Cuba: Day 1

It has been one week since my return from Cuba. In honor of those seven days, I will begin a review of how we (JAC & I) spent our time there, what was good and what might have been better to do differently.

Please post or email questions! Every person I tell that I am going or have been to Cuba immediately says that they want to have a conversation about the trip. I hope to build an FAQ here to help others explore Cuba.

Day 1 in Cuba: Monday

We arrived in Havana at 6pm. Public transport from the airport is tricky, so most people grab a taxi. The rates here are static for the most part. We were told it would cost $25, the driver said $30. Getting from the airport into town is more expensive than the other way around. We got a taxi as low as $20 to be taken to the airport.

JAC and I checked into our Air BnB. We had very friendly hosts. We booked a small, basic apartment to ourselves for the first 4 nights. It was actually pretty big, but we really only utilized the bedroom and bathroom. This is where the air conditioning unit was and we didn’t have use for the large, dark living room. Nor did we cook or have food in the apartment.

We met friends at El Del Frente, a rooftop restaurant in old Havana. Asking for directions proved to be a bit futile. A few people claimed they had never heard of it, while others told us it was being fumigated and everyone had gone to La Familia instead. Riiiiiight. Be aware of this tactic. And don’t give up! We had to scour the block several times and get clues from people to find our destination. I was pretty convinced that the map had told us the wrong location and that we would never find the restaurant, but we persevered and stumbled upon it ourselves. Eventually, by circling a 3 block radius of where it was supposed to be, we found the joint. It’s a small door and when they are open, there is usually someone standing there with a list. Probably worth it to get a reservation, because it was busy when we showed up on a Monday night! This was facilitated by a local, a friend of a friend. If you swing by there early enough, call them, or book a few days in advance, I’m sure you could get a rooftop table. Prices are reasonable! It is touristy, but the vibe is good and the company is fun.

What was immediately apparent to me stepping off the plane in Havana, was that this country is, indeed, quite different to what I am used to. I felt nervous and quite a bit of apprehension. I was also excited and wanted to approach the trip with an open mind. I can’t tell you quite yet if I was successful in that.

The next thing that was immediately obvious to me, was the smog and pollution within Havana due to the cars pumping thick black clouds of exhaust into the streets. I felt sick for about 24 hours from breathing in the fumes. This seems to only be an issue within Havana. The rest of the country has wide open highways and scarcely traveled roads. In the city it’s a bit of a shit show. I’m sure much of this will begin to change if the borders remain open – send some clean exhaust tail pipes over there! Anyway, hold on to your guts and your lungs if you’re sensitive towards air pollution. Anyone have suggested coping mechanisms while your body adjusts?

This is all 20 minutes allowed for today. I plan to create a post that incorporates the full week with tips, tricks, pitfalls, and ideas from other travelers.

If you have something to add, drop me a line! lara at lara buelow dot com

Viva Cuba! XO ❤ LB

 

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