Cuba is such a beautiful country. I celebrated my #Start30WithLove 30th Birthday trip there, but prior to traveling, it was a complete mystery to me. How does one get there from the US? What do I need to bring? What should I know before I go? There is so much information out there but I didn’t know who or what to trust on the world wide web. Luckily my friend Jessica Berry, who is a seasoned traveler and had flown to Cuba for a trip just a few weeks prior, gave me a lengthy but necessary list of things to sort out before leaving. Combined with her list and my own, here’s our top 5 list.
What To Get Before You Jet to Cuba:
1. Get Your Visa
This is the question of the century. Do you need a travel visa for visiting Cuba? The answer is YES. You can get one for $50 during check-in with airlines like JetBlue, ($80 for Delta) and the process is fairly quick and easy.
Pay attention to your emails after you book your trip, because your airline may send you a questionnaire with questions about your trip ahead of your departure to choose the one of 12 allowed reasons for travel to Cuba. Jessica chose “family visit” because she visited a friend’s family during her stay. My group and I chose “educational activities” as we spent most of our time getting educated on Cuban culture. But seriously, no one checks once you reach Cuba. You may also get your visa ahead of time from your embassy, but most people I’ve known have gotten theirs at the airport on the day of travel.
You’ll get your boarding pass, Visa and health insurance simultaneously from your airline (this was the case with JetBlue, at least). Keep both on you at all times, just in case. Your boarding pass doubles as health insurance!
Cuba is primarily a cash economy. For Americans, US dollars are not used there. Your best course of action is to order Euros ahead of time from your bank in the US and exchange them for CUC (local Cuban currency) at the airport in Havana once you get there, for the best exchange rate. We arrived at Terminal 3, and the exchange counter is outside. If the line is long (which it typically is), you can take a cab to Terminal 2 where there’s less of a wait. You’ll need your passport to enter that Terminal. EUROS are preferred because Cubans get charged a surcharge for changing US dollars and they past that penalty onto you. So bring euros if you can for a 1:1 exchange.
How much you spend will depend on your tastes but beware YOU CANNOT WITHDRAW MONEY while in Cuba. ATMs there do not accept American debit/credit cards, so you’ll need to have all cash.
3. Get A Good Carryon
Word to the wise – don’t check your bag. Your wait time to leave will depend on a few things. I’ve heard people spend up to two hours at the airport waiting for checked luggage. Ours only took about 30min, BUT the money exchange
line took at least an additional hour. Leaving Cuba took even longer because they’re not yet equipped to handle the influx of new tourism. Do yourself a favor and pack light so you don’t have to worry about checked luggage delaying your travel plans.
Recommendation: Away Travel has super cute and affordable carry-ons. They also have no-brainer accessories like chargers.
4. Get A Tour Guide
There are so many amazing things to see in Cuba and it’s sometimes easier to see alot of things in a short amount of time if you book a Tour Guide to take you around. Popular areas you’ll want to explore include Old Havana – mainstays like the Plaza de la Revolucion, Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana and La Bodeguita del Medio.
The Viñales Tour (can be booked at Hotel El Presidente in Vedado) includes a tobacco farm, lunch, a boat ride at the India caves and visiting the Mural de la Prehistoria. At the Mural de la Prehistoria, they have horse and bull rides, great piña coladas (pour your own UNLIMITED rum), and a restaurant. If you’re into lazy beach days, book a day tour in the beach town of Varadero (about 2 hours driving from Havana) where they have catamaran rides for large groups and more.
Recommendation: Havana Journeys has a great list of day tours. They took great care of us in Havana.
5. Get Used To Being Offline
You will be unplugged in Cuba! Savor it! It is so relaxing, and you won’t miss it after a while. If you really
need to scratch that itch, you have to buy WiFi cards to get on the networks there. They cost 2CUC/card and last up to 80min (depending on the card and where you’re using it). Some hotels run out and/or reserve some for their actual guests, so buy a few at a time. Wifi is not usually strong, so use your time wisely. The popular Wifi hotspots are hotels and “Wifi parks” (just look for the crowds of people on their phones).
There is SO much more to chat about here but this is a quick list of What To Get Before You Jet To Cuba. Have you been to Cuba? Thinking of going? Leave us a comment below.
