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Havana

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For other places with the same name, see Havana (disambiguation).

Havana (Spanish: La Habana) is the capital city of Cuba, and one of the fourteen provinces of the Republic of Cuba.

The Catedral de San Cristobal, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana).

Understand[edit]

Before the Communist revolution, Havana was one of the vacation hot-spots of the Caribbean, and since Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, it has become a popular destination once again, albeit with many fewer U.S. citizens, due to an almost total ban on travel maintained by the U.S. federal government. However, there will be lots of tourists at any time of year, so expect huge crowds and long lines in places.

Diario de Cuba and Tribuna de La Habana are the local periodicals. The H Magazine + Guide is an interesting publication about Havana beyond common stereotypes.

Currency[edit]

Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Most tourists will be using the CUC for all purchases, hotels, taxis and activities. The CUC was created to replace all the US$ that was used in the tourist industry until the late 1990s.

For more information check the section on Money in the Cuba article.

Get in[edit]

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 25.8 26.1 27.6 28.6 29.8 30.5 31.3 31.6 31.0 29.2 27.7 26.5
Nightly lows (°C) 18.6 18.6 19.7 20.9 22.4 23.4 23.8 24.1 23.8 23.0 21.3 19.5
Precipitation (mm) 64.4 68.6 46.2 53.7 90.0 182.3 105.6 99.6 144.4 180.5 88.3 57.6

Source:w:Havana#Climate

By plane[edit]

1 José Martí International Airport (HAV IATA) has three separate terminals. Terminal 1 is for internal (domestic) flights, Terminal 2 is mainly for charter flights from the USA and Terminal 3 is used for all other international flights.

Customs officials can be very strict, and will probably snoop out any suspicious electronics or other items. Customs officials and immigration officials also work slowly and baggage reclaim is very slow, so expect a very long wait (about 1½ hours) when entering the country.

There’s an ATM and currency exchange located in the departure hall (1st floor), however don’t count on either being functional/opened since these service are not very reliable in Cuba.

To get to travel between terminals you can take a cab or use the shuttle service between terminals (Connexions).

There are regular flights to resort areas such as Varadero, and these can sometimes be less expensive than flying into Havana. From Varadero's Viazul terminal to Havana's Viazul bus terminal is three hours by bus.

Taxi

An official taxi to Havana center costs 20-25 CUC, but you can find slightly cheaper (illegal) ones. The cost is roughly 1 CUC per kilometer.

Bus

Havana MetroBus routes P-12 and p-16 travel within 400 m to 500 m of Terminals 1 (stops on Avenida Rancho Boyeros at Avenida Van Troi) and Terminal 2 (stops on Avenida Rancho Boyeros at Carretera De Murgas). Route P-12 terminates at Parque Fraternidad on Simon Bolivar near Habana Vieja (1 block south of El Capitolio) and route P-16 terminates at Parque Maceo in Centro Habana (near the Malecon). These buses operate until about 8PM and costs 0.40 CUP per person, but are generally overcrowded.

To reach Terminal 3, exit at the stop for Terminal 2 and walk about 50 m west toward the airport, until you reach a bus shelter. From the bus shelter, wait for the hourly bus (1 CUP), hail a taxi (as low as 1 CUC if shared with with Cubans), or walk the 2.5 km to Terminal 3 (for international non-US bound flights). Note that the bus does not enter Terminal 3, but drops passengers at an unmarked stop on Carretera de Murgas, across the street from La Casanosa restaurant. La Casanosa restaurant is located about 200 m north-east of Terminal 3.

Taking the bus will take longer than a taxi colectivo. For passengers transferring to reach Terminal 3,

Taxi Colectivo

A taxi colectivo route follows the same route as bus P-12 between Parque Fraternid (Simon Bolivar, just west of Fraternidad), and stops for Terminals 1 (stops on Avenida Rancho Boyeros at Avenida Van Troi) and Terminal 2 (stops on Avenida Rancho Boyeros at Carretera De Murgas). Taxi colectivos are more frequent than the bus, will stop less than the bus and only has seated passengers, but are likely not suitable to accommodate space for more than one full-sized travel/hiking backpack per passenger.

To reach Terminal 3, exit at the stop for Terminal 2 and walk about 50 m west toward the airport, until you reach a bus shelter. From the bus shelter, wait for the hourly bus (1 CUP), hail a taxi (as low as 1 CUC if shared with with Cubans), or walk the 2.5 km to Terminal 3 (for international non-US bound flights). Note that the bus does not enter Terminal 3, but drops passengers at an unmarked stop on Carretera de Murgas, across the street from La Casanosa restaurant. La Casanosa restaurant is located about 200 m north-east of Terminal 3.

Buy

At the airport (airside and landside) you pay the same prices for tobacco and alcohol as you would in a store in downtown Havana. There have been reports online that bottles bought in the airside shops were not properly sealed and thus seized during security checks for a connecting flight at another airport. Therefore it might be a good idea to buy those things already before you depart to the airport. In Terminal 3 there are two tobacco shops, a small supermarket, WIFI (can only be used with ETECS-card), some souvenir shops and a snack bar that also serves alcohol. There is no ATM airside and that not all shops accept credit cards.

By train[edit]

Caution NOTE: An extensive, three-year renovation project is underway on La Habana Central, the central railway station. Most trains now arrive and depart from the former bus station, located on the adjoining Coubre rail yard. Expect poor conditions and long queues. The renovation is expected to be finished in 2018.

Havana is the hub for the whole Cuban railway network and there are trains to most larger cities. However, financial difficulties have means that services are scaled back to running every other day or in some cases twice a week. Therefore it's important to confirm in advance that they are running on the day you wish to travel. All services, including overnight trains, are seating only.

The main line Santiago de Cuba via Matanzas, Santa Clara and Camagüey and there are departures every second day. However as of 2017, trains with superior Primera class seating runs only two times per week. Journey time from end-to-end is about 18 hours.

