7 places I’d love to re-visit

As every wanderer dreaming of seeing as much of our lovely little planet as possible, I have a never ending to-visit list. And said list tend to focus on new-to-me places, because as Barney Simpson says: “New is always better”.

Right?

Wrong.

As exciting as discovering a new place is, the truth is, there’s always going to be some places that truly resonate with you.

Spots you simply can’t cover in one trip. Cities that keep changing and evolving, and therefore always in mouvement and ‘new’. Places that just feel like home.

So much so in fact that you start planning a return visit on your way to the airport.

Here’s my current top 7 of those places I’d love to re-visit.

7 places I'd love to re-visit / 7 travel destinations that deserve a second visit / #travellinkup / Cake + Whisky

NYC

Much like London, New York is always changing.

No matter how many times you visits (and how many steps you walk a day!), there’s always something new and exciting to discover.

Which is just as well because as you read this post, I’m actually on a 2-week trip to the USA, with two full weekends in NYC. I’m hoping to re-visit old favourites (looking at you, Katz’s!), as well as discovering new things (and eating all the brunch dishes).

Sweden

I celebrated my 18th birthday in Sweden, and I have wonderful memories of visiting Stockholm and the Lake region.

There was something so beautiful about the pure, golden light, the small red wooden houses, the deep blue water and the fresh fish dishes and it all reminds engraved in my mind.

And now that I’ve mastered the art of planning city breaks, I’m itching to re-visit the Swedish capital!

7 places I'd love to re-visit / 7 travel destinations that deserve a second visit / #travellinkup / Cake + Whisky

Cuba

Beautiful, unexpected and so, so, so different from anywhere else I’d ever been to, Cuba simply took my breath away.

Unfortunately, my Cuban adventures were not the most comfortable as I managed to catch a nasty stomach bug on day 2, which prevented me from making the most of our time on the dreamy Caribbean island.

I have major regrets of not being able to swim in waterfalls in Trinidad, and of not drinking all the rum cocktails.

So a Cuban do-over is most certainly on the cards at some point!

Bilbao

I went to Bilbao on a school trip and I keep unaltered memories of the beautiful Guggenheim undulating structure shinning in the sunshine.

The museum itself, featuring works from many of my favourite contemporary artists, was a dream.

The architectural mix of the city, combining old brick buildings and super modern glass structures in a seamless way, was another thing that caught my eye.

But because we spent very little time wandering the city and with all of our meals planned and taken care of for us, I feel like there’s still more for me to explore in Bilbao.

7 places I'd love to re-visit / 7 travel destinations that deserve a second visit / #travellinkup / Cake + Whisky

Dublin

The people. The vibes. The whiskey. The foooooooooooood!!

Our trip to Dublin last year was everything I had dreamt about, and then some.

Though to be honest, the prospect of dinner at Forest Avenue alone would be enough to convince me to jump in a plane!

7 places I'd love to re-visit / 7 travel destinations that deserve a second visit / #travellinkup / Cake + Whisky

Copenhagen

With a strong focus on scandi design, interesting food creations, cinnamon buns and the purest, whitest light, Copenhagen was always to be a favourite of mine, and a place I’ll want to visit again and again.

And again.

7 places I'd love to re-visit / 7 travel destinations that deserve a second visit / #travellinkup / Cake + Whisky

Paris

When I lived in Paris, I didn’t really enjoy it as a city.

Now that I don’t, I simply can’t get enough of it.

Similar enough to London to be comfortable, yet different enough to be exciting, and the very epitome of classy easy-going ‘à la Française’…

It’s just such a lovely city to explore… just got to keep an eye on the Eurostar ticket prices!

How many of those places have you visited? What places have you been to and can’t wait to re-visit? 

This blog post has been written as part of this month’s #travellinkup, which theme was ‘places we can’t get out of our heads’. If you’re a travel-addict, make sure you join the monthly #travellinkup, hosted by Adventures of a London KiwiSilverSpoon London and Follow Your Sunshine. Every month, there’s a new fun travel brief to share stories of your adventures!

