OokayKaren takes Cuba


Havana, Cuba is definitely one of the most popular travel destinations of 2017. I spent 5 days in this beautiful island and was enamored by its people, culture and history. Cuba was absolutely an experience rather than a typical vacation. 


My Experience 

My Airbnb host arranged airport pick-up which was very convenient. Once I landed in Cuba it took two hours for the luggage to arrive. Things in this country move very slow – this was a culture shock as people in New York move with urgency. I was able to change my money from euro to cuban pesos before exiting the airport. My Airbnb host emphasized how important it was to bring CASH as its nearly impossible to find an ATM that take “American cards.” To my surprise the taxi was still waiting outside after a 2 hour wait. The ride from the airport to Vedado was 20 minutes. I decided to stay in this neighborhood because it was right outside of Old Havana. Vedado is a calm suburb with mostly locals and bed and breakfast.

Overall, I absolutely loved my trip to Cuba. I would recommend it to those looking to learn about the culture. Its a place where you can literally disconnect (NO internet) from the world. Every street is filled with so much history. This experience made me see life from a different perspective. I returned to New York with so much gratitude. Before booking Cuba I suggest to talk to those who have visited before. Its important to get tips and recommendations. 


Where I stayed: My Proud Havana Bed and Breakfast Network. 


As I mentioned earlier, I booked an Airbnb room in Vedado, Cuba. I thought it was best to stay in quiet neighborhood outside of busy Havana. Upon my arrival my host showed us the ropes. He gave us a map of the city and pointed out the best restaurants in the area. Luckily this Airbnb provided breakfast each morning for an additional 6 cuc per day. The attendant was super nice and even offered to do our laundry. 



The room felt homey with a flat screen tv, king size bed and most importantly AC! It can get very hot in Cuba. I recommend staying somewhere with AC to sleep comfortably. 



The People…

Wandering in the streets of Havana I couldn’t help but notice that locals rarely made eye contact with tourist. However, they are very helpful when stopped for directions or suggestions. To my surprise there was a law that prohibited Cuban people from socializing with tourist. My Airbnb host explained that locals can get arrested if they “disturb”a tourist in anyway.

Where I ate…

Do not visit Cuba with high expectations on food. In my opinion the food was a hit or miss. Luckily, I had a list of recommendations from friends and stuck to it for most of the trip. The best food is found in “paladares” which are basically restaurants located inside a home. Nevertheless, there are a couple of good restaurants in Vedado which I absolutely recommend.

Paladares los Amigos: Located in Vedado – very affordable homey restaurant with amazing food. Not a fancy place but gets the job done.

Decameron: Located in Vedado – great for a night out. But its more on the pricey side. The customer service is great and you will leave with a full tummy.

Atelier: Located in Vedado – this was my favorite restaurant! The food was absolutely delicious. The customer service was good as well. Although a bit pricey the large portions make up for it.  

Places to see…


Get lost in the streets of old havana. It can literally take a whole day to explore and capture everything. 


 Viñales is the ultimate  “campo” experience. The views are spectacular! Its long drive from havana (about two hours and  change) but worth every penny. Be cautious of where you eat! I suggest bringing your own snacks. 


Fabrica de Arte Cubano very dope art gallery/ bar / club. This place is filled with modern art. They charge a fee to get in but the drinks are cheap. You should never pay more than 3.00 cuc for a drink!

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Weekend Warrior

   

As a working professional in corporate America, I try to get as much things done as possible on the weekends. I like to wake up early organize, run errands and squeeze in a yoga class. In my opinion it’s imperative to have interest and hobbies outside of work. Find your passion, serve others by volunteering in the community or become a mentor. A lot of people quit their full time job to follow their “dreams” because of lack of fulfillment or happiness. And thats totally fine (and brave).

 Essentially no job or career will bring you pure hapiness. At some point you may experience stress. But, its your responsibility to DECIDE to be happy. Create a work – life balance that fits you best. 

Outfit details: 
Jacket: H&M

Pants: Zara

Shoes: Steve Madden

Purse: Saint Laurent 

Body Suit: H&M