Other services include:

  • An overnight train from Moron with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara.
  • An overnight train from Sancti Spiritus with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara.
  • A daytime train from Camagüey with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara (this is the only daytime service to Havana on the main line).
  • A slightly faster evening train to Matanzas and Cienfuegos, returns to Havana overnight.
  • An overnight local train to Pinar del Rio that returns to Havana during the day.

The main station is 2 La Habana Central located at 401 Avenida de Bélgica, in the southern parts of downtown.

A commuter railway line, the Hershey electric train, runs across the northern coast from Matanzas, these trains terminate at 3 Havana Casablanca station, which is on the opposite side of the canal from downtown. Train cars are very dilapidated and will appeal certainly to die-hard train enthusiasts - but will be a good adventure for many others. The trip takes a minimum of four hours regardless of what the schedule says.

By car[edit]

Hiring a car in Cuba will cost you 33-106 CUC per day. When hiring it, beware of the price of the insurance policy, as it may be subject to a scam. The car will have a special tourist plate, which means you will be required to give generous tips every time you park your car in a crowded place. Taking into account the all-around unreliability of Cuban transport, hiring a car can be the right choice for those who don't want any hassle whatsoever. Picking up hitchhikers is almost a moral obligation for the "aware" tourist, especially when travelling between cities. Picking up a hitchhiker can be the best way to arrive to your destination without getting lost.

By bus[edit]

Viazul operates an inter-city coach service to/from most major destinations including Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Varadero and Viñales. The 4 main Viazul bus terminal is 3 km southwest of central Havana. Departing buses also stop at the central (Astro) bus terminal, but arriving buses do not. If you are using the central bus terminal, you buy tickets and wait for the bus in a separate air-conditioned office near the west entrance of the terminal. Schedules are posted on the Viazul website. Viazul buses are geared for foreign tourists and rarely carry Cuban nationals as Viazul's prices are higher than the non-air conditioned bus services available to Cuban nationals.

There are Cubanacan offices in many hotels, such as El Torre Hotel at Parque Central, that sell bus tickets for their own buses for the same rate as Viazul except that they pick up their passengers from major Havana hotels. So if staying in this neighborhood you can get picked up at one of these hotels and avoid the costs to get to the Viazul bus station.

Some have reported using Astro, which run from the main bus terminal near the Plaza de la Revolucion, but others report these are restricted to Cuban nationals.

By shared taxi

Shared taxis that travel between cities are often available from immediately outside of Viazul bus terminal buildings. For slightly higher rates than Viazul bus rates, shared taxis may offer services that can potentially be faster than Viazul buses and offer somewhat more convenient departure schedules, and pick and drop off from locations of your choosing. Shared taxis operate in old American cars, which do not have air conditioning and which offer inferior seating comforting compared the much more modern Viazul buses. Shared taxis operate if sufficient riders sign up and charge by the passenger. Shared taxi operators may claim travel times that are significantly faster than what is actually provided.

By boat[edit]

Due to political circumstances, it is difficult to enter Cuba by sea. Visiting mariners need to make arrangements in advance of entering port to avoid difficulties. Also, most ports are closed to unauthorised visitors.

Get around[edit]

Tourists in a 1951 Chevrolet convertible.
Coco Taxi. Coco taxis are cheap transport.

By taxi[edit]

As a tourist, the most convenient way of getting around Havana is by taxi. Some of the taxis are old American Chevys from the 1950s, others are (somewhat) newer Russian Ladas, whilst most tourist taxis are modern Peugeots, Skodas and even Mercedes.

It is illegal for tourists to ride in anything other than the official government taxis. However, it is often easier to wave down one of the old Chevys or Ladas. When riding in an illegal taxi, negotiate the fare ahead of time. The fare in illegal taxis will be no cheaper than the official taxi fare. Around the city, taking illegal taxis should be no problem. However, taking an illegal taxi to or from the airport may attract the attention of the police.

Taxi colectivos

Taxi colectivos are the old, beaten-up American cars with a taxi sign on the roof or in the front window, which will typically already have numerous Cubans on board getting on and off and will take additional passengers if flagged down. Tourists are not supposed to take them, but you will rarely run into problems and they are a fun and cheap alternative to the state-run taxis. They have set fares and run set routes, so you may need some assistance when taking them the first few times.

Fares vary from 10 CUP for a short (5 km) run during the day to 20 CUP for a longer run or at night. The drivers are generally honest regarding the fares, but it is best not to appear oblivious by asking how much at the end of the trip. Always watch what the other passengers give: if in doubt, give only 10 CUP unless the driver asks for another 10. There can be a long wait trying to get a taxi colectivo as they are very popular with Cubans and often full, but the experience and the savings make it worthwhile.

Taxi colectivo routes

The following is a non-exhaustive list of taxi colectivos routes:

  • Parque de la Fraternida (westbound on Simon Bolivar, just west of Industria). Follows Simon Bolivar, Avenida Salvador Allende, Avenida Manuel de Cepedes, Avenida de la Independencia, Avenida de Rancho Boyeros. Route travels within blocks of Habana Vieja, Plaza de la Revolucion, Viazul bus station (800 m away), and Airport Terminal 2 (500 m away).

Coco Taxis

Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes are a cheap way of getting around central Havana.

By bus[edit]

Map of Havana MetroBus routes

Havana used to have a public transportation service called the El Camello, a split-level bus pulled by a semi-truck, and resembling a 2-humped camel (thus the name). Camellos finished operation in Havanna in April 2008 (but still can be seen elsewhere in the country) and were replaced by modern YuTong Chinese city buses.

The cost of riding the new city bus is 0.40 CUP to anywhere in the city. The driver will not give you change. Almost all buses are overcrowded, there are plenty of buses running though, so if the one you want is full simply wait for the next one (don't expect to sit though). There are few clearly marked bus stops on route, but it's clear where they stop usually as you will have other waiting at the side of the road.

