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Hello965 in Cuba

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  • VISA Process:

Kuwaiti (and GCC) nationals need a visa to Cuba. Each national need to contact the Cuban Embassy in their country or the visa services office to inquire about the requirements.

In Kuwait, this is what you’ll need:

– A photocopy of your passport (The passport itself is not needed)

– A personal photo (sometimes not required)

– Hotel + Flight reservations

– Application Form to be filled in the embassy itself

Hello965 Cuba

I fell in love with this lady! <3

 

  • Duration of my stay: 7 days (3 nights in Havana, one night in Trenidad de Cuba and 2 nights in Varadero)

 

  • FLIGHT

I choose the faster route the cheapest route, but you really have MANY options. As I mentioned in my previous post about Cuba. To add to it, you could always go through the Bahamas, Cayman Islands or else.

My Route was as follows: Kuwait – Abudhabi – Frankfurt – Havana and return via Istanbul (around 23 hours? more or less)

*** One big issue with this flight I took, my bags never made it to Havana via Frankfurt.

I was flying on Condor – A Thomas Cook Group flight, and had a very tight transit time (55 minutes). Unfortunately, I dealt with an impolite Condor representative, where she had confirmed 3 times that my bags were on board and 3 times dismissed me to “take care of other travelers”. The only reason I’m writing this, is because I was left with no bags for 4 days in Havana with not even a compensation from Condor.

FYI – shopping in Havana is VERY overpriced. I spent a fortune (i’m not exaggerating) just to buy shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush & paste, body gel and t-shirts for the days we have no clothes.   S

ANYWHO,

Hello965 in Cuba

1. Havana:

Stay: I stayed at a penthouse via Casa Particular. This is a tricky situation, if you’re comfortable staying at one of those, go for it at your own risk. Otherwise, stick to Hotel Saratoga in Old Town Havana, Nacional Hotel or read about the houses/rooms rented via the locals such as Casa de Miriam Y Sinai.

Activities:

– Museo Revolucion
– Plaza Vieja
– East of Havana, go on top of the hill
– Eat ice cream at the famous Coppelia Ice Cream parlour for the true Habanero experience (Yes, this is part of activities and an activity you must do)

hello965 havana
– Plaza San Francisco
– 50’s car ride/ tour

hello965 cuba
– Visit a Cigar Factory
– See Casa Fuster
– Drive on, or walk on the Malecon Street
– Plaza de las Armas

Hello965 Cuba

Cigar Factory Visit

 

Food:

– Rio Mar

– Vistamar (1st Av and 22 strt)

– Litoral (on Al Malecon)

– El Templete

– Restaurante Dona Eutimia

– A coffee/bakery/pastry shop next to Dona Eutimia, is a place called Bambini .. very cute!!

– La Fontana

Night:

– Tropicana show; touristy and commercial but definitely a nice experience for a first time visit to Cuba

– Up & down

– Saratoga Hotel Rooftop Bar

– 304 O’Reilly

– Casa de La Musica (All salsa, live band)

Hello965 in Cuba

2. Trinidad de Cuba (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Stay: For the first time ever, and since it’s a one night stay, I decided to book in a hostel. It’s called Dr Suarez & Sra Addys. The owners the same day of booking dropped me an email expressing their excitement to have us at their home. I loved loved my stay at this place, couldn’t have asked for a better experience in Trinidad!

The hostel has two rooms, each room fits two persons max. However, we needed an extra room, so the owners arranged for our friend to stay at the opposite house/hostel. If you need more rooms, just ask them and they’ll organize it.

Another option which I was looking at before booking with Dr Suarez is a hotel called Iberostar, which is the best recommended in Trinidad.

Activities:

– Valle de Los Ingenios Tour (RECOMMENDED!), I booked my tour via Havana Tour Company. This tour is about 19th-century sugar and slave trade! SUPER interesting.

hello965 trinidad

– Walk around the town, it’s a very small place, so just walk around and explore yourself

– Check out Plaza Mayor

– Train trip to the Valley of the Sugar Mills

– Hiking the Escambray mountains

– Checkout Galeria Pincelada Colonial

 – At night, checkout Casa de La Musica (All salsa, live band), it is similar to the one in Havana, but this is outdoors and beautiful atmosphere

Food:

Since my trip to Trinidad was super short, the place I got to try was:

1- San Jose

Actually, there was another restaurant that I absolutely hated, so won’t even bother to write it down.

