La Habana Travel Guide

Its Historic Center and its Fortress System were declared World Cultural Heritage in 1982 by UNESCO.

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Travel and tourism in La Habana. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to...
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Havana, capital of the Republic of Cuba, is the main administrative, political, cultural and scientific place in the country. Its Historic Center and its Fortress System were declared World Cultural Heritage in 1982 by UNESCO.

Before the Communist revolution, Havana was one of the vacation hot-spots of the Caribbean, and since Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, it has become a popular destination once again, albeit with many fewer U.S. citizens, due to an almost total ban on travel maintained by the U.S. federal government. However, there will be lots of tourists at any time of year, so expect huge crowds and long lines in places.

El Habanero and Tribuna de La Habana are the local periodicals. The H Magazine + Guide is an interesting publication about Havana beyond common stereotypes.


Cuba has a tropical climate, with warm, humid weather all year long, though cold temperatures have occured in the mountains before. Being surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba has warm water year round, with winter water temperatures at 24C, spring and fall temperatures at 26C and summer temperatures at 28C.


Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Most tourists will be using the CUC for all purchases, hotels, taxis and activities, but there is possibility to pay in equivalent in CUP (or CUC, when there is a CUP price), the rate is mostly 1 CUC = 25 CUP. The CUC was created to replace all the US$ that were used in the tourist industry until the late 1990s.

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By plane

Jose Marti International Airport (IATA: HAV) has three separate terminals. Terminal 1 is for internal (domestic) flights, Terminal 2 is mainly for charter flights from the USA and Terminal 3 is used for all other international flights.

Customs officials can be very strict, and will probably snoop out any suspicious electronics or other items. Customs officials and immigration officials also work slowly and baggage reclaim is very slow, so expect a very long wait when entering the country.

As of September 2012, new duties rules have been put in place affecting anything brought into the country, so pack accordingly. The first 44 kilos of your luggage is free (regardless of the content), however after that there is a 2 CUC per kilo charge for anything over that weight. Certain items (most electronics, small appliances, etc) will be charged a 100% duty relative to their value (it’s helpful to have a receipt for what it cost you in this regard, otherwise the customs officials will use their own price schedule which is often quite inflated). Any communications gear (two-way radios, satellite TV equipment, even walkie-talkies) will be confiscated with no questions asked. This applies not only to charter operators coming into the country from the U.S. but any entry into Cuba, regardless of the port of departure.

The local airline, Cubana de Aviación offers decent service but reservations are notoriously hard to secure (usually two weeks in advance is a minimum). Check with HAVANTUR offices located throughout the city and at major hotels for reservations. Be prepared to pay in cash. Regular services from most South American and European countries, as well as Canada, are available. From Europe, Virgin Atlantic, Iberia, Air Europe and Air France all fly regularly to Havana.

By train

Most trains in eastern Cuba have been suspended due to poor track conditions. Only the following trains were operating to Havana in September 2007. All services run on alternate days only. The express Tren Frances, overnight from Santiago de Cuba via Matanzas, Santa Clara and Camagüey every other day (note that several hours have recently been added to the schedule due to the poor track conditions).

  • An overnight local train from Santiago de Cuba, operating on alternate nights when the Tren Frances does not run.
  • An overnight train from Moron with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara.
  • An overnight train from Sancti Spiritus with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara.
  • A daytime train from Camagüey with stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara (this is the only daytime service to Havana on the main line).
  • A very slow daytime train from Cienfuegos.
  • A slightly faster evening train to Matanzas and Cienfuegoes, returns to Havana overnight.
  • An overnight local train to Pinar del Rio that returns to Havana during the day.

Since these trains run every other day (when they are operating at all), you will need to confirm in advance that they are running on the day you wish to travel. There is also the Hershey electric train running several times a day between Havana (Casa Blanca station) and Matanzas (‘downtown’ – not the main Matanzas station). The Hershey train cars are very dilapidated and will appeal certainly to die-hard train enthusiasts – but will be a good adventure for many others. The trip takes a minimum of four hours regardless of what the schedule says. Most of the seats are at least partially broken – but you should be able to find someplace to sit down. At any point of time there are two trains running on this single-track railway: one Matanzas-bound and one Casablanca-bound, provided that both trains are operational. Theoretically you can get off at Hershey and catch the train way back by walking across the platform – either train will wait for another’s arrival because technically a train cannot leave Hershey station (which serves as the midway dual-track meetup point) while another is still occupying the only track of its onward leg.

By car

Hiring a car in Cuba will cost you from 33 to 106CUC per day. The car will have a special tourist plate, which means you will be required to give generous tips every time you park your car in a crowded place. Taking into account the all-around unreliability of Cuban transport, hiring a car can be the right choice for those who don’t want any hassle whatsoever. Please keep in mind that picking up hitchhikers is almost a moral obligation for the “aware” tourist, especially when travelling between cities. Picking up a hitchhiker can be the best way to arrive to your destination without getting lost. Beware of the scamsregarding the cost of insurance.