Other local buses can also get crowded, but in the suburbs, they are a practical means of transport for visitors.

By car[edit]

Whilst useful for reaching some of the less central locations in Havana, the price of car hire will rarely be less than using taxis.

Traffic is moderate, especially outside the rush hour. Do however expect to share the road space with a multitude of cyclists, pedestrians and poorly parked vehicles.

Parking regulations are enforced in central Havana. There are many attended, on-street car parks, use them. Expect to pay 1 CUC for parking.

By cycle[edit]

Cycling can be a great way to get around Cuba. There are a number of international tour companies [1] [2] that offer guided tours, the most popular is from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. If you are travelling in February and March avoid the west to east approach as the trade winds are tough to cycle against.

By foot[edit]

Walking around Havana is by far the best way to see and experience the city: get a decent map of the city and discover new sights on foot.

See[edit]

The impressive El Capitolio, an iconic government building soon to again house the Cuban National Assembly.
Even if Fidel has given up smoking, production of top quality cigars at the Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas are ongoing. A must-visit for any tobacco connoisseur.
Cannon of Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña in Havana

The Old Town of Havana, La Habana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and strolling along its streets and enjoying the beautiful buildings is a must for any visitor. Some parts of the Old Town are quite dilapidated with crumbling buildings but many others have been restored to their former glory.

An evening walk along the Prado is a great way to sip in the street life and enjoying the hums of numerous cafes and restaurants. The street is however not illuminated at night. Another favorite stroll for tourists and locals is along El Malecón, Havana's waterfront with stunning views of the city.

  • 1 Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución), Refugio No 1. 9AM-5PM. Housed in the former presidential palace this iconic museum offers a history tour from pre-Columbian to the revolution in 1959 an on to present day socialist Cuba. Even if there's more than a hint of propaganda among the exhibitions it's still a must on any visit to Havana. Admission 6 CUC, use of camera 2 CUC extra.
  • 2 National Capitol Building (El Capitolio), Paseo de Martí, 422, +53 7 8637861. Completed in 1929, this neoclassical building which resembles the U.S. Capitol housed the Cuban Congress prior to the revolution. The building is being restored and will within a few years again house the National Assembly.
  • 3 Partagás Cigar factory (Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas), Calle Industria 520 (Behind the Capitol Building), +53 7 8624604. A guided visit to the original Partagás factory gives a wealth of information about production and cultivation of tobacco and cigars. It is also the place for buying authentic Cuban cigars, more expensive than on the street but with fantastic quality. 10 CUC for a guided tour, no photography allowed.
  • 4 Havana Club Rum Museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club), Avenida del Puerto 262. Go on a guided tour of Havana Club, one of Cuba's most famous rums. Most of the exhibits are subtitled in English and are fairly self-explanatory.
  • 5 Plaza de la Revolución. Huge square dominated by a statue and monument of Jose Marti and the iconic image of Che Guevara adorning the Ministry of the Interior. Arrive either early or late, as it is often swamped by tourists and gets very hot during the day.
  • 6 Lennon Park (Parque Lennon), Calle 8 (In Vedado). Features the only statue of a western musician in Havana. Notable for the regularly stolen (and replaced) eyeglasses.
  • 7 US Embassy, Calle Calzada (In Vedado, just off El Malecón). This heavily fortified and guarded building is where Cuban citizens go to apply for U.S. visas. It was notable for displaying news which was unfiltered and not censored by the Cuban government on electronic billboards situated behind the windows of one of the floors, but these were switched off in 2009. It is also the focus for regularly staged protests.
  • 8 Hotel Habana Libre (in Vedado). The hotel housed Castro's soldiers for several days after they took Havana. It has an excellent selection of photos in the lobby along with one of the only 24-hour fast food restaurants in the city.
  • 9 Cámara Oscura. Enjoy extraordinary 360-degree views of the city using the large Cámara Oscura in the old town.
  • 10 Havana Cathedral (Catedral de La Habana) (In Old Havana). Built in the 18th century and redesigned in the 1940s, this church is a prime example of Baroque architecture in Cuba. Houses the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Cuba.
  • 11 Plaza de Armas. Spacious and elegant, the square is surrounded by baroque constructions that give it an authentic colonial milieu. It was laid out during the 1600s, replacing an old plaza which acted as the center of religious, administrative and military activity. Until the mid-18th century, it was used for military exercises and parades. After its remodeling between the years 1771-1838, it became a favored meeting spot for the city's wealthy. Today it is also known as Céspedes Park, in honor of the country´s Founding Father, whose monument stands at its center. This square is one of the most outstanding in the city, enlivened by vendors of antiques and classical books on Latin American and world literature. Attractions of remarkable historical value lay around the square such as the capok tree (Ceiba) under which the first mass for the city´s founding was officiated in 1519.
  • 12 The Royal Force Castle (Castillo de la Real Fuerza), Plaza des Armas. The oldest bastioned fortress in the New World, completed 1577. It now houses Cuba's premier maritime museum with excellent exhibits of Cuba’s maritime past, from pre-Columbian days through to the 18th Century with the Royal Shipyard of Havana, one of the largest in the world which built nearly 200 ships for the Spanish Crown. The museum includes a huge model of Santisima Trinidad, one of the largest ships in the world during the 18th century. The fort is also a great location for viewing the harbour and city skyline.
  • 13 Museo Nacional las Bellas Artes, Trocadero, btwn Agraminte and Av de las Misiones. This museum consits of two parts: international and Cuban art. In the part of Arte Cubano art-lovers can spend hours admiring the works of the last centuries exhibited on three floors. CUC 8.
  • 14 Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (right after the tunnel on the other side of the Havana Bay). A well-restored fort of the 18th century that holds two one-room exhibitions about arms and Che Guevara. Every evening there is a cannon ceremony where they fire over the Havana harbour. To get there take any bus (ex. from the Parque the la fraternidad) that crosses the tunnel and get off right after it. Walk about 600 m to the entrance. On your way you can also stop at the smaller Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnis del Morro located right next to the tunnel. CUC 8.
  • 15 Colon Cemetery (Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón). One of the great historical cemeteries of the world, important in both historical and architectural terms. It's not possible to see much from behind the fence. 5 CUC for foreigners. Colon_Cemetery,_Havana on Wikipedia

