Everybody is talking about Cuba right now. This season more and more people are going to visit Cuba. The Cuba so many people love might be changing drastically in the next years. And probably the main reason why everybody is going now!
Cuba is changing now more than ever. My love for this special island in the Caribbean doesn’t come from anywhere. I have always been dreaming about going to Cuba and to see what is behind the romanticised socialist dream. Between then and my final decision to study at the University of Havana for almost a year I had to get over quite a few obstacles but it was definitely worth it.
How did I get there?
Studying in Cuba wasn’t that easy as I expected. I remember that the attempts of making contact with my University were quite bumpy. Emails which never got a reply, expensive phone calls to dead ends and the language barrier made it difficult to get the essential information to make my decision. I know these circumstances have improved over the past few years and thanks to a broader internet connection on the island, it is easier to stay connected and find resources online.
When going for a vacation the restrictions and barriers are almost not there. Just book a flight and having a valid passport might be enough. You should also consider booking a place for the first few nights to stay. Good and affordable accommodations can be found on Airbnb.
How to get to Cuba
Best connections are offered to the capital Havana, sometimes cheaper options are displayed to Varadero or Holguin, if you can save more than 100$ on the plane ticket book the ticket to the smaller city, a bus trip to the capital is never more than 50$ and gives you the opportunity to see some other areas of the country right from the start.
What did I expect?
I didn’t expect the Cuban social revolution cliché with Rum, Salsa and Tobacco. But to my surprise, that is a lot of what I saw, mainly in tourist areas.
In my imagination, I was thinking it might be similar to Mexico or the Dominican Republic as I have visited those countries before and my perception of Latin and Caribbean countries was shaped by that experiences. But Cuba was a whole new experience. If you plan to leave your resort and get out there you can discover a completely different environment. Check out my previous blog post on how to discover Cuba!
What did I actually experience?
Experience is always subjective and therefore I can only talk for myself. Being an international student in Cuba is a unique experience with many ups and downs. There was always this fine line between me having the time of my life and getting frustrated over the daily struggles of bureaucracy. Cuba is the land of hospitality. People are always friendly, trying to help you, guide you and teach you. Protective and jovial, outgoing and full of creativity… that is how I would describe Cuba in on long sentence. See more about my experience being an international student in Cuba here.
Why is now the time to go to Cuba?
Every travel guide points Cuba out as the new „go-to" destination. Cuba is very safe, especially for female traveller, still quite inexpensive and has good weather for the whole year. And as there are a lot of positive sides to this newly advanced tourism, it will change the landscape of this island immensely. The new Cuba will be vibrant, colourful, amazing and unique, exactly as the old one but just a little bit different.
Update from 2018: Cubas tourism is more saturated and prices tend to rise. If possible avoid extreme touristy areas and visit smaller cities that like Holguin, Santa Clara, Guantanamo and Cienfuegos.