Havana on my mind! By our Cuba expert Amanda
I love to travel and have travelled fairly extensively throughout The Caribbean. I felt inspired to write a little about it.
If Cuba is on your bucket-list, then do it; you won’t regret it!
I worked as a tour leader taking groups to Cuba for ten years when I decided to move from London to Havana. My aim was to concentrate on studying the language and culture, when the enquiries from people wanting help and advice came in whilst they holidayed in this truly unique country. I have been a paid contributor for Trip Advisor, I ran a ‘casa particular’ (Private B&B),
tailor made itineraries and then in 2018, I started to work for a Travel Company, based in Havana putting together bespoke holidays for the discerning traveller, using my knowledge of the country I had fallen in love with.
Whilst it is difficult to even think about planning long haul travel at the moment with Covid-19 still in the picture, we will someday soon because ‘traffic lights’ and quarantine will be a thing of the past, so start planning NOW. The testament of how a country has dealt with this pandemic is proven by their results. We have to congratulate Cuba for its progress with their own vaccines and a large number of the population has already received 3 doses. Comparatively, Cuba for its size, still boasts relatively few fatalities and because of this, will once again become a favourite destination. Just watch this space.
All approximate prices mentioned are in USD as it is easier to convert into whichever currency you are using, but remember that Cuba has already changed their usable currency to Cuban Pesos (CUP), the rate of which is approximately 25 CUP to the $1 USD. Unfortunately Cuba is not accepting USD, so take cash, Euros, Pound Sterling or Canadian Dollars, but make sure you have a Bankcard (Visa/Mastercard/Debit), which is not issued by a US Bank, as some things can be purchased with a card. Be sure to investigate when you are due to travel as things can change quite suddenly.
Havana, the inside track
No trip to Cuba is complete without spending time in the fascinating capital city of Havana. There are lots of things to do from beach visits, classic car rides, day trips to the tobacco growing region of the Island, historical tours, architecture tours, dancing and music lessons and the list goes on! There is certainly no reason to be bored! There are fantastic museums, from art, dance, cars, cigars, rum and then of course there are the restaurants (more on that later).
I suggest doing an open top bus tour! If you can, do it on your first evening or day of arrival. It is a great way to orientate your-self around the City. It costs the equivalent of $10.00 USD and you can jump on and jump off, but remember it does not run when it is dark, so don’t get stranded with no-way to get back to base, unless of course you want to?
You could also take a Classic car, but that is considerably more expensive and at the cost of around the equivalent of $30-$35 USD per hour, you might want to do that another day, when you are not so tired?
I would definitely recommend a City Walking Tour with a guide who speaks your language. English, French, German, Italian are all available & some Russian Guides too. They are well worth it and I would recommend a private guide. It’s not much fun when you are with a large group and you have people being slow or asking questions that you know the answer to.
Museums are an absolute must! There are so many of them: just decide what interests you and make a plan. They range from History of the Revolution, dance, art (both International and Cuban), rum, cigars, Decorative Arts (furniture & jewellery), Hemingway or if you are interested there is even an excursion to visit a classic car restoration garage, but really the cars you will see in Havana are museum enough!
The Hotel Nacional de Cuba does a great morning tour that starts at 10.00am Monday to Friday. It is a national monument and the iconic landmark building that has plenty of history. It’s well worth it and costs the equivalent to $5.00 USD. Most of the Museums are closed on Mondays, so bare that in mind when planning and they can cost between $5 and $10 USD (or the equivalent to).
Restaurants are good places to go and hang out and also soak up some of the architecture, culture as well as sampling the famous cocktails and filling your stomach. I’d always recommend a trip to the famous Floridita, not to eat but for a daiquiri and to soak up the music. It was a famous haunt of Ernest Hemingway, whose famous novel ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, won him both a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Price for literature.
From being a country not renowned for its food, Cuba and especially Havana suddenly became a city of good quality and interestingly diverse, using wonderful, locally sourced, fresh ingredients.
Restaurants in Havana I would recommend are: La Guarida, La Catedral, O’Reily 304, El Cocinero, Vista Mar, San Cristobal, Cocina de Liliam and there are a few more I would recommend, but I just can’t list them all.
A mix of restaurant and club/night life and art that should NEVER be missed is the restaurant within Fabrica de Arte, where the food is good is ‘Tierra’. The art in Fabrica or FAC as it is known, is inspiring and thought provoking. The atmosphere is electric and you can do it all on the same night! This is the place to be and if you are dining, a reservation is a must! Fabrica is only open Thursday to Sunday. If you have no reservation to eat there, then prepare yourself by spending time in line, waiting to get it! Providing it is open and they are not re-doing the art installation (always check), there are art exhibitions, a dance class around 8.30pm, a dance performance, or a jazz or classical music recital, always live music in the club, and various spaces, including a terrace to hang-out. It’s fabulous for people watching!
Nightlife! It has it all from lovely restaurants that play live music, to full blown clubs for young, old, mixed, LGBT, jazz, salsa, tango, reggae, live music, recorded music. Havana pretty much has it all! They also have something called ‘a matinee’, which is usually a live music event that starts around 5pm and ends about 9pm. They are usually good fun, cost less and have a good mix of visitors and Cubans.
If you fancy a quieter night, you can always take a stroll or sit on the wall of the seafront (The Malecon), and watch the world go by! If you do it at the weekend, you won’t find it quiet; it is known as the Cuban Living Room! It is where they all hang-out. Especially the youngsters!
However many days you have in Havana, if you plan well, you can have an amazing, diverse and unforgettable experience.
We regularly post new tips and information about this captivating and intoxicating destination. Also you can see Amanda’s apartment rental in this link. If you would like to stay in this authentic and stylish Cuban Casa Particular (homestay or B&B), or a similar one, ask your Travel Designer to include it in your tailor made holiday to Cuba.
Top Selling trips to Cuba
Did you know we have visited Cuba many times? One of us has visited OVER 50 TIMES! We have travelled across the main landmarks but also off the beaten track.
Cuba is the ideal destination for a tailormade package because there is so much to choose from! It does not cost extra to personalise your trip, so call us and ask. We have so many recommendations!
Call our UK or USA numbers to speak with a Cuba expert: +44208 126 1000 or +1212 688 6588
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