Cuba In A Nutshell
After an almost 4 hour flight from Ecuador, which felt closer to 10, me digging into Drew’s thigh with my cat-like grip due to turbulence, resulting in him jumping awake with a fright (which I cracked up about #sadistic) , we had finally landed in the land of vintage cars and Havana Club rum.
There’s a few misconceptions about Cuba, but I’ll save that for another blog post.
For now, I’m gonna let you in on a few reasons why you should bypass this Caribbean, Spanish speaking island.
Yes, you read that right. I’m going to tell you why you SHOULDN’T go to Cuba!
You’re Not Willing To Hunt Around For Various Food
If you expect to get your edible flowers on a bowl of açai with gluten free, organic, hand picked granola (not that you can hand pick granola, but, whatever) and every berry you can imagine with unicorn coloured banana – then you’ll be disappointed. (It may be found somewhere in Cuba, but not easily).
Traditional Cuban food is pretty basic. And that’s the beauty of it.
Don’t get me wrong – if you’re willing to look a little harder, there are definitely some options to take it up a notch.
As you can see from our lunches, we did some hunting around and found some delicious vegan meals.
Some of the main, staple items you’ll find on the menu are; salad – which consisted of cucumber, tomato and green beans with vinegar and oil dressing, and rice and beans – this was actually my favourite dish and it was delicious.
Then there’s your delicious, bloating, filling, coma inducing carbs. Crusty bread is a standard accompaniment with all dishes such as pasta, and Cuba’s twist on risotto and more. #Carbloading.
You can’t go past the fried plantain – a banana-like fruit that is a common staple food in the Caribbean and South American diet. I never knew something so simple could taste so damn good!
Surprisingly, in what seems to be such a heavily meat influenced country, as a vegan, it was rather easy to find lots of tasty and decent quality food.
What made it even easier was the fact that it was so hot, we mainly only wanted to refresh ourselves with juicy fruits and vegetables anyway.
There were quite a few vendors waiting to
rip you off sell you their produce, so it wasn’t hard to come by at all.
If you’re a bottomless pit like myself, never fear, the cost of food in Cuba won’t send you broke.
You’ll pay anywhere between $3 AUD for a large pizza, and up to a max of $13 AUD for a main meal plus drinks in a standard, family owned restaurant.
The fancier the restaurant, the more you’ll pay as per the norm anywhere.
You’re A Phone Junkie And Need The Internet At All Times
*Everyone frantically reaches for red pen and crosses Cuba off their travel list in 2 seconds*
I can see the sweat falling down your brow from here.
Alas, there’s still a way you can get your fix of social media and stay in contact with loved ones back home. That is, if you want to of course.
There’s shops around Havana that have signs on the front of the store that advise you if they sell the WiFi cards.
Once you’ve searched around and found them (mind you, there’s pretty much someone standing on the corner like a drug dealer selling the coveted WiFi cards), you then have a password and 5 hours’ max. worth of WiFi.
There are designated parks where you’ll only be able to find signal there and social media your heart out.
The parks are hard to miss, as there’s hundreds of people sitting around getting their fix.
Imagine being in a cafe or restaurant where you have to actually do this thing called “talk” to the person you’re with…? #Weird.
It was actually quite refreshing not having access to the outside world, and simply enjoying being present.
The internet is so heavily regulated (as with everything else in Cuba) that the government determines when and where people can use the internet. Literally.
Drew and I are those people that tend to decide on doing something then and there with not much thought or planning going into it.
Some may call this “leaving things until the last minute,” (like my older sisters) but we like to call it “living in the moment”.
Point being, we tried to book an Air B’n’B in a little town called Viñales, about 3-4 hours out of Havana, but the internet gods would not allow it.
We had to go to a hotel and call them and book it through them. Or, we even just turned up and booked upon arrival.
You’re Not Willing To Leave Your Inhibitions At Home
Now I’m not asking you to walk the streets naked (or am I?), I’m simply saying that the people of Cuba love to dance, drink and simply have fun!
You will be grabbed to dance, spoken to by strangers whilst you’re in the middle of a meal, confronted by hagglers and restauranteurs all vying for your business, and just about anyone wanting to have a chat at the bar.
My advice? Get amongst it! As they say “when in Rome”. But that’s irrelevant, because we’re talking about Cuba here.
As always, whilst travelling, simply have your wits about you and be sensible.
In saying that, Cuba is a country I felt quite safe in. I walked down alleys at 11pm by myself, and it didn’t feel sketchy or unsafe at all.
You’re Not Into Exploring Much
Imagine cascading waterfalls in the middle of the rainforest. Jumping off 10m high cliffs into a natural pool below, and the sound of nature all around you.
Cigar and coffee plantations that have been in families for generations and being able to make your own coffee and cigar.
Now imagine missing out on that. Crazy!
This is only a tiny bit of what we got to see when exploring Cuba.
Cuba has many hidden gems, and most of them were at least 1-2 hours away from our base in Havana.
Some of which we would never have seen if we didn’t explore.
We also visited another quiter, more beautiful town of Cuba called Trinidad – not to be confused with the country Trinidad and Tabago.
Trinidad was a 3 hour drive away, where our personal driver and very own tour guide (yes, we hired a driver for 3 days and it was the best experience EVER #fancylikethat) showed us some of the most beautiful hidden spots to go hiking, and do some more exploring.
SO MUCH FUN.
You Don’t Like The Heat
Reality is, most people travel to countries that are going through their warmer seasons at the time.
Cuba gets hot and rather humid. And sticky. And sweaty. Some days may be 1 or 2 degrees cooler than the next, but more often than not, in Summer, she’s a hot one! (Fancy having hot weather in Summer). Strange.
A little tip – take cool, breathable clothing with you that’s not heavy or clingy. Wear a sun hat, glasses and if you’re very sun safe, sunscreen.
As you can see by my attire, I didn’t follow my advice at the time.
Start your hikes or adventures in the earlier part of the day. When possible, stay somewhere indoors, like a bar
getting wasted or restaurant, and enjoy the local rum and food.
OR you can just go ahead and do whatever the heck you like and deal with the consequences later. (I went with the latter).
To Go Or Not To Go
The 5 main reasons why you shouldn’t go to Cuba, but really, I’m actually giving you reasons why you should go.
There’s so much more to Cuba than meets the eye. You simply have to look a little closer and talk to the locals.
Cuba was a dream destination, and the fact that we spent our 1 year wedding anniversary there made it all the more special.