 

3. Varadero

Stay: Melia Varadero Hotel is where I stayed, and where I recommend

Hello965 Varadero

Things to do:

– Go on a Catamaran to Cayo Blanco Island

– Varadero is all about the beach, so just relax and enjoy your hotel’s facilities and massages

– For the night, a place called La Rumba was recommended to us

hello965 catamaran

 Other destinations I stumbled upon that look interesting, you could look into more:

Cayo Largo & Cayo Coco – I read that these islands have two of the most beautiful beaches! – Not accessible via car

Useful websites other than this amazing post ofcourse;

I used these websites to book my hotels:

www.hotelscombined.com

www.Otel.com

www.casaparticular.com

www.hotelsclick.com

Hello965 in Cuba

Final words:

– I recommend you to hire a driver & rent a car for the whole period in Cuba. The driver most of the time act as a tour guide, where he’ll recommend the best places to see, reserve for restaurants when needed and take care of things.

– The way it works in Cuba from my personal experience, hiring a driver, and renting a car are two different activities (some websites combine both in one). I, contacted a driver, who in return recommended me the websites to rent a car from.

– Renting a car is tricky. If you do reserve a car online, and the car reservation is CONFIRMED, that’s not the end! You must pay the car full amount ONLINE for the reservation to be confirmed. I didn’t pay online because I wasn’t aware of this, so when I reached, I didn’t have a car. (Thanks Rafael for organizing a car for me!)

– Entering Cuba is not a big hassle. However, those of you feeling uncomfortable waiting, there’s a VIP service fo  25 CUC. Where an employee escorts you from the minute you leave the plane, passes you through VIP and Diplomats lane, and off to the luggage.

At the exit/Leaving Cuba – you’ll need to pay 25 CUC at the airpot, so just make sure you have the 25 CUC at hand on your way to the airport.

– In terms of safety, I haven’t encountered any dangerous situation or felt unsafe at any point. Caution is always good, so just keep your shiny and expensive stuff at home. Cuba has the lowest crime rate in the Western Hemisphere! You will be surprised by the visible police presence in Cuba.

– Heads up, Havana is not cheap. The minute they know you’re a tourist, they’ll automatically charge you much higher than original price/cost.

– WiFi & Internet: Almost all hotels have at least 1 or 2 computers to go on the internet for foreigners. Otherwise they’d charge you for an internet card to use for your laptop/phone. Having said that, Cuba’s internet is very slow, and some applications are blocked such as “Snapchat”.

Best time/weather to see Cuba: March, April October and November are the months with the nicest weather and less rain. Peak Season is December / January/ February.

– MONEY EXCHANGE – You can ONLY exchange money INSIDE Cuba. To exchange, you need to get Euros with you, and exchange either at the airport when you first get in, or in any hotel in Havana. I, for instance, exchanged at both Melia Cohiba and Nacional Hotel. Also, make sure you don’t get out of Cuba with their currency (CUC) because you will not be able to exchange it outside of Cuba.

– Cigars: For Cigar purchases, you are only allowed 50 pieces ‘per bag’ (carry-on VS. suitcase). More than 50 pieces, you’ll be asked present receipts of your purchases.

– Finally, don’t expect to eat delicious food. All food is spiced with only salt, pepper and lemon. So don’t have any expectations. (get your own spice if you could)

hello965 classic

***  Always remember, you could email us on info@hello965.com to plan all of this for you.

Cheers!

Hello965

Top 15 Destinations in 2015

I always see many ‘top 15’ or ‘top 10’ destinations in 2015 in maany different places. However, this one by Peggy Goldman I really like and agree with on multiple destinations. Here you go.

1. Thailand. Thailand saw a significant dip in traffic in 2014 after governmental unrest, but Thailand is sure to come roaring back in 2015, with industry predictions of 29 million visitors by year end. These numbers aren’t really surprising, though, as Thailand continues to be one of the most beautiful, spiritual, and welcoming destinations on the planet.

