Ten Reasons Why You Should Travel to Cuba and 5 Why You Shouldn’t (Really You Should)

1) It is safe

I walked around Havana at night alone many times and never felt unsafe. I felt safer going out in Havana than I have in the US. There are low crime rates and low violence rates.

2) It is full of creative, innovative people

If your car or other electrical appliances break down, it is hard to find parts. Likely you will have to go on the black market and be experimental and innovative to fix what broke. The old cars are all still running and have been adapted to have speakers systems that play music with USB drives. I could go on and on about this. Restricting access to stuff forces people to innovated and use what they have to make it work.

3) As an American, it is good to see what a communist and socialist country is really like

In school when I learned about the Bay of Pigs invasion it was all about how bad Fidel Castro and Cuba was. It was about how evil communism was. But for all of that bashing communism, I don’t know it the actual concept was what was being taught or learned. The American government has vilified communism because of Russia. Obviously, in China and other countries, communism hasn’t been the best choice. It is good, however, to see the reality of it instead of just the story fed to us.

4) It is full of natural beauty

The beaches and breathtaking. There are caves with crystals, mountains, rivers, and so many beautiful natural sights. I didn’t even get to explore all of it. The island itself is gorgeous.

5) Fantastic art: in museums, streets, and community art centers

When people tell me, they feel Cuba is a third world this is one of the reasons I strongly disagree. There is impressive art in the national Cuban art museum. There are community centers that are places just for people to paint, sculpt, play music, and dance. The street art is beautiful and inescapable in a fantastic way.

6) Crumbling buildings next to well-kept buildings

This might seem like a contradiction, but it is how I feel about it. It is a metaphor for Cuba. Half of Cuba is a thriving, beautiful place and half is crumbling. Unlike most places, the two are side by side. They are interlocked and interdependent. Both are found in all the different neighborhoods of Havana. It was poignant and stuck out to me.

7) Fabrica De Arte Cubano

Translated as Factory of Cuban Art, referred to as fabrica. Probably one of the most amazing clubs in the world. It is made from an old sugar factory and is a part art gallery, part performing space, part bar, part club. There are art exhibits, live music, dance classes, dance shows, talent shows, plays, and anything in between. It is unique and so much fun. I would go there every weekend if I could. No club in America will ever be as fun.

8) Using the Old Cars as taxis

It is the quintessential thing that Americans think about Cuba. The 50s and 60s cars. They are basically like mini busses or Ubur carpools. It stops where you ask the diver to stop and will pick people up until it is full. They are pretty cheap too. Once you figure out how they work, they are fun.

9) Music music everywhere

The cars play Reggaeton and hip-hop loud. There are people playing guitars on the street. Music is the beat of life. It isn’t played more than in the US it is just louder and unapologetic.

10) Kind and welcoming people

Cubans are smart and educated, so they understand that it is the US government that created the embargo no the people. I didn’t find any animosity towards me as an American in Cuba. They don’t have any anger towards Americans at this point. Cubans are welcoming and excited that you came to visit.

Why You Shouldn’t

1) Very few people speak English

Almost no one speaks English. If you don’t speak Spanish and aren’t going with someone, who does it won’t be that fun.

2) There is a lack of access to necessary things such as toilet paper

Bring it with you everywhere you go. There isn’t toilet paper in public restrooms. Often there aren’t toilet seats either.

3) Americans can’t use credit cards you have to bring in cash to convert

If not being able to use your credit/debit card makes you uncomfortable then don’t go to Cuba. As an American, you have to bring in all cash and convert it as needed. I was a little nervous about this, but it was fine, and I didn’t come close to running. It was useful to have to use cash at all times.

4) The food

It goes back to the lack of access. There are lots of fantastic restaurants some of which I have had dreams about. Most of the food is rice, beans, plantains, eggs, lettuce, and meat. I was very lucky by staying in a homestay I was able to eat yummy cooked meals twice a day. I ate potatoes all the time, and my host mom was an excellent cook. The average Cuban restaurant doesn’t have a ton of variety. Cuban sandwiches are a Miami little Havana thing so don’t think it will be that great. If you are a picky eater or eat mostly veggies, you will find it hard to find yummy food.

5) Very little access to wifi

There is wifi at most hotels, a few parks, and some other places. Even so, it costs $3 an hour, and many things are blocked. No snapchat among other things. No wifi was something that appealed to me about going, but in a wifi obsessed culture, I could understand why it would be a problem for many people.

Cuba is a fantastic country that I am glad to have visited and lived in for two months. I had a lovely experience, but I also went through multiple orientations with my program to ensure that I had a good experience. Do your research know how to work they maquinas and the two currencies. Know that you need to bring toilet paper with you and have it in your backpack everywhere you go. Expect to be off wifi for the majority of the time you are there. Learn enough Spanish to get around and buy a guidebook to tell you the good places to eat.