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Thinking of Cuba for winter 2023 vacation...suggestions welcome

Thinking of Cuba for winter 2023 vacation...suggestions welcome

Old Oct 5th, 2022, 07:58 AM
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Thinking of Cuba for winter 2023 vacation...suggestions welcome

I'm beginning to explore Cuba as a possible winter 2023 option. While we like beaches, we both need more activity than that and like to get to know the culture and residents whenever possible. I have a ton of questions...hoping some of you can chime in.
1. In general, is Cuba still safe for American tourists?
2. Where would you recommend staying (e.g., location, type of accommodation, locally-owned vs. international chains)
3. Would you exchange all money to local currency once there or is the U.S. dollar welcomed/useable?
4. Where are the best beaches?
5. Is it safe to run, bike, walk without a guide?
6. Are there particular things one MUST see or do if interested in the culture?
7. What is the local cuisine like and how would might a vegetarian do there?
8. Any recommendations related to flights or travel insurance are also welcome...or anything else you think would be good for us to know.
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Old Oct 7th, 2022, 03:53 AM
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It's been a few years since I was in Cuba and I'm not American so cannot answer if it is safe for Americans. Not sure why it wouldn't be. In Havana we stayed at the Iberotel Parque Central, due to the location right on the edge of the old town & its rooftop swimming pool but there are several other hotels which would be just as good. Locationwise, being in or close to the old town would be recommended. As far as I remember, we changed money when we arrived, did not have any US dollars not any US credit cards eg Amex. We walked all around Havana without a guide, people were very friendly and helpful. At night, we took taxis to restaurants and back, the taxi waited all night for us, reminds me of Moscow in the 1990s as they would do that as well, and the vehicle, well, if you have ever been in a Lada you know it won't be comfortable. Again that might have changed. There is alot to see in Havana, it is a fascinating crumbling city with surprising interiors. Easy enough to get a taxi to take you on an excursion eg to Hemingways house outside Havana. Dining at a paladare or two is a must, we visited a couple but the one I remember is Vistamar in Miramar, food was very good and the paladar a complete contrast to the outside and surroundings, a gorgeous house. But food in general is not good at all, it is not a place to go for food, I doubt veggies would do well there. One of the best beach is in Varadero but the area is a purpose built area with lots of hotels, rather characterless and you need all inclusive, unless restaurants have cropped up since I was there.
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Old Oct 7th, 2022, 02:56 PM
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More or less what Balthy said. We spent 3 weeks in Cuba in about 2014 and loved it but it isn't the sort of place to go to if you want everything ti be perfect and easy to negotiate, especially if you are DIY travellers. It may help you if I say what we did - 4 nights in a casa in Havana [not luxurious but perfectly acceptable] - 3 nights in Vinales [transfer by private taxi booked though the casa owner] [had to ,move casa as the first one was horrible - this is more difficult than you might think] - 3 nights in Cienfuegos [transfer by coach booked at an office in Vinales ] - 4 nights in Trinidad [transfer by taxi booked though the casa] - 3 nights in Sancta Spritus in a hotel [[taxi transfer again] - 3 nights in Remedios - 2 nights in a different casa in Havana via a very memorable clash transfer which included a lecture on the importance of Che Guevara from the bus driver.

Unless otherwise specified we stayed in casas and paid cash as we went along. We took cash with us, but in fact we found that we could draw the local currency from ATMs.

In Havana I think that a vegetarian would be ok but I'm not sure about suitable food outside Havana, There are plenty of cultural activities in each of the places we went to, and elsewhere, and you can usually organise tours through a local tourist board which is what we did when we went to Santa Clara and to the beaches on the north coast which are generally agreed to be the best. However they are heavily developed and touristy. We also went to a beach on the coast near Trinidad which was terrific. Casas will usually organise taxis for you.

This is all some time ago and details may have changed but i doubt if the basics have.
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Old Nov 7th, 2022, 04:58 AM
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Thanks to both of you for your help. I really appreciate it.
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Old Dec 18th, 2022, 04:22 PM
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Me and my husband just cameback to the UK from Cuba a few days ago and I hope our experience could help you.
1. In general, is Cuba still safe for American tourists? - it's very safe for everyone, doesn't matter from which country you are. We walked in Havana and Varadero everywhere, 4-6 km every day, sometimes we cameback quite late and never had any problem. We've met an American women at the hotel, she travelled alone, stayed at a small hotel outside Havana and has been amazed how friendly cubins are in general.