Do[edit]

The Malecón, a great place for a stroll.
  • 1 Walk along the Malecón (the sea wall that runs along the Havana coastline.). On weekends this is where the locals come to party, so bring a bottle and join in.
  • 2 Walk down the Paseo street. A lively street full of locals spending their free time.
  • Latin American New Cinema Festival. A popular event held every December, screening international films and drawing around 500,000 people.
  • Tropicana Show. A cabaret show, a must-see show while you are in Havana. 90 CUC.
  • Take a tour in an old car. Be driven around Havana in style. Choose a car you like near the Hotel Inglaterra or outside the Museum of the Revolution. 20-30 CUC an hour for up to four people.
  • 3 Go to the eastern beaches (Playas del Este). There is a bus leaving from Hotel Inglaterra every 30 minutes. The ride takes about 30 minutes. 5 CUC for a roundtrip..
  • 4 National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Cuba), Paseo & Cl 39, Vedado (close to Memorial a José Martí at Plaza de la revolución). Come here for concerts, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and teatre. Functions are hold irregularly. Officially, Cubans pay 10 CUP and foreigners 10 CUC. Beware of scams as ushers try to sell you the same ticket for up to 25 CUC shortly before the function starts (and only paying the nationals price). Instead approach them and ask them to get you a ticket in CUP for a small commission in CUC or go to the box office to get it for the official price.

Live music[edit]

Nearly every restaurant and hotel in town has a decent house band playing old favorites.

  • Hotel Nacional. Often hosts big name talent such as Omara Portuondo. See also information below
  • La Zorra y el Cuervo, La Rampa (near the Hotel Habana Libre). A tiny little club below street level, they often host funky and amazing jazz musicians. Go there for something a little different.
  • La Tropical. A venue designed to hold several thousand people. It only opens for live music. Look around for signs in the streets publicising the next event.
  • Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana. The place to be if you like to dance Salsa. Check the program before you buy tickets, there are different top-rated salsa bands playing every night.
  • Museo del Ron. Offers a very nice outdoors 1950s Cuban music show called Buena Vista. You can watch it with or without dinner. 50 CUC with dinner.

Learn[edit]

  • The Instituto Superior de Arte/Escuela Nacional de Arte/CNSEA offer courses of various lengths and levels in music, dance, drama, art and Spanish.
  • Dance classes of Caribbean rhythms (salsa, reggaeton, cha cha cha, merengue, bachata) with professor Raul Pedroso for 7 CUC per hour. Contact: raul.salsa.cuba@gmail.com. Mobile: (53) 05 352463450.

Buy[edit]

Havana is a surprisingly expensive city to stay in; if you stay in hotels and eat in restaurants it can work out to be nearly as expensive as other popular international destinations. The problem is that Cuba has a dual economy - if you could live on Moneda Nacional pesos it would be incredibly cheap. As a tourist this is virtually impossible. Most CUP hotels won't take foreigners or, if they do, you have to pay in CUC. If you are on any kind of a budget it is advised to stay in casas particulares; it is much cheaper, often more comfortable and the food (a recurring theme in Cuba) is almost invariably better.

ATMs are not too hard to find in downtown Havana, but American credit- and debit-cards can not be used in Havana. Credit cards issued in countries other than the USA may be issued by a bank whose parent company is a U.S. corporation. In this case, the card will not work as the parent company is bound by U.S. law. Even banks wholly owned by non-American companies may have a policy on blocking Cuban transactions in order not to compromise their US business. Always check with your bank or credit card company before leaving home to see if your card will work in Havana. Also, the ATMs do not accept MasterCard/Maestro but are marked to accept Visa.

You can withdraw money from your MasterCard in a couple of exchange offices. There is one in the basement of the Hotel Nacional, but expect quite steep service fees.

Exchanging US dollars in a CADECA (Casa de cambio) will incur a 10% penalty. Sterling, euros and Canadian dollars can easily be exchanged at Cadecas and do not incur the same fee.

Eat[edit]

Parque Central from Hotel Inglaterra, Havana Vieja (Old Havana).

Whilst CUC restaurants can be quite expensive at the top end for rather mediocre food, some such as the Café de Oriente have a splendid ambiance. The average government-run restaurants are about US$20 for two.

Budget[edit]

Peso stalls are all over the city, particularly on Prado Marti.

Some restaurants like Hanoi, in Calle Brasil, offer generous meals for 5 CUC.

With Cuban national pesos, you can get ice cream for only 1 CUP (US$0.04) in small street booths scattered around the city. You can also get a filling bocadito (small ham sandwiches) or a cajita (small meal in a cardboard box) for less than 20 CUP, or a "pizza" for 7-10 CUP.

Particularly, the Terminal de Omnibus, by the Plaza de la Revolucion, has a very good peso cafe with offerings as fried chicken for only 25 CUP.

