Travel Guide to Havana Cuba

Havana Travel Guide

Travel Guide to Havana CubaHavana is the top city to visit in Cuba every year. It is a city of music, nightlife, old houses and American cars, and cigars. There are fantastic places to eat and nightlife can’t be beat.

Havana

Havana

Where to Stay

Cuba is only off limits (partially) to Americans but they still have a lot of tourism despite what many Americans might believe. There are resorts and hotels in Havana you would find in any other Caribbean destination but be sure to avoid those. They are expensive and you miss out on the charm of Havana.

Old Havana Hotels- The Hotels Not to Avoid

Hotel Inglaterra is one of the oldest and most classic hotels in Havana. It is located in Havana Vieja (Old Havana) right next to the Capital and Parque Central. It is a great starting point for exploring Havana on foot.

Classic Hotels in Old Havana

Classic Hotels in Old Havana

Rooms start at $50+ USD.

For a Full list of Classic hotels in Havana go here.

Where I Recommend

Stay in a Casa Particular for an authentic experience in Havana. The government allowed families to rent out rooms in their homes to tourists starting in 1997. Instead of walking by all of those beautiful homes you can actually sleep in one and it will cost you around 20-30 CUC/night (roughly $25-35 USD).

I stayed in Casa Habana Lourdes when I visited, They are ranked highly on tripadvisor and live within walking distance to everything in Old Havana. I was greeted by the owners and they treated me like family. Many casas will cook you breakfast for a small price or even free (which was my case). The rooms had air conditioning, nice bathrooms, and fans to keep you cool and comfortable.

My Casa Particular on Havana

My Casa Particular on Havana

Keep in mind internet is expensive and slow in Cuba and Wi-Fi is hard to come by except at nice hotels. So when you are emailing a casa owner they may take a few days to get back to you. The reservation system is 100% on your honor so be sure to email them if you need to cancel. Communication can be slow at times but it pays off when you arrive and meet your host family.

Note: My Casa Particular owners spoke to me 95% in Spanish. If that is a problem for you simply read the reviews and find out who speaks your language. I am not fluent but I had a lot of fun practicing my spanish with the family.

More Casa Particulars

If you are having trouble communicating with your casa owner try contacting Pototo. He is a guide in Havana and is helpful when it comes to arranging accommodation.

His site: pototocuba.com

And his email: info@pototocuba.com

What do Do

Things to do in Havana are endless. I spent hours each day exploring the city on foot. Here were some of my favorites.

The Malecon

The Americans began construction on this in 1901 on created this boulevard by the sea. It stretches 7 km along the historical areas of the city from Old Havana to Vedado. The buildings that line this stretch are beautifully painted and you can sit and enjoy the view as American classics cruise by in pristine condition.

Exploring Havana

Exploring Havana

Havana Vieja (Old Havana)

This is where I recommended to stay and for good reason. This is one of the most visited ares because of the colonial buildings and the countless historic sites. Here you can stop by the Malecon (as mentioned above), the Capitolio Nacional, Cigar factories, Cabana Military Park, Catedral de San Cristobal, and many more great sites. This is a great part of town to admire the cars they have kept alive and running for years. It is amazing how good they look after 50-60 years and with limited replacement parts.

Taxi drivers taking a break

Taxi drivers taking a break

Note: Be careful and on the lookout for Jineteros. They will try to hustle you be selling fake cigars or currency exchange scams. Like in any foreign city just ignore these guys and carry on with business. They will probably be overly friendly, ask you where you are from, and walk along side you for a while. Use common sense and if those cigar prices are too good to be true they are.

Museums of Havana

Havana is full of wonderful museums so pick a few that peak your interest and start exploring. I only had time to see the Museo de la Revolcion. The Museum of the Revolution is in a large old mansion which was where the Presidents of the Republic resided from 1920-1960. Now you will find everything there is related to the revolution inside.

Reviews are mixed but if you take the time to read and really learn something it will be worth your time.

Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba

Parque Central

This isn’t the highest rated park in Havana because that would be Old Square but the reason I loved this park is because it is in the middle of Old Havana. This is where you can see the classic cars driving by, taxi drivers waiting for their next customer, and simply sit down and people watch.

My favorite part about this square is listening in on the men who discuss(argue) baseball all day.

These guys aregue baseball all day in Havana

These guys aregue baseball all day in Havana

Here is a short video I took in the park:

If you have time I would go to a Cuban baseball game. They have some of the best players in the world and it would be a great experience. As you can see from the video they are very passionate about their national sport.

The Nightlife of Havana

The nightlife in Havana is unlike anywhere else in the world. Live music is king here and you will find it everywhere. Clubs don’t get started until 11 or 12am and they don’t close until the sun comes up.  There is really something for everyone including laid back bars in Old Havana to clubs that party into the night.

You will find a lot of salsa, hip hop, reggaeton, and even rock.

