Cloassic Cars

The Classic Car Show

Fitting that I visit Cuba so close to the 4 year anniversary of my father’s death (May, 6th). The end of April is always emotional for me, my heart gets heavy, it knows what’s coming.

{Warning: this is where I cried}

My Dad was a serious car guy, like most dads who were born in the 50’s, I suppose.  When he was younger he drove a midnight blue 1965 GTO.  I remember going to the old Classic Car Shows when I was a little girl and watching something physically and emotionally come over my dad as he walked around the cars and commented on their bodywork and the size of their engines.

Cuba is the mother of all classic car shows, he certainly wasn’t going to miss this.

The cars that have been kept in mint condition are for the tourists to take an hour tour of Havana. It costs 35 pesos and you get a great view of the city and we made stops at Revolution Park and The National Hotel. These are of course not the only classic cars cruising around Havana, they’re everywhere. Many of them are used as regular taxi’s or just an everyday vehicle.

The drivers of these pristine cars are in fact the owners. Many of these cars were their father’s or grandfather’s and have been passed down to them. I could feel a sense of pride from our driver when he told us that it was his father’s. These cars hold so much history and are the only obvious connection to the United States.

As we drove around Havana in that beautiful blue 1961 Chevy it was the typical Fellman family scene – I was trying to take 100 pictures, McKenna was complaining about the heat and all my picture taking, Hudson was goofing off and Harris was squished in the middle of the back seat just laughing and along for the ride. Then somewhere in between the all the laughing and picture taking, I cried, because I could feel someone else in the car with us that day.

Dad, I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Blue Chevy in Havana Cuba Wanderlust Living

Cuba Cars

PInk Classic Car in Havana Cuba

Blue Havana Cuba Cars

Havana Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living
Classic Cars in Cuba Red

Pink Classic American Cars in Cuba Wanderlust Living

 

Wedding Couple in Cuba Havana Classic Cars

Green Car Cuba

Cars of Havana Cuba

Classic Cars in Cuba Havana Green

 

Fellman Cuba

Disclosure: I traveled to Cuba as a travel professional, I am not an expert on international law or personal travel into Cuba.

What was it about Cuba?
Adventure April 27, 2015 posted by

Traveling to Cuba: Here come the Americanos

Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living
When we bought four tickets to Cuba a few months ago, I was giddy with excitement, but I was also a bit naive on the situation for Americans traveling to Cuba. I knew Obama had just announced he was working on restoring relations with Cuba, but let’s be honest –  I didn’t know exactly what that meant.

“Mr. Obama’s decision will ease travel restrictions for family visits, public performances, and professional, educational and religious activities, among other things, but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law. Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.” from the The New York Times.

So, should we go to Cuba? Was it okay to take the kids to Cuba?

I voted for Obama, so clearly I get to go to Cuba!

Cuba with Kids Wanderlust Living

I’ve never been afraid to take my kids anywhere. We took our kids to Guatemala and had an incredible time. But Guatemala, although known to be a little dangerous, certainly was not off limits to Americans for the last 50+ years.

I was more concerned with what we would do with the kids in Cuba. I knew there would be plenty of learning opportunities, there always are when showing your kids the world, but will Cuba have enough to keep them interested and entertained? Will there be something for them to eat? (Always a Mom’s first priority – feeding her kids.)

Booking our trip to Cuba

Once we started to research Cuba, we found plenty of European tours and Canadian booking services, traveling to Cuba as a Canadian or European is no big deal. Searching for Cuba hotels on TripAdvisor was not like searching for hotels in other destinations, many of them did not have pictures or prices listed and you certainly could not book through any American booking websites. We needed to contact many of the hotels directly or book through a travel service such as the Cuba Travel Network.

When booking a hotel in Cuba, you cannot have anymore than three people to a room. So yes, a family of four needs to book two hotel rooms. This will be frustrating and a bit more challenging when searching for a hotel in Cuba. It’s not as easy as hotels.com that’s for sure.  When you do search for room availability  just be sure to select one room for two people, twice.  Some hotels have family suites, that will accommodate a family of four, but we discovered this by talking to the hotels over the phone directly. It’s old school but picking up the phone served us very well. If you do not speak Spanish, you’ll want to learn the phrase “Habla ingles?”. Usually they will find someone that knows a little English to help you.

We flew from Costa Rica on Copa Airlines to Panama City and then to Havana, Cuba. When we got to the gate in Panama City, we were told we had to buy a Visitors Visa for $20 and fill out a form (for each of us) for our reason for visiting Cuba. Our reason for visiting was journalism, since I am a travel writer and would be doing research and writing about our trip to Cuba.

Cuba Currency Wanderlust Living

Cuban Currency

You can not pay for anything in Cuba with American money and you can not use any American credit cards. They will exchange American money at the airport and at the banks in Cuba, but I recommend exchanging your money at the airport. The lines at the banks in Havana were out the door and down the block, you’ll be waiting in line a very long time.

When we exchanged our money at the airport the rate was 97/100 but there was a 10% exchange rate, so we got 87 Cuban “Convertible” Pesos for $100 American dollars. You need to budget and bring enough cash that you think you will need for the time you are in Cuba. For a family of four we planned for $300 a day to be on the safe side. Happily we spent way less than this per day!

Travel Note: There are actually two currencies in Cuba one that is exchangeable and one that is not. “Convertible Pesos” and Non-Convertible Pesos. The currency that is not convertible is only good in Cuba. Those are the pesos on the right side of the picture (with the faces). So you need to be careful when Cubans are giving you back change.

Once on the ground in Cuba, we made our way through customs and found a friendly taxi driver who helped us over to the money exchange counter. He patiently waited for us and then brought us to his car. He charged us 35 pesos to take us to our hotel in Havana. It seemed like a fair price to us, and it was 11:00pm at night and after a long day of traveling, we were not about to haggle on the price.

Let the Cuban adventure begin

Once at his car/taxi –  the driver’s wife was in the passenger seat and so the four Fellmans squeezed in the back seat. As we left the airport he turned up the Cuban salsa music and then asked us where we were from. We said “America” and with much shock, surprise and a big smile said, “Oh! Americanos!!”

This would be the first of many “Oh! Americanos!” We would hear over the next week….

I then silently prayed this guy was really taking us to our hotel.

{More on Cuba to come!}

havana Cuba Street Musicians

 

Disclosure: I am a travel professional and traveled to Cuba as a journalist for education and research. I am not an expert on the international law or personal requirements for traveling to Cuba.

 

Traveling to Cuba: Here come the Americanos