If you’re planning to visit Cuba any time soon, here some ideas to help prepare you for your trip and to offer some travel inspiration for whole family. We found these apps and books a great way to get excited about our trip and we’ve since discovered a number of excellent movies and music that will get you in the Cuba mood!
Cuba Inspiration: Best Apps
In a country with limited access to the internet, Cuba can be a challenge to navigate. The following apps are designed for offline use and to make your trip that much easier. Remember to download them before your departure date!
An road atlas map (think offline google maps) which can be used without an internet connection. Especially handy if you are renting a car and driving yourself. We tested this out in Cuba and it worked really well for us.
Download the app on Maps.me website
Cuba Junky ($4.99)
This app provides information on hundreds of casas particulares that rent rooms, suites or apartments. The directory includes photos and contact details (telephone numbers, email addresses, Facebook pages and website links, where applicable) so users can book directly. The app is also designed for offline use.
Casa owners pay no commission to Cuba Junky, nor do they pay to have their casa listed. The app costs USD $5, which is what third parties usually charge as a booking fee per casa per night.
A friend of mine recently used this app when she travelled around Cuba with her kids and loved it! Unfortunately I only discovered her tip after I had booked our accommodation and was not able to test it out personally.
The app is made by Cuba Junky (a handy online guide to Cuba – see useful websites below).
Download the app on Cuba Junky’s website
Cuba Inspiration: Best Books
Books For You
Books For the Kids
Books for 5-8 year olds (Grade Level Preschool – Grade 2)
Books for 7-9 year olds (Grade Level 2-4)
Books for 9-12 years (Grade Level 4-7)
Recommended for 12+ years (Grade Level 7+)
Cuba Inspiration: Best Movies
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (2016)
Having visited ‘Finca Vigia’, Ernest Hemingway’s home in Havana (now a museum) I was really excited to hear about this movie released earlier this year. Based on a true story about a young journalist who befriends Hemingway at a time of Castro’s uprising, it is the first Hollywood film to shoot on location in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.
But, it’s probably worth watching if you are planning on visiting Finca Vigia. As The New York Times noted, “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba is more artifact than art …. It bristles with authentic detail, down to the very typewriter Hemingway used.”. Basically the actors get to play with all the ‘props’ that visitors long to reach out for and examine themselves, like the famous typewriter!
Rated R: Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for profanity, violence and brief nudity.
Strawberry & Chocolate / Fresa y Chocolate (1994)
One of our favourite restaurants in Havana was La Guarida. This magnificant yet crumbling paladar was used as a location in this Oscar-nominated Cuban film. The story is about a blossoming friendship between two men – one gay individualist and one straight communist – and how they come to love each other.
Rated R: Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) for brief strong sexuality, and for language
Our Man in Havana (1959)
Based on the Graham Greene novel (see above) and shot on location in Cuba, Alec Guinness plays Jim Wormold, an British vacuum cleaner salesman in pre-revoluntionary Havana who agrees to recruit a network of agents for MI6. Wormold fabricates a list of agents and provides fictional tales to please his superiors in London. Not surprisingly, things start getting out of hand with comical consequences.
Rating: UK: A (original rating) / UK:PG (re-rating) (2005)
Buena Vista Social Club: The Documentary (1999)
In 1997 American musician, Ry Cooder, brought together a group of legendary Cuban musicians to record an album together (see Cuban Music below). This Oscar-nominated documentary follows Cooder’s journey as he finds the ‘lost’ music of pre-revoluntionary Havana. In addition to the extraordinary music, the film also offers an insight into the musicians’ lives pre and post Castro through interviews.
Rating UK:U (Universal) / USA:G (General Audiences. All ages admitted).
Cuba Inspiration: Best Music
Buena Vista Social Club: The Album
Buena Vista Social Club: This Grammy award winning album is the end product of Ry Cooder’s mission to showcase Cuba’s finest musicians. (see documentary above).
Benny Moré: One of Cuba’s most highly regarded musicians, Benny Moré is to Cuba what Frank Sinatra was, and is, to America. Moré also formed and led the Banda Gigante, one of the leading Cuban big bands of the 1950s, until his death in 1963.
Cafe Cuba: A medley of Cuban classics.
Useful Websites for Cuba
Cuba Junky: Travel Information and Reviews specific to Cuba
La Habana: A guide to Cuban arts & culture, travel and national heritage. Includes reviews and insightful articles.
Here is Havana: An amusing blog written by an American journalist in Havana
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