I came to Cuba in June of 2015 & visited Havana, upon returning in January of this year, 2017 I was a little surprised at how much it has changed.
More people, more tourists, more cars, a lot more going on & of course to go with all of this higher prices!
However a trip to Havana & to the magical Habana Vieja is a must when visiting Cuba & somewhere that both myself & my boyfriend Adam wanted to visit.
Note from the author: This article has been written by me from my travel experience. I may recommend & provide links to products & services that I have used & may make commission from such links. This commission helps cover the costs of running this website & will be at no extra cost to you. Anything that I am recommend is from my personal experience & belief that it is worth using. Happy reading!
What We Did
The thing with Adam & I is that we both love to do things at our own pace! Neither of us really like to do the tour guide thing where you are limited on time in each place, we both like to go somewhere, see if we like it & spend more time there if we fancy.
We also both love to take photos so for us having 4 nights in Havana’s old town before we moved into an apartment in Miramar & started Spanish school seemed like a good option & gave us enough time to explore it at our own leisure.
What We Saw
A lot, at first we had a couple of days wandering around the old town & took in all of the main sights, including…..
Plaza Vieja, our guest house was just 5 minutes from here so we spent quite a bit of time in this old square just admiring it’s beauty & watching the world go by.
Plaza de Armas with it’s colonial buildings, 16th century castle & the beautifully restored calle’s that run just off of it this plaza & it’s surrounding streets are just so photogenic.
Plaza De Catedral, probably our favourite with it’s dominating Cathedral & La Bodeguita Del Medio close by where you can stop for a famous Hemingway Mojito.
Plaza San Francisco, the main sight here being the stunning Basílica this is a lovely square to have a wander around & can be reached by walking through it Plaza Vieja on the way to Plaza de Armas or vice versa. There is also an undercover artisan market just opposite this plaza close to Havana’s train station that is worth the visit should you wish to buy any Cuban souvenirs.
What Else We Saw
Parque Central & around – This is the area just on the edge of Havana Vieja where a lot of important sights are located. Here you can see the huge Capitolo, the Gran Teatro de La Habana & take a wander along the Paseo Del Prado. You can also sample a Daquiri at El Floridta to complete your Hemingway drink tour!
The Museo de la Revolución is also located in this area & although we had read mixed reviews on it before visiting, would definitely say it is well worth the visit. It’s an 8 CUC per person entry fee but will give you a lot of information on the history of Cuba & the revolution.
We also went along the Malecón in the early morning & at sunset. Explored some of Vedado & visited the Plaza de la Revolución which although it is not the prettiest of sights is the main symbol of the revolution in Cuba & should not be missed.
How We Did It
Mainly on foot & this is the way I would really recommend to see old Havana, you’ll be able to wander around at your own pace, down any street you like & really take it all in.
Whilst Cuba is very safe & relatively hassle free remember that most people showing an unusual amount of interest in you in a touristy area are probably not looking to just befriend you, it’s best to be as polite as you can with people but make it clear that you are quite happy doing your own thing.
As we had our own bikes (that we have brought with us to cycle Cuba) we also spent a day on these exploring the area around Vedado & for the Plaza de la Revolución as it was a much easier way for us to get around.
You could look at hiring a bike if you don’t have your own. You could also take a private taxi but this can work out to be quite expensive. A cheaper alternative would be to jump in one of the collectivo (shared) taxis close to Parque Central to take you further afield, you should pay a max of 1 CUC per person & this will get you all the way to Miramar. It’s worth noting that most collectivos only run along certain roads so it’s best to negotiate with the driver & agree a road that closest to where you need to go. Only try to flag down a collectivo that already has other people inside, the taxi driver will normally try to charge a lot more if he thinks it’s only you for the ride.
We have a guide-book on Cuba by Eye Witness Travel that is just perfect for exploring solo, it’s packed full of information so you can effectively do your own tour of a place by just reading from this as you go along.
We also use maps.me to navigate, I mention this app in a lot of posts & it’s well worth downloading.
Havana On A Budget
2 pieces of advice if you are trying to budget in Havana – Book your accommodation in advance so you can easily research what you can get for your money and stay away from the main tourist squares when it comes to food & drink.
For snacks there are lots of markets selling fruit & small take away shops offering food in CUP rather than CUC, just get your head around the CUP to CUC exchange rate & you’ll be good to go. Buying drinks including water from a proper store rather than from restaurants, guests houses or street vendors will also save you money. As well as skipping breakfast in your guest house in preference of eating at a local place, in comparison you’ll pay 5 CUC at your guest house as opposed to 0.50 – 1.00 CUC or sometimes even less.
Verdict on Havana
Whilst for me it has changed dramatically a trip to Havana should not be missed, there’s a hell of a lot to see in this city that is immersed in history & culture. If you take your time to explore it on foot & really embrace it I am sure you will not be disappointed!