Earlier this month, I went on an 8-day excursion to Italy and Greece. Ever since I studied abroad during my Junior year in college, Italy has been one of my absolute favorite countries. Though I studied in France, Italy left such an incredible impression on me. I’ve always wanted to go back. This year I had that opportunity. I also had the chance to finally visit Greece! My only regret during my study abroad semester is that I didn’t take a trip there, so when my friend Gabi invited me to Santorini for her 30th birthday – I was all in. Here’s what I wore and loved on my Eurotrip. I chose pieces that fit my shape and made me feel like a goddess:
Concert season is easily the most exciting time for music lovers (which is essentially everyone). It’s the perfect opportunity to road trip with friends and see all of your favorite artists in one place. Surely, it’s the atmosphere, the concertgoers and the memories you make during a string of 3-day weekends that make any summer one to mention. And this isn’t your first rodeo, you’ve skimmed over a few summer music festival packing lists and you have the basics down: Toothbrush, reservations, tickets, phone and cash in-hand. But here’s a concert travel guide with a few things that you’d want to be sure not forget:
Whether you’re still hitting up sites like Groupon for last minute travel deals or patiently waiting with your bags packed for your next adventure, time is winding down and spring break 2016 is just around the corner. Traveling the world is one the best and most immersive ways to add to the richness of your life. If you haven’t made up your mind just yet, consider one of these offshore travel destinations for your spring break vacay.
For so long Cuba has been forbidden fruit. Americans were prohibited to venture there, to indulge in it’s emerging food culture or sigh in awe at the sight of The Malecón, Havana’s breathtaking 8km-long sea drive. No more. While traveling there still requires approval from the US Government and frequent flights to and from have yet to be established, it’s better to see the island now before it becomes a major tourist attraction.
I’ve been to my fair share of Caribbean islands. From the Bahamas to Jamaica to Barbados, you name it and I’ve probably been there at least once. But visiting Martinique on my #24HourReset this past December was an experience unlike any other Caribbean island. Now that airlines like Norwegian are offering direct flights to Martinique at rock-bottom prices (I got my roundtrip airfare for $230 from NYC to Martinique!), there will definitely be a surge in tourism to the area, which is exciting.
From the french-meets-Caribbean culture to the beautiful and quaint villages, here is a guide with 10 things to do in Martinique in case you’re planning a trip there:
One down and one more to go! New Year’s Eve is right on the heels of Christmas and soon we’ll be welcoming a new year. The clock ‘til 2016 is dwindling down. With each New Year, we reevaluate where we are in our lives, revisit our goals for the upcoming year and plans for the future we’ve already set in motion.
What’s with all the work and no downtime? There are after Christmas sales, vacations to plan and a whole summer to prepare for (it’ll be here sooner than you think). But after all the spending for the holidays I bet your financial security is a priority as well. Don’t fret. You can get money back for splurging on winter getaway deals when you use Splender. Book your next vacation, baecation, or even staycation with the new, online cash back shopping site now through Dec. 31 and get the largest extra cash return of the holiday season.
Hey guys! So I rarely do this because typically when I’m on a business trip I have absolutely no time to post or do updates because my schedule is packed, but I wanted to come to you guys with a quick update on what I’m doing this week.
For the very first time I’m attending the Cosmoprof beauty tradeshow in Las Vegas. It’s a pretty awesome national beauty show that includes vendors from all over the country. Pretty much all your favorite beauty brands are represented here – everything from makeup to hair to skincare, fragrance and more.
I was invited here by the love, Aunt Bonnie team as their digital influencer to cover their very first Tones of Beauty showcase. It’s pretty major. It is literally the first time ever that they have had a special showcase specifically for brands that target multicultural customers like us. Think brown girl beauty all around. And chic – I mean superluxe.
Anyway I’m really honored to be here getting this experience and premiering all these new and amazing beauty brands for you guys as I see them for the first time.
Here’s where to follow me this week for the live-action:
If you guys aren’t already on Snapchat, I highly suggest downloading it. When I first got it, I hated it because I couldn’t understand how to work it. Now I really love it and I’ve been using it all weekend to chronicle my journey at Cosmoprof. Follow username: christinasbrown on Snapchat to see my snaps and to interact with me!
I’ll be posting quick pics from the exhibition floor on my Insta so follow me @LoveBrownSugar for live posts there.