2. Where would you recommend staying (e.g., location, type of accommodation, locally-owned vs. international chains). -- We have been in Havana and Varadero only and staying at international hotels both times. (4 and 5 stars) - it was OK. But in Havana we felt constantly pressured from people at the hotel and on the streets and taxi drivers to take their service , help and give them a tip or buy something, and they all wants euros or USD and it's not cheap. We are not used to this in England and didnt like it. Travellers from US may be OK with that. In Varadero we felt much more relaxed. Some others Travellers from England in our second hotel stayed at a small hotel in Havana, used a cheap taxi from the hotel, had help from an owner and really liked it. So it's up to you 😏

3. Would you exchange all money to local currency once there or is the U.S. dollar welcomed/useable? - we've been told every where that hotels and banks doesn't accept American bank cards, also our UK credit cards didnt work either, so definitly take cash. US dollars and Euro cash is accepted most places (euro was most common currency requested, but $ was widely accepted). It is possible to pay in Canadian dollars also. We recommend to have enough cash for all time you are going to stay in Cuba. Don’t exchange all your cash to CUP cuban Peso immediatly since you cant change back and will loose the mo ey if you dont spend it. Most places prefer to take euros or USD directly. The best is to check every time what the bill will be in CUP or euros and then decided in which currency will be better to pay. At the hotel official exchange is 120 CUP to 1 euro, official bank rate is 25 CUP per Euro so ot sure what you woukd get from a Cunan ATM (our cards didnt work), but on a black market from market traders it could be 140-160 CUP to 1 euro (160 was the best we got). Restaurants have their own exchange rate- from 90 to 140 CUP to 1 euro. Most often they use 100 CUP per Euro or USD, so your defiantly better off exchanging to CUP from a local market trader

4. Where are the best beaches? - we have been only in Varadero and all the beaches are perfect- that's the only reason I would like to come back to Cuba.

5. Is it safe to run, bike, walk without a guide? - it is safe, we walked a lot without any guides in Havana, in old town too, after 11pm once and it's alright. But for Havana you need to be aware of the scam - be aware of people who wants to be your friends and take to some places or saying on the street that they are working in your hotel and recommended to go to specific restaurants - its all scam, you will pay a lot more or even for food for your new friends. Some people from our hotel end up paying £100 bill for food and drinks they even didn't have. In Varadero we have seen a lot of runners and bicycle riders there, it's completely safe to walk alone.

6. Are there particular things one MUST see or do if interested in the culture? -- We didn't like the cubian .usic show that has been sold to us from our tour guide (€35 each), but many restaurants have bands playing cubian music and it's really good.

7. What is the local cuisine like and how would might a vegetarian do there? The food in Cuba is not interesting at all, especially there is still many problems with food suppliers. We had food poison at our first buffet breakfast at 4 star Hotel and we both ended up at the hospital (on a drip for 6 hours), but others Travellers at that Hotel were OK. At the second 5star hotel I had few dishes with cockroaches, and have been sick, our friends experienced diarrhoea all the time. But many others was alright. Food in general is very bland, doesn't have any spices. We recommend not to have buffet and go to the town and find some good restaurants. We've seen many vegetarian dishes at restaurants, so you could be OK, but most of the vegetables dishes are very bland and overcooked.

8. Any recommendations related to flights or travel insurance are also welcome...or anything else you think would be good for us to know. - travel and health insurance are must have. Cuba is not a cheap country anymore- taxis are more expensive than in London, in a good restaurant you could pay €40-50 euros for dinner for 2, souvenirs are expensive too, so bring enough cash with you. Cubans are very nice people in general (all the bar staff, waiters in the varadero hotel we very helpful) but be very careful with scammers - they are everywhere in Havana.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2023, 04:39 PM
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We're American and are also planning a 2023 trip to Cuba. You may already have looked into this, but you'll need to select a specific reason to be allowed to visit. The most common (and easiest to satisfy) is "support for the Cuban people". One of the requirements is that you stay in casa particulars (basically homestays or BnBs) rather than in large hotels. Not sure if it's applicable to your situation, but thought I'd mention it.
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by olesia5704 View Post
Me and my husband just cameback to the UK from Cuba a few days ago…..
Brits (& other nationalities) need to be aware that if they’ve been to Cuba since Jan 2021 that they can’t enter the US under the visa waiver ESTA scheme. They have to apply for visas.
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