My Solo Trip to Havana, Cuba

Traveling alone has its pro and its cons. The benefit of traveling alone is enjoying your travel destination without the distractions and schedules of others. Solo travel is freeing and it allows you build confidence and learn more about yourself. Traveling alone has its challenges however. With no one to share the costs of room and board, the price tag of a solo getaway is enough to scare any traveler. Safety is also a concern. It is often said that there are strength in numbers, and when you travel alone, you must be hyper aware of your surroundings.

In December 2017, I let my hair down and went on my first solo trip to Havana, Cuba. It was a last minute trip and I didn’t want the stress of booking a flight, finding a hotel room, and navigating the rules of visiting Cuba- so I chose a 4 day cruise with Norwegian Cruise line (Norwegian Sky).  The biggest perk about cruising is it’s all-inclusive packages. Alcohol, entertainment, and food were included with the price. Plus, the cruise line had a variety of excursions, which made exploring the vibrant city fast, simple, and safe. While in Havana, I took a 3 hour guided tour. The cost was around $150 and I saw the major points of interests like the Christopher Columbus Cemetery and Plaza De La Revolucion. We even stopped and took pictures inside the 1950’s classic cars Havana is known for.  The next day, I took a hop on hop off bus tour and explored the city on my own. The natives were friendly and everyone that I ran into spoke English. Looking back, I wish I’d gone to the Tropicana Club to experience the cabaret, but at $300, I figured I could watch the Vegas Style review on YouTube for free.

I often wondered if I would get bored or lonely. The truth is, I did get bored on the last day and I was ready to get back to my comfortable routine and the familiar feeling on my own home. I also wished that my mom could have experienced this vacation with me. On the other hand, there were plenty of things to do on the ship to occupy my time. I watched movies in the cruise’s movie theater and watched the entertainment staff cover songs from the 80’s. I got a manicure and pedicure at the spa and watched people “try” to dance. Soon, my fellow cruisers noticed that I was traveling alone and insisted that I join their group of fun. Sometimes I joined them and sometimes I pretended that my book was too good to put down.

If I were to give advice to anyone who would like to experience the empowering feeling of solo travel, I would suggest three things: 1) Plan in ahead. Research different excursions and have something planned every day. This will get you out of your room and will force you to make memories. Having to make every decision about where to go, what to eat, and where to stay can get overwhelming, but I recommend planning your trip in advance. 2) Always have a backup. Carry a portable battery charger just in your phone dies and you can’t get to an electrical outlet to charge your phone. Write important phone numbers, pin numbers, and addresses down just in case your phone dies or you drop it in the ocean (that happened to me at Norwegian’s private island). Always carry cash as a backup. You may find yourself somewhere and they don’t accept debit/credit cards. 3) Study your surroundings. Download bus routes and city maps and read them carefully them before you travel. Get out and walk around. Memorize street names and look for buildings that stand out. Are you near a McDonald’s? A gas station? A well-known hotel? I recommend “a hop on hop off” bus tour. This is an open air, double-decker bus with a tour guide. The cost is about $40 for 2 days. With this guided tour, you can visually learn the city and it doubles as a taxi.  When you learn your way around town, it gives you the confidence and independence you need to stay safe.

Bonus tip: Have fun, stay open, and remember, “all who wander are not lost.”

By: Ebony Cobb