What is there to do In Havana?
Old Havana- is the city-center and in known for its history and the amazing architecture.
Tropicana show- is a cabaret club. The dinner/show is 60CUC per person but it is so crazy over the top. You’ll see how much Cuba is stuck in the 50s.
El Capitolio- is the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba.
Morro Castle- s a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay.
La Cabaña- is an 18th-century fortress complex, the third-largest in the Americas, located on the elevated eastern side of the harbor entrance
Castillo de la Real Fuerza-is a star fort on the western side of the harbor.
Quinta de los Molinos-Historical former residence of General Máximo Gómez & gardens featuring many plant species.
Museum of the City- is a local history museum.
Beaches- If your coming to Cuba for those clean white sandy beach with clear waters you won't find them in Havana. For the best beaches you have to travel to Varadero. For the distance and cost to get to Varadero scroll down to how to get around Havana. Here a few close beaches in Havana if you can't make it to Varadero. Santa María del Mar, Playa Guanabo, & Playa Boca Ciega.
Vintage car ride- The best way to take a tour of Havana is a Vintage car. The price for a tour is normally around 20-30 CUC an hour for up to four people. There are Taxi drivers that even charge you up to 50 CUC so make sure you negotiate before taking off! You'll find these vintage cars on every corner.
Plaza de la Revolución- Is where you'll find the face of the revolutionist Che Guevara on the side of the building.
Scuba diving- The nearest place for diving are the east beaches, close to Varadero but worth the drive once you get there!
Cuevas de Bellamar- These are caves filled with amazing stalactite & stalagmite formations with super clear turquoise water. These caves are located in Matanza and it is about an hour & 30 minutes away and only about a 10 mintune drive from Varadero.
Does Cuba require a visa(ETA)?
YES! You WILL NEED obtain a visa for entry in Cuba. You can get your Visa online before you leave to Cuba, but I’m not actually sure how you can apply for one. I tried to purchase a visa before Cuba but never found an official government website I trusted. Plus its about the same price as the airport.
At the airport before you leave to Cuba you will need to purchase a Visa for $75. You can pay cash or credit. All airlines will vary what you pay for your Visa($50-75)... we flew with United Airlines. I recommending buying this Visa on a credit card because in Cuba you'll need all the cash you can get since you won’t be able to use you visa cards in cuba! For more information on how to obtain your visa, check out one of my lastest post for traveling to Cuba!
Where to stay in Havana?
Personal anywhere you stay in the city of Havana is accessible to the old Havana and either in walking distance or a 7 minute drive. Most neighborhoods in Havana are normally safe for tourist to stay in. After all most tourist stay in Airbnbs for their stay in Cuba. If your an American staying in an Airbnb supports local business so I'd advise you to stay in one if your afraid to be asked why you are traveling to Cuba as an American.
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Miramar- Has most hip clubs and an abundance of nightlife.
Vedado- Is more down to earth, mainly street oriented nightlife with bars and cafés filled with many tourists. If you prefer to be close to the cultural heart of the modern capital Vedado is the place to stay.
Central Havana- Doesn't have that much, but has the advantage of being located between Miramar and Vedado.
Old Havana- If you want local vibes and want to be close to culture and history stay in Old Havana. Your also find any bars and restaurants in Old Havana.
Where I stayed?
We stayed in an Airbnb with our lovely host Maria. The stay was very personal and the greatest local experience. I felt as if we stayed with family in Cuba. She welcomed us with welcome drinks and as offered to set up transfers to and from the airport. Maria also speaks perfect English so there was never a communication barrier talking to her. She will tell you everything you need to know about her country and give the reassurance you need to know that Cuba is as safe as she says. Need tips for restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife? Maria has that covered for you! She even set up a day trip for us to Varadero!
Our home stayed room is cut off from hers thats is spacious and clean. In our room we had a lockable door to keep all our precious items locked away. Maria has an AC & TV which is not always common in homes in Cuba. A refrigerator is stocked with bottles of water, soda, and beers. It's a pay-as-you-go system which you settle up at the end. Maria offers a delicious breakfast in the morning for a small fee! When I say delicious, I mean delicious!!! There nothing like waking up to a home cooked breakfast meal and fresh fruits. Her house is located in a quite neighborhood thats accessible to a park with wifi and restaurants. The views from her place were also breath taking and relaxing. We were extremely grateful for Marias help and accommodations. We are happy we chose to stay with her. If we ever visit Cuba in the near future, we know where home is.
