Find Your Heart in Old Havana
By: Jane Pastrana
Imagine being able to pay $300 for going back in time. Seems like quite the bargain, right?
The average price for a roundtrip flight to Havana, Cuba is $300 and that is exactly how you feel the second you get off the plane.
The easing of previous travel restrictions for US citizens has opened Cuba up as a very popular travel destination. Despite the eye-opening poverty, the safety and incredible spirit of the Cuban people are what makes a memorable impression.
As a college student, it can be a great struggle between wanting to travel the world and how expensive that can be. However, if you pick your location and plan your itinerary, there’s no need to go into debt to go out of the country to great destinations, like Cuba.
The price of a roundtrip ticket can be cheaper than a decent amount of locations within the United States and Cuba is a destination worthy of bucket list status.
First things first, it is important to be aware of all travel policies for US citizens. These can all be found on www.cu.usembassy.gov. Since you are a student, the category of “educational activities” would be appropriately used without breaking any laws.
Cuba can easily be experienced in 4 days as a quick trip, or if you have the budget to stretch that out, go for it.
Once you book your ticket, you will need accommodations. Search Airbnb.com for the best deals in all centralized locations of Havana or Vedado.
With Airbnb, you have the option to rent an entire home/apartment or stay with a Cuban host. The average cost for a 4-night stay can come out to $240, total.
Split this between you and your favorite travel buddy and you’ve spent at least $120 on hoteling, plus $300 on your flight, bringing you to a total of $420.
After you have booked your flight, confirmed your hoteling, it is now time to plan your itinerary. This will help you budget how much money to convert, which you will need to do before you leave.
Depending on what type of vacation you are looking to have, your spending budget is completely up to you.
If you’re looking to spend minimal money with no splurging, it’s absolutely doable to spend $15 on food for the day, $8 on a bottle of Havana Club rum (the drinking age is 16) and head to the Malecón to hang out with the locals.
The Malecón is the seawall on the coast of Cuba where you will find everyone hanging out with friends, sharing rum, dancing and singing to the vendors walking up and down – it’s basically a free party that happens every night and a great glimpse into the culture.
For a great photo op, make sure to visit the Malecón during sunset.
There are walking tours of Old Havana that come with a private tour guide, as well as private day trips that will take you to the Cuban countryside, Viñales. These will range from $50 – $80 per person.
These tours are worth it if you have the extra money to spend; however, you can cut cost by taking a $12 bus to Viñales or walking around Old Havana with a guide book at no cost.
If you would be interested in any guided tour, you can look at havanajourneys.com for the various packages offered.
Dining, as mentioned previously, is very cheap. You can have a sandwich and a mojito at D’Next in Old Havana for $8. You can also dine like President Obama or the Kardashians and go to La Guarida.
The must try dish, which you can get at most restaurants, is Ropa Vieja and cost is about $10. This is a traditional Cuban dish which translates to “old clothes”. It’s much more delicious than it sounds!
In Cuba, they use two different currencies – the CUP (Cuban peso) and the CUC (Cuban convertible peso).
CUCs are the currency used by tourists and CUPs are used by the locals and worth 25 to every 1 CUC. You can read further into the details of the exchange rate at the time you plan to go as this does fluctuate depending on various outside factors.
If you set aside $600, although it’s possible to use even less, you can afford a 4-night stay in Havana, Cuba.
Do your research, order your travel guide book, and collect a new stamp in your passport.