Cuba Field Notes

PRO TIPS

  • Pay $50 at airport for the "visa"
  • Take out cash before you get there because no american credit cards work there - very easy to exchange once you are there. Change to Canadian dollars in advance - they charge additional 10% fee on USD + exchange rate.
  • We spent around $100 a day including taxis, food, tours etc. but bring more just in case.
  • Barely any wifi but you can tell where you can pay for it when you see a group of people on their phones in the street
  • Only buy cigars from true cigar shops - the ones on the street are fake 
  • Print details for everything before you get there 
  • I would recommend downloading an app with a map of havana too 
  • Cubans are amazingly friendly but always looking to make an extra buck. Everything is very safe, but be street smart about swindlers.

HAVANA

Use Airbnb to book a casa. You can find nice places here - just make sure it has reviews. There are still a number of fake listings and easy to get scammed. Your casa owner will be helpful in suggesting places, booking cabs, etc. Everything is done word of mouth, they all take a cut off the top. NEGOTIATE EVERYTHING.

Transport from airport: http://cuba2day.com/how-to-get-from-havana-airport-to-city/ Take a normal cab.. should be about 25-30 CUC into the city. You can ride the fancy cars in Havana, they are easy to find.

DAY 1

Morning:

  • Walking tour - Take a trail of three squares through Old Havana that starts in Plaza Vieja, where festivals and executions took place. Go to the camera obscura for a view point (15 min, corner of Plaza Vieja). Walk along pedestrian-only Calle Mercaderes (Market Street). On the east side of Old Havana, the historic Plaza de Armas is dominated by the muscular 16th-century Castillo de la Fuerza and the Palacio de los Captions Generales. End at Plaza de la Catedral, a showcase of Spanish colonial architecture. Note the Cuban Baroque cathedral with mis-matched towers.
  • Lunch at Bodeguita del Medio at Empedrado 207. This is the classic Hemingway bar. Graffiti is not only tolerated – it is encouraged. Poets and politicians have left their mark here.
  • You can actually sign you name on the wall while you are here

Afternoon:

  • Museum of the Revolution (quick) and National Museum of Fine Arts which only features Cuban art
  • Calle Refugio 1 entre Monserrate y Zulueta
  • Calle Trocadero e/ Zulueta y Monserrate
  • Dinner or late lunch at Paladar La Guarida - make a reservation in advance.
  • Concordia No. 418 e/ Gervasio y Escobar, Centro Habana
  • THIS YOU HAVE TO GO TO - this is the one with the empty first floor and then amazing bar and restaurant upstairs. Climb up the spiral staircase for a great view of the city.

Evening:

  • La Casa de la Música – live salsa music - we didn't get to go because it was closed when we were there but is supposed to be great
  • Ave. 20 No. 3308 esq. a 35, Miramar
  • Walk to Malecón – seaside boulevard, vendors out at night and they have music this is right on the water and nice view. This is nice during the day too.

DAY 2

Morning:

Take a ride in a cool old car – we booked this man named Miguel who had a hot pink car and took us around for 3 hours. You need to find his card for you but you can also just follow the instructions below to have a similar

Much of Havana feels like a Hollywood movie set. To sustain that feeling, take a ride in a 1952 Chevrolet Bel-Air or similar relic from Fifties Detroit. Drivers show off their vehicles outside the Hotel Nacional or Parque Central. The going rate for an hour's drive is CUC30 (£19) for up to four people. You can appreciate the scale and diversity of Havana, and see the other forms of transport, from Chinese-made buses (fare CUP1) to bicycle taxis (negotiate a price before you start).

On tour:

  • Malecon - seaside hang out
  • Castillo del moro - also where the giant jesus statue is and nice panorama views
  • Havana Forest
  • Fusterlandia - a mosaic tiled artist home, kind of like Gaudi - must see and try to book a tour in advance so you can actually go inside and see the artists home
  • Coppelia - this is literally an entire area just for ice cream they have bouncers for certain ice cream shops its very bizarre but you should just stop by to see it
  • Santoria - this is the area where the afro cubans mostly live and have voodoo ceremonies. Looks like an artist squat in Berlin - we didn't get to see it in full action but was interesting to see due to the art

Afternoon:

Tour of Partagas cigar factory; then head to Casa Abel, a new bar, restaurant and cigar lounge run by Jose Abel Espósito Díaz, who spent 19 years working for Partagas.

Calle Industria 520

***didn't get to do this but definitely should go

Dinner at El Cocinero at 8:30 PM - also amazing restaurant next to an old factory with music etc. -book a table outside

Calle 26, Vedado | Between Calle 11 and 13

other dinner recommendation: Los Naranjos, 9 PM - didn't go but was highly spoken of

Evening:

  • La Fábrica de Arte Cubano – bar and art center Calle 26, esquina 11, Vedado
  • Drink at Hotel Nacional de Cuba - iconic hotel - http://www.hotelnacionaldecuba.com
  • Sia Kara Café – late night drinks and music
  • Calle Industria no 502 / Esquina Calle Barcelona, Havana
  • **didn't get to go because it was closed 

DAY 3

Morning:

  • Hemingway House - Finca Vigía
    • Calle Obispo 153 | Carretera Central Km 12.5
      • **this is kind of a must see but i've heard its not that impressive and its out of the way - I didn't go.
  • Hang at Paseo del Prado – nice market street
  • Lunch at Restaurant Los Nardos Paseo del Prado 563
  • Obispo is a good street to walk down because it has all the shopping and at the end of the street you end up at la Floridita which was big back in the day and frequented by Hemingway. We just popped in to see it I wouldnt really recommend staying because it is uber touristy
  • Nice area to see - Calle de Los Officios and Amargura - nice restaurant to go to is cafe de oriente

Additional sights:

OTHER CITIES:

Veradero - Cute beach town, nothing special. About 2.5 hour drive from Havana by cab. Lots of Canadian tourists, beach is pretty but town and nightlife are pretty dull.

Trinidad - Nice beaches, fun little city. We took a cab here from Varadero and then from Trinidad back to Havana. Lots of bars and restaurants - all very similar to one another. Live music everywhere. Playa Ancon is the popular beach - it's surrounded by hotels now so getting more touristy but worth visiting. Food and beverage are easy to get there too. Disco Ayala is the club in the cave at the outskirts of the city - it makes no sense and is very fun. Mix of cuban and american pop music.