They say stepping into Cuba is like entering a time machine. Wifi is non existent here, streets are filled with vintage cars and old buildings.
This old fashioned forbidden city has recently opened up to America and it’s time to get some items ticking off our bucket list!
Things to Do
• DO NOT take Cuban money home
This should be the first thing in your bucket list if you want to avoid landing in foreign jail. It is illegal to take cuban money out of the country as it is a closed currency. Be sure to change all the money you have before you go through immigration!
• Live without wifi
There is NO free wifi in Cuba– not even in the most expensive hotels or casa. Even if it’s free it’s just for an hour at most.
To have access to wifi you have to line up at a wifi spot for up to an hour and pay for the internet card. Instead of going through all this trouble, how about resisting that temptation of updating your Instagram stories and just live in the moment like how the people used to do in the past.
• Stay in a casa
Ditch the hotels and stay in a casa from Airbnb– if it comes with a balcony that’s a bonus! We stayed in this casa for $30 a night! It is also in the heart of Old Havana which makes it all the more convenient to explore by foot!
New to Airbnb? Use my link to get free credits for your first booking!
• Get around with a Cocotaxi
A cocotaxi is a coconut auto rickshaw taxi vehicle in Cuba. The tuk tuk of Cuba can be easily found at the main streets. You can fit up to 3 people in the back! Remember to always bargain and do not pay more than 4 CUC for a ride!
• Callejon De Hamel (New Havana)
Callejon De Hamel is Havana’s very own art alley. It is full of colour and creativity! The best time to come is on a Sunday, as there will be live performances from 11am – 3pm!
When you first arrive, there will be hustlers at the gate that will insist on bringing you around and pressure you to buy a glass of mojito for 5CUC and ask for tips. Please tip them but do not get the mojito it’s not worth it!
• Take a ferry ride to Casablanca
Take a 15 minutes ferry ride with the locals to Casablanca from the Terminal de Ferris which is within walking distance from Plaza de San Francisco. We wanted to go to Casablanca to check out the Cristo de la habana (Christ of Havana) statue!
A ticket does not cost 1CUC one way– It’s actually way lesser than that. We know this from a local guide so don’t overpay! Just ask the workers to give you back your change when you hand them a note. Also, the ferry goes two different directions so make sure you go to the one that’s heading for Casablanca
• Enjoy the spectacular view of Old Havana
Walk uphill for about ten minutes from the pier to Christ statute and enjoy the spectacular view of Old Havana from across the harbour!
• Cristo de la habana
I have to admit that this photo was photoshopped but I took this on the walk uphill to the statute. I just loved the orange flowers! You’ll see many of these trees in Casablanca.
Havana has their very own Christ the Redeemer! The Cubans believe that Jesus is holding a mojito and smoking a cigar!
• Explore the different plazas in Old Havana
There are 4 main plazas in Old Havana to explore namely– Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas. And the best part is that they are all really easy to get to on foot!
• Get your fortune told
Visit a fortune teller ourside Havana Cathedral and see what lies ahead for your future– if you understand spanish! If not you can take a picture of them smoking a cigar for a tip!
• Appreciate street art & galleries
There are plenty of art installations, murals and art galleries around Old Havana so take the time to enjoy them!
• El Capitolo
Loved the exterior but it costs 10CUC to enter with a guided tour
• Take a picture with the buildings opposite El Capitolio
The buildings opposite El Capitolio are worth mentioning as they make a good photo opportunity.
• Marvel at the Gran Teatro de La Habana
Beautiful inside out, this grand theatre is the headquarters of the National Ballet and the Havana International Festival. You will find many vintage cars parked outside as well as cocotaxis.