  • 1 Coppelia Ice Cream parlour (Heladería Coppelia), 2111 Calle L (Opposite the Habana Libre hotel), +53 7 8326184. Practically a Cuban institution with people waiting up to an hour to get a seat. Prices are in CUP and CUC (the queues being for the CUP area). CUP-paying sections cost 1 CUP per scoop (open till 9:15PM) and outdoor convertible-paying section costs 1 centavo (0.01 CUC) per gram (two scoops and up, which will costs you minimum 2.75 CUC; open 24 hours)
  • 2 Chan Li Po, Campanario 453 / Zanya & San Jose (in Barrio Chino), +53 7 8704747. 11:30AM - midnight. The restaurant is located upstairs, fully air-conditioned, looks immaculate. Despite being a Chinese restaurant, they serve European dishes too. Friendly service. About 4 CUC for one pizza. Cocktails are 2.5 CUC.
  • 3 Hanoi (La Casa de la Parra), Corner of Teniente Rey and Bernaza (Near Park Cristo), +53 7 8671029. 11AM - 11PM. Old fashioned restaurant, with live music and no A/C. They even serve traditional Cuban food, such as black beans with rice.

Mid-range[edit]

Keeping your eyes open you can find complete menus (starter or salad, soup, main dish, dessert and a national beverage) for 6-10 CUC. In the Vieja, there are such restaurants in the smaller, not very crowded streets.

A least one paladar charges an hefty per-person service charge on top of your bill (10 CUC per couple at Paladar Amistad de Lanzarote in Central Havana) - deceivingly printed in Spanish only in a bilingual English/Spanish menu. Also no matter what the owner insists, there is never a tax levied for eating at paladares. Always ask before ordering.

There are many good, mid-priced restaurants in Chinatown. "Bavaria" is one of the best if you can picture a restaurant named after a German province pronounced like "barbaria" with Chinese decor, serving pizzas and spaghetti.


Los Marinos restaurant in Havana harbour
  • 4 El Aljibe, Avenida 7ma, +53 7 204 1583. In the Havana suburb of Miramar, El Aljibe is the definitive proof that food in Cuba needn't be bland. Try the house specialty, chicken in sour orange sauce. El Aljibe also has a remarkably well-stocked wine cellar.
  • 5 La Casa, Calle 30 No. 865, Nuevo Vedado, +53 7 881-7000. Daily from noon-midnight. This stylish restaurant, located in Nuevo Vedado, is a large California-style house typical of the 1950s. The dining room and garden are inviting and intimate. The impeccable service and consistency uncommon in Cuba, are a must in Havana. 10-25 CUC.
  • Paladar La Tasquita, Calle 27 de Noviembre (Jovellar No. 160) e/ Espada y San Francisco, +53 7 873-4916. Daily from noon-midnight. Located near San Lazaro, this Paladar (Small, family-run, private-owned restaurant) serves typical criolla food. You will be dining in the living room of a local family, so don't expect anything glamorous in terms of atmosphere. On the other hand, the staff is very friendly and you will get the opportunity to taste typical Cuban food as local families prepare it: Simply delicious. The seat is limited so reserve in advance. 15-25 CUC.
  • 6 DNext Bar Cafetería, +5378605519, e-mail: . 8:30AM - midnight. They serve mainly Italian food, sandwiches and cocktails. Prices start at 3.5 CUC. The establishment is fully air-conditioned and ideal for a quick meal.
  • 7 Los Marinos. 10:00-23:00. Seafood Restaurant located on a pier in Havana harbour. A great place to relax with seafood and a beer or mojito looking at the city. On the big terrace the the breeze from the water is pleasont on a warm day. Prices depends on the kind of seafood, you order. Lobster is the most expensive. The seafood paella is less expensive, has lots of good seafood in it, and you get a big portion. CUC 6-30.
  • 8 Castropol, Malecón (Avenida de Maceo) 107 (On the eastern end of the Malecon, Old Havana), +53 78614864. 11:00-00:00. Restaurant with Cuban-Asturian food. Lots of great appetizers that also works as snacks with a cocktail. The atmosphere is cosy. In front of the restaurant is a small arcade with small cast iron tables and chairs, where you can have a drink (and a snack) and look over the water and study the steady stream of old US cars on Malecon (you just have to accept the noise from the cars too) CUC 7-20.

Splurge[edit]

The restaurants inside five-star hotels tend to charge excessive amounts of money for mediocre food and service.

  • 9 La Fontana Restaurant, Ave. 3ra. A & 46, #305, +53 7 202-8337. One of the most notable grill restaurants in Cuba. La Fontana has a refined yet sober home environment, suitable for a dinner with a touch of familiarity and a placid conversation, while enjoying exquisite dishes from its specialty, updated Cuban cuisine. Reservations essential. From 25 CUC per person..

Breakfast[edit]

All the tourist hotels serve breakfast, typically a buffet with a wide variety of good food, although overpriced (15 CUC at the Hotel Nacional). If you stay in a casa particular ask whether you'll be served breakfast. If not, ask the landlord/lady to take you shopping. Otherwise, there's almost no hope of finding a restaurant open for breakfast. One exception is the Chan Li Po Bar-Cafeteria, open at 9AM, in Centro Habana, near Chinatown, at Perseverancia #453 (between Zanja and San Martin).

Tipping

Local Cuban people earn very low wages of perhaps the equivalent of £15 (US$20) per month, in comparison to most Western incomes, so they tend to try hard to offer a good service in hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants. Many rely on tips to supplement their low incomes, so even a 1 CUC tip is often enough to make a difference. It isn't always expected, but if you received good service, then why not?

Drink[edit]

A local bar in Havana.

There are two types of establishments you can go to drink in Havana: Western-style CUC bars with near-Western prices, good selection of quality drinks (and sometimes food), nice decorations, semi-motivated staff and often live music, typically found around tourist hot-spots such as Old Havana and tourist hotels. Here you will mostly meet other tourists, expats and a few Cubans with access to hard currency, but don't expect a 'local' experience.

