Wednesday, March 21, 2018

5 Days In Cuba

I just thought it would be interesting to breakdown my itinerary for Cuba to give you an idea of what I was able to squeeze in within a short period of time. I have a full time job so when I take vacations I try to be very strategic so I can maximize my limited time off, without further ado here is what my itinerary for Cuba looked like.

Day 1, Havana:

I landed in Havana in the afternoon and I wasted no time in familiarizing myself with my surroundings. I spent all afternoon exploring Havana Vieja on foot and fortunately all the points of interest were close to each other so it made it easier to check them out one at a time. Some of the points of interest included: Parque central, Obispo street which is a lively pedestrian street and several plazas.

Day 2, Viñales:

I decided to pay for a full day tour of Viñales which cost me $67, lunch was included. The tour departed from Havana in the morning at 7:30 and we got back to Havana at around 6 pm. We got to visit a small tobacco farm, the famous pre-historic mural and some pre-historic caves.

Day 3, Trinidad:

I traveled to Trinidad via a colectivo which is a shared taxi, the trip took about 4 hours. We made a couple of stops to fix a flat tire and to get some snacks and use the toilet at a convenience store. We arrived in Trinidad in the afternoon and I decided to walk around town familiarizing myself with the streets and enjoying the various music being played at different spots. There were taxis offering excursions but after being stuck in a car for a good amount of time I just wanted to spend time on my feet and was not interested in getting into any car for the rest of the day. I spent a night in Trinidad before heading back to Havana the following morning.

Day 4, Havana:

I arrived in Havana in the afternoon and since I hadn't seen Havana Nueva yet, I decided to treat myself to a taxi tour of the newer part of Havana. For $30 I was driven to see some of the main sites in Havana Vieja for an hour before being dropped off where we started, at Havana Vieja. I did more site seeing and got to check out places I hadn't checked out before.

Day 5, Havana:

As you can see I had been on the go non stop from the beginning so on the last full day in Cuba, I just wanted to take it easy. I checked out Callejon de Hamel which is a small street where every Sundays they have performances of Afro Cuban music that starts at noon. After that the airbnb hosts that I was staying with drove me check out a couple more spots that I hadn't been to where I was able to get a good aerial view of the city. Later on I decided to take a last walk along Obispo street before calling it a day.

Day 6, Departure:

I flew out of Cuba in the morning, very tired but happy at having achieved what I had set out to do. I know it was a lot but I really did enjoy myself.

Budget Breakdown:

Before we get into the budget breakdown let me first note a few things to consider. $1 is equivalent to  1 CUC which is the Cuban currency you will convert your money to. The Cuban government levies a 10% penalty on the American dollar (politics) then there is an additional levy of 3% for transactional charges. At the airport I decided to change $200 to CUC for starters, there is a currency exchange machine that you deposit your dollar bills into and it lets out the CUC. The machine accepts one bill at a time so if you have a lot of bills on you.....tough luck! I had only $20 bills so yes, I had to deposit each one at a time. Not fun! at this machine the exchange rate was 1 CUC for .87 (remember the 10% fee and 3% transaction charge levy). I never saw a currency exchange counter with a person working behind it so I am not sure if I just missed it or the currency exchange machine is the only option at the airport. If you know some locals you can change your dollars with them and they will factor in only the 10% fee.

The amounts listed below are in the Cuban currency CUC

Cuban tourist card - $20
Taxi ride from Havana airport - $25
Tour of Viñales - $67
Colectivo to and from Trinidad - $70
Homestay in Trinidad - $25
Taxi tour of Havana - $30
Taxi ride to Havana airport - $25

Total Expenditure = 262 CUC

Initial currency exchange at airport $200 * .87 =  174 CUC
Currency exchange with airbnb host $200 * .90 = 180 CUC

Total budgeted money available 354 CUC

Food and some souvenirs 92 CUC

I spent a total of $400 for my 5 day stay in Cuba, food was cheap as I ate like a local and any drinks I bought were less than $5. I had carried an additional stash for emergency but I decided I was going to convert only $400 just to see how far it would stretch me. I must say I did good as I din't go over my intended budget, it certainly felt good coming back with my emergency stash that I was able to put back into my savings.

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