Hello965: Now in my opinion, Thailand would definitely not be #1 on my list of places to see in 2015. However, there are lovely hidden places in Thailand that you must see! Other than Bangkok and Phuket.

2. Iceland. As more travelers seek authentic experiences which also reflect their worldviews, Iceland has emerged as a top travel destination. The Land of Fire and Ice showcases the world’s natural beauty at sites like the famous Strokkur geyser, the natural hot springs of the Blue Lagoon, and of course, the contemplative wonders of the Northern Lights, while Reykjavík, the nation’s capital, offers plenty of great restaurants, night spots and northern culture.

Hello965: Iceland is for sure one of the places I really want to see. I’ve heard AMAZING feedback from different travelers.

3. Cuba. Everyone’s talking about this island just 90 miles from Florida’s coast that has been the forbidden fruit of travel for Americans for more than 50 years. With the recent announcement of the U.S. restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and a general loosening of rules regarding travel, there’s no better time to visit the island nation than 2015, before everything changes. For the true explorer, Cuba is one of the most amazing travel experiences possible, and to enjoy the island as it is right now, you better hurry before the country is forever changed by Western influences.

Hello965: Yup, 2015 destination yes yes.

4. Greece. Greece is back, and I couldn’t be happier (Metoo!). After years of a tourism downturn brought on by economic turmoil, visitors are finally returning in droves, ready and eager to experience the beauty, culture, and flavor of this Mediterranean paradise. While Athens is considered the crucible of Western civilization and definitely worth a visit, it’s the islands that lure visitors back again and again. These magnificent islands are every bit as gorgeous, romantic, laid back, and fun as any place you can find on earth. There’s Mykonos for romance, Santorini for breathtaking beaches, Crete for natural wonders, and so much more to discover.

5. Malaysia. A trip to Malaysia is like visiting two worlds at once. Peninsular Malaysia embraces Chinese and Indian influences resulting in richly spiritual, though thoroughly modern nation, while Malaysian Borneo — which is split from West Malaysia by the South China Sea — encompasses the country’s wilder side, with dense, mysterious jungles and ancient cultures living according to tradition. All of this, plus some of the absolute best cuisine on the planet, make Malaysia a 2015 must-see!

Hello965: I would remove Malaysia from 2015 must-sees. I’d add Zanzibar instead.

6. Croatia. Croatia is the hidden gem of the Mediterranean. Long overshadowed by its famous neighbors, Italy and Greece, it will continue to grow into its own in 2015 and transition into a true Mediterranean hotspot. Turquoise waters, sun-drenched beaches, and hundreds of quaint islands make it the ideal destination for any traveler who seeks leisure at its finest. Some of the most complete Medieval walled cities are found here, along with pristine forest, sparkling lakes, and incredibly friendly, welcoming locals.

Hello965: If you haven’t been to Croatia, this should go as #1 in your 2015 travel list.

7. Dubai. As the United Arab Emirates continues to develop into one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations, Dubai stands out as the ultimate international getaway for the world’s rich and famous. Yet, travelers don’t have to be international superstars to visit this luxurious city. In fact, Dubai welcomed 5.8 million visitors in the first half of 2014 alone. And no wonder. How many hot desert locations can you name where you can enjoy the beach (we’re talking hot weather) in the morning and then, spend the afternoon skiing at an indoor resort attached to a fabulous designer mall? That’s not the only thrill travelers will discover in Dubai. Try soaring to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, to check out a view. Or, how about a visit the Burj Al Arab, among the most luxurious and expensive hotels in the world, where a fleet of 25 Rolls-Royces stand at the ready in the courtyard to chauffer guests about. It’s that kind of place, but you have to see it to believe it.

Hello965: For me, Dubai is a second home! If you have never been before, must see!

8. Vietnam. Vietnam has recently been named one of Trip Advisor’s Destinations on the Rise for 2015, with the port city of Da Nang ringing in praises from travelers across the world. But Vietnam has much more to offer than a beautiful coastline. Explore Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), a city that perfectly unites the energy of a world-class metropolis with the quaint sophistication of a French village. Here, as in all of Vietnam, the preferred mode of transportation is the motorbike, and I’ll bet you’ll find watching the veritable river of traffic negotiating the road among your favorite attractions. Or sail through Ha Long Bay, an inlet with emerald waters and otherworldly limestone cliffs, known as karsts, protruding from the water in random patterns. In addition, Vietnam is foodie heaven. You can eat your way throughout the country, including the street food, enjoying cuisine that is amazingly fresh and delicious.

