HAVANA DAYS AND NIGHTS

Notice anything different? A makeover was wayyyyyyy overdue. Given the amount of hours that I had spent giving this site a much-needed facelift, it has also motivated me to update more regularly. Can't let the hard work go to waste. And what better way to celebrate the new look than with a photo diary from my recent trip to Havana, Cuba.

I know I say "no words can describe..." often, but truly, Cuba is one of those places that you need to experience for yourself. It was an out of body experience for me, to be transported back in time, to a time period that I wasn't alive to witness. I was mesmerized and in awe during my entire trip. From the old buildings with chipped paint, that revealed the multiple layers of colors underneath each coat to the vibrant classic cars that buzzed around the city, I just couldn't believe my eyes. My eyes had never been so visually stimulated before and my camera had never been so trigger happy. Here are a few (or many) photos that I captured and will be forever ingrained in my head and heart. Plus, a few tips at the end of this post before you book your trip.

GO, GO, GO. With the ever-changing political climate, hurry up and visit Cuba while you can. Plus, you never know how long Havana will stay Old Havana before its bustling with tourists and lose its old town charm.

WIFI. The struggle for reliable wifi was constant. I knew this going in and was prepared to disconnect for a few days. In order to obtain wifi, you need to go to a wifi spot (usually a hotel, park, or our Airbnb) and log into with your wifi card. These cards can be purchased anywhere, even from locals on the street, and run between $3-5 CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso).

BRING CASH. Debit and credit cards from the US don't work in Cuba, so bring enough spending (& emergency) money just in case. You can exchange $100 CUC at the airport, enough for a taxi to get you to your hotel. We exchanged the rest of our money at Hotel Nacional. $1 USD converts to $.86 CUC. Contrary to popular belief when visiting 3rd world countries, the US dollar doesn't go very far in Cuba. What you do/see/eat will determine how much spending money you'll need. I'd recommend $100-$150 CUC per day, per person.

WHERE TO STAY. Based on my research, I found that the were hotels (at least the nicer ones) pricey and outdated. We opted for a modern Airbnb instead, for a more comfortable stay. The one we stayed at, Malecon Suite, was $200/night and had all the amenities of a high-end hotel (if not more). It was right across the street from the US Embassy, a 5 minute walk to Hotel Nacional and 10 minute car ride to Old Havana. Breakfast was delivered every morning and our host provided the best concierge service. Also, they gave us a Cuban cell phone in case we needed to local calls (dinner reservations, car service, etc).

EAT. I found the food in general to be mediocre, but did stumble upon a few great places to dine - La Guarida (be sure to make reservations well before your arrival), Cafe Laurent and Otramanera. We ended every night at Hotel Nacional because it was so close to our Airbnb. Their patio lounge is a relaxing place to get a drink/smoke a cigar and enjoy live music.

WHAT TO DO. Ride in a classic car (color of your choice) to see all the key landmarks. Visit the cigar factories and bring home a few as souvenirs. Dine al fresco. See the cannonball go off at nightly at 9PM at the ancient Fortress of San Carlos. Visit numerous rooftops for drinks and amazing views. Do a little souvenir shopping at Almacenes San Jose Artisans Market. Relax on the beaches in Santa Maria. And my favorite, wander aimlessly around the streets of Habana Vieja.

MAPS & APPS. I made sure to download a few apps since I knew we'd be offline (Cuba, CityMaps2Go and maps.me). These were a lifesaver in terms of getting around and figuring out where to go and what to do.