The alternative is to seek out local neighborhood bars where you can choose from a quality, but limited, selection of drinks (mainly locally produced rum by the bottle, beer and soft drinks, very rarely will you be able to get cocktails such as mojitos), cigars of dubious and cigarettes of only slightly better quality, and sometimes snacks. Local bars accept CUPs and are dirt-cheap, although bar keepers will often ask you for CUCs instead - it's up to you to negotiate an acceptable price. These bars are also a good way to meet locals who may even open up a bit and talk about their lives after a couple of drinks.

Local bars are not that hard to find despite typically having no prominent signs displayed outside. Just ask or walk around a local neighborhood and look out for a bare-walled, neon-lit run-down room without any decorations or furniture, save for a bar and a few rickety chairs and tables, sullen staff and depressed/bored/drunk-looking customers, almost always men. Contrary to Cuba's reputation as a music and fun loving nation, these places are not boisterous affairs - they are quiet, almost subdued, music is rarely played, and have the charm of third-world railway station waiting rooms.

Nonetheless, they make for a fascinating experience (especially if you make the effort to speak to some locals - offering to buy a drink will get a conversation going, no surprise there), and they provide a good insight into what life must be like for ordinary Cubans without hard currency. As a foreign visitor, you will be generally welcomed. Discussing politics over a drink is a tricky, and typically lose-lose proposition: speak negatively about the Cuban political system and you may put your Cuban drinking companions into a very difficult position as they may very well be informed on (for hanging out with subversive foreigners); enthuse about the Revolution, Che, Fidel, Cuba's health care system, sticking it to the Gringos, etc., and people will assume that you are at best naive or at worst not in full possession of your mental faculties.

You can have a great time just outside of the Hotel Inglaterra near the Capitólio Building, drinking good daiquiris and mojitos at an affordable price.

  • 1 La Bodeguita del Medio, Calle Empedrado (Across the plaza from Havana Cathedral), +53 7 571375. The bar in which to sample a Mojito. The former hangout of Ernest Hemingway, it is best sampled in the evening once the tourist crowds from Varadero have headed back out of the city.
  • 2 El Floridita Bar, Calle Obispo, +53 7 8671300. Another stop on the Hemingway drinking tour; best visited for its atmosphere, which is almost unchanged from pre-Castro days. Their daiquirís are however - certainly much to Hemingway's grievance - mediocre.
  • 3 Los Buccaneros Hanoi, Calle Brasil and Bernaza. With the front of the Capitol building on your right from the main street, walk about two blocks to the left on the road that runs parallel to the Capitol. There are two bars called Hanoi. Go to the first one Los Buccaneros. good mojitos for 1 CUC..
  • 4 Factoría Plaza Vieja (Taberna de la Murallo), Plaza Vieja. Brewpub located on the pretty Plaza Vieja. The pub has three main beers (light, dark and black), with seasonal additions. Beer cocktails, along with a meat-based food menu, also feature. 2 CUC for a glass of beer, 12.50 CUC for a 'meter' of beer..

Sleep[edit]

There are 3 main areas that travelers generally stay in: Old Havana is the liveliest (some would say hectic and dirty), Central Havana is slightly quieter and parts can be a bit seedy, and Vedado is the quietest with more greenery, and is the place to find the large hotels and nicer casas particulares.

Hotels vary. Do not be surprised if you have no hot water and bad TV-reception in a hotel that still goes to the effort of having an in-hotel doctor and hosting extravagant shows of synchronized swimming in the hotel pool.

List of casas particulares[edit]