More travel stories:

‘Once in a lifetime’ moments in Burkina Faso

How to find the perfect travel companion

10 things I learnt from traveling

The places I call home(s)

Best of Havana – Save & Splurge itineraries

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7 places I’d love to re-visit

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba

The last leg of our November Cuba trip took us to Trinidad, a little town in the middle of the island, famous for its multi-coloured colonial old houses and cobblestone streets.

And now that I look back at this trip, it’s the Cuban place I most wish to return to (mainly because I was so sick by then I feel like I missed out on so many things).

A Unesco site since 1988, Trinidad is easily accessible from Havana (it’s a 4h, 30CUC pp affair and the views on the way are incredible). And it’s the sort of pastel-coloured, fairy tale place that needs to be seen to be believed.

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

But that’s not all! Architecture, nature, beach… There’s so many great things to do in Trinidad that fully justify adding the city to your Cuba itinerary.

1. Wander around the beautiful pastel-coloured streets

There’s a reason why the whole of Trinidad is a Unesco site and it’s because every corner is absolutely gorgeous!

From the technicolour colonial houses, to the intricate forged iron window frames and the ever-green mountain background, the entire city is an Instagram dream come true – absolutely no filter needed!

So put on your walking shoes (those cobblestones are no joke!) and make the most of it.

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

2. Trek the Parque el Cubano and swim in the Javira Waterfall

With the gigantic Parque Natural Topes de Collantes to the west, trekking opportunities abound in Trinidad.

The easiest (and shortest) one will take you through Parque el Cubano up to the Javira waterfall, where you can swim into the natural pool below it, which is really quite a fantastic way to spend the day!

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

3. Climb San Francisco de Asis bell tower

Located by the very pretty Playa Mayor, San Francisco de Asis is the best spot to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

Vertigo-averse folks will want to stop at the first level, where the wide terrace offers fantastic views of the city, the mountains and even the sea.

And if the weather’s all sorts of crazy you’re lucky, you might even catch a quadruple rainbow!

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

4. Have a few of the Trinidad’s signature Cachanchara cocktails

Created in Trinidad in the late 1800s, the Cachanchara is considered to be Cuba’s oldest known cocktail.

The no-fuss recipe, originally used as medecine, calls for simple ingredients -rum, lime and honey- and is traditionally served in clay cups.

Strong but perfectly balanced, it’s well worth switching your default mojito over for.

5. Bask in the sun on Playa Ancon

Blue water. Golden sun. Does this really need explaining?

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

6. Try La Botija’s Cuban-style fried rice

I’m not going to lie and pretend like the food in Trinidad (or in Cuba, really) changed my life. To be honest, I ate mostly rice and plain bread anyway (such glamour!).

That being said, the arroz fritto at La Botija was one of the best things we had and comes in very generous portions.

Also on the plus side, the restaurant is open quite late, there’s live music being played throughout the day and a weird-but-intriguing drink selection (the Ciego Montero pineapple soft drink is goooooood!)…

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

PS. If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Trinidad, this is the Casa we stayed in. Robe & Nina are the sweetest hosts and the breakfast was beyond fantastic!

Pin for later:

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

More about Cuba

Best of Havana – Save & Splurge itineraries

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

6 best things to do in Trinidad, Cuba

‘Once in a lifetime’ moments in Burkina Faso

I never thought I would ever get to sleep on a military bed under the stars in the middle of rural Africa. I never dreamt of being invited to attend a film festival in the presidential tribute no less. I didn’t expect to get cold in 25+°C temperatures. I didn’t think I’d ever have a discussion about how many animals would be a suitable offering from any suitor wanting to marry me. Or that I would have to explain in great details that living in a developed country didn’t automatically make me rich.

And yet…

'Once in a lifetime' moments in Burkina Faso ● #travellinkup

In the winter of 2007, I took the plane for the very first time together with a team of students from my high school. We were on our way to the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and from there to a rural area an hour’s drive away, where we would stay for two weeks on a rural development mission.

