Tips when visiting Havana & Varadero, Cuba for your honeymoon or any vacation
We are back from our honeymoon with sun-kissed skin. I now understand what Camila Cabello was talking about... Havana really does have my heart. Although it was only a 3-hour flight away, Havana really felt like another world; a quant Latin-European city right out of the 1950's. I thoroughly enjoyed the architecture, the bright colours and the people with such a strong sense of community. Anyone thinking of where to go on their honeymoon that does not have more than a week away from work but wants a good mix of culture and relaxation, consider a Havana and Varadero get-away. It is also a more cost-effective option but remember, foreigners are always given a different currency so Cuba is actually quite pricey when you're outside of your all-inclusive resort. If visiting Havana, be sure to at least stay overnight for 1 day if not so a couple days.
Here are some of my tips when going to Cuba on your honeymoon or on vacation:
- Bring lots of sunscreen and a hat. Of course you want a tan but trust me, it can get scorching especially mid-day! Bring some aloe versa just in case you fall asleep in the sun.
- Bring lots of anything you need. Cuba is not like other countries where if you forget anything, it's easily purchased. It is most likely not available or super expensive! This includes any personal items like lotion, conditioner, hair spray and tampons/pads.
- Don't bring American money. There is a 10% surcharge for American currency so bring that Canadian cash. You can exchange it upon arrival (just enough until you can get to to a bank or another place or exchange). There are 2 currencies, one for foreigners and one for locals; the key is that the convertible pesos (foreigner money) is the equivalent of the US dollar and will have monuments on them instead of faces. Be sure when you get back your change it's always the foreigner peso or else you're losing 25x face value (1 CUC = 25 CUP).
- Make lots of change. You'll need to tip lots and it is about 10% however tip 15% if you liked the service. Many places won't be able to give you change since they may be operating in CUP (local pesos) or they don't want to give you their change so it's on you to have exact change. Banks will give you the best rate (bring your passport to exchange money) but oddly enough, our hotel in Central Park in Old Havana gave us the best rate we could find!
- Adaptor. Some hotels and resorts can differ but usually they will use a euro adapter so bring a universal one if you have one.
- A travel guide or download the offline map. I have been to plenty of third world countries but this is the one that has been the hardest to get internet. Even if you get it, it's 99% not free even at your 5-star hotel. This may be the best time to make sure you have space on your phone, an offline map, and all the places and directions you wanted to visit/eat at saved on your phone. Either way, it's a great way to disconnect from the real world and work emails!
- A good relaxing book. Since you'll be soaking in some sun and disconnecting from the world, bring a good read.
- A lock for your suitcase. So, it sounds a little terrible to be untrusting but regardless, it's better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you take care of your cash and have photo copies of your ID. Overall, Cuba is a safe country but just to be safe side.
- A towel. Some casa particulars are known to be missing some items so bring a towel just in case.
- Umbrella and a windbreaker. It can be very windy along the beach or malecon at night so make sure you have something to keep you warm and dry.
- Stomach pills. Your stomach may not be used to their food and as we mentioned, the pharmacy doesn't have much so bring this with you.
- TP and hand sanitizer. Self-explanatory. There aren't many public washrooms, especially ones that have soap and/or toilet paper.
- Flash light. As a communist country, there may be be power outages. If there isn't, it is still very dark at night to reserve energy even in highly populated tourist areas so a flash light isn't a crazy idea. We couldn't even see on the beach a few metres ahead of us if the moon wasn't visible and on the sometimes bumpy cobble stone roads in Havana, a flash light would've come in handy.
- Bug spray. Havana wasn't an issue but I sure did get bitten in Varadero even by the beach.
- Bring some gifts for the locals. Here are some items they desperately need or would like: Tylenol/Advil, bars of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, nail polish, band-aids, razors, spices, baby toys, clothes, sweets/chocolate, and of course, a little tip here and there where ever you can.
Bon voyage... but in Spanish!