Thinking about travelling to Cuba?
Here is my little guide to the places I visited.
My hints and tips. All the things I wish I knew before I went.
I hope you enjoy and if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
This is a big one – people don’t always speak English.
First and foremost this is a biggy. There are not many flights that go directly to Cuba. This may improve over time now the country is opening up.
However, that said – make sure you get the direct flight from London. We did the split going via Spain. Not only was it like stepping back in time on the plane (no personal screens) but it is a LONG flight. It may be more expensive but trust me it’s important.
You are not going anywhere quick.
Havana airport is renowned for being one of the slowest airports in the world. It is disorganised, chaotic and slow. You will be waiting for your bags a long time. If you are travelling with a tour operator they are well versed in this delay but if you are booking your own onward travel please keep this in mind. Bring a book – there is NO 3G and NO WIFI.
There are lots of taxis waiting and available from the airport. Don’t be scared to haggle the price. They know you have just landed. If you can get a classic car I would highly recommend.
This is up to you how you do this. Some things to consider… There is no beach in the city, the closest beach to Habana is about 20 minutes away, at Playa del Este. There are daily shuttles, I think for 3CUC/day.
With this in mind if you are a beach bae then I would try and book a hotel with a pool for the first couple of days to get over the jet lag before moving on to a casa.
I stayed at NH Capri La Habana
Nestled in the heart of downtown, rooftop pool, great views and in a cool area.
If you are staying in Havana for a while I would highly recommend you seek out a casa to stay in. Effectively these are B&B’s where the hosts generally look after you. They cook, clean, feed and water you. It’s an amazing way to immerse yourself in Cuban culture, meet Cubans and also help the community. This way you are helping the locals out.
Here are some great recommendations: Best Casas in Havana
What to wear?
I wore Adidas Superstar.Havana is a casual place but also a place you want to explore. The roads are cobbled, the streets full of life. You want a trainer that looks stylish yet is practical for allowing to you to get stuck in.
This is the perfect climate for shorts. The Cubans are lively and bold dressers so don’t be afraid to go with colour. It’s not widely conservative – so you can wear what you would wear at home. Females are warned though – be careful if alone – you will get attention. My American Apparel shorts were a godsend. Chic and comfy.
Short, long, flowy – anything goes. Play with colours and be vibrant. Its hot during the day but there is a cool wind at night so bring a light sweater or scarf.
Think hippy and creative. This town is full of colour and art. Be part of the creativity.
Bring bags with lots of pockets. This is still a foreign country and you are a tourist. There are a lot of opportunists in this world.
This is a cool, casual, artistic and vibrant part of the world. Like most Caribbean islands it’s full of life. In the evening for dinner its casual with a little elegance if you feel.
What to see?
Havana is a historical and political hotspot to explore.
Cuba Direct was our tour operator as we only had a limited time there. We had a bespoke private tour and saw the whole of Cuba from the comfort of an old American car. If you are short on time then a tour is the way forward otherwise have a look around when you get there.
Plaza de la Revolucion
El Cristo de La Habana
Places to Eat
Something you will work out quite early on is that when you buy food out – its well erm ok.
Their avocados though are off the fricking chain!
The best food you will have is cooked by Cubans in their Casa’s
Here is one of the restaurants I will recommend in Havana Old Town.
Good food – peaceful atmosphere – good price.
Watch the prices in Havana Old Town – they are expensive.
This is a must visit Havana’s Coppelia building is one of the largest ice cream parlours in the world. Holding 1000 guests, it is located on the part of Calle 23 known as La Rampa in the Vedado district.
Fidel Castro had it built to bring Ice Cream to Cuba but also rival the Americans in Ice Cream production.
Its a weird looking building but in a really cool area where loads of Cubans hang out so it’s nice to get away from the tourist humm that will drive you nuts in Old Town Havana
where the Coppelia is located in a cool area.
It has the big hotels that once were booming in the 50s and also the old Mafia hotel (you cannot miss it)
It is also the home to one of the best Jazz Clubs I have been too.
Head to the British Telephone Box and head down the stairs.
YOU HAVE TO EXPERIENCED CUBAN MUSIC!
Cuba is not a health hot spot in the world. A lot of the food is high carb, fried and meaty. It’s not the best place for vegetarians.
A lot of the cocktails have a spoonful of sugars added.
With this in mind think outside the box.
Havana Old Town is a nice walk away from most places – so opt for walking rather than cabs.
Try and top on veggies and fruit where possible.
You will often find vegetables come in a sauce – so in your best Spanish try and ask for them plain.
Swim, walk, run, and get active.
You don’t want to restrict your enjoyment but remember there is a Yin to every Yang – so balance it out.
Cuba is a wonderful place and will be ever changing now they are becoming open to the world.
Try and get there before it loses all its original value.
Words of warning
Do not buy cigars from anywhere other than state-run shops. You may think you’re getting a deal but you’re not they are fake and you do not know what is in them. You will meet sweet Cubans who have a friend, or know someone who can get them cheap, or will tell you about a national day where they are cheaper…unfortunately it is all lies. Sorry – but stick to the rules if you want cigars.
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