Family Travel to Cuba with Babies
I would like to start off with the fact that this is the first family travel destination blog that I have written, where we did not bring our daughter ´Havana´. I am purely writing about our experience from a parents perspective , as I think there are various things to know before traveling to Cuba with Babies.
Visiting Havana was a dream come true. We had named our daughter Havana, but hadn´t been there yet and decided go there for our Honeymoon. I was always a fan of city names and had heard so many positive things about the culture, the people, the city, the food and not to mention I absolutely love the music. Living in Barcelona for 5 years also made me fall in love with the latin culture.
Havana is not necessarily a honeymooon destination, but that is the city we chose as it was about time we visited Havana and discovered the beauty of Cuba. Generally speaking we aren´t really beach people. We love traveling to cities were we can completely immerse ourseves into the culture, learn about the people, the history & of course try the local foods. The fact that I speak Spanish was also a bonus.
Havana is by far one of our favourite cities. We had an amazing time there and would go back in a heartbeat. It is everything you think it is and more. However, I would recommend leaving your baby or toddler at home. I think it would be a great place to go to once your baby is fully eating solids and already potty trained. Any age before that I would suggest it is best to save the family travel to Havana for another time, when they are a little older.
Leave the Baby at Home with Family
It is very difficult to find a store that has supplies, products for adults, let alone baby products. The main supermarkets normally only have the basics (i.e. water, rice, tomato sauce ,juice, rum, etc.). The supermarkets only carry the basic products and brands. There might be a little section in the supermarket that carries toiletries for adults, but hardly any baby products/essentials. Sometimes you can find a speciality store right next to the supermarket, but there you can normally only find special hot sauces, snacks, candy, liquor, etc.
You have to ask locals for a place to buy baby products as the stores don’t have big signs on top of the store either making it visible and it is all quite hidden.
Therefore we were happy we didn’t travel to Havana with Babies and wouldn´t recommend going there until your child is potty trained. Unless you can bring all of the nappies you need for the entire trip and possibly stay at an all inclusive resort in Varadero. Varadero is a city approximately 2 hours away from Havana and they have various speciality stores inside of the resort and had baby products & essentials.
The main reason behind my recommendation to leave the baby at home is because it is difficult to find supermarkets and there are very few places where you can get ready cooked food/fast food to go. We happened to come across a supermarket as we were walking aimlessly through out the entire city without any specific schedule. If we had brought our daughter, I can imagine it would have been very stressful, as we always need to have snacks along with us.
My primary goal with this site was to help improve the travel experiences of other families and it took us a while to find supermarkets, so this is why I would probably hold off traveling to Havana with Babies until they are a little older. But of course every child is different and I am speaking as a parent of a child that can get very hangry if she doesn’t get her food. So therefore my husband and I were happy not to have the additional stress during this trip.
The people are so incredibly friendly everywhere you go. The city is also very safe during the day and night. They are helpful when asking for directions. We were lucky that I speak Spanish so I did most of the talking, but we saw English speaking tourists asking for directions and the locals tried to give directions as best they could using their hands and feet and even walked them to the location they were looking for. They are very happy and passionate people and we felt right at home with the people.
Food & Restaurants
Generally when it comes to meals, you need to eat out at restaurants in Havana and it takes approximately 1 -1.5 hours as everything is freshly cooked. Therefore if you are there with a hangry baby and are not breastfeeding or on formula it might not be ideal. Cuba might be a different experience , if you are purely breastfeeding of formula feeding and if that is the case please make sure to bring enough supplies (i.e. diapers, formula, wipes, etc. to last you the entire stay. I want you to have an amazing stay so please do not go with the expectations that you can buy things there if needed.
Please note that this is my own opinion and by any means do not let this stop if you if you want to take your Baby (Babies) to Havana or any other City in Cuba.
If you love spicy food and meat then you will love the cuban food. My Husband is Jamaican and said the food reminded him a lot of Jamaican dishes, a hearty meal with rice and peas and meat.