By bus

Viazul operates an inter-city coach service to/from most major destinations including Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Varadero and Viñales. The main Viazul bus terminal is 3km southwest of central Havana. Schedules are posted on the Viazul website.
Viazul can get you from Havana to almost anywhere in Cuba.

By boat

Due to political circumstances, it is difficult to enter Cuba by sea. Visiting mariners need to make arrangements in advance of entering port to avoid difficulties. Also, most ports are closed to unauthorized visitors.

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By taxi

As a tourist, the most convenient way of getting around Havana is by taxi. Some of the taxis are old American Chevys from the 1950’s, others are (somewhat) newer Russian Ladas, whilst most tourist taxis are modern Peugeots, Skodas and even Mercedes.

It is illegal for tourists to ride in anything other than the official government taxis. However, it is often easier to wave down one of the old Chevys or Ladas. When riding in an illegal taxi, negotiate the fare ahead of time. The fare in illegal taxis will be no cheaper than the official taxi fare. Around the city, taking illegal taxis should be no problem. However, taking an illegal taxi to or from the airport may attract the attention of the police, so most of the drivers will let you 200 meters behind the terminal nearby the parking lot. Taxis collectivos are the old, beaten-up yank-tanks with a taxi sign on the roof or in the front window. Tourists are not supposed to take them, but you will rarely run into problems and they are a fun and cheap alternative to the state-run taxis. In fact, the driving standards are pretty good, if you can cope with the loud reggaeton music blasting from their speaker systems – the volume of which is only lowered to hear the destinations shouted from the customers hailing the cab. Stand just off intersections of the major streets and flag down the taxi. Shout your general destination (neighbourhood) through the window at the driver. He will either drive off (with no further words being said!) or stop for you. They have set fares and run set routes, so you may need some assistance when taking them the first few times.

Fares are either 10 CUP for a short (5 km) journey during the day or 20 CUP for a longer run or at night (some drivers will accept a 1 CUC coin if you do not have CUP). The drivers are generally honest regarding the fares, but it is best not to appear oblivious by asking how much at the end of the trip. Always watch what the other passengers give: if in doubt, give only 10 CUP unless the driver asks for another 10. There can be a long wait trying to get a taxi collectivo as they are very popular with Cubans and often full, but the experience and the savings make it worthwhile. If a taxi sounds his horn as he approaches a crossroads then he has vacant spaces to fill. Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes are a cheap way of getting around central Havana.

By bus

Havana used to have a public transportation service called the El Camello, a split-level bus pulled by a semi-truck, and resembling a 2 humped camel (thus the name). Camellos finished operation in April 2008 and were replaced by modern city buses imported from China.

The cost of riding the new city bus is 1 national peso or sometimes even 0.40 national cents to anywhere in the city (the driver will not give you change). Expect some overcrowding, there are plenty of buses running though, so if the one you want is full simply wait for the next one. There are few clearly marked bus stops on route, but it’s clear where they stop usually as you will have other waiting at the side of the road; you are able to leave when the bus stops at the traffic lights. Other local buses can also get crowded, but in the suburbs, they are a practical means of transport for visitors.

By car

Hiring a car can be an interesting experience as the road signs are not particularly good. Some travelers suggest picking up hitchhikers and using their local expertise to get you where you want to go. There is one high way constructed by the Soviet Union on the island’s northern side. It was not finished due to the fall of the Soviet Union, but is the easiest way to head east-west. Most other roads are in terrible condition. If you are leaving Havana, make sure you do it in an air conditioned jeep, as normal cars cannot be expected to cope with the terrain of the “roads”.

By cycle

Cycling can be a great way to get around Cuba. There are a number of international tour companies that offer guided tours, the most popular is from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. If you are traveling in February and March avoid the west to east approach as the trade winds are tough to cycle against.

By foot

Walking around Havana is by far the best way to see and experience the city: get a decent map of the city and discover new sights on foot.