9. South Africa. The 2014 Ebola scare deterred travelers from visiting Africa, but as the panic has subsided and travelers have realized that South Africa is Ebola-free, tourists are once again eager to get up close and personal with the Big 5 — lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceroses — while on an authentic African safari. South Africa is also one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with a rainbow population, a gay-friendly attitude, townships like Soweto which produced Nelson Mandela, among the world’s greatest leaders, and cities like cosmopolitan Cape Town (I love you, Cape Town) and historic Johannesburg. And by the way, among the finest wines in the world are found in South Africa, and you won’t have any difficulty finding great food to pair with those great wines, either.

10. Japan. More than 13 million travelers will have visited Japan in 2014, and tourism numbers are only expected to increase next year. Japan is a land built upon ancient traditions, but since its introduction to the Western world, the island nation has adopted an entirely modern persona while maintaining tradition. Travelers can visit the bustling streets of Tokyo — one of the world’s most modern metropolises — and then just as easily hop a high-speed train to explore the ancient pavilions of Kyoto. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the world is found in Japan, and when it comes to color, there’s nothing like the cherry blossoms that bloom in the spring. Japan’s a unique, fascinating cultural destination, and it will continue to grow in popularity in today’s interconnected world.

Hello965: Yes yes and yes.

 

11. Costa Rica. Costa Rica is finishing up a stellar year for tourism, with some 27 million tourists visiting the country in 2014 alone, and experts are predicting visitor numbers to continue to rise in 2015. And it’s no surprise. Costa Rica is the jewel of Central America, one that boasts incredible ecosystems, including tropical rainforests, cloud forests, mountains, rivers, volcanoes, and coastline on both the Caribbean and Pacific. As a nation, it’s a pioneer in environmental protection, with a huge part of its land mass set aside and protected by law. The people, affectionately known as “Ticos” are amazingly friendly and welcoming, and you’ll be hard-pressed to resist joining them in their enthusiasm for their country. It’s the ultimate destination for those who cherish the purity of nature and are seeking a little adventure along the way.

12. Egypt. It’s been four long years since Egypt has been on our radar as a “must visit” spot, but now that the political situation has stabilized, tourists are returning in ever greater numbers to see the Great Pyramid of Giza, the mythical Sphinx, and King Tut’s tomb, plus other antiquities along the Nile. Egypt is one of those bucket list destinations that everyone plans to visit at least once in a lifetime, and for good reason. The historical and cultural treasures of Egypt are among the most important in human history. The Egyptian people are among the most hospitable in the world, and since Egypt is just starting to recover from a long touristic drought, the prices will never be this good again.

Hello965: I like Egypt but I’d remove Egypt, and replace it with Petra in Jordan.

13. China. China is a land where the ancient past perfectly meets the modern present, where the most populous country in the world is rushing to pull its citizens into the 21st century in record speed. Between the glistening skyscrapers of Shanghai, the incredible Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an, and the formidable, imposing Great Wall near Beijing, travelers can experience the best of the old and the new. China is full of contrasts, which makes it such a fascinating destination. You’ll find plenty of sleek, expensive cars sharing the streets with bicycle rickshaws, formal Tiananmen Square, with its huge portrait of Chairman Mao, overlooking People’s Park where citizens practice Tai Chi, learn to play ancient instruments, have an ear cleaning, and enjoy a cup of tea. And there’s so much more to see, do and experience, making China one destination that many travelers visit again and again.

14. Peru. For the third straight year, Peru has been named a top culinary destination by the World Travel Awards, placing it on par with France and Thailand as one of the world’s greatest food nations. Peruvian cuisine takes advantage of the nation’s diverse geography, which consists of jungles, coasts, and mountains, and combines it with European, African, and Asian influences to create unmatched global cuisine. While Machu Picchu is Peru’s initial draw, Peruvian food keeps travelers returning again and again.