Want to check out Maria's home on Airbnb? Check in out through this link!
Never tried AirBnB before? You can get $40 off your stay through my link.
What language is spoken in Havana?
The official language spoken in Cuba is Spanish.
Before I explain the Cuban currency to you UNDERSTAND this MAJOR TIP i'm about to give you when traveling to Cuba!
Credit & debit cards issued by American banks still don’t work in Cuba! This means you cannot rely on your visa cards to get you throughout Cuba. You have to bring cash for your whole stay. The rule of thumb is to bring $100 per day in Cuba. We were in Cuba for 4 days and brought 600$ just to be safe & any extra activities we wanted to participate in. At the end of our stay, we left with extra spending money because of how cheap Cuba is for tourist but its always a good feeling to know you won't run out of money during your stay.
There are 2 currencies that circulate in Cuba: Cuban convertible peso & Cuban peso.
They both look similar, but are valued VERY differently. Just so you have an idea 1CUC= 27 CUP, and to make it even more clear a typical salary for a cuban is 40 CUP a month. So tipping 1 CUC is essentially overtipping.
The Cuban Peso aka CUP or "moneda national" is something you should rarely touch because the CUP has no value to you and won't be able to change your money back into your home currency at the end of your stay. *Always be aware of what money is given back to you when you are purchasing and receiving money back.*
The Cuban Convertible Peso or The CUC (Tourist currency) is the only money you'll be using for your stay in Cuba.
The only places you'll be able to exchange your money is in a major hotel or the airport!
TIPS FOR AMERICAN TRAVELERS for exchanging USD to CUC. Not only do Visas not work in Cuba but for American USD you will be charged an extra 10% commission to change your money once you arrive in Cuba. The reasoning behide this is because American money has no value in Cuba. If you want to avoid being charged an extra 10% commission rate on top of the normal exchange rate, Americans can change their USD before leaving the airport to Euros or Canadian Dollars.
If you forget to change your USD into another currency, don't worry you'll be able to change your money to CUC. You just run the risk of a hotel not having the amount of money you need exchange or running back to the airport to change your money.
How to get to your destination from the airport?
Taxi- Taxis are line up outside of the airport always ready to take you the the center city of Havana. The most you should EVER be charged for a ride is 25 CUC. Do not let the drivers swindle you into paying more because it does happen! Its only about a 20-30 minutes drive to the center city.
Bus- Local buses are located directly outside the airport. We didn't take the bus to or from the airport but I believe the bus is 1 national peso (CUP). The buses can get pretty crowded but it is an alternate way for traveling on a budget. Public transportation does take a bit more time getting to your destination and is about 45 to 60 minutes on the bus to Havana.
How to get around Havana?
Shared Taxi- You can catch a shared cars from all main Avenues, that you wave down share the ride with all local Cubans. Don’t ask how much, just give 1-3 CUP, that’s the rate from one point to another, regardless of the distance.
Private taxi- Are bit pricier and can charge between 5 to 20 CUP, that is negotiable.
Vintage Car ride- The best way to take a tour of Havana is a Vintage car. The price for a tour is normally around 20-30 CUC an hour for up to four people. There are Taxi drivers that even charge you up to 50 CUC so make sure you negate before taking off!
Bus- The bus runs everywhere throughout Havana and is 1 national peso (CUP).
TIP: If your planning on going to the closest beach in Havana, taxis can charge you up to 50 CUP each way.
If you want to go to Varadero, lots of people take day trips. It is 140 kms to get there and two hour ride one way. The the best way to take a day trip to Varadero is to ask your Airbnb host/Hotel to set you up with a full day taxi driver. Your driver will drive you anywhere you want to go, charging you up to 130 CUP for the day.
When to travel to Havana?
Havana is an ideal vacation spot all year around but the best times to visit is December to May.
These months are normally dry with sunny days and of blue skies.
Most tourist avoided traveling between August and October due to high risk of hurricanes.
Where to eat in Havana?
Paladar Dona Carmela -Beyoncé and Jay Z dined here and the menu focuses on traditional Cuban dishes like roast pork.
La Guarida- This restaurant has incredible city views, that serve a unique menu. La Guarida can be a little more pricey but like I said its worth seeing the views! Maybe hold off on the food and just grab a drink if your traveling on a budget.
