Dont be mislead by the subject of this post, Cuba cannot be visited, understood and experienced within 10 days. However, I only had that amount of time on the island and I thought Id provide a few tips for anyone who might want to visit and have a similar time frame.
The first thing to note is that the island is big and rather long!
Unless you want to spend half your time on a bus or in a taxi, Id recommend staying in one “part” of the island.
I chose the West side of the Island (Havana side) and did not regret my choice.
Depending on where you are coming from, direct flights can be quite expensive. A good option can be to fly into Cancun and buy separate flights from there to Havana as they vary between $150-$200 USD.
Before you decide to plan a holiday to Cuba, you might be wondering how cheap it might be. Well, that partly depends on what kind of traveller you are, like in any other country, but I was surprised to notice that many things are as expensive as in some parts of Europe, but if you really watch your budget you can live with $40/day and still do things!
You might have heard about the double currency. Dont let it discourage you. It s pretty simple to grasp. Values below are approximate and subject to change of course!
1 USD = 1 CUC (Peso Cubano Convertible)
1 CUC = 25 CUP (Peso Cubano / Moneda nacional)
The CUP is mostly useful in the street, where things are Very cheap.
ie 1 banana or 1 small bag of peanuts = 1 CUP. If you don t have CUPs you simply end up paying more for things.
The City bus is also 1 CUP and I believe you cannot pay in CUCs.
Before entering the country I had heard that the CUC was used by tourists and the CUP by Cubans only. Turns out that s not quite right. You can change your currency into CUCs and your CUCs into CUPs at the exchange office. If you re staying 10 days, changing 10 CUCs into CUPs should be plenty enough.
Now that you have your flight and your money sorted, here is how/where I would recommend spending your time:
Havana (3 nights) – over a week end if you can
Solo traveller or backpacker friends – Hostal Red. Cheap, clean, and conveniently located. The owners are the loveliest and most helpful Cubans I met + the breakfast is included and is SO good!
For a private room in Old Havana contact me and I can put you in touch with Albertico and his lovely mum.
Restaurante Torresson – Ave. Malecon No. 27 (altos) e/ Prado y Carcel. Centro Habana
Lobster with potatoes, rice and beans, salad and a starter $15 CUC for 2!!
Great food and view on the Malecon / the sea.
Get a ride in an Amercian classic. In 1 hour you ll get to enjoy some of the city s monuments and famous neighbourhoods, with the driver s historical knowledge. You can get these from the Parque Central. Ensure that you ask your driver where they will be taking you and that they will allow you to get out and take photos. Negotiate to pay no more than $15CUC per person if there are 2 of you.
Walk around old Habana and enjoy music around the streets.
Go to La Bodeguita del Medio for a Mojito. This is Cuba s most famous restaurant. It s a little too touristic for my liking and the Mojitos are $4CUC (double the price of others), but they have live music and a good atmosphere.
Check out La Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a bar/club/museum where you will find live music, cinema, paintings, sculptures and much more for 2 CUC entry only!
Ask your host to tell you if there is anything on at the Hotel Nacional during your stay. This is where the famous Buena Vista Social Club music is played live. $25 CUC for entry and 1 drink but it is worth the experience. Make sure to dress up!!
Cuba -> Viñales: You can ask (negotiate with) your hostel/Air BnB host to book you a taxi collectivo for $15-20 CUC per person.
Viñales (2 nights)
There are many casas particulares on Air BnB. I am unable to share the one I stayed in but please contact me if you want their contact.
I can t remember the name of the place sorry!! but it was one of the 2 only restaurants to offer Vegetarian menus and the 2 places were next to each other on a street corner. The town is tiny so you will find it if you look 🙂
I ordered the vegetable brochettes for $3.50 CUC and they were very good and came with rice and salad.
Horse ride through the Valle del Silencio and a tobacco farm where you will learn about cigars and a sugar cane and coffee farm where you will be able to have a sugar based aphrodisiac drink or a coffee. Negotiatie to pay no more than $20 CUC per person
Day Trip to Cayo Jutias. The road is long and bumpy but the beach is stunning and you can eat lobster with your feet in the sand! Once again, negotiate so you don t pay more than $15 CUC per person.
Viñales -> Trinidad Taxi Colectivo $30 – $40 CUCs (depends on your negotiation skills)
Trinidad (3 nights)
I wouldn t recommend my lovely host in Trinidad as the place had a major humidity problem but there are loads of casas particulares on Air BnB. A little more expensive than Havana and Viñales though.
La Redaccion – Calle Maceo 463, Trinidad
BEST Food in Trinidad + live music, awesome decor and amazing service!
Get a taxi to the Waterfalls near a Restaurant calles “El Cubano”. The driver will know where. The taxi will wait for you while you ejoy the waterfall (including the 40-45 min to and from the waterfalls). We paid $24 CUC for 3 of us and stayed about 3 hours. The entry to the national park is a non-negotiatble $10 CUC which makes this a slightly expensive outing but the waterfall is breathtaking and you can swim and even jump into the cool water.
Havana (1 night)
As above 🙂
Bring enough cash if you can as cash points are quite unreliable.
Don t forget essentials like toothpaste and shampoo as these are not so easy to find.
Take time to speak to locals, most Cubans have never left the island and are very curious about the outside world and enjoy talking to tourists.
Women, accept that you will be approached by men in the street A LOT, take deep breaths and try to take this as a compliment.
Keep an eye on your belongings. Cuba is very safe for the most part but there is still a lot of poverty so avoid temptation by keeping your valuables on you when possible.