As immediate gratification seeking Americans we have always had a problem with having zero access to things or places. So it was a bit orgasmic when President Obama lifted the trade embargo with Cuba which, among other things, allowed American airlines to enter Cuba from major cities. Now, for the first time, we can legally enter a country that is literally suspended in time, and whose scandalous history and salacious energy we can experience first-hand. I have been to Cuba three times and each time it gets more American and more expensive, so get there as soon as you can. From transport and lodging to beaches, food and nightlife Cuba is an experience like no other. Below find a first-hand lowdown on how to navigate Havana.

Getting There

Booking a trip to Havana, or any other major Cuban city, is very easy. Simply book your trip via any major airline or travel site as you would any other vacation. Once you have booked your trip you will need to call the airline and tell them that you need to buy a Cuban visa. They will ask you if you meet one of the 12 approved categories to travel to Cuba – at which point you say yes. Simply state that you are traveling because you are a student. After three trips I have never needed to produce backup or proof for my reason. On the day of your trip you pick up your visa, which costs $50, at the airline counter. It is that simple.

Where to Stay

The three hotels I have seen, with the exception of the expensive Hotel Nacional, left much to be desired. I advise you to stay in an Air BnB. Hands down. Most are very modern, spacious and very inexpensive. Choose one with A/C – this is crucial for those hot Havana nights. Havana has several neighborhoods. You can rent in Old Havana. The energy here for a tourist is like staying in Times Square, N.Y. – noisy and busy. Vedado (where i rent) is like a staying in Soho, N.Y., still popping enough to experience a dope night without the noise of Old Havana, or Miramar, the high end “rich” and developed neighborhood where you will rub shoulders with the Cuban glitterati but there is nothing to experience. The positive is that they are all 10 minutes and a $10 CUC cab ride from each other. Also, your Air BnB host can help you design your trip prior to your arrival and give you their recommendations on an itinerary.

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About The Author

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José is the Executive Director of GRIOT Circle, the only staffed non-profit organization in the country that provides social services to LGBTQ elders of color. José is a Certified Life and Empowerment Coach and a trained psychotherapist. As his writing angles are diverse, he often writes about personal development and growth. His most recent book, which he co-authored, The Happy Law Practice: Strategies to Build Business While Maintaining Peace of Mind, can be found on Amazon. José holds a bachelor’s in Psychology from the University at Albany, an MA in Education and Human Development with a concentration in Community Counseling from The George Washington University, an Advanced Certificate in Executive Leadership and Non Profit Management from NYU and received his Certification as a Professional Life Coach from The Institute from Professional Excellence in Coaching.

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