  • 1 Ana y Chuchi, Aguacate 513, Havana Vieja (/e Sol y Muralla (between streets Sol & Muralla)), +53 7 861 1877, e-mail: . Very central place with a great host who gets out of her way to make people comfortable. Three rooms of different sizes. Small windows overlook patio, breakfast and dinner are enormous. 25-30 CUC inc. breakfast.
  • 2 Casa Mabel, Industria No. 270 (altos), between Neptuno and Virtudes, Centro Habana (One block from Parque Central and Prado. Close to Malecon and Havana Vieja.), +53 7 8635706, e-mail: . A very friendly family home. 2 comfortable rooms with balcony and great view for rent. 25 CUC.
  • 3 Jorge Leon de la Hoz, Neptuno No. 1218 (altos), e/ Mazon y Basarrate, Vedado Plaza (Close to the University end of Neptuno street), +53 7 870 7723, e-mail: . A very friendly family home, close to the Universidad de la Habana. Room rates are negotiable depending upon the length of stay.
  • Señores Elsa y Julio Roque, Consulado No. 162, apto. 2 (between Colon and Trocadero), +53 7 860 1257, e-mail: . A very friendly couple rent rooms in their centrally located house, and help find other houses in case they're full. Both speak good English and offer helpful information. Reservations can be made by e-mail either in English or in Spanish
  • 4 Casa Olga, Galiano No. 206 e/Virtudes y Concordia (just around the corner from Hotel Lincoln), Centro Havana), +53 7 863 5547, e-mail: . Olga rents her entire 2nd floor including full kitchen, living room and three beds (one double) for 25-30 CUC. She's extremely friendly and not pushy like other casa owners can be.
  • Casa Lopez (situated in a very central part of the city, just a few blocks from the Capitolio and Old Havana.).
  • Señora Ivette Flores (Centro Habana, near the Casa de la Música. 213 San Nicolas / Concordia y Virtudes / Centro Habana), e-mail: . Rents out three private rooms with air conditioning and independent entrances ppn: 25 CUC including abundant breakfast.
  • Casa Mireya, 47 Ave. #5211 (between 52 and 54, Playa), +53 7 209 13 54.
  • Casa Mra Cristina & Guillermo, Calle 21 e/N and O - Building #15 Apartment 7-A, Vedado (Near the Hotel Nacional), +53 5 270 8449, e-mail: . A very friendly family home with two university-aged children who speak English. 2 comfortable rooms with balcony and great view. Ask for "mi cafecita" in the morning on the balcony. 35cuc.
  • Casa de Jesus y Saida Valdez,Calle 24 #262, Apt #5 (between 17 and 19, Vedado), +53 7 830 7279.
  • Casa Cary, Virtudes #511 (top floor, between Lealtad and Preseverancia), +53 7 863 1802, e-mail: .
  • Casa de Lydia y Felix Pedro, 15 St #456, Vedado (between E and F), +53 7 832 6223.
  • 6 La Casa de Ana, 17 St #1422, Apt 1 (between 26 st and 28 st), Vedado, +53 7 833 5128, e-mail: .
  • Alicia Beaton, Havana, CRESPO No. 10, e/ San Lazaro y Malecon, Vedado, +53 7 863 9616. This is very convenient hostel, located close to the Malecon and near the Park Central area. The pristine house and bedrooms are located on the third floor of the building. The owners to turn off the air conditioning if you are too cold. 20-25 CUC per night.
  • Casa Nora, Havana, Calle 64 No. 4105 e/ 41 y 43, Playa. Living room, bedroom and compact kitchen. George speaks wonderful English and has a wealth of information. 35 CUC.
  • Casa Nora, Havana, Calle 27 No. 954 e/ 6 y 8 apt 4, Vedado, Habana, +53 7 830 9800, e-mail: . Casa Nora is a lovely apartment right in the heart of Vedado. Her wonderful, friendly family makes you feel at right at home. Very safe area. The rooms are very big with AC and television, and they have an incredible view of Vedado and the ocean. Great food as well. 20–25 CUC.
  • Sra. Ivón de los Angeles Acosta, Central no. 2 entre Conil y Tulipán, Nuevo Vedado, Plaza de la Revolucion, +53 7 879 1223, e-mail: . Nice roof terrace just for you, great meals and super friendly hosts.
  • Casa Tere, Consulado no. 303, entre Neptuno y Virtudes, Havana Center (Near Park Central, Capitolio and Paseo del Prado), +53 8642689, e-mail: . 25 CUC/night, 1 room with air con, 2 single bed.
  • 7 Casa 1932, Campanario 63 bajos entre San Lazaro y Lagunas, Havana Center (Near Havana's sea wall), +53 8636203, e-mail: . 30 CUC/night, 2 room with air con, 2 single bed & one double bed.
  • Casa Milagros Diez, Calle Manrique No. 208 (bajos) (Left entrance of the building, groundfloor; between Concordia and Virtudes. Centro Habana Havana's Music House neighbourhood.), +53 53905001, e-mail: . from 25 CUC/night, 2 double rooms with en suite bathroom accessible for people in wheelchairs.
  • Casa Xiomara Hernández (Near National Capitol Building.), +53 7 8639398, e-mail: . Calle Aguila No. 506 Derecha 2do. Piso -right entrance of the building, second floor; entre San Jose y Barcelona. from 25 CUC/night, two double rooms en-suite.
  • 8 Casa Lázaro, Villegas #427 between Teniente Rey and Muralla (Near Capitolio), +53 78625657, e-mail: . Old construction, very well preserved. Offers breakfast, dinner, taxi, and laundry services among others. 20-25 CUC per night.
  • 9 Hostel Carpizon, Street San Ignacio corner Obispo (Walking to sea direction starting from Floridita Bar), +53 78610443, +53 52988568, e-mail: . The hostel is composed by two houses each one located on very centrical places. Also you can enjoy of very comfortable rooms which include terrace and backyards. 25 CUC per night.

Backpacker Hostels[edit]

  • 10 Hamel Hostel, 308 Hospital Street (near the University of Havana). Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. 12 bed dorm. CUC per person..
  • D Robles Hostel, Escobar 161 E/animas Y Virtudes. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. four-bed dorms 7 CUC per person..
  • 11 Enzo's Backpackers Hostel, 20 De Mayo Avenue 426 10th floor. Apartment 101. Check-in: 7AM, check-out: noon. a dorm with six beds 9 CUC per person.

Mid-range[edit]

  • 12 Hotel Inglaterra. Paseo del Prado, Old Havana. A popular hotel with a restaurant for those wanting to stay closer to the action yet still in the comforts of a hotel. Rooms from US$80.
  • 14 Hotel Telegrafo, Prado and Neptuno, Old Havana. A popular hotel just around the corner from Parque Central, right next to Inglaterra. Renovated and now really nice inside, a welcome haven of peace away from Vieja. US$80–120, cheaper if you book ahead with Opodo..

Hotels[edit]

