• Lisa

Havana, Cuba: City Guide

Updated: Jun 23

Havana, ooh na na! Travel back in time to the 1950s and explore this Island Country that is rich in history.

Know Before You Go:

Read my full list of 10 important things you need to know before you go to Cuba here! Otherwise, I've highlighted a few below!

  • American Credit Cards are not accepted anywhere in Cuba.

  • There are two types of currency in Cuba… locals utilize the CUP and tourists must utilize the CUC. Check the current exchange rate here. You can only convert your money in Cuba (not in America). If you are converting dollars to CUC there is a 10% tax charged. Some travelers recommend converting your dollars to Euros first to avoid the 10% tax.

  • Most Cubans speak great English!

  • Some restrooms don't have toilet paper - bring your own!

Americans Traveling to Cuba:

Booking a trip to Cuba isn’t easy for Americans… most travelers have a lot of uncertainty on what’s allowed and what isn’t allowed. For the most up to date information, check out the US Embassy’s website for Cuban Travel. Below highlight some key facts you’ll want to know before you go:

  • As of June 2019, American cruise ships are no longer allowed to visit Cuba.

  • You must have a reason to go to Cuba. Airlines provide a list of categories that include the following: family visit, official US government business, journalist activity, religious activity, professional research, support for the Cuban people, humanitarian projectors, or exportation. **As of June 2019, you can no longer travel to Cuba for Educational reasons**

  • Some travelers advise flying into Mexico or a surrounding country and then flying into Cuba. However, as of right now, there are a handful of Airlines that fly directly from the US to Cuba (provided that you give a valid reason for entering the country).

  • You’ll need a Visa to enter Cuba. The Visa will cost $50 total – you can apply in advance or request one at the airport. 

Things to Do in Havana, Cuba:

Drive around in a 1950s convertible:

When you arrive in Cuba, you’ll feel like you’ve time traveled back to the 1950s. The American Convertibles are everywhere in every color you can imagine. Most of these old cars have been converted to taxis but some are still used as personal cars. We rented a pink convertible in advance for a few hours and explore the outer skirts of Havana. One thing to note – there can be a lot of traffic in Havana and sitting in an open top convertible can get hot quickly!

Explore Old Town Havana:

Exploring Old Town Havana was one of my favorite things things to do. There are beautiful squares down every street and ornate architecture throughout the city. There are fun markets and shops. However, I was surprised to see that there weren't any nice souvenirs really. Some of the city is in ruins due to Hurricanes that have hit the island over the years.

Stop by El Floridita for a drink!

This is the (now FAMOUS) bar that Hemingway deemed the best daiquiri in the world. Every tourist in Cuba stops by the restaurant to put his claim to the test. When we visited, the bar was JAM PACKED with people. There was live music, a statue of Hemingway sitting at the bar, and pictures of him on the wall.

Rooftop of Ambos Mundos Hotel:

Another one of Hemingway’s favorite spots is a must on your Havana list. This hotel was Hemingway's favorite (particularly his room on the 5th floor). Atop the hotel is a wonderful restaurant/bar with great views.

Plazas of the Revolucion:

This square is a historical landmark where leaders like Fidel addressed the Cuban population with messages. It is also where the Communists Party and Cuban Government sit.

Inside the 73,000 sq meter square, there are memorials for the "heroes" of the Cuban Revolution. Che Guevara has the quote "Hasta La Victoria Siempre" (meaning Until the Everlasting Victory, Always) and Camilo Cienfuegos has the quote "Vas Bien, Fidel" (meaning You're Doing Dine, Fidel). People often mistake the Cienfuegos memorial for Fidel.

Try a Cuban Cigar:

Chances are, you've heard about the amazing quality of Cuban cigars! Well, now is your chance to try one in person! Or, bring one home for friends and family (just don't bring more than 50 home - that's illegal).

You can try the famous cigars almost anywhere in the city. They can be fairly inexpensive at 6 CUC each.

Explore the Hotel Nacional Garden:

This beautiful hotel has been frequented by many famous Americans and Leaders. There is an entire room dedicated to the pictures of those who have been here before (including Walt Disney, Obama, Paris Hilton, and more).

Explore the Morro Cabana Forts:

There is a tunnel that runs under the ocean connecting you to this fortress. There is a wonderful view of Havana from the top of the fortress. Every night at 9PM, a cannon is fired from Morro Cabana. Arrive early to get a good spot and enjoy the festivities that take place beforehand.

See a Tropicana Show:

If you want a truly authentic night in Cuba, you’ll have to go to a Tropicana Show!! Tickets typically include a bottle of Cuban Rum for the table.

Explore Fusterlandia:

This neighborhood, located about 30 minutes outside of Havana, has become a huge tourist destination thanks to Cuban Artist Jose Fuster. He created a mosaic masterpiece throughout the neighborhood and home. It’s free to explore and is truly one of a kind.

Overall, you will love your time in Havana! There is so much to explore and do you'll want to stay for a week or two!

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