Unlike what many would expect from a ‘once in a lifetime’ story, it wasn’t a glamourous experience. It was boiling hot (45+°C when the sun was at its highest), there was no running water, no electricty, no phone connection.

Every task was more complicated than it should have been.

No running water means we had to arrange from water from the nearby lake to be delivered every two days, and then treat it with many filters and chemicals to ensure it was drinkable. For two weeks, water tasted like bleach. There were also no showers, and the toilets were of the dry (and smelly, because 45°C temperatures tend to have that effect on things) kind (and home to a family of scorpio).

No electricty meant waking up early to make the most of daylight as there was only very limited lighting after sunset (our generator would only provide for about 4h of it). We cooked over an open fire and had to get groceries every day since we had no ways to stock them. We all got sick from the heat, dehydration, poor sanitation or a combination of all of the above.

'Once in a lifetime' moments in Burkina Faso ● #travellinkup
Yours truly, building (or rather, failing to build) a sun dehydrator…

Cultural gaps made for many a fascinating discussion.

We fought with the local welders, who wouldn’t explain why there were getting so behind on fulfilling orders. We later found out it was because if they had made enough money to sustain themselves for the week by say Thursday, they would simply stop working until the next week.

We talked with local students, who asked us how it was to live in France and ‘be rich’. Followed a 3 hour passionate debate on why we weren’t actually rich and how standards and costs of living somewhere affects disposable income.

A few of us were proposed to against various amounts of chickens, goats and even cows. The prospective husbands fully expected us to be thrilled. And to be able to pay for a plane ticket to France and a few electronic gadgets for them.

'Once in a lifetime' moments in Burkina Faso ● #travellinkup

We sang and drew with school kids. We helped our guard to carry a used mattress he was very excited about having bought (and pretended not to hear him and his lady friends making good use of it the following nights). We lost every football game we played again the village’s teenagers.

We ate strawberries in February and the sweetest mango I’ve ever had. We slept outdoors, staring at the upside-down moon and counting the stars late into the night.

We took bet on how many of us it’d take to go around the village’s biggest baobab (12!!).

We fought over who’d get the limited strawberry flavour Fanta at the local bar. It was horrific and nobody liked it but still, every day, we fought for it.

My bag almost got stollen but my then-boyfriend jumped off our running car and catch up with the thief. My parents’ camera, who was never meant to have to face 40+°C temperatures, died after a week.

We were invited to the African Film Festival opening ceremony, where we fully humilited ourselves by wearing terrible clothes amongst the crème-de-la-crème of the continent cultural icons.

We came back from our African adventures tired but wiser, covered in orange dust but with new perspectives on life and the world. And with a brand new appreciation for the little every day thing we wouldn’t even have noticed otherwise (oh, the life-changing magic of a light switch after 2 wekks without electricity!).

Coming back was hard, finding the words to explain what it was like was even harder. 11 years after, I still struggle with it.

It was surreal and a true, once in a lifetime experience. It wasn’t one bit glamourous, and I hardly have any photo of it, but it was the sort of things money can’t buy, which makes it even more precious.

This blog post has been written as part of this month’s #travellinkup, which theme was ‘once in a lifetime travel experiences’. If you’re a travel-addict, make sure you join the monthly #travellinkup, hosted by Adventures of a London KiwiSilverSpoon London and Follow Your Sunshine. Every month, there’s a new fun travel brief to share stories of your adventures!

More #travellinkup travel stories

How to find the perfect travel companion

10 things I learnt from traveling

Highlights from our first US trip

Home(s)

My 2018 travel plans

‘Once in a lifetime’ moments in Burkina Faso

Best of Havana – Save & Splurge itineraries

The largest and most populous city in the Caribbean region, founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and attracting over a million tourist every year, Havana is a windwhirl of a city.

Famous for its rich history, vibrant culture and diverse architecture (it sure wasn’t chosen as one of the new 7 wonders in 2015 for nothing!), there’s literally thousands of things to do, see and eat, making it hard to plan the perfect day in Havana.