Last weekend I had the time of my life in the “Big Easy” aka New Orleans. Though I typically attend Essence Fest and get bogged down with appointments, events and endless activities, this year I opted to come a day early so I could take some time and explore the city a bit. Among other delightful run-ins, this epic blue door (see more of it in my How To Rock Horizontal Stripes post on TheOutfit.com) made my entire day and so did the amazing food.
Have you ever been at a breaking point – emotionally, physically or mentally? Felt like if you had one more task added to your to-do list you might have a breakdown? That was me last week. Not only was I completely exhausted and tapped out but I was totally on edge. Most people who know me will tell you I’m a pretty nice person – until I’m pushed to the limit. I reached beyond my limit last week. I was so not myself. My sister took a look at me one night as I was packing for a business trip and said “you need to get away”. So I did.
Because I’m gearing up for a long 5-day business trip to New Orleans in a few days, I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere for a full 3-4 day night getaway. I just needed 24 hours of uninterrupted silence, peace, and relaxation. So I decided to get away for a weekend excursion to Southampton. Disclaimer: I’m not rich, I do not come from money, I do not have a house there and I am not a “frequenter” of the elusive Hamptons. I just understand the importance of treating yourself every now and again and it’s some place I’ve been before and loved. So I booked myself a private room at a secluded beach house on Airbnb. I packed Cady up for a fun-filled day with her Dad, and I left.
It was about a 2 hour drive from NYC and I rocked out to my favorite tunes on the ride there. Upon arrival, I swung into the nearest Fresh Seafood shop for lunch. East End Clambakes fit the bill. Their Lobster Roll and Zucchini Fries were SO good.
Next, I headed to check into my accommodations. For the first time ever, I tried out Airbnb and I have to say I really love it. It’s basically an online search tool to find people who are opening up their homes for vacation rental around the globe. I wasn’t expecting to find anything in the Hamptons but they have quite a few listings including my place – a private room in a secluded vacation home just steps from the beach.
My first order of business was finding the beach. Once I found it I never wanted to leave.
The beach was private to the community I was staying in so I was essentially all alone, which I loved. I did a lot of reading, praying and reflecting. I swam and sang and had tons of alone time.
I visited a vineyard in Southampton called Duckwalk Vineyards. This riesling is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
I also visited an organic farm and picked up some fresh sunflowers and organic berries grown locally.
These looked so yummy I had to get a bunch and take them home for Cady.
It really was an amazing 24 hours. After coming back I feel so well-rested and ready to conquer the second half of 2014. For those of you who may be worn out, tired and down to your last miniscule of energy, I have something for you. I’ll be doing a post on “3 Reasons to Do a #24HourReset” where I highlight some important things to keep in mind when you’re stressed like I was.
Until then, talk to me in the comments! Have you ever just needed some time away?
Interested in trying Airbnb? I loved it and I’m sure you will too. I have a special $25 OFF code for anyone who wants to try it and get $25 off your first stay. Click here to claim the discount.
Summer is the best time for a short getaway. From family celebrations to last minute Living Social steals this is the season for spontaneity. Weekender bags are an awesome choice for a quick trip. They take up less space and are easier to carry than a suitcase making them a great carry-on option. They also fit easily into the overhead compartments available on public transportation. We’ve rounded up some stylish and spacious selections for all your short stay needs below.
The bold print of this bag from Toms ($148) keeps it on trend while the muted colors make it an instant contender for crossing over into your fall wardrobe.
At just $34.99 this roomy bag from Target is a great way to see if a weekender can meet your needs. Also available in grey the navy stripes on this version give off a cute nautical vibe making it great for a boat ride or a day at the beach.
Headed somewhere fun like a music festival? Start Make your luggage pack a punch with this gold weekender from Forever 21 ($78.00). Bonus? It has multiple pockets on the exterior of the bag so you won’t elbow four people on the train trying to find your Bigelow lip shine (am I the only one who does that?).
Not sure if your fun in the sun is going to turn into a full blown staycation? No worries! Just slip the essentials into this sleek patterned weekender from H&M. A tee-shirt and a pair of patterned of shorts would fit into it with ease but it’s still small enough to serve as a laptop bag for work. Looking for something with a little less structure? Try this slouchy version.
The Polo classic may have come and gone but that doesn’t mean you can’t tap into your inner Blair Waldorf. Get the look for less with this canvas striped weekender ($58.00).
What do you think about weekender bags? Where will you be traveling this summer? Let us know using the hashtag #browngirlslove on instagram?