Stop what you’re doing and download the Maps.me app and the Cuba map that goes along with it. This app works very well offline. To maximize your experience, you will need to be proactive and plan like hell. Here’s the thing, Havana is an extremely safe walking city. You can walk through streets and alley ways to get to where you’re going regardless of the time. There’s a lot of ways to get around but it will add up, especially when they realise you’re a tourist. Review your map and walk when you can. There’s also a lot of monuments you will zoom past in a car and each stop will cost yah! We walked a lot and enjoyed the many gems we ‘accidentally’ landed on.
If you aren’t a business person, you won’t need a lot of internet. We bought 3 cards, each with an hour and almost came back with 1. We shared 1 card each time and had more than enough to check in with loved ones. If you find yourself constantly buying cards to contact family, then they should have come with you as this cost does add up as well. We didn’t make any phone calls outside of the country, to family or friends. We used the phone in our casa to call the owner who came to see us when we had questions about things we wanted to do.
We brought a camcorder, 2 cellphones, a huge Fiji cam and a mini Sony Vaio. We only used our cellphones. Hubs had an extra battery for his. The Maps.me app used up tons of battery so if possible print and highlight your routes so you don’t lose juice and miss pictures. Additionally, work out some storage. I backed up to Google drive when I signed on the net but one day I had no pics because my phone space was used up.
Baby was pretty ok in Cuba. Everywhere we went people were very accommodating. People were always lifting him up and playing with him. I didn’t worry about him for a minute and that was a HUGE bonus to me. He didn’t do us any favors when it came to food though. He wouldn’t eat much of anything and mainly drank his ‘babba’. We almost ran out and had to give him Ensure a time or two. We didn’t anticipate that he would revert to the bottle only as usually he only took the bottle at nights before bed. We brought 3 boxes of coconut milk, 1 box of almond and 11/2 tins of formula. We brought an ice tray that was always set so that we could keep the coconut milk chilled on the road with no issues. We brought 2 baby bullet containers for this purpose. A few mornings he ate the oatmeal we brought and 1 morning he had cereal. Fig bars, granola, crackers and yogurt pouches on the road. Otherwise, he picked at a few things we ate but not much made it past his lips. They don’t have potato fries (his fave) there and while he ate the plantains chips, he didn’t love them.
The online impression of Cuba is that they are very poor and living on next to nothing. Let me add some context to that. COMPARED to first world countries their standard of living isn’t as high. They are not in poverty. They maybe don’t make a lot but they aren’t poor. Now, I haven’t seen the underbelly of this country. As we lived like locals, on the surface it didn’t look like people are cowering for their lives. Their faces are plain but they will smile and be very helpful when approached. They are more ‘relaxed’ in their living than you would think. The low crime rate plays a factor here but perhaps I need to look into this more.
Cuba is not a cheap destination. The exchange rate will absolutely disgust you. It is still affordable once you plan hard prior to going and do your research but it isn’t cheap. I didn’t concern myself with the CUP/CUC battle. I dealt strictly in CUC and was sure to check my change when I got it. Hubs got some CUP from our casa owner, which I guess was just for the experience. He used it to buy beer. I found some on the road and we hardly used it at the end of the day. Budgeting here is hard enough, especially when you want to try so many things! Keep one currency and call it a day!
It is very hard to give the gifts you brought with you away. Just keep your alms light. Ideally, they should be dropped off at an agency and they distribute them but the gratification comes from seeing the smiles on kid’s faces. On our day trip, they stopped the bus and I gave one bag to a little boy but I didn’t like the feeling. So, I dropped majority of the bags off at a school in Havana Vieja and to another school close to our casa. We just called a teacher to the gate, we didn’t go in as I knew it wasn’t allowed and would be very weird! We wouldn’t want strangers at our kid school!
Cuban toilets will probably be the worst part of your trip, next to dealing with taxis of course. Most don’t have lids, tissue or a proper handle to push or pull for you to flush. Some don’t flush at all. Carry your tissue or wipe, as a go around the roll will cost you! When I showed the attendant that I had my own tissue, she looked like she dam near wanted to kick me right into the fucking stall so that I could hurry up and get out.
Children are the pearl of the city. I ABSOLUTELY positively loved how they are fawned over. I felt so good. So at ease and we knew no one there. It isn’t uncommon for people to pass n play in baby’s hair or tickle him. We did the same when we could. Cubans are gorgeous people and the babies barefoot, barely clothed and running about freely made me so happy.