25 Best Tips for Cuban Travel Now – Tip #4: Stay Local

Support the people! Stay at Casas Particulares, not at government owned & controlled hotels. The hotels are expensive anyway and to get a real people-to-people experience, you need to stay with Cubans! Practice and use your Spanish and get to know the neighborhood and locals.

Jakera Cuba organized my Casas for me; I paid a weekly fee prior to leaving the U.S. via PayPal, so it was great. If you want a private room (recommended) make sure you are very clear about that before leaving. Once you’re in Cuba, it may be difficult to organize changes and you may end up with roommates!

Casas will generally provide a nice breakfast (fruit, bread, eggs, coffee) and will often let you eat with the family for other meals for an extra charge. (Eating out is expensive in Cuba!)

Casa Particular in Cuba - some have great rooftop patios!

Casa Particular in Cuba – some have great rooftop patios!

Caution: Bear in mind, that if you are running late you should CONFIRM with your casa that you are coming. I saw a trio of visitors turned away (their rooms rented to a more timely trio) and there were NO rooms left in Trinidad that night. Fortunately for them, I had a big room and they crashed with me for a night until they could get another room.


Cuba 2016: Travel Talk and Slideshow


December 11, 2016  3 p.m. San Diego County Library
Bonita Branch Branch at 4375 Bonita Road, San Diego, CA

San Diegan Donna Starr traveled to Cuba on a people-to-people mission in the spring of 2016; she will share her experiences in Cuba, accompanied by a rich photo slideshow and up-to-date travel tips.
If there is a trip to Cuba on your bucket list, don’t miss this!

Her book, Cuba for Mama: A Daughter’s Journey 2016 will be available for purchase following the program; containing 22 short stories and rich photos, essential travel tips. It is also available on Amazon, at San Diego’s Traveler’s Depot (1655 Garnet Ave.) and at her website:


25 Best Tips for Cuban Travel NOW – Tip #2

Cell phones in Cuba – give your cell phone a much-needed rest, too. U.S. cell phones don’t have service in Cuba (right now) anyway. Bringing it to get on the internet occasionally will keep you in touch if needed, but take a break from technology and enjoy yourself. It was refreshing walking the streets and not seeing everyone immersed in their phone. The internet is not widely available and not cheap, either. Use your phone as a camera or alarm clock. I brought a small digital camera, my ipad with a SD memory card reader attachment and uploaded my photos as I went to my ipad. I limited myself to 2-3 hrs. a week of internet time, it was a welcome vacation from technology! More on the Internet in Cuba in Tip #3.


25 Best Tips for Cuban Travel NOW – Tip #1

Tip #1

  • Prepare well – Do your research before going! This is critical because the internet in Cuba is slow, expensive and difficult. (More on the internet in upcoming tips)  A good travel guide will show you many of the key sights to see – Lonely Planet has a good one. There are several organizations that offer programs for Cuba including Jakera Cuba, GeoVisions , Road Scholar, SmarTours more. Do you want to just sightsee or get to meet the people? Right now, legally a U.S citizen needs to meet certain criteria to travel. The embargo is still in place, tourists cannot just freely travel to Cuba, STILL. You can get a good map prior to going or the Post Office in Havana has one, also for about $3CUC (about $ U.S.)
  • Look at the Pen2Paint Marketplace for guides, maps and more great info for your trip to Cuba. Also, my book Cuba for Mama has a LARGE chapter of logistics, tips and other current considerations.
cuba for mama front cover

Cuba for Mama: A Daughter’s Journey 2016

cuba for mama cover

Hot off the press, buy your copy today and one for anyone you know who is interested in Cuba
or is planning a trip there. Twenty two true tales and priceless travel tips and suggestions to make
the most of your time in Cuba. Whether you are going or not, you will feel as if you have indeed
traveled along with me – as I traveled for both myself and my mother this time.


Cars, Beautiful Cars!

CarCutie80I especially loved the two toned models of cars in Cuba – so colorful and fun. Keeping these classics running is an incredible feat, given the restrictions Cubans face. The mechanics have utilized about everything imaginable to keep them on the road. Candy colored paint jobs, gleaming chrome, plush upholstery – these beauties are truly a work of art.


Central Trinidad, Cuba

In Trinidad, bright combinations of pastel colors are the rage; it looked a bit like a street scene from Disneyland in parts. The main plaza is grand, ringed with little stores and makeshift shops tucked in the front roomsDSCN1740 of people’s ground level homes. While walking through a little marketplace outdoors, every shopkeeper loudly beckoned me to stop and see their wonderful goods, “Great prices, lady!!!!”  I´m asked for my shirt once or twice, my bandana several times – one old sweet lady even mimes that she would like me to give her some body lotion for her arms, like I’m a walking Walgreens.


Toys and Boys

paratrooperThe neighborhood kids played with nearly anything in Cuba. Looking down on the stoop, I saw a children’s toy box (literally a battered cardboard box with its sad selection of  broken dolls, bits of plastic and orphaned Lego blocks and I cringed thinking of the incredible abundance of toys and games that my own children had had. As I watched a trio of musicians strike up the familiar Cuban beat, a pair of young boys played contentedly in the street with two small plastic army men, tossing them up and down the street, chasing them and delighting in their wild acrobatics. Simple pleasures. When I go back, I’m bringing a case of plastic parachute jumpers to give away.

Cuba Musicians

Cuban Street Musicians

Cuban street musicians are in nearly every barrio playing a variety of instruments from guitars to bongos – even playing the jawbone of a donkey, complete with teeth! Actually, it made a great acoustic sound when they ran a drumstick up and down the rows of teeth. All groups have CDs and the price is gov´t controlled, of course – $10. So buy one for a fabulous souvenir and support local live music!

Buy your copy today! Cuba for Mama: A Daughter’s Journey 2016

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