Please do me a favor and doo not go to any Cuban restaurant and order a pizza or any other typical western dish. If you do that, you will probably be disappointed because those aren´t their specialisties
You do not have to pay a lot of money to get good quality food. If you find a cheap place that makes good quality food I recommend going there again. Our favourite places during our stay were ´Barriete Habana´and ´El Barracon de Hamel Bar´ located in al Callejon de Hamel. Barriete Habana is definitely cheaper and a better option, but the quality and quantity of food at el Barracon was really good as well. When we find good spots we tend to eat there more than once and that was the case for both restaurants.
We also stuck to the traditional Cuban dishes the entire time. They will not disappoint and you will not get sick. Our favorites were roast chicken with rice & beans or roja vieja (shredded beef in a rich and flavorful sauce of tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and spices). You will also notice that Cubans will treat you better if you try their local dishes.
Favorite Bars in Havana
304 O´Reilly – An excellent find on a quiet street. The food, drinks and employees were so friendly at the bar. We had a great experience and were chatting to everyone all night. Apparently they have live music bands playing during the week, but we happend to miss it. We went there on a Friday and were told the band played on Thursday. Therefore if you want to go to a place for the food, drinks and live music I recommend going there during the day and asking which days the band/bands play.
El Floridita – A lively bar through out the night and day. It is packed with tourists and as you can hear the band play from various blocks away.
Do not stay in a hotel. The quality of the hotels is very bad. 4-5 star hotels in Cuba are more like 2 star hotels in other countries. This is also a big reason why I didnt chose to have our destination Wedding there in the end. After having consulted with a friend who lived there they told me that they are not very advanced when it comes to Hotel Weddings, Quality & Customer Service in general.
Air BnB or Casa Particular is the best option. During our stay we stayed at a hotel and air bnb and they were like night and day. The Air Bnb was super clean, spaceous, close to restaurants & internet and it was cheap. We had an excellent experience at the Air BnB and lets just stay the hotel experience was so bad it is not worth mentioning.
Recommended areas to stay are:
- Havana Vieja (Old Havana)
- El Vedado
- From the bay up to and including the area around Parc Central and Prado.
When to Travel to Cuba
The best times to travel to Cuba are outside of the hurricane season so before July and after October. We were there in March and the weather was just perfect.
You will most likely not be able to use your mobile data. You should be able to call out from your mobile but will not be able to use all the apps, social media & communication channels. Hotels sell internet cards and there are little Kiosks on the streets where they sell internet scratch cards that you can use.
If you purchase the hotel internet cards you can generally only use them in the hotel, if you get the others you can use those across the city. Please note that you cannot use the internet card everywhere. Wherever you see a lot of people congregated in one particular área in the middle of the city or on the side of the Street, then it is probably the best área to catch wifi and use your wifi card.
Methods of Payment
If you can, I highly recommend taking cash out before your trip. We tried to but the Banks we went to before we left told us they couldn´t order Cuban pesos. We were instructed to take out cash at the ATM in the Havana airport. With our luck none of the cards worked at any of the ATMs, luckily because I spoke Spanish and was able to communicate with a Taxi driver he told me that he knew of some Hotels where we would be able to swipe the card and take cash out that way. He took us a to Hotel Melia Cohiba in Vedado, which was close to our Air Bnb and there we were able to take out cash.
(Card v. Cash)
When we called Citi bank asking to unblock our card they said they cannot do that at all as it is a sanctioned country. When calling HSBC they said the initial block was on it because we were in Cuba, but then they were able to lift it. So I highly recommend calling your bank beforehand and taking out cash.
Please also note that while you might be able to take cash out at an ATM at the airport, non of the restaurants, stores, etc. will have terminals to accept cards, so you always have to pay with cash. It is all very old school down to the fact that in the cash registers you have to type in the price of the ítems one by one like an old typwriter.
We love Cuba
I hope this blog did not come across too negative about Cuba. Havana in particular is an increíble city which we love a lot and we are definitely going back in the few years time, once our Havana is a little older. During our next trip we are planning on visiting Viñales and Trinidad, as we have heard many amazing things about those cities as well.
My goal through my blogs has always been to help peoples experiences while traveling with their babies and inspire people to travel. Therefore, if you decide to still go to Cuba with your Baby, hopefully my tips will help improve your experience there, as my primary aim is to make sure you have a great time and help whatever way I can.
Happy Baby Happy Travels