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + WhiskyBest of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

Luckily I’ve gathered the very best of Havana in two handy itineraries below.

One’s designed for budget travellers, while the other’s more indulgent, so chose the one that best fits your budget. Or pick-n-mix/do both for the ultimate day in Havana!

Best of Havana – Save

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Stay in a ‘Casa Particulare’

Cuba’s own version of the traditional B&Bs, casa particulares are an excellent accomodation option. Not only are they cheaper than hotels (usually around CUC 30/night in Havana), but it’s also a great way to contribute to the local economy (casas are run by individuals, as opposed to hotels who are state-run), as well as a unique chance to get a glimpse of how the locals live.

We stayed in this lovely casa in Habana Vieja on our first few days in Havana and I highly recommend it. Leydiana was the perfect host, taking the time to recommend local spots to see and local restaurants to try. The breakfast was very filling. And the location of the casa made it the perfect base to explore the city’s ‘old town’ on foot.

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Pick up a sandwich at Sandwicheria La Bien Paga

Though casas usually offer exceptionally good value breakfast (see #6), this teeny tiny sandwich bar is a great alternative for made-to-order toasted sandwiches at ridiculous prices. The ‘Cuban’, with ham, cheese and pickle costs something like CUC 2.

Calle Aguacate 259, Habana Vieja

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Stroll around La Habana Vieja and the Malecon

Travellers on a budget, rejoice! The very best thing to do in Havana is walking around the city aimlessly. It’s absolutely free, and there’s a lot to see!

The most interesting area to explore is Habana Vieja (the ‘old town’, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982), with its many colonial-baroque and neo-classical buildings, busy squares and lively culture.

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + WhiskyBest of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

A few must-see:

  • Plaza de la Cathedral, Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja
  • All the streets linking those 3 squares, esp. Calle Mercaderes, Calle Obispo & Calle San Ignacio
  • Plaza de San Francisco de Asis
  • Bacardi building (while you’re there, a quick look at Mercado Anima, a local supermarket, will give you a shocking insight into Cuba’s economic reality)

A stroll along the Malecon is another Havana must-do, especially as the night falls and the locals come out to dance/play music/drink…

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Pick up a treat at Panaderia Dulceria San José

The best and oldest bakery in Havana offers an impressive range of pastries and cake by the slice, all at a very low price (around CUC 1 each).

A great spot to indulge your sweet tooth with a spot of cake roulette!

Calle Obispo 159, Habana Vieja

Watch the sun set over Havana from the Blanco Cristo promontory

Located on a hill on the opposite side of the port, the Blanco Cristo promontory is the ideal spot for a panoramic view of Havana.

Reaching it will require a bit of organisation – first, you need to take the ferry from the Terminal de Ferris (located opposite the Russian Orthodox church on San Pedro) to the Casablanca ferry terminal (CUC 4 return), then climb the hill to the gigantic white Christ statue. But the view is well worth it!

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Dine at Paladar San Cristobal

Admitedly, this very popular Centro Habana paladar is not the cheapest in the city.

But it is worth the (still very reasonable) price tag for the quality of the food alone. Country-style pork, arroz negro and many a frozen lemonade definitely made for one of the best meals we had in Cuba!

The large portion sizes and the quirky atmosphere don’t hurt either. Not to mention it’s where Obama dined on his history-changing visit to the island (and Beyoncé before him…).

San Rafael 469, Centro Havana

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Cocktails at Monserrate Bar

Steps away from the world-famous La Floridita bar (and the breathtaking Hotel Inglaterra), Montserrate bar is a fun  place to end the night with rum-based cocktails (when in Cuba…). And -thanks to Montserrate’s Hemingway-free status- they are two times cheaper than at its glitzy neighbour!

Obrapia 410, Habana Vieja

Best of Havana ● Cuba budget itinerary ● Cake + Whisky

Ride a Coco taxi

A ride in one of Havana’s coconut-shapped and mango-coloured taxis is an exhilarating experience. The price will depend on the distance you want to cover, so make sure you negociate it before you hop on!