Casa 1830- This restaurant has multiple dining rooms both indoor and outdoor serving a 3 course menu. If you want to dance salsa, Case 1830 is the place to learn and dance freely as you eat.
Fabrica- Is a permanent art fair with multiple types of club venues and food in an old factory. Definitely recommend taking a stroll through this amazing art fair. Its also an event for all ages!
Sal Cristobal Paladar- is where Obama ate while in Cuba so its a pretty popular spot, and lots of celebrities have stopped there.
La Fontana Havana- Dine here for more traditional eats and known for their drinks & live jazz music!
Le Chansonnier- This restaurant that once was a home is now made into a gorgeous restaurant that serves delicious traditional food serves here! You won't be disappointed!
La Torre- This restaurant is a little more on the fancy side of things but you'll be dining over looking the city of Havana.
Restaurante Razones Y Motivos-One of my favorite traditional Cuban restaurants to dine in. The food and drinks here are extremely affordable for tourist(Americans) like myself.
Paladar La Familia- This rooftop restaurant is a bit over priced but has decent local food. The only thing I really enjoyed at this restaurant was the live band and chill vibes.
El Aljibe- You'll find some of the best roasted chicken if you dine here and the food is decently priced.
Los Nardos- If your looking for a romantic night out, dine at Los Nardos. Food portions are very big and delicious.
Al Carbon- The food here is delicious here but bit pricy and fancy.
El Del Frente- Is a modern rooftop restaurant with some of the best mojitos with different flavors. The food is also very good thats decently priced. If your planning to have a night out in Havana, this is a great place to pregame with a young hipster crowd.
Sloppy Joe's Bar- One of the most famous bars in the world with some of the best drinks and atmosphere.
La Bodegutia del Medio- Is known for some of the best mojitos in town. I do agree La Bodegutia del Medio makes strong rum mojitos but very overpriced. I felt as if you could get the same quality mojito anywhere in Havana for less. We didn't dine here but they do serve delicious food here. When the night approaches a live band comes out signing beautiful music. This was actually one of the reasons we spent some time in this bar for the live music and the crowd. If it wasn't for that we wouldn't have been willing to spend our money on the over priced drinks. Don't forget to bring a sharpie marker so you could leave a message on the written walls from messages all over the world!
(Receiving my drone that was confiscated)
Things you should know when traveling to Havana?
If your worried about traveling to Cuba as an American check out one of my lastest post traveling to Cuba!
Cubans are very strict on what you bring in and out of Cuba. At the airport my drone was taken away because apparently I didn’t do my research very well and I my drone was confiscated. I received it back before I got back on the plane to New York but it mad me feel so uncomfortable to leave my expensive electric drone in a foreign airport! I also got my tweezers and small scissors taken away in my carry on bag which i've travel to many countries in my bag before and never got it confiscated.
WIFI is EXTREMELY limited in Cuba. They have “WIFI areas/parks” where you go and purchase a time card for 1CUC to get a username and password for 30min, 1hr, 5hrs, & etc. Wifi is illegal in the household so you won't find any homestay with wifi unless their doing it illegal. If your in dire need to be on WIFI 24/7 you should stay in a major hotel that would have WIFI when you need it.
If you buy Art make the artist give you a stamp or a certificate of authenticity because they will charge you 3CUC or so at the airport on the way back if you don’t.
Easy on the go snacks are limited or non existent. Cubans don't typically spend money on candy even if the come across it. Bring chocolates/candies to give to the kids in the street or as a thank you to your driver, or homestay. We brought many items and chocolates to give away to the Cubans and they very grateful to receive the gifts we handed out. If you could bring ferrero rochers, they go crazy!
Be careful who you speak to about politics/communism/Fidel there are people that genuinely are for the revolution and praise the man. Also no one will speak openly because everyone is watching their back.
Habana is the same word as Havana. In Cuba there is no "V" sound in the alphabet.
Is Havana kid friendly? Things to do with kids?
Havana Cuba is safe for all tourist traveling here. Cubans accept you as you are and don't care about your nationality, even if your American! The actually wish more Americans would travel here! Every Cuban we met here were friendly and warm hearted. Cuba is perfect for kids and will love the bright colors and vintage car rides! I can't forget to mention the live music the kids will love to dance to in the streets!
Take a horse drawn carriage ride through Havana Vieja.
Take a ride in an American vintage car ride.
Have Havana’s most famous ice cream at Coppelia’s.
Go to the Beach for some fun in the sun.
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; But often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see that one has been open for us."