Havana,Cuba – A Must Do

If there’s one thing you need to put on your bucket list (if it isn’t already there) is travel to Cuba. This beautiful country will easily steal your heart and you will fall in love with the people, culture, food, and sights while visiting. The Cuban people are some of the most friendly, helpful people you will meet in your life. The happiness in Cuba is contagious, everyone is smiling and dancing in the street. People sincerely want to meet you and talk with you and after stopping and listening to their stories, you’ll want to do the same.

We fell in love with Cuba and had to return a second time. We firmly believe that Cuba is better the second time around. Although we’d been before, every moment was like a first. Every person we met was a new friend and every experience was just as exciting. And with all the things do while you are visiting Cuba, your second time is guaranteed to be a completely different experience from your first visit.

The music is incredible and it’s everywhere. If there’s a band performing at a restaurant or bar make sure you ask if they have a CD for sale, likely they do. For only a few dollars you can bring home the sounds of Cuba – something you’ll miss frequently.

Finding out what is needed in order to go to Cuba:

Can you still visit Cuba legally as an United States Citizen? Absolutely!

Cuba can be visited in any season, but we recommend when to go to Cuba I would suggest to go between November and March, when temperatures are not as hot and it rains less. We went to Cuba the first time at the beginning of May, it was rainy and hot but we still had an amazing time. The second time we went earlier in the spring and it was perfect. The prices of flights don’t change much throughout the year, we flew on Southwest Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale. There are several airlines that offer flights directly to Havana and are relatively affordable, we only paid $300 round trip for both of our trips to Cuba.

Along with a round trip ticket, you must buy health insurance, which is required by Cuban national laws – the great thing about this is for us on Southwest, the insurance was included in our airline fees. Check with your airlines to see if they offer the same service so you don’t pay any additional money unnecessarily. Also you must have a Visa, known as tarjeta de turista, which is normally valid for 30 days but can be extended while in Cuba. This costs around 30 US dollars and can be bought through the Cuban consulate.

Americans can legally visit Cuba on the “support for the Cuban people” license tours – yes, they can still go despite all the new restrictions. All it takes is joining a guided tour that works under that definition and that really works to support the local economy by staying in local casas particulares, eating in locally owned restaurants and getting involved in activities that really support the local people and economy. Please make sure you check with the U.S. Embassy in Cuba prior to traveling, as the laws are always changing – You can check updated announcements by visiting their website.

Cuban currencies:

In Cuba there are two things you must know about money – Cash is King and there are two currencies. Do not rely on your credit card, there is a 99.9999% chance it will not work. After multiple trips, we have never found any store, restaurant, etc. that accepted cards. Also, as mentioned, there are two currencies in Cuba- the CUC used by foreigners and by Cubans to buy certain specific things, and worth about one US dollar; and the CUP whose conversion rate is 25 to a CUC and only used by the locals.

It’s also worth mentioning that you cannot legally take Cuban currency out of the country, therefore you will have to exchange your money while in Cuba. You can do this at the airport or banks, however you will want to do this early in the day as these locations can run out of money and you will have to return again the following day.

Security issues in Cuba:

This is a safe country to travel alone, as a single woman, or even with children. Criminality rates are low. Not once did we feel unsafe. I would feel comfortable walking down the street alone in Cuba and not think twice about it. The people are eager to take care of each other and there is a strong sense of pride in the community and trust in others that helps to maintain the security within the country.

The CoCo Taxis – make sure you do this at least once, they’re a blast!

Where to stay in Cuba:

While in cuba, you’ll want to stay at casas particulares, which are private homes where the owners rent up to three rooms to travelers and for a small additional price also provide really good meals.

The Casa Particulares we stayed at were wonderful and the food was incredible. Here’s the two locations we recommend (both have great AC too):

Lamparilla Apartment – Book on AirBNB here

  • Around $60/Night when we went, the room and the time of year causes the price to fluctuate
  • This is in walking distance of so much – La Plaza Vieja, El Capitolio, La Bodeguita, etc.
  • Vanessa will cook you an incredible, huge breakfast for a small fee – totally worth it
  • The AC is amazing
  • It’s a 100% private apartment with a private full bath – the water pressure was great

Casa Lilly – Book on Trip Advisor here

  • $39/Night – You read that right!
  • This is a little ways from downtown Havana, but the views are worth it!
  • The breakfast on the patio in the morning is one of my favorite things in the world
  • The AC is amazing
  • You have your own room with a private full bath, the common area is shared with other travelers and Lily’s family. You can interact as much or as little as you want. Lily’s dad was a super friendly man with great recommendations.
This is the view from Casa Lily – Totally worth everything and more!
Old Cars lined up for Tours, make sure to negotiate a better rate than what they show you on the handout

Things to do in Havana

Among the things to do in Havana, there is visiting one of its many museums and historic buildings; going to one of its lively bars and listen to some live music. Enjoy a mojito and then tour the Havana Club Rum Museum to see where that rum in the mojito came from.

