6 Ways to Experience Cuban Culture
With the normalization of relations between the Unites States and Cuba, now is a great time to plan your Cuba vacation. Here are six things to do for the best sightseeing and cultural experience in Cuba.
1. WATCH STREET PERFORMERS
Dressed in colorful costumes and shaking to the beat of the conga, these performers take over the streets of Old Havana daily. Be sure to catch at least one performance while you’re there. Jump up and join in the fun!
2. CRUISE THROUGH THE VIÑALES VALLEY COUNTRYSIDE
The Viñales Valley offers dramatic views of rocky outcroppings surrounded by lush mountains. You’ll see tobacco fields and witness traditional farming methods in action including oxen pulling rickety carts and hardened farmers cutting leaves by hand.
3. TAKE A RIDE IN A VINTAGE CAR
Take a short two-hour tour in the city or an all-day affair in the Viñales Valley. Drivers are knowledgeable about Cuban history, customs and culture
4. PEOPLE WATCH AT PLAZA VIEJA
Formerly used primarily for military exercises, this lovely plaza is now home to restaurants, cafes, bars and even a microbrewery. The architecture is eclectic and colorful and the stained-glass windows will certainly catch your attention.
5.SAMPLE STREET FOOD
You’ll find a wide variety of street food in Havana. Don’t miss the traditional bocadito de jamon (cured bacon and ham sandwich), chicharritas de platano (thin slices of fried plantain) and pan con lechon (roast pork sandwiches sprinkled with pork juices). Top off your delicious meal with sweet churros.
6. TAKE A DIVE
Akin to its culture, Cuba’s coral reefs seem trapped in time. They are unspoiled and healthier than any other reefs in the Caribbean. You can see goliath groupers, whale sharks and hundreds of other fish in this decadent and brightly colored seascape.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE NEW CUBA
- Be sure your travel purpose falls within one of the 12 approved categories, have a schedule of activities and keep your receipts. The easiest way to ensure you’re in compliance with the most current rules is to use a tour company that makes the arrangements for you.
- You may return to the U.S. with no more than $400 in souvenirs including up to $100 in alcohol and/or tobacco products.
- Casas particulares, or bed-and-breakfasts, are great places to stay to be immersed in Cuban culture. There are many options in Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.
- Carry cash. ATMs are scarce and most businesses do not accept credit cards. Check the exchange rate before you go, British pounds and euros often have a better rate than U.S. dollars.
- Check with your cell phone carrier in advance to see what your options are for using your phone. Verizon is currently offering roaming service, and other carriers seem poised to hop on the bandwagon.
- WiFi is spotty at best and often you have to pay for it — and it’s not cheap. You might just plan to unplug and enjoy the trip.