I was a little reluctant to visit Cuba because I am totally against its political system, and it reminds me a lot of the situation in Venezuela (my home country). But … and here comes the great but … the Cubans impressed me, I met incredible people, perhaps because of the situation they live through any detail makes them very happy. This was the biggest impact.
Here some details of what I visit, which wasn’t a lot because I was there for work and I didnt plan any holidays because like I said, I didn’t want to visit the country…what a shame.
Pics are from my dear friend and colleague Vera (http://instagram.com/veraluna).
For the suitcase: light clothes (I went in March and it was very hot), medicines in case of any casual illness on a trip (give them away at the end of your trip if you don’t use them).
In La Habana:
- Handicrafts market: Mercado de artesanías (San José)
- San Carlos Fortress at 9:00pm. It is a show that is done every day in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. The show is not worth much, beacuse you have to arrive very early to be able to see the parade. But what is worth it is the views of Havana from there, especially during sunset
- Chinatown, where you eat Italian and you are served by Cubans
- Plaza de la Revolución
- Walk along El Malecón
- La Bodeguita del medio (bar). Ask for the typical mojito, which you will see has nothing to do with mojitos in the rest of the world, this one is very simple
- La casa de la música. Go at night to dance. The sound is awful, but the atmosphere is great
- Rum museum: Museo del ron
- La Floridita. Cradle of the daiquiri and it is also where the well-known sculpture of Hemingway is, who was a regular customer at that time
- Cabaret Tropicana. The typical Cabaret to see a night outdoors show
- Cabaret Parisien. Same style as in Tropicana Cabaret, with a night show, but cheaper
- Hotel Nacional. Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend you visit its facilities, have a drink at the bar and enjoy the views
Restaurants in La Habana:
- Paladar San Cristobal. A “paladar” is a restaurant in very old houses, so you can take advantage and see the houses inside. This one is very cute
- Paladar La Guarida. The site is spectacular, it was where they filmed Strawberry and Chocolate. And the malanga gnocchi were very good. Make reservation before because it is always full
- Restaurant Aljibe. Basic Cuban food. The portions are very large.
- Templete. Italian restaurant although the salmorejo (spanish) was very good.
- La divina Pastora. Good views
- Doña Eutimia (near plaza de la catedral)
- La cocina de Lilliam. the best, very good food and the place inspires peace, sometimes with a guitarist.
Hotel and recommendations
I stayed at the Meliá Habana Hotel in Miramar because I went for work. There is also the Meliá Cohiba that is better located. Although they are both far from the center. I know that there are people on the island who rent rooms in their houses and it is very cheap and they take care of you very well, I think it would have been my option if I had not gone for work. There is also the mystical Hotel Nacional.
The Meliá was fine. The food in the Italian restaurant and in the hotel sushi was good. Take into account that in all the restaurants in Cuba they take a long time to serve the food, don’t know why, but it’s something common.
A taxi from the hotel to the center is approximately 10CUC. But you have to bargain a little, as in all Cuba.
Money can be exchanged at official exchange houses or hotels. I always had CUC (currency for foreigners in Cuba) and I did not need Cuban pesos, because Cuban pesos are only for Cubans. It’s better to have euros instead of dollars, because when changing dollars they charge you an extra commission.
Save 25CUC for the departure tax at the airport, although there are also ATMs at the airport, but better to be prepared.
If you know any Cuban and want to buy cigars, it is better to ask them because they always get them much cheaper than in tourist sites. But it has to be someone you trust so that they won’t give you any imitation. In general, Cubans are quite honest and kind, but since their economy is very bad, not everyone can be trusted.
The best way to get to Varadero is to pay a tour or go in your own car and enter through the Melia hotel. On the way to Varadero from Havana stop to have a piña colada. I could not go to any key, but from the photos and stories of friends, they are spectacular and I do not think it is worth going to Varadero if you already have planned to visit the keys, because in Varadero the beach is very beautiful, but not as much as the keys.
Hopefully I’ll go back to Cuba again and visit the island properly.