Oh, Cuba. The thrill of visiting your once forbidden land was our first attraction. You're beauty, light-hearted spirit, friendly people, architecture, food, cigars and amazing rum are the foundation for our lasting love affair.
Here are 6 of the most surprising experiences we had while in Cuba.
1. It's True: Cubans still drive cars from the 50's
You often hear many Cubans drive American cars made and exported before the embargo, aka pre 1960. But we were surprised to see just how many old classic cars were actually driving around Havana!
2. They're happy to meet Americans
We have to admit, we were a bit worried that as American's, we would not be well received. After all, Fidel Castro had been talking about Cuba's "enemies 90 miles north" for decades.
It was just in March 2016 that President Barack Obama announced Americans can go to Cuba on people-to-people exchanges, relaxing the travel restrictions set in place nearly 60 years prior. Before then, American's could go to Cuba if they were visiting family, a diplomat, for educational trips and the like.
During our first trip to Cuba in August of 2016, we were some of the very first Americans visiting legally, so we couldn't help but wonder if the influence of Fidel Castro stuck.
Much to the contrary, everyone we met had smiles on their faces, were interested in where we lived, told us how much they loved America and were happy to meet us.
3. There are so many parks
For such an urban city, Havana is surpirsingly green. Trees and parks sprinkle the entire city. The shade is much appreciated in the hot, humid, tropical climate. We also heard that when buildings fall, instead of rebuilding, they turn the space into a park.
4. The nightlife is amazing
Embargo, rations, communism; just a few words that are intertwined with the history and culture of Cuba.
Hip, artsy, craft cocktails, hip hop, and cutting edge, are some words intertwined with Havana nightlife.
5. Cuban food is amazing if you eat in the right restaurants
We heard mixed reviews about the food in Cuba before our travels but we're happy to say that we had delicious meals during our trips. There are two types of restaurants, government run and privately owned paladares. Eating in paladares is the way to go and is like getting a home cooked meal.
6. In Cuba, you can get more jail time for killing a cow than a human
Cows are owned by the state and it is illegal to kill a cow. Even if your cow dies of natural causes, you have to immediately report the death to the government.
7. There's no Internet but e-mail works just fine
Cubans do not have Internet in their homes, nor is there easy access to wifi around the city. You can buy Internet usage and find wifi spots, usually about 3 CUC (roughly $3 USD) for one hour, but it might take you 40 minutes to load one page. However, everyone does have email in their homes and that works just great!
We want to thank Try Cuba for putting together such a wonderful, authentic and cultured people-to-people exchange.
Interested in visiting Cuba? Contact Us.