Travel blog

The Ballad of the Buicks: Why So Many American Classic Cars are in Cuba




Chevy Bel Airs and Ford Thunderbirds still rumble down the Malecón in Havana, Cuba; 1950s American classics with polished chrome bumpers and candy-apple red paint jobs. Like something from an old movie set, the relics motor along the city streets and seaside boulevards and, for a cost, you can take a ride or pose for a photo with a piece of automotive history. But just where did all these Studebakers and Nash Ramblers come from? Why are there so many? And what do they have to say about the Cuban Revolution?





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Topics: Cuba, Caribbean


Top Travel Destinations for Fall




As summer is wrapping up, many of us are turning our attention to the fall travel season. Often over-looked, autumn offers many enticing reasons for an off-peak getaway. To begin with, the start of school, or as the Parisians call it, la rentrée, means many cities see little-to-no tourists in these months. In addition, even though the crowds have thinned, the weather remains pleasant and mild. Gone are the hot and humid days of summer and winter is still months away, making the climate delightful just about any place you get your passport stamped. From art festivals to harvest season, Oktoberfest to music festivals, now is the perfect time to hit the road and experience life as a local -- all for some of the lowest prices of the year.





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Topics: Travel Tips, Cuba, Europe, Planning a Vacation


Home Cooking: 5 Tips for Eating in Cuban Paladars




In Jose Fuster’s painting, The Last Supper, the 12 disciples crowd elbow-to-elbow around a plate of fish, hinting at an odd Cuban rule that allowed only a dozen guests to eat at one time in privately-owned home restaurants. Known as paladars, these family-run businesses are synonymous with Cuba and their popularity is on the rise in the Soviet-system where the state controls everything that ends up on the plate. However, recently the interpretation of a “living room” has broadened, making the definition of the paladars a bit more favorable and accessible. Here’s what you need to know about savoring Cuba’s authentic home dining scene:




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Topics: Americas, Cuba, Food and Dining


Bottoms Up! Sipping a Papa Doble in Havana




“This frozen daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots.” - Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream




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Topics: Cuba


Cuba’s Isle of Youth: The Story, The History, The Treasure




If Cuba is the forbidden fruit of travel, then the Isle of Youth is its most tempting indulgence.




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Topics: Cuba


Revisiting Papa’s Past: What to do in Hemingway’s Cuba




The letters, books, and records scattered throughout Finca Vigia are a snapshot in time, a picture of Lookout Farm as it was during the years Ernest Hemingway made his home here from 1939-1960. This was where he penned seven of his most famous novels, including The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast, and where he would pass his evenings listening to Gershwin tunes while sipping scotch.




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Topics: Cuba


Top Tips for Cuba: What Travelers Need To Know




Politics and Religion: Nowhere is the need to avoid controversial topics more important than on the small island 90 miles to the south of Florida. While many citizens will engage readily in a conversation about Fidel Castro, the eyes and ears of the Party still consider it unpatriotic to be critical toward the regime. That being said, be sensitive if your tour guide is reticent to discuss sensitive issues.

Visit a Paladars: Havana's paladars are a great way to explore the culinary history of Cuba. Until the 1990s, restaurants not owned by the government were illegal and so these small dining rooms began operating out of homes. As the definition of a “restaurant” expands, you can now find paladars in old mansions and penthouses as well as family residences. Make sure to sample the staples, like Cuban Creole, but also be open to the many other flavors peppering the culinary landscape.

Don’t Expect to Connect: It’s no secret Cuba has some of the planet’s worst Internet service. With severe state restrictions and awful connection speeds, just plan to leave your phone, your laptop, and your digital devices at home.

Money Matters: In Cuba, the dual currency system makes foreigners ripe for scams. Here’s what you need to know. National pesos are banknotes printed with head-and-shoulder images of Cuban leaders and used to pay local citizens. On the other hand, convertible pesos depict national monuments and are worth twenty-four times what national pesos are worth. They are used to pay for goods and services. Make sure that when you pay in convertibles you are given change in kind and not in national pesos.

Being American Still Has its Drawbacks: Even after President Obama’s recent visit, there are difficulties in visiting Cuba if you’re a U.S. citizen. For one thing, you can only travel to Cuba under specific circumstances, like a People-to-People trip like the ones offered by YMT Vacations. There’s also a 10 percent fee for changing US dollars into Cuban currency and your U.S. debit or credit card is not accepted on the island.

Carry Cash: In many places in Cuba, cash is the only form of payment for goods and services. Since cash machines are sparse, make sure to get money whenever you can, and make note of the operating hours for banks.

Beware Before Lighting Up -- Cigars sold by jineteros, or street hustlers, are rarely the real deal. Instead, purchase cigars from official stores known as Casa del Habano, or directly from the factory. You should also expect to pay for a premium product.




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Topics: Cuba


$100 Up in Smoke: 10 Tips on Buying Cigars in Cuba




More than half a century after the last Cohibas were imported from Cuba, Americans can now bring $100 worth of the cigars into the country. Thanks to the widening of U.S. travel privileges to this Communist island, you can now legally procure some smokes for yourself but you may be surprised what $100 can (or can’t) buy you. Here are some tips you’ll want to know on bringing back cigars from Cuba:




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Topics: Cuba


Traveling to Cuba: What to Pack




For more than half a century the American view of Cuba has been largely based on black and white movies and long-ago nostalgia. This “forbidden fruit of travel” is now opening its doors to curious travelers fortunate enough to earn a coveted spot on a U.S. State Department ‘People to People’ tour like the ones offered by travel company YMT Vacations. Before you go, here are some tips on what to pack when traveling to Cuba:




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Topics: Cuba


Cuba – It's not a country, it's a feeling




I don’t like to fly. However, if it means getting somewhere I really want to go, I will put up with my own misery for the end result. Going to Cuba was just such a destination. We left San Diego airport early morning July 1, the beginning of an unforgettable adventure.

Most of my friends and family had reacted the same way when I told them of our travel plans. Comments ranged from “How exciting!” and “That’s on my bucket list!” to “Why?”  Regardless of the viewpoint, the initial response was always one of surprise. I suppose it’s not a common destination, at least not for Americans. That may change soon.




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Topics: Americas, Cuba, Ambassador Adventures