The opening up of Cuba has been one of the biggest travel stories of the past few years. Since the 1960’s, the United States has imposed travel restrictions on its citizens with regard to traveling to Cuba. The recent loosening of these restrictions has sparked the interest of American travel adventurous who previously had to essentially sneak into Cuba via either Canada or Mexico.
Traveling to Cuba is still had some obstacles, as you can’t go strictly for tourism (For a step-by-step on how to get a Cuban visa, check out our Guide to Latin America). In addition, Cuba lacks modern comforts such as reliable Internet access and being able to pay with credit cards. Although this may be the case, lack of modern conveniences does not stop the adventure traveler.
Cuba offers many great reasons as to why one should visit.
So first things first – why visit Cuba and what does this country have to offer?
Visit A Living Time Capsule
Being closed off from the majority of the outside world for many decades, Cuba has managed to maintain much of it’s culture, as well as many items used in everyday life that we would consider as antiques in the Western world.
If you’ve ever met anyone who has traveled to Cuba, or have read about the country, you probably already know that one of the first things always mentioned is about the collection of old U.S. and Soviet cars that bustle down the countries’ streets. Truly, it’s no exaggeration that more than 3/4 of the cars you will find in the country are classics, ranging from 1928 T-Fords to 55′ Buick’s. The great part? – Many of these vehicles operate as taxis, and for a small fee you can easily hire and ride around in them throughout the country.
It’s truly a wild sight for the eye, and almost seems as if you’re walking around on the set of a classical move set at times.
Hospitality and Friendliness of the Cuban people
The general population of Cuba is very welcoming to new visitors to their country. People are very curious about foreigners, and seem to have a great interest in learning a bit more about you whenever they find the chance to stripe up a conversation.
It’s not unusual that people will go out of their way to help you when you are in need. If you are looking for a particular landmark, or even a small convenience store, simply stop and as a local. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, one or two words will go a long way, and they will gladly point you in the correct direction or even possibly walk you to your destination.
It’s not unusual when renting an apartment, or casa, that the owners of the property will offer to prepare breakfast and/or dinner for you, often times at a small additional fee. From the interactions I’ve had with the local property owners over breakfast or dinner, it’s clear that not only is this a service they’re providing with their rental, but also a genuine way for them to connect with their tenants, and to learn more about countries and cultures which they are not familiar with. If you really want to meet locals, get their insights, and learn about Cuban hospitality, renting a casa is certainly the way to go.
Experience Cuban Culture
Cuban culture has a large influence from it’s neighboring countries, as well as from the many African slaves that were brought in the 1900’s and forced to labor in the country. The people of Cuba enjoy live music, and it’s a common sight to catch a live performances occurring in restaurants and bars while strolling through the center’s of town, especially in Old Havana in Havana.
The music is mostly a combination of Spanish melodies and African rhythm, making for the unique sound for which Cuba is known. Cuban music is said to have been influential to other countries, contributing to the development of jazz, salsa, and even tango.
No trip to Cuba is complete without indulging in Cuban cigars. Easy to attain from local smoke shops, Montecristo, Bolivar, Hoyo de Monterrey, Cohibas and Romeo y Julietas and others can all be enjoyed under the warm Cuban sun together with a mojito or a glass of Havana Club on the rocks.
Meet Cuban Women
The local women of Cuba are friendly, and can be easily approached, but a strong command of the Spanish language is certainly a must. You’ll notice that many Cuban men will cat call and stare down women in the streets, but more often than not, will not go all out and do a cold approach. The women are used to attention and being hounded by horny Cuban men, but they certainly don’t get stopped for a pick-up attempt on a daily basis.
With a lack of tourism over the decades and a still somewhat restricted connection to the outside world, women have not been as exposed as their other Latin American peers when it comes to speaking English. On one hand this can be an advantage, as a small handful of women will be interested in practicing their English with a gringo, whereas on the other hand if you’re looking for the more traditional type, you’ll want one of the many ones who only speak Spanish. Come prepared, and certainly brush up to at least be able to handle basic conversation, otherwise interactions can be tough with many local women.
Get a jump start on meeting Cuban women now.
Now the question – how to get there?
There are now a number of options for Cuba Travel originating in the U.S. Among those options, is the ability to redeem airline miles for your trip to Cuba. Most major U.S airlines are making it easy to use your miles, and fortunately, there are plenty of award seats available for booking a flight to visit Cuba.
The following are ways that you can utilize airline rewards to book a flight and visit Cuba:
American Airline Reward Points
Flying to Cuba from the U.S can be redeemed for an economy ticket for 15,000 miles each way. Flights are available from many U.S. cities with connections in Miami and Charlotte.
JetBlue Trueblue Points
Using United miles, flights are available to Havana, Holguin, Varadero, Camaguey, and Cayo Largo Del Sol, Cuba. Award lights to Cuba can be redeemed for 17,500 miles in economy and 30,000 miles in Business (Saver Award).
Flights to Havana from Orlando on Southwest can be redeemed for as little as 2,000 points one-way in economy.
Delta Sky Miles
With connections in New York (JFK) and Atlanta on Delta, you can fly to Havana one-way for 17,5000 in economy and 30,000 in First Class.
The majority of these airlines will help to arrange the visa process needed in order for you to visit Cuba. In some cases, such as JetBlue and Spirit Airlines, it’s as easy as picking up your needed visa at the airport. Be sure to do your research prior to departure if this is an option for your airline and departure point, and for more information on the Cuban visa process, check out The Masculine Traveler’s Guide to Latin America.
With it’s well-preserved beauty and sheltered past, Cuba leaves a lot to experience and explore. No trip to the Caribbean is complete without a stop to this time capsule of an island. Now is a great time to visit Cuba as rewards points make it easier than ever to cash on a very cheap, or even free, flight. Add Cuba to your list of places to visit – take in the hospitality, culture, and natural beauty – one thing is certain, that you won’t regret the decision.
Ready to visit Cuba and meet Cuban women prior to your trip? Look no further.
If you enjoyed this post, and want to learn more about Cuba (including detailed intel on the cities of Havana, Varadero and Holguin), be sure to check out our Guide to Latin America.
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