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Insider’s Tips: Ettevi Wanderlust

by WhyNotCuba

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name is Ivette Leon an ordinary girl born and raise in Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba living in Miami. I’m a restless soul that is always thinking about where to go, when it will be the next trip, what new places to meet and what adventures will be found along the way.

2. What inspired you to start a travel blog?

My passion is traveling which is why I started my blog. My goal is to give you as much information and inspiration as possible to make travel happen for you too.

3. How often do you visit Cuba?

I have not visited Cuba for 10 years, because my cuban passport expired and i needed it to be able to enter. The cuban passport is probably the most expensive passport in the world. The cost of issue of this passport is about US$400 and US$200 for every two years if one person lives in the United States. Now that i have it, i will visit it more frequent. I hope to go this year again.

4. What places have you traveled to in Cuba? 

  • Havana
  • Matanzas
  • Cienfuegos
  • Trinidad
  • Santiago de Cuba
  • Pinar del Rio

Pinar del Rio (Viñales) is my favorite because is quite, the nature is great, there are a lot of things to explore like caves where you can swim, lakes, underground rivers, people are nice, you can visit the tobacco farmers and learn about the cultivation and production of cigars, coffee and rum.

5. Do you have any tips for solo female travellers who want to visit the island? (e.g. things to take, things to watch out for / avoid)
Cuba is for me one of the best places in the world for solo female travelers. Sure, as a solo female traveler in Cuba you attract a lot of attention and need to thankfully decline at times. But people are very caring and friendly and will assist you however they can. All women, whether Cuban or visitors, experience catcalling and wolf-whistles (known as piropos) from men. This is normal and usually non-threatening, ignore comments.

6. What are some of the misconceptions Americans have about travelling to Cuba?
There are a lot of misconceptions about Cuba, perhaps in part because it’s remained rather isolated from the rest of the world for 60 years.

  • Americans Can’t Legally Visit Cuba. Despite what you may have heard. Americans absolutely can visit Cuba legally.
  • Cubans Hate Americans. This is simply not true.
  • You can’t bring cigars or rum home today travellers from America and all over the world can legally bring cigars and rum back from Cuba.

Cuba is a fascinating country filled with exciting sights, a complex history, and a vibrant people. It would be a real bummer if a few misconceptions about visiting Cuba prevented someone from taking a trip there.

7. What are 3 things every visitor should take with them to Cuba?

  1. First things first though. If you’re coming to Cuba don’t forget to pack some dollars in cash as you won’t be able to withdraw any money from your US bank account. You’ll get CUC in exchange to use in Cuba as the country has two currencies one for tourists and one for locals.
  2. The internet hasn’t really taken off in Cuba yet, but you can still use your smartphone to get around. Maps.me allows you to use your phone’s GPS to show where in the world you are. You need to download maps onto the app first before you get to Cuba and go offline. 
  3. An Extra Tote Bag for All Your Souvenirs

8. Which Cuban beaches have you visited? Any favorites?

Guardalavaca, HolguínThis beach is listed by tourists as the most beautiful and paradisiacal of Cuba.

Playa Varadero in Matanzas This is one of the most visited a in Cuba by tourists from all over the world. 

Playas del Este (Tarará, Santa Maria del Mar, Boca Ciega Mi Cayito and Guanabo) they are the cheaper options to visit Cuba’s beaches.

Playa Ancón is a must if you visit Trinidad.

Cayo Jutías is my favorite this beach is a small beach located just near Viñales. It’s wild, remote, full of life. Its turquoise waters turn pink at sunset, something that not many people know about.

I recommend If you have the opportunity visit Cayo Levisa, a small, paradisiacal island off the north coast of Pinar del Río province. It’s an excellent choice for divers and those looking for a beach getaway. Cayo Levisa is accessible by ferry only, Cubans are authorized to stay in the hotel there, but they’re not allowed to get on the boat that takes people there. So i have pending the visit. 

9. You have travelled to several beach locations around the Caribbean. How do Cuba’s beaches compare? 
Cuba offers the best beach experiences in the Caribbean, in my opinion there is not comparison, Christopher Columbus described Cuba’s beaches as the most beautiful place he has ever seen in his life.

10. What’s the best place to go out in Havana?
La Fabrica de Arte Cubano for sure, this is a definitely a must see if you go to Havana, An amazing warehouse with so many rooms of both still and performance art, plus a club with live music, it’s modern, progressive and refreshing. I love the concept of this place, I’ve never experienced a place like this. I highlight recommend a visit here. Entry was 2 CUC.

11. Favorite place to eat in Havana?
My favorite place to eat in Havana is La Esquina de Cuba.They have all inclusive meal for $15 CUC. It came with a Mojito, soup, a full meal with salad and dessert with coffee. One of the best deals in Havana. Also the Mojito was delish. Service was great and the place was very clean. This place is a little gem in the heart of Havana Vieja.

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