One of the things to do in Havana is go on a sunset walk on El Malecon – 8 km of paved road along the sea, where the ocean waves splash and local go to relax and flirt after a day of work.

Take a walking tour – Free Walking Tour Havana – it’s literally free, but make sure you tip your guide. They will take you all over the city, you’ll climb the steps to see Christ of Havana. You’ll stop at some great places to have a snack and drink, you’ll have a new appreciation for the city. Tours do not occur all the time so check out trip advisor here for more information.

¡Chao pescao! 

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Untamed at Walibi Holland

Today we were invited to attend the opening day of Europe’s first hybrid roller coaster. RMC’s latest coaster was going to be unveiled to the public: We’re talking about Untamed at Walibi Holland in the Netherlands. 

The old woodie Robin Hood was half demolished, and on its skeleton a new hybrid coaster by RMC has now risen. The area in the park its in, the old Sherwood Forest area has now been renamed and re-themed to become “Wilderness”. 

After a couple of short speeches by Walibi director Mascha van Till, Dominique Marcel (CEO of the Compagnie des Alpes who own Walibi) and Rocky Mountain founder Fred Grubb, they took to the station to take the first official ride on Untamed. Seeing it go through the track for the first time, with lots of fireworks accompanying them as they went through, was in 1 word: amazing. 

Untamed looks beautiful and crazy, and the first time seeing it made us wonder how the train would even be able to get through these crazy twists and turns. 


Not long after the first train departed the station, the gates were open for us, and we strolled through the queue which is situated in the middle of the coaster layout. The wilderness has been planted, and looks like it will grow to become a really green and pretty landscape. We pass under an arch which had one of the old Robin Hood wooden roller coaster train carts on it. We then pass through a small forest of old Robin Hood tracks which is truly a pretty homage to a once great wooden roller coaster (but became pretty shaky over recent years). 

From the queue more and more twists, rolls and other features could be feasted on with our eyes as  the new trains thundered through them. This gets us excited to board!

 

The station now has an added waterfall feature, and inside is decorated with wild green plants, bushes, mirrors and old lamps (eh). Soon after, we boarded and took our back row seat. 

Rolling out of the station, we take a 45 degree outside banked corner into the lift hill. With a pretty view of flat Netherlands behind it we slowly go up, sped up a bit at the end of the lift hill, to then race down the insane 80 degree downdrop. It looked like the track was gonna hit the ground (we’re almost flat on the ground right now) and seeing that micro bunny hop after the drop makes us brace ourself as we’re going at it at 92 km/hour. It’s after we are almost launched out of our seats because of the airtime, that we’re flying into the world’s first (wait for it) “Double Inverting 270 Degree Corner Stall”. An absolutely insane inversion that makes you question which way you’re going. The ride does not give you 1 second of rest as it races and thunders through the next inversions and elements. You catch a glimpse of the station (guessing we’re at the front of the ride again) only to shoot back into multiple airtime hills, overbooks and more. This ride doesn’t stop. It keeps. on. giving. It tries to pull you out of your seat so many times we lost count. At the final part we race under multiple “head choppers”, which made us pull our arms down and after one more airtime hill we hit the brake (still at a high speed I might add!). We’ve been told by Mascha from Walibi that they actually didn’t order these head chopper elements, but RMC installed them anyway. What a great surprise.

 

Disoriented, crying because of the speed, but seriously amazed at how a ride can be so fast, and yet so smooth we slowly roll back into the station. Well done RMC. Well done Walibi. This is truly an amazing new roller coaster, and I might add that this has put megacoaster Goliath in their park on the 2nd place.Untamed is an amazing ride. It’s up there on this reporter’s top 10 list. Congratulations Walibi on Europe’s first hybrid coaster – let’s hope we’ll get a lot more on this continent! 

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