HAVANA CUBA CITY GUIDE

Let me start off... by making it really clear that I only spent a few days in Havana, therefore I am by no means an expert about where to go or what to do! But I will share with you a few of my favorite highlights from the trip that I'd recommend so consider this basically a mini guide to Havana, or simply a recap of what I loved! But before I get into that I will share a few things to keep in mind before you apply for a visa; which leads me to my first thing, you need a visa! After obtaining that, you will need to plan your trip according to the type of visa you obtain, meaning there are certain requirements set by the Cuban government for American travel. Ours included attending a certain amount of educational activities in order to further our understanding of the Cuban culture. Most of these activities are things you would likely want to do anyway when visiting, so it's an easy thing to embrace! Another important thing to keep in mind is the fact that credit cards are very unlikely to work in Cuba, so it's important to bring cash before going so you can exchange it for the Cuban peso. There were mentions that some debit cards might work but I really wouldn't risk it! I would also make sure you know what the hotel you are staying at accepts for payment, so you are prepared. Fortunately, Cuba is extremely affordable as compared to the United States, so your money will go a very long way. Next is the internet. Havana is the major city in Cuba and getting wifi was still extremely difficult during our stay. Out hotel had wifi, however, it was very hard to connect to and I can't honestly remember any other locations outside of our hotel that offered wifi to guests. I happened to love this opportunity to disconnect, as I would expect most American travelers would, however, if you are planning to get work done while there I would suggest you make accommodations so that you can be free of internet for long periods of time. I also tried to get cellular service during my trip but neither my carrier or my fiancé's had available plans to do so. They did however inform me of how much it would cost per minute to make a call or send a text off airplane mode and it wasn't cheap so I would really plan ahead to be somewhat unreachable during your time there. Last but not least, is that despite Havana being in the Caribbean, Americans are not welcome at the beach and therefore this trip didn't involve any lounging or time spent on the ocean as one might expect when traveling here. I could be wrong about this or perhaps there are specific beaches outside the city where Americans are welcome but it was a big surprise to me when our guide pointed this out! Aside from that I felt extremely safe throughout the entire trip and really enjoyed my time getting to experience the Cuban culture. I hope this guide inspires and is helpful, enjoy!




STAY
We stayed at the Iberostar Parque Central which was a great experience. In terms of customer service, cleanliness and amenities it had everything we needed. There was a nice bar and restaurant with live music and good food options, a cashier to exchange money at and the hotel was in a good location where I felt safe and close to everything. The wifi was very weak but this just seems to be a difficult amenity to come by in Cuba, a country that just recently got 3G internet. Aesthetically, I wasn't really blown away by the architecture or decor but it was an easy and comfortable stay. There were a few boutique hotels I explored but really can't speak to beyond my appreciation of the beautiful interiors. Some of them were Hotel Florida, Hotel Raquel, Mercure Sevilla Havane, Hotel Inglaterra and Hotel Ambos Mundos. Again, these were just beautiful places I explored so I would do a little research before booking! We also went to the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which is full of Cuban history and prestige, a great place to expand your understating of the culture and sip a fabulously sweet mojito. 






SEE
Part of the requirement in obtaining a visa to visit Cuba as an American is participation in activities that further your knowledge of the Cuban culture. This was an easy one for me given that I love to learn about any new place I visit, and our guide did not disappoint! He took us to all our meals, showed us the city, and most intriguing for me, answered so many of our questions in a really thoughtful and honest way. I appreciated his insight as not just a guide but as a citizen of Cuba with his own genuine experiences to share. I loved everything we did and would recommend them all! Starting with the walking tour of the city with our guide who put the beautiful architecture and historical landmarks into context. Then riding through the city in a classic convertible, which lasts about an hour and is a great way to see everything in style! We also had a great time exploring the Hotel National de Cuba, which is a historical landmark and a beautiful place to spend an afternoon learning more about Cuba. Last but certainly not least, we went to the Tropicana, which was incredibly entertaining and a great way to spend an evening in Havana! The dancers were excellent and the energy was beyond contagious. It was a beautiful way to spend our last evening. We didn't get to visit a rum museum or factory but that would have been really cool too and something I would have liked to do if we had more time! And if you are into cigars I would recommend grabbing one, fun fact, you can bring about 20 back to the United States. And if you don't smoke but want to embrace the cigar theme like I did with my cigar box purse, check out my post about it here




EAT
My favorite meal in Havana happened to be at the most beautiful restaurant. Surprise, surprise! La Guardita was at the top of my list for photo opportunities after having done my usual pre-travel research. It's in this absolutely beautiful building whose majority of charm stems from how worn down it is. The building used to be a family's mansion, which is just what you'd imagine when you walk up and see the second floor staircase with a gorgeous chandelier and peeling paint on the walls. When I went to shoot pictures it was daytime and I didn't think to explore the second floor because the first floor was so cool, with a stone colored staircase, also rugged but in a more war torn way if that makes any sense. But then when we went back for dinner I realized the real glamour was on the second floor staircase! I felt like Anastasia returning to the place I was a princess before my monarchy was overthrown. My next favorite restaurant was Ivan Chef Justo, where I had the best seafood, these yummy fried potato balls and the best assortment of appetizers. Everything was fantastic and I would highly recommend it! We went a few other places but those were by far my favorites. 




DRINK
Like I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, we had the very best time at this completely non-touristy, small nightclub, with the absolute best new Cuban music and the best Cuban people dancing with absolutely no hesitation, in the most beautiful way! I loved how small it was and it took me a good minute to realize that the television screen was playing the music videos that matched the actual club music, not some really hilarious jean commercial! I loved that I only heard one American song all night and everything the DJ played was legitimately produced in Cuba, by Cubans, as evidenced by the amazing music videos being played simultaneously. Everyone in the room, aside from myself and Arthur, were the most amazing dancers who seemed to have one shared goal; dancing the night away and genuinely having the best time. Wifi and smartphones are quite limited in Havana and I could tell because every young person there was so in the moment, genuinely there for dancing and meeting each other. It was so fun and I really hope all the people that night weren't too put off by my attempt to shake my hips at half their speed! The only problem is I have been searching and searching the internet and can't FIND the name of this establishment! I do, however, remember exactly where it was since we didn't walk very far to get there from our hotel or the other two spots we ventured to for a drink. I want to say the name sounded something like "Astoria" but that could also be way off! It was located right on Paseo de MartĂ­, just north of Neptuno, I believe between the two small cross streets called Virtudes and Animas. So there, use your maps and find it the old fashioned way! This is the closest location off google maps I could find that appeared to be where we showed up for a fun night, so good luck everyone! 

Aside from the amazing nightclub with no certain name, we went to two other great spots I would highly recommend for a drink and some great live music. One was the bar in front of Hotel Inglaterra, where we sipped a bottle of champagne al fresco on a warm night and heard some wonderful salsa music. After that we ventured to Floridita, known primarily for it's history as Earnest Hemingway's favorite place for a cold cocktail and hence the signature Hemingway daiquiri, the perfect compliment to a warm Havana night. Apparently Hemingway spent a lot of quality time in Cuba and before purchasing his home, was a longtime resident at the Hotel Ambos MundosMy last recommendation for more than just a good drink, is the Tropicana show! Definitely a fun vibe and great entertainment for a couple or large group. 


-MGN

2 comments

  1. Where did you get those bags? I'm going to Cuba in a couple of weeks :)

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  2. That’s awesome, you’re going to love it! I wrote all about the cigar purse here in this post!

    http://www.giselechic.com/2018/12/resort-wear-cigar-box-purse.html?m=1

    Have the best time!

    ReplyDelete