Here is the ultimate Havana nightlife map and a list of all of the venues.

Floridita

This establishment is famous because Ernest Hemingway used to hang out there. It certainly is touristy but you might as well stop in for at least one daiquiri and live like Hemingway for a little while.

My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita

-Hemingway

 

 El Floridita

El Floridita

The Currency in Cuba

Cuba has two currencies which are the Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and the Cuban Pesos (CUP). The CUP are only used by locals or at markets for the most part. You will only need to deal with the CUC.

You can exchange Euros, Canadian dollars, GBP, and USD, with no problems at the airport or bank in the city and at the major hotels. Do not exchange money on the street.

Americans can expect to lose 11% on the dollar with the 8% exchange rate difference and the 3% charge. The USD has the worst exchange rate but don’t let that stop you from bringing it because your credit cards will not work anywhere.

Credit Cards

US based credit cards will not work at banks, currency exchanges, or at any ATM. Be sure to bring a lot of cash to Cuba. This is never something I recommend when traveling but be safe, smart, and bring extra cash just in case.

Credit cards from any other country will have no issues using ATMs.

For an excellent explanation on currency head over to Cuba-Junky.

Getting to Cuba

For Americans this can be tricky and expensive. There are limited legal ways to get there but there is also the option of flying in from another country. I will cover how to get into Cuba in an upcoming post. I chose the “illegal” method which seemed anything but illegal. It is also cheaper and a lot more fun.

For non-US citizens: You have no limitations.

No matter where you are from you should go. I can’t wait to go back.

Read about how I traveled to Cuba without a license.

 

TripHackr Tips

  • Stay in a Casa Particular or at least a classic hotel
  • Get Lost in Old Havana
  • Eat somewhere different every night (not at the hotel)
  • Talk to the locals
  • Bring Extra USD

I also downloaded the app “Havana Good Time” for my iPhone before I left. Since US phones will not work in Cuba this app was great since everything worked in offline mode with no cellular data needed. Here are some of my other favorite apps that don’t use data.



I have been traveling to over 100 countries by using the methods I share on this site. My goal is to maximize every trip and make the most of my adventures. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Instagram

  • Ezra

    Clint,

    This is a wonderful source thank you for putting this together. I’m curious, how much cash did you allocate for daily spending in Cuba not including your lodging expenses?

    Thanks,

    Ezra

    • triphackr

      Great question. The most difficult part was bringing enough cash to last my entire stay since there was no way to get money if I ran out. And you lose money converting USD which makes it even more difficult to budget. Normally I don’t recommend carrying a lot of cash when you travel but Cuba is the exception. Bring more cash than you think you will need. I wasn’t trying to see Cuba on a strict budget and didn’t know what to expect going in. I budgeted $100 day to be safe (including my lodging) so that gave me about $70 for 3 meals, drinks, or anything else. More than I needed but enough to be on the safe side. I took more than double my budget in cash, which is a risk, but the greater risk was running out of cash.

    • Ezra

      Clint,

      Thanks for the quick response! I estimated exactly $100 a day but I will now add to that. I have to ask how did you keep your cash safe? I leave this Friday and can’t wait to see the history!

      Ezra

    • triphackr

      Hi Ezra, $100 a day is certainly enough for a daily budget but knowing I couldn’t use a credit card or ATM machine was the reason I brought plenty of extra cash which is always a risk.

      I would split my cash up as much as possible. Keep it split up on you and keep it in a couple places back in your room. This way you won’t ever lose it all at once. I’ve never had cash stolen out of my room but it does happen. Just do the best you can, keep the cash out of site, and in multiple places. Have a great trip!

    • Ezra

      Thanks Clint!

  • Payal Sinha
  • Betty

    What about being able to rent a car and travel throughout Cuba. Can an American do that. I was told that you had to show your passport etc. when finding places to stay thus making it impossible to travel freely within Cuba as an American. Maybe you can do this only in Havana but did you travel throughout Cuba with lodging?

  • Rebecca

    Thank you SO much for these tips and insights. One question- when booking a ticket to Cuba as a US citizen, do I need to book each leg separately (i.e. purchase one ticket from Chicago to Cancun, and another (separate transaction) from Cancun to Havana)? Or could I theoretically just purchase a flight Chicago – Havana (connecting in Cancun)? Just wondering if one would run into problems buying the flights together (i.e. when you check in at Chicago they would refuse to issue your boarding pass if they saw your final destination was Havana). Thanks!

  • Josh Guzman

    Do you recommend using booking sites of Casa Particular like http://havanabookingroom.com

  • Hi Clint!

    Nice post – With Cuba opening it’s doors to the world, it’s definitely a destination that’s on our list to visit soon. I love you photos of Havana. It’s to see why people love it. It’s like the city that time forgot in many ways. Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

    Safe travels

    Carrick