So please enjoy two UrbanDaddy editors instant messaging about a trip to Cuba. Feel free to supply the sound of your favorite IM notification alert as you read.
CL: So you’re back! How was it?
KG: Hey. Cuba was great. The food, the rum, the sights. The rum.
CL: You just said rum twice. Anyway, I know it’s legal and all now, but what’s the deal? Can anyone just go? I thought there were certain restrictions? Surely, I thought they’d keep the Texans out.
KG: Well, you can’t go as a tourist, but there are 12 US-government-approved reasons for visiting Cuba (family visits, professional research, educational activities, journalism, etc.). You simply self-identify your reason when booking your ticket. I selected journalism, but no one asked.
CL: And that’s it?
KG: Well, no. I had to buy a tourist visa before going. I bought mine from a British company, but there were other options. It was about $20. You still can’t book many direct flights from the US, so I flew through Cancun and took AeroMexico to Havana via Cuba Travel Network.
CL: Sounds like a lot of work.
KG: Eh, it’s not too bad. It’s more of a hassle than flying into other countries, but it didn’t require too much additional effort.
CL: Where’d you stay?
KG: We stayed on a nice-ish street in Old Havana, but because hotels are scarce (there are now way more tourists than hotel rooms), we booked an apartment on Airbnb. Oh, yeah, Airbnb is there.
CL: ... And how was it?
KG: The apartment itself was small, modern and clean. I think it cost about $75 a night.
CL: Wow. Cheap. But how come you didn’t Instagram more?
KG: Because it’s nearly impossible to get Internet there. It’s only available in a few select areas, and even then, coverage is spotty. Overall, it’s a very disconnected country.
CL: So the mobile service?
CL: Actually, that kind of sounds nice. Well, what did you do for a week?
KG: I ate really, really well. I tried as many Cuban rums as I could find. Walked around the city a ton. Visited the Hotel Nacional and smoked cigars while overlooking the water. Rode in a perfectly restored Thunderbird. Went to a microbrewery. You know, regular vacation stuff.
CL: How’s the beer situation?
KG: Cheap. About $2 for one of the national beers like Bucanero.
CL: You paid in US dollars?
KG: No. Interesting point. They have two currencies... which is kind of confusing. CUP, the Cuban peso, is for locals. CUC (Cuban convertible peso) is mostly for tourists or people of means, and it’s 1:1 with the American dollar.
CL: Weird. Well, overall, was Havana sketchy?
KG: I was a little nervous on our first night, only because I didn’t know the neighborhood and the streets are pretty dark at night. But after that, I felt great. Havana is like this beautiful, crumbling town that’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. Yes, it’s very poor and it shows, but that didn’t translate to sketchiness or actual danger.
CL: So were people friendly toward Americans? Did you have to speak Spanish?
KG: The people were very friendly. I speak a little Spanish, but not much. I have the vocabulary of a small child and the listening ability of a small rock. That created a few issues at times, but I was always able to get by.
CL: What was the beach like?
KG: I actually didn’t go to the beach once (I was heading to a Mexican beach following Havana), but I hear it’s nice.
CL: I’m sure you brought back some Cuban cigars, right?
KG: I’m smoking one now.
CL: And I just assume you got me some as a souvenir, right?
KG: Get back to work.