We were dreaming about going to Cuba for a long time now and this year it finally happened. We found acceptable flights via Paris and we didn’t think twice before booking the tickets. I mean, how could you say no to a Cuban adventure?
Our flight was delayed and we arrived quite late in Havana but the security check was faster than we expected and our pre-booked taxi waited for us and showed us where to exchange money so we don’t spend time looking around for it. We had both pounds and euros with us but we found the rate to be better for pounds. If you have US dollars, bare in mind there will be a 10% exchange fee.
Although our trip was months away, we just booked our accommodation for two nights in Havana via Airbnb and the airport pick up. For the rest, we decided to wing it. If you wonder if it’s possible to do so in Cuba then the answer is yes but if you prefer to sleep better at night, we suggest you pre-book your vacation, especially during the peak season.
Things to visit:
When visiting a new place we like to allocate some time to wonder around without a certain destination. This was the case in Havana as well, we started from our accommodation towards El Malecón, Havana Vieja and then continue our way on the streets turning right or left depending on what was there to see. At the end of the day we walked more than 25 kilometers on Havana’s streets.
At that time, we didn’t knew this is a castle but we decided to walk towards it and see it close by. The castle was designed by an Italian engineer to act as a fortress and defend the entrance to Havana bay. El Morro sits prominently on a hill and can be seen from almost everywhere in Havana Vieja. For photographers, this is a perfect spot for photos, especially when the sun shines on to the building.
On our way to the castle we were surprised by the high number of colourful vintage cars passing by us on the street, mostly full of tourists who decided to take a ride along El Malecón.
El Capitolio is now home to the Academy of Science but formerly, until the Revolution it was the seat of Cuban Congress. The building itself is impressive with the stone cupola measuring 62 meters but unfortunately the site was under construction at that point and you could see the scaffolding from every angle.
Wandering around the streets in Havana Vieja is the best thing you could do if you have some time to spare, admiring the colours, architecture and the occasional Che drawing.
Although in most of the places, the price for a cocktail or a beer is the same as the one for a bottle of water, at la Floridita you will pay around 6-7 CUC for one cocktail. It might seem a bit expensive but it’s worth drinking at least one cocktail, snap a picture of Ernest Hemingway’s statue and enjoy the live Cuban music.
Next to la Floridita is a tobacco and rum store which we recommend if you want to buy some cigars or bottles of rum. The cigar prices differ from size and brand. We are not smokers but because we were in Cuba we had to try it so we got one cigar each for the night.
Regarding the cigars, bare in mind that people might stop you on the street and take you to a shady room for buying cigars at a special price “only” on that special day – they will refer to it as Co-Operativa. A real cigar box should be sealed with a government stamp and the label is translated to 3 languages.
Havana Central is the main train station in Havana and it is considered a National Monument for its architecture, although there aren’t that many trains running out of Havana.
Romania was a communism country as well but we were both born after the revolution so the only communism we know is from the stories told by our families. It was interesting to see how people are still queuing for their rations to different stores. Most of the stores don’t even have a sign outside, so as a traveler you won’t see them unless people are queuing.
The Cuban people are really friendly, they will stop you on the street asking from where you are, when you arrived and they will give some recommendations for places to eat or visit. One of them even mentioned to us that “the only dangerous thing in Cuba is not knowing how to dance salsa but there’s nothing that rum cannot fix”.
If you liked this article, there is a chance you will like our Viñales post as well. Read more about things to visit, places to eat and drink in our Viñales travel guide.
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