Havana

The capital of Cuba is incredibly diverse and varied. The beautiful buildings appear to be unaffected by the strong gasses from the thousands of vintage cars driving through Havana. Everywhere it is possible for a spontaneous party to break loose and alcohol is never far away. Especially old Havana is very popular among tourists, but also try to visit some other districts. Communism can be found everywhere. In the museums, the leaflets along the roads or in the very different attitudes of workers across the country. Seeing Cuba without spending a couple of days in Havana is just not right!

The malécon of Havana.

The malécon of Havana.

  Average costs

Stay – As you could read in the article about Cuba, you have two possibilities when searching for accommodation.
First of all, there are the more expensive state hotels in Havana. The other option is the casa particularis which is ran by the locals.
A state hotel (or government hotel) can be found in different categories. Three, four or five stars.
Three is of course the cheapest and starts at about 30 to 40 CUC per night. Four star starts at about 50 to 80 CUC and five stars are generally 100 CUC or more expensive.
These hotels can usually be booked in advance using internet.

At a casa you have this possibility much less.

Through Airbnb and certain other websites it may now be easier, but if you know that in Havana there are perhaps tens of thousands of casas, then you know that you only are offered a handful online.

Havana is, to my knowledge, the only city in Cuba that has hostels. For my hostel (I booked through Hostelworld.com) I paid 5 CUC per night. A breakfast cost me 1 CUC extra.
You can get separate rooms for as little as 15 CUC. Something more luxurious costs between 25 and 30 CUC.

Food – Eating out in Havana does not have to be expensive. As long as you avoid the tourist areas a bit, you can have a lovely meal and a drink for less than 1 CUC per person.
In Habana Vieja (Old Havana) it all costs a bit more. Prices start from 6 CUC for a meal. A soft drink will cost you 1 CUC, an alcoholic cocktail between two and three CUC.
In the tourist area, 10% gets charged automatically as gratuity.

Transportation – Public transportation is very cheap in Havana, but definitely not comfortable. A single ticket costs you one local pesos (+/- four cents).

They are especially handy if you are staying a bit out off the tourist center or if you also would like to explore other neighborhoods in Havana.
When taking a public bus, you probably will need to stand and prepare for a very long ride.

Taxis are everywhere. However, these are often very expensive. For a short distance of five kilometers you pay between eight and ten CUC.
From the airport to the center you will pay between fifteen and twenty-five CUC per person.

If you’d like to travel to another city, I recommend taking the Viazul buses. These very comfortable buses travel to all the major cities and are much more comfortable than taxi collectivos.

The collectivos pick you up at your accommodation and drop you off at your next residence, which is also nice. The prices are usually similar.

View over the skyline of Old Havana.

View over the skyline of Old Havana.

 Saving money

Eat outside the tourist center – You can save the most of your money by searching for some cheap restaurants, mostly found a little outside the tourist center of Havana.
A meal in the cheaper restaurants would not have to cost more than 1 or 2 CUC per person, drinks included.

Stay in casas – All of the hotels are run by the state and perhaps are a little more luxurious, but casa’s are so much more interesting and cheaper.

By staying in a casa particular you get in touch with the locals. They give you a lot of tips and ideas and make you feel right at home. Moreover, there are also some quite luxurious casa’s which don’t cost that much and offer lots of services too.

Don’t buy too many souvenirs – At least, if you still travel to some other cities in Cuba. I noticed that cigars and Cuban rum generally are a lot more expensive in Havana, Cuba.

Avoid Internet in hotels – Since there is really only internet for tourists, hotels charge very high prices. For fifteen minutes they charge four CUC. For one hour 10 CUC.
Instead, try to search for the ETECSA WiFi hotspots. You can find these at a couple of locations in the old part of Havana and a ticket for half an hour will cost you only one CUC.

Exchanging a few CUC’s into CUP’s – Locals often charge much more in CUC than in CUP. So try to swap a few CUC’s for CUP’s.
CUP’s you can then use to purchase fruit and sandwiches.
One CUC equals 25 CUP and and average bread roll costs you only one CUP.

There are lots of oldtimers driving around Havana!

There are lots of oldtimers driving around Havana!

  Do’s

Habana Vieja – The old part of Havana may be very touristy, it is also the most beautiful part of Havana. Here you will find the most beautiful buildings and the best atmosphere.

Places you should definitely go see include:

The Plaza Vieja, the old square, a central square with many nice restaurants and cafes around.
On the corner you will also find the entrance to the Camera Obscura. For two CUC you can go up this building and get a great view over the square and the city. There is also a presentation of about five minutes that lets you spy on the town with the help of Leonardo Da Vinci’s camera obscura.
The plaza de la Catedral is another great sights with the very beautiful cathedral. I recommend to take a look inside!
A few hours would normally suffice to fully see the old town.

Ride in an old-timer – If you take a taxi in Cuba it is likely that you end up in an old-timer. Yet a ride in an old-timer convertible is even a little more fun. This brightly colored Chevrolets and other brands are usually parked near the Capitol.
The drivers take you for a one hour ride and do some sightseeing to the most well known sights of Havana.

Malecon – Every Caribbean nation has its own Malecon, but personally I liked it the most in Cuba.
The Malecon is an embankment and gives you a magnificent view over the beautiful, clear waters of Cuba. Very often there are also several dozen fishermen or you see some kids swimming in the water. Along the busy roads you’ll definitely see some beautiful cars too.
At the end of the Malecon you can see the Fortalezza del Morro.

Plaza de Revolucion – For me this was the most communist view in Havana. This large concrete plaza just breathes communism.
The two towers have two prominent figures showcased on them and opposite of these stands a giant pillar (Jose Marti monument) surrounded by a couple of Cuban flags.

Playa de este – Anyone who wants a beach experience in Havana should take the taxi to the Playa de este.

The playa de este is located approximately fifteen to twenty kilometers away from the city center. You will find many locals here and you can enjoy delicious mojitos while sunbathing on this beautiful beach.

Museo Hemingway – Hemingway spent a long time of his life in Cuba. Thus there are many places that could call Hemingway a regular guest.
Just outside the center, the Hemingway museum can be found. His former house. Hemingway lived here for a long time and wrote his famous works “Old man and the sea” and “For whom the bell tolls.”

You can not walk around in in the house, but you can still spy through the broad windows and doors.

Drinking mojito’s – The best places to drink a mojito in Cuba, of course, you will find in Havana. You can find them almost anywhere, but of course some are better than others … Famous bars for a delicious cocktail include La Bodeguita del Medio and Floridita Dos Hermanos.

Museo de La Revolucion in Havana. Not very impressive...

Museo de La Revolucion in Havana. Not very impressive…

 Don’ts

Visiting too many museums – I admit that I do not like museums, but here I really thought the expensive admission price wasn’t worth it at all.
In most museums you will just find a lot of photos from the past, with a short caption where the communist message clearly comes through.

Being annoyed because of their attitude – Cubans are very relaxed. It will be hard to find a place where the service is quite good. In most places you’ll have to wait for a very long time. This all, of course, has to do with communism.
Regardless of how they work, they get their pay and benefits anyway. Everyone is treated exactly the same way.

Going out alone at night – Walking alone in the tourist center should not be a problem, but some suburbs can be dangerous to walk through as it starts to get dark. Physical violence is rare in Cuba, but you regularly hear stories about tourists that have been robbed.

Drink tap water – Buy a couple of bottles or use purification tablets when drinking tap water. We are accustomed to clean water, but they do not use purification plants in Cuba.

Colorful buildings in Havana, not far from the capitol.

Colorful buildings in Havana, not far from the capitol.

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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