Hello965: Can’t wait to see you, Peru!

 

15. Australia. Australia has long been one of the world’s most popular destinations, and 2015 will be no different. The nation’s unbeatable nightlife, world-class beaches, and unparalleled natural beauty — from the Great Barrier Reef to the Australian bush — make it a must-visit destination for all worldly travelers. Australia is a long way to travel from the USA, but it’s worth every minute of the journey. And with English as the spoken language, it’s easy to get around, meet friendly folks and participate in life the Aussie way. Why not add it to the 2015 bucket list?

Hello965: 2015 approved 😉

 

Now get out there, and see the world!!

Hello965

Cuba Itinerary

We’ve been asked some questions regarding things to do in Cuba. Here is what we learned from our friends:

CUBA  –   A literal sense of  “A blast from the past”

  • Traveling to Cuba:

Virgin Atlantic: Flight leaves from Dubai, with a stop in London then a direct flight to Cuba.

KLM:  Flight leaves from Kuwait to Amsterdam, then a direct flight to CubaHavana.

Traveling from USA: As there are sanctions between US and Cuba, you should  make travel plans from Canada or Mexico instead.

 

  • Accommodation:

– Hotel Saratoga Cuba:  The best hotel in Cuba, located in Old Town, all the shops and historic areas are walking distance away. Very busy neighborhood in the day and night as well.  Nice rooms, nice staff, good internet!

– Hotel Nacionale : A very decent hotel, away from the downtown area, overlooks the beach, however there is no beach for swimming. The Kuwaiti Embassy is located in the Hotel in case anything is needed. The rooms are decent, neighborhood is quieter and there are some shops around the hotel.

-Room Rental: There are many rooms at local’s houses that are up for rent, whether you are alone or with a group of friends.  Locals are very friendly and many of the rental homes are very good, and hosts are very sweet and welcoming.

  • Food:


-There are many options to eat from in Cuba, however most of the food will be tasteless and very blah, highly recommended to take Tabasco, or any other condiment of your choice.

– The best restaurants are all located in an area of town called Miramar, here you will  find a little upper scale places, better than the ones found in Havana Town.

-Old Town: There are many restaurants in Old Town Havana, however most of them are tourist traps so be careful, make sure you check out the seating and the menu.

  • What to do:


-Old Town Havana: walk around enjoy the history, try to arrange for a tour around the town on your first days so you are able to go back to the places you liked most.

– In the middle of Town you will find a big area where everyone is selling historical items in mint condition for very cheap, best place for souvenirs.

-Visit “El Floridita” – A place cherished by locals where Ernest Hemingway used to order their famous Daquiri.

-Arrange for a trip to visit cigar factories and farms, as well as a visit to see the old caves. 

-Go to the show at the Copacabana in Havana, a famous dancing show.

-Visit the Revolution Museum, and any historic museum of your liking.

-Arrange to go see Ernst Hemingway’s house that was preserved in its original condition and is now a museum for everyone to see.

-Try arranging day trips with excursion companies to see other areas outside Havana (Caves, cigar plantation, rum factory…..)

Also, there are many districts around Havana that are also nice for beach areas, our friends have visited Varadero, a very nice area by the beach to swim and chill, but there wasn’t much to do besides stay at hotel and see the town there. 

There are also other areas that are awaiting exploration by any tourist.

 

  • Tips & Info


Currency: There are 2 currencies used in Cuba, one for locals and one for tourists. Know the difference.

Phone: Another important thing is that there are no phones in hotel rooms nor will your Kuwaiti phones will work, either get a contact number from airport, or go to the lobby and ask for the phone booths to make your calls, or you can keep it simple with emails at the internet café’s or business centers at hotels.

Visa: Kuwaitis, Get your visas from here: Cuba Embassy in Kuwait – details: Tel :22549361 (Rawda, Block 3, St. Shahab Ahmad Al Bahar, House 74) – Visa process takes 1 to 3 days.

Transportation: Take normal taxis, or use classic cars for taxis, sometimes more expensive. You can also rent a car or arrange for a driver to be available with you at all times.

Hope this helps!!

Cheers,
Hello965