• Take a classic car tour
There are lots of hustlers with their vintage cars just outside the Gran Teatro de La Habana and a one hour tour costs 30CUC. Do not pay anything more than that! Our tour guide brought us to:
- Havana University
- A stop at the Plaza de la Revolucion & Memorial José Martí
- Hotel Nacional de Cuba
- Colon Cemetery
- A stop at a legal cigar shop
• Explore Chinatown
Welcome to the only chinatown with no Chinese! Despite their absence, they have some really good Chinese restaurants like Flor de Loto!
• See Havana’s very own Flatiron building
You will see Havana’s very own ‘flatiron’ building just up ahead of the Chinatown arch! Though it is not as flat as New York City’s or San Francisco’s.
• Plaza de la Revolucion
Located in the neighbourhood of Vedado, this plaza is surrounded by many iconic buidings.
If you take the classic car tour, the driver will have a stopover here for you to take pictures– which was what we did. If you do not intend to the tour, you can reach here via cocotaxis or walk 40 minutes from Old Havana.
• Memorial José Martí
A memorial to the national hero– José Martí. It is the tallest structure in Havana and just opposite the Plaza de la Revolucion.
• Take a photo with the Cuba sign at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba
A popular photo spot for tourists to take pictures with the Cuba sign
• Smoke a cigar
When in Cuba, do as the cubans do and smoke cigar! Buy one at a legal government-run cigar store! We got one stick for 7CUC.
Things to Eat
• Get pastries from Panaderia Dulceria San Jose
Get some pastries for breakfast or to snack on at Panaderia Dulceria San Jose! They are so delicious and the crusts are all so flaky and buttery! And the price range is only about 0.20CUC – 1.50 CUC each! I highly recommend you to try the guava!
• Have breakfast at El Cafe
This is the perfect breakfast place! We came here twice because the pancakes are simply so delicious! It was so fluffy and the fruits were so fresh!
• Eat a Cuban Sandwich!
This place was highly recommended by our host so we decided to try it. We got ourselves a cuban sandwich and a bottle of Hollandia beer each. The food was good but the service was terrible so dine at your own risk!
• Chinese food at Flor de Loto
This Chinese restaurant serves very affordable asian food with HUGE portions! We ordered mandarin chicken , yellow rice and fried noodles and the portion came out to be big enough to feed 4 people!
We also got 6(?) can drinks in total for roughly 1CUC each because we were so dehydrated as it’s so hard to find reasonably priced water in Havana!
• Try 50cents Pizza
There are plenty of cheap pizzerias in Old Havana! You can get an entire pizza for as low as 10-15CUP which is just 50cents!
• Cool off with Helados
The weather in Havana can be very unbearable and a cone of ice cream can really relieve the heat. I will only recommend Cafe Suiza because they are very generous with their serving and it’s only 1.75CUC per cone. We came here everyday for the flavour– Dulce de leche everyday.
Do not go to this ice cream shop along Calle Obispo. I have no idea what is the name but it’s a scam! They knew we were tourists and hiked up the prices for everything, charging us 3CUC for this vanilla ice cream and it was already melting before he passed it to us!
• Snack on Cuban Churros
If you’re not a fan of ice cream how about getting churros– a famous Spanish dessert? You can get a cup of them for just 50cents!
• Savour cacao at the Chocolate Museum
It is not a museum but more of a chocolate cafe. They sell hot / cold chocolate drinks for 1CUC and they are really delicious! It felt so refreshing sitting in the air-conditioned room sipping the drinks. They also sell moulded chocolate and we got the one in the shape of a cigar!
• Try some local snacks
Try some local biscuits, sweets and chips at a mini mart!
• Quench your thirst with fresh fruit juice
Again, I do not recall what is the shop name neither can I make out it’s name from this picture but the drink stall is located along Calle Obispo. It is really popular you will always see many people crowding around the store. A glass costs as little as 10cents!
• Catch the sunset at Hotel Ambrosa’s rooftop bar
While this hotel’s rooftop bar has a good sunset view, the drinks leave a lot to be desired.
• Get tipsy at El Floridita
Really popular bar with great atmosphere and live music located near Parque Central.