  • Museum of the Revolution and the Capitol Building.
  • Visit a live cigar factory. One offering tours is at the intersection of Peñalver and San Carlos (just 1 mile southwest of Old Havana La Habana Vieja), tickets can/should be bought in advance (10 CUC per person as of July 2014). English tours are available. Please note that there is no photography allowed. It is the place where you can also be sure to get the correct cigars in the shop – more expensive than ‘street offers’ – but the quality of these “street offers” is definitely questionable. Note that the Partagas cigar factory just behind the Capitol Building has closed permanently since late 2011.
  • Havana Club Rum Factory. Go on a guided tour of Havana Club, one of Cuba’s most famous rums. Most of the exhibits are subtitled in English and are fairly self-explanatory.
  • Walk along the Prado street in the evening. Great public space – unfortunately not illuminated at night. The Prado hums with street life, cafes and charm.
  • Walk along El Malecón. A favorite stroll for tourists and locals, a walk along the Malecon runs along the main streets of Havana and provides stunning views of the Bay.
  • Enjoy the glory of La Habana Vieja (The Old Town), some of it faded and crumbling – but there are many beautifully restored buildings as a result of the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
  • Plaza de la Revolución. Huge square dominated by a statue and monument of Jose Marti and the iconic image of Che Guevara adorning the Ministry of the Interior. Arrive either early or late, as it is often swamped by tourists and gets very hot during the day.
  • John Lennon Park in Vedado. Features the only statue of a western musician in Havana. Notable for the regularly stolen (and replaced) eyeglasses.
  • The US Special Interests building in Vedado, just off the Malecon. In the absence of a United States embassy in Cuba, this heavily fortified and guarded building is where Cuban citizens go to apply for US Visas. It was notable for displaying news which is unfiltered and not censored by the Cuban government on electronic billboards situated behind the windows of one of the floors, but these were switched off in 2009. It is also the focus for regularly staged protests.
  • Hotel Habana Libre in Vedado. The hotel housed Castro’s soldiers for several days after they took Havana. It has an excellent selection of photos in the lobby along with one of the only 24 hour fast food restaurants in the city.
  • Enjoy extraordinary 360-degree views of the city using the large Camara Oscura in the old town.
  • The Cathedral de San Cristobal in old Havana. Said to be the only example of a baroque construction that possesses asymmetrical features, one of the towers is wider than the other.
  • Plaza de Armas. Spacious and elegant, the square is surrounded by baroque constructions that give it a authentic colonial milieu. It was laid out during the 1600s, replacing an old plaza which acted as the center of religious, administrative and military activity. Until the mid-18th century, it was used for military exercises and parades. After its remodeling between the years 1771-1838, it became a favored meeting spot for the city’s wealthy. Today it is also known as Céspedes Park, in honor of the country´s Founding Father, whose monument stands at its center. This square is one of the most outstanding in the city, enlivened by vendors of antiques and classical books on Latin American and world literature. Attractions of remarkable historical value lay around the square such as the capok tree (Ceiba) under which the first mass for the city´s founding was officiated in 1519.
  • Castillo de la Real Fuerza, Plaza des Armas. Castillo de La Real Fuerza is the oldest bastioned fortress in the New World and has now reopened as a Cuba’s premier maritime museum. (There is also a small naval museum in Cienfuegos.) The museum contains excellent exhibits of Cuba’s maritime past, from pre-Columbian days through to the 18th Century with the Royal Shipyard of Havana, one of the largest in the world which built nearly 200 ships for the Spanish Crown. The museum features a huge four meters model of the Santisima Trinidad, located on the main floor with a large interactive touch screen, which describes life aboard an 18th Century ship-of-the-line in Spanish, French, and English. The original ship was launched into Havana Bay on March 2, 1769 and was the largest ship in the world in the 18th Century, with 140 cannons on four gun decks. She was one of four Cuban-built ships at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Downstairs you will find ancient navigational instruments, underwater archaeological artifacts, and gold and silver from the colonial era. Also note the original weathervane, La Giraldilla, while her replica moves in the breeze on the top of the fortress tower, which commands a fantastic view of the city. The second level of the museum hosts many other historic and contemporary models of ships with links to Cuba and is also a good location for viewing the harbor and city skyline.
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  • Walk along the Malecón, the sea wall that runs along the Havana coastline. On weekends this is where the locals come to party, so bring a bottle and join in.
  • Latin American New Cinema Festival, is a popular event held every December, screening international films and drawing around 500,000 people.
  • Tropicana Show — A cabaret show that costs 90CUC.
  • Take a tour in an old car — For around 20-30CUC an hour for up to four people, be driven around Havana in style. Choose a car you like near the Hotel Inglaterra or outside the Museum of the Revolution.
  • Go to the eastern beaches (Playas del Este) — There’s a bus leaving from Hotel Inglaterra every 30 minutes. Price is 5 CUC for a roundtrip. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
  • Walk around Havana Vieja in the early mornings, or take a very long walking tour with “Havana Frans”, a Dutch jazz photographer who lives in Havana.
  • Take a Guided Walking Tour of Havana, ☎ +53-54631539. Yaimara is a Havana native, studying English at university. She offers inexpensive guided walking tours of the city. She prefers to tailor the tour to the client’s interests, so you can let her know what part of Havana you’d like to visit, or ask for recommendations. Also you can let her know ahead of time if you’re particularly interested in history, culture, music, etc. The price is 10 CUC per hour (tips appreciated).

Live Music

  • Nearly every restaurant and hotel in town has a decent house band playing old favorites.
  • Hotel Nacional often hosts big name talent such as Omara Portuondo.
  • La Zorra y el Cuervo, La Rampa, (near the Hotel Habana Libre). A tiny little club below street level, they often host funky and amazing jazz musicians. Go there for something a little different.
  • La Tropical is a venue designed to hold several thousand people. It only opens for live music. Look around for signs in the streets publicizing the next event.
  • Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana is the place to be if you like to dance Salsa. Check the program before you buy tickets, there are different top-rated salsa bands playing most nights. Swarmed with sex workers.
  • Museo del Ron offers a very nice outdoors 50’s Cuban music show called Buena Vista. You can watch it with or without dinner. 50CUC with dinner.
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  • The University of Havana — Offers intensive Spanish courses from 1 week/20