  • 15 Tryp Habana Libre Hotel, Calle L (Just off the Malecón in Vedado), +53 7 8346100. A Havana landmark in a good location, it's popular with tourists and journalists, has a good 24 hour cafe on site, and a business center with decent internet connections.
  • 16 Hotel Habana Riviera. Paseo and Malecón, Vedado. Located along the Malecon, Havana's waterfront boulevard, this elegant hotel is considered a classic among Cubans. Its proximity to the historical-cultural center of Havana, makes this hotel the perfect place from which to explore the city. In the night time the Riviera offers excellent entertainment featuring both the exclusive Copa Room Cabaret and one of Havana's top restaurants.
  • 17 Hotel Nacional, Calle 0 esq. 21, +53 7 836 3564. Calle 21 and O, Vedado. Overlooking the ocean on the Malecón, this hotel is legendary, having hosted international VIPs for 30 years. Many years of neglect, coupled with an only partially successful renovation, have left the Nacional a step below its former glory. That said, some stay here and rarely leave the hotel, enjoying the restaurant, terrace, frequent live performances by renowned Cuban musicians, and enjoying the views while sipping Mojitos. But did you come to see Havana, or hang out in a hotel? Maybe some of both is called for. The hotel also has an excellent, albeit expensive business centre featuring CNN, internet access and a bar. Rooms from US$150.
  • 18 Hotel Saratoga, +53 7 868 1000. Corner of Prado and Dragones, Old Havana. Opened in November 2005, it is regarded as one of the higher quality hotels in Cuba.
  • 19 Hotel Parque Central, On Neptuno (between Agramonte and Paseo di Marti), +53 7 867 1037. Similar to the Saratoga in quality, and has a beautiful ground floor lobby as well as a rooftop swimming pool. The Torre wing may have the best rooms in Cuba, at least by Western standards. The lobby of the Torre is very good, in keeping with the main hotel lobby, but the accommodation rooms can be dreadful. Housekeeping can be very good, or very poor, with some rooms missing basics such as a shower door. Don't be surprised if the coffee machine has no coffee!
  • 20 Hotel Conde de Villanueva, Calle Mercaderes esq. Amagura, Old Havana. A beautifully restored colonial home, this hotel is the ultimate destination for a connoisseur of Cuban cigars; each room is named after a tobacco plantation, and, of course, all rooms permit smoking. Boasts an impressive cigar shop in the hotel, in addition to a (reasonably average) restaurant. Be warned, though: if you like to sleep late, there is a peacock that wanders around the courtyard that begins to make noise as soon as the sun comes up.
  • 21 Hotel Ambos Mundos, Obispo esquina a Mercaderes. Writer Ernest Hemingway stayed and wrote most of For Whom the Bell Tolls here, a fact which adds historical charm to this well-located hotel in Old Havana. The Plaza de Armas is a few steps away, and the establishment has an elegant and lively lobby where piano and jazz musicians perform.
  • 22 Hotel Park View. Colón 101. A popular hotel in the 1920s, the Park View is a small establishment just off Prado, close to the colonial centre of Old Havana and the seawall. It does not share in the historical or decorative charm of other Old Havana properties, but it is certainly a practical option for anyone interested in exploring Old Havana and traveling on a tighter budget.
  • 23 Hotel Plaza, Ignacio Agramonte No. 267. The Plaza is one of Havana’s oldest hotels. In addition to a beautifully restored interior and a great location near many places of interest in Old Havana, the hotel also has some interesting anecdotes. Albert Einstein once dined here, and Babe Ruth stayed at one of the suites, today a museum (where his bat has been preserved).
  • 24 Hotel Santa Isabel, Baratillo 9. Considered Old Havana’s flagship hotel, this establishment is one of the classier – and more expensive – colonial-era options in this part of town. The long terrace overlooking the Plaza de Armas, shared by 10 west-facing rooms, is one of the hotel’s most evident charms, as are its colonial appeal and a magnificent location.
  • 25 Hotel Meliá La Habana, Ave. 3Era. E/ 76 Y 80 Miramar. A modern five star hotel with very big and comfortable rooms, and possibly the biggest swimming pool in Havana.

Connect[edit]

The city code for Havana is 7. Prefix with 0 or 01 when calling from within Cuba.

Internet cafes can be found at ETESCA (the state telephone company) offices, in Hotel Habana Libre, Hotel Inglatera (cheapest but slowest), Hotel Nacional and at the Capitolio.

Wireless Internet access - some high-end hotels such as Hotel Parque Central sells wi-fi scratch cards at the rate of 8 CUC per hour, which can be used inside the hotel and works well with iPhone/iPod Touch.

The emergency number is 116. The information number is 113.

Stay safe[edit]

Havana is quite safe for a large city. Heavily dependent on tourism, Cuban police are everywhere and pay especial attention to spots where travelers congregate (Habana Vieja, El Malecón. etc.), so you don't have to be afraid of being accosted in the daytime. Prison sentences for crimes involving tourists are extremely harsh, a fact which residents are well aware of, which adds an extra layer of deterrence. At night, however, there have been muggings in the dark streets of Centro Habana. While this part of town is perfectly safe to explore in the daytime, and can be crossed safely while going to Habana Vieja or Vedado, it's best not go there at night. If you are going to walk, do so along El Malecón, where there are lights and a lot more people.

Be wary of hustlers (jinteros/as) offering to show you a nice bar or restaurant, or offering a tour of the city, as you'll be stuck paying hefty prices to cover their commission. Just walk away and continue walking—soon enough they will leave you alone. There are a few well established scams you should learn about in order to be prepared.

In local restaurants, ask for menus or prices before ordering anything; there can be special 'tourist price menus' that get pulled out after you have consumed food or drink.

When paying, it is recommended to give the exact amount of cash. If you don't have it, it is wise to state clearly how much money you are giving and how much you should get back. Otherwise, they might try not to give you your change back.

If you're male, expect to be accosted regularly by prostitutes and/or their pimps, especially in Habana Vieja. While technically illegal, erstwhile mandatory jail time for prostitution filled prisons so quickly that the government had little choice but to start looking the other way. The result is a steady, depressing stream of solicitations that can wear down even the most cynical traveler unless he's prepared for it. Particularly disheartening are the offers from young girls, some no more than 11 or 12. Accept this situation as a fact of life in modern-day Cuba—and don't contribute to it.

People on the streets try to sell you cigars, especially in Havana Vieja. Often they say (after asking when you arrived in Havana) that the "Cigar Festival" is on today or that there is a "Cigar Cooperativa", where people sell cigars in their homes for half the price. These are usually fake cigars and they try to push you to buy a whole box of cigars even if you just want to buy a few.

The air in Havana is very polluted because of old cars and factories. This will cause respiratory conditions to some visitors.

Cope[edit]

Embassies and High Commissions[edit]

  • Canada Canada, Calle 30 No. 518 (esq. 7ma) Miramar, Playa, +53 7 204 2516. M-Th 8:30AM-5PM, F 8:30AM-2PM.
  • Japan Japan, Centro de Negocios Miramar, Edi, 1-5 to. Piso, Ave. 3ra, Esq. a 80, Miramar, Playa, +53 7 204-3355, fax: +53 7 204-8902.

Go next[edit]


This city travel guide to Havana is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.