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + WhiskyBest of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

Best of Havana – Splurge

Stay at Animas 303

First of its kind, this charming privately-owned boutique hotel is simply gorgeous.

Located in a beautifully restored historic building, with a great roof terrace (see above picture!) and super friendly and helpful staff, the overall experience is miles ahead of that of the much-renowned Hotel Nacional. And at just a fraction of the price (£55-75 per night).

Calle Animas 303, entre Aguila y Blanco, Centro Habana

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

Tour the city with a local

Many companies offer tours of Havana, the most famous of which being the ones in old US cars. All-in-all, they are an excellent way to see all the major sights whilst getting a taste of the classic Cuba Americana period.

We initially considered going on one of those tours, but since we had already seen a lot of the classic sights, decided to skip it for something with more of a local flavour.

That’s how we ended up driving around Centro Havana and Vedado in automotive engineering teacher/taxi driver/guide extraordinaire Salvador Márquez’s beautifully maintain Beetle car.

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

He showed us around the university (where he actually teaches!),  and the massive Colon Cemetry, took us to see the Ministerio del Interior and the Biblioteca José Marti and told us about his and his students’ (!!) favourite spots.

Needless to say, it ended up being one of my absolute favourite moments of our whole trip.

Unfortunately, Salvador doesn’t have a website but you can ask your hotel or casa to call him at (5-264-4756) to arrange a tour. 

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

Sip on Havana’s best mojito with a view at El Cocinero

Sharing a building with the Cuban Arts Factory, El Cocinero is the playing ground of choice for affluent young Cubans and expats, El Cochinero is one of Havana’s top spot to get the night started.

Whilst there is a formal restaurant, the real fun place is the roof top terrace. Bosting very industrial-chic vibes, a great tapas style menu and an extensive cocktail list.

As expected, tthe mojitos are brilliant and the view’s not too shabby either!

Calle 26 #57 e/11 y 13 Vedado

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

Visit the world-famous La Guarida

Famous for its movie-location setting in Fresa y Chocolate, La Guarida is one of the most sough-after restaurants in Havana.

As a result, booking ahead is the only way forward. Alternatively, a reduced menu is served at the rooftop bar. Not being very organised, that’s where we had dinner.

We made the most of the eclectic and modern menu – think spicy fish tacos, incredible jamon croquetas, morish desserts and creative cocktails!

418 Concordia, Centro Habana

Best of Havana ● Itineraries for every budget in Cuba's capital ● Cake + Whisky

More travel inspiration

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

8 things to do in Paris – for first timers & seasoned travelers

Dublin mini-guide

5 tips to plan a city break

Best of Havana – Save & Splurge itineraries

Oh the places we’ll go!

2017 was a pretty fantastic year when it came to travelling the world.

I ate all the potatoes, drank all the whisky, had the best meal of the year and all-in-all fell in love with Dublin in March. I finally visited Munich in April, then got early Spring sunburns and survived on just ice cream in Brighton. I ate all the tapas in Barcelona with my parents in May. I treated my boyfriend to a weekend in Paris for his birthday in August. Last but not least, I made the most of November sun (and incredibly cheap rum) in Cuba before heading home to France for Christmas.

My 2018 travel plans ● #travellinkup ● Cake + Whisky

Basically, I ticked (almost) all the boxes on my 2017 travel wish list.

I really hope 2018 will work out just as well…

Here’s what’s on the travel agenda / in the travel dream pipes so far.

York to visit my best friend

2017 was great on the travel front, but not quite so good in terms of exploring the UK itself. This is something we plan to rectify this time around, starting with a visit to my oldest friend’s new playing ground early this year.

I’m looking forward to wandering its history-ladden streets, taking too many pictures and my belly hurting from too much laughing.

My 2018 travel plans ● #travellinkup ● Cake + Whisky

The US on a reconnaissance mission

Our biggest trip of the year will be a research one. My Mr. is seriously considering applying to business school in the next few years, so this spring, we’ll be heading off to the US to visit campuses.

The plan so far includes New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco. Amongst other things, I’m excited to hit up the East Coast for the first time, as well as catching up with friends on both sides of the country and getting to re-visit Katz’s Deli.

Amsterdam with my sister

Last year, my sister turned 20. As a present, we treated her to a weekend trip to the city of her choice. She said Amsterdam, so that’s where we’ll be heading later this year.

I’m interested to give the Netherland’s capital a second chance and hope it’ll surprise and delight this time around!

My 2018 travel plans ● #travellinkup ● Cake + Whisky

France for my grandpa’s 80th birthday

The perfect chance to catch up with all the family I didn’t get a chance to see around Christmas!

Berlin to celebrate our birthdays

My Mr.’s and my birthdays are exactly one week apart, and his is always on the week of the August Bank Holiday, so it’s basically like the calendar wants us to go on a celebratory trip, isn’t it?

Lats year, it was Paris. We ate tones of croissants, caught up with friends, walked aimlessly and all-in-all did a whole lot of nothing and it was absolutely brilliant.

This year, it might be a touch more active as we explore Berlin for the very first time. The German capital has been on my travel wish forever and I can’t wait to finally get a chance to see all the places I learnt about in my uni classes in real life!

My 2018 travel plans ● #travellinkup ● Cake + Whisky

And that’s about it for now, though there’ll probably be a few other plans coming up as the year unfolds. Bring it on, 2018! May you be as travel-good as your predecessor!

What travel plans do you have for 2018? Will you be flying across the world or exploring places closer to home? 

This post is part of this month’s #travellinkup. Fancy sharing your 2018 travel plans? Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th January 2018) and add it to the link up widget found on Adventures of a London KiwiSilverSpoon London or Follow Your Sunshine from the 1st.

Oh the places we’ll go!

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

It’s been a week since we came back from our big trip to Cuba.

We had been planning this holiday for about 6 months, deciding on our itinerary, noting down things to do, places to see and dishes to eat.

In that time, we did our research. We read every guide book we could get our hands on and dozens of blog posts, we talked to friends and colleagues who’d visited, saved pictures on Pinterest, pinned everything down on an offline map…

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

And yet somehow, there was still so much about Cuba that surprised us.

As my friend Kristin put it when she was sharing her top Cuba tips ahead of our trip – no matter what you expect, it’s not quite what it’s going to be like, but it’ll be amazing regardless.

So here are a few things to keep in mind on your first trip to the Pearl of the Antilles.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

1. It does look just like the pictures

Seriously – everywhere in Cuba is just gorgeous.

From the pastel-coloured, half-crumbled streets of Havana, to the breath-taking landscapes of Vinales and the island’s white-sanded beaches, every single bit of Cuba is simply gorgeous.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

2. Everyone runs a business from their front room

Seriously – Cuban are so enterprising. They make the most of whatever situation they’re put into and whatever space they can get hold of.

There are people running restaurants in their living room (the paladares). People selling coffee / souvenirs on their door step or through their window. People running flower businesses from their building’s entry hall…

Most of those are regulated by the state, extremely good value for money and an incredible way to get a look into what Cuban life really looks like.

3. People will want to talk to you

Partly because they’re very aware that tourism is the best way for Cubans to make money, through network and referal fee systems.

But also because the locals are also incredibly curious and genuinely interested in you, where you come from, why you’ve decided to come to Cuba, what your travel plans are…

As a consequence, Cubans get quite offended if you ignore them when they greet you in the street. So don’t. Greet them back, indulge in a bit of chit-chat and if people try to sell you something, a simple ‘no gracias’ and a smile should be enough.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

4. Rum is (almost) as cheap as water

In most restaurants, you’ll actually pay the same price for a mojito or a bottle of water, which is completely INSANE.

And you know, amazing.

5. Health and safety isn’t really a thing

Most cars don’t have seat belts. A lot of staircases and tower-type buildings don’t have banisters. Emergency exits aren’t clearly maked…

And you know what? It’s okay. You’ll survive it.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

6. Eating a full casa breakfast is a challenge

If you’re travelling to Cuba on a budget, casa breakfasts (as in, the breakfast served by your casa hosts for a small fee) will be your new best friend.

Your typical breakfast will include a plate of fruit, toast with butter, eggs, a cheese and ham toastie, varied treats (potato or plantain fritters, French toast, pancakes, cheese with guava paste, cookies…), freshly squeezed juice and a lot of strong coffee.

It’s really quite the spread and it will definitely keep you full until well into the afternoon!

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

7. Cats & dogs are everywhere

A lot of them seem to be semi-stray (some even have an identification card attached to their collar) and most are absolutely adorable.

Over the course of our holiday, I stopped approximatevely 3241 time to pet cats in the street and have been tempted to take one home about as many times.

8. And so are old-school American cars

They come in every colour of the rainbow and absolutely no shock absorbing system.

A tour in one of the iconic, old-school American cars often comes up on the list of must-do activities in Cuba, but a lot also run as regular taxis or taxi collectivos if your budget doesn’t quite stretch that far.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

9. Unless you call your bank ahead of time, your card won’t work

Make your life easier – take a lot of cash with you (changing cash is quite easy).

Also make sure you call your bank ahead of time with your travel dates and ask them to lift security locks in case you need to withdraw more money.

It’ll save you a lot of time (and £30 phone calls) to get it all unlocked…

10. Internet isn’t really a thing

There is internet in Cuba, but you have to buy a top-up card (about 5CUC for 1h) and will only be able to access it from the very few wifi hotspots.

Most cities will only have one of those. But despite its scarcity, the wifi was surprisingly fast everywhere we used it, so you know, you win some, you loose some.

11. And neither is public transport

There are actually quite a lot of local buses – but they’re really just for the locals. As a tourist, you can use taxis, cyclotaxis or ‘mango taxis’ for short distances (my favourites!)

Trains however simply don’t exist, and neither do intra-island flights, which means your only options to go from city to city are Viazul buses or taxi collectivos.

Inbetween cities, we only used taxi collectivos. They can be arranged with your casa hosts, run a door-to-door service and are typically quicker and similarly priced as the bus service.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

12. Experiencing the real, local Cuba can be challenging

As explained above, Cubans are very aware of the importance of tourism to their economy. As a result, they will go above and beyond to ensure you make the most out your trip.

But they don’t really mingle with you – casa hosts are always happy to cook a feast for you, but they’ll eat separately. Taxi collectivo drivers are often happy to show you around a city but they’ll wait for you in the car while you take in the sights. Locals will happily recommend restaurants to you but will rarely eat there themselves.

Not to forget that Cubans use a whole different currency altogether and most places only accept one of the two currencies, making the divide very ‘official’.

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky 13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba ● Cake + Whisky

13. No matter what you expect from your first trip to Cuba, it’s not what you’ll get

Cuba will surprise you. The city- and landscapes will take your breath away. The native’s generosity and ingenuity will melt your heart. The music and the rum will never fail to put a big smile on your face.

No matter how much you prepare for your first trip to Cuba, you’ll never be quite ready but you will definitely have an amazing time!

13 things to expect on your first trip to Cuba

11 tips to pack light for every trip

A lifetime ago, I didn’t have the first clue how to pack light.

I was the kind of person who’d pack everything and the kitchen sink.

I was infamous for frequently bringing several pair of heeled shoes to school (TO SCHOOL!!) in case I’d suddently feel like wearing one of them. (hint: I never did. Not once.)

Thankfully, I’ve improved significantly since.

11 tips to pack light for every trip ● Travel Tips ● Cake + Whisky

So much in fact that I can’t remember when was the last time I traveled with anything other than a carry-on.

It didn’t come easy but I did it. With loads of work and concious effort, I taught myself how to pack light.

And so can you!

  • Make a list

    Packing in a hurry is never a good idea, so make sure you think ahead and compile a list of what you’d like to pack.

    Get everything clean, dry and layed out before you start putting stuff in your suitcase. That’ll help you avoid dead space and make sure it’s all organised in a convenient manner.

  • No ‘what ifs’ and ‘just in case’

    Repeat after me – (most of) the world is civilised and they have stores there. And 99% of the time, you’ll be able to purchase any and every emergency item you might need from one of the stores at your destination.

  • Versatility is key

    There are many ways I’m not the Frenchest of French people, but when it comes to clothes, I’m the absolute French stereotype. My wardrobe is all basics in black, grey and stripes. Unsurprisingly, the whole ‘pick a colour scheme and stick with it’ thing isn’t a really difficult one for me to stick with.

    Having helped a few other desperate souls to pack though*, I can confirm making sure most of your clothes work together is absolutely key to packing light and always have something to wear whilst on your trip.

*oh, how I wish I could pack other people’s suitcases for a living… #dreamjob

11 tips to pack light for every trip ● Travel Tips ● Cake + Whisky

  • How much to pack?

    It really depends on what sort of holiday you’re going on. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need a lot less if you’re on beach holiday than you will for a city trip and so on.

    And quite a lot less than you think altogether. Most of the time, 1 pair of underwear per day, 1 top per day +2 and one pair of trousers for 4 day is more than enough. And if it’s not, there’s this great thing called laundry…

    Oh, and pack a pashmina. There’s a reason why every single airline employee I know never go anywhere without one.

  • Cube it up!

    I know a lot of people put all their weight behind the rolling and stuffing method, but I’m more of a packing cube girl.

    I like how cubes help you save space AND keep things neat, tidy and unwrikled, which mean you’ll know exactly where to look whether you’re trying to locate your pyjamas, your charging cables or your bikini!

    Plus, the impressed nod from the airport security staff if they need to check your luggage is just priceless. #truestory

  • Careful with the shoes!

    Bulky, heavy and weirdly shaped, shoes are the #1 space waster when it comes to packing.Unfortunately, the only solution is to go by the age-old ‘less is more’ motto.

    One pair of flip-flop (always), one pair of comfortable but pretty day shoes (I’m a ballerina girl through and through) and one pair of trainers/heels and you’re good to go!

  • And the toiletry / beauty stuff!

    I’m the laziest person when it comes to beauty. The most I do is wash my hair, maybe put on some mascara and basta.

    Therefore, I must admit that the likes of hair dryers and straighteners/curlers never found their way in my bathroom, let alone my suitcase.

    Though, if it’s important to you, most hotels have hair dryers (you can call ahead to check if you so wish).

    When it comes to beauty bits, samples are your best friends. Their small size means they won’t exceed the cabin size limitation, and you can leave the empty bottles behind so you have more room available for souvenirs!

  • To towel or not to towel?

    Towels are bulky and annoying to pack.

    The good news is, if you’re not going camping or to the beach, you probably don’t need to pack one.

    But if you insist on taking your own anyway, make sure you get a fast-drying, super thin microfiber towel. You can thank me later.

11 tips to pack light for every trip ● Travel Tips ● Cake + Whisky

  • Invest in a good international travel adaptor

    By which I mean the kind with USB plugs so you don’t have to carry all the power supply things.

  •  Pack a backpack/tote IN your carry-on

    It’ll come in handy for your day-to-day adventures, be it to the beach, mountain climbing or getting lost in an urban jungle.

    And possibly even more so if all the beautiful souvenirs you found don’t quite fit in your teeny tiny luggage on the way back…

  • Learn from your mistakes

    Whether you forgot to pack something essential or you didn’t nail the right number of dresses to pack, make sure you make a -mental or physical- note of the things that didn’t quite work that time around.

    After all, learning how to pack light, much like Rome, can’t really be done in one trip!

More travel tips

How to find the perfect travel companion

My 5 top tips to plan a city break

Copenhagen 3-day itinerary

Paris for first-timers and seasoned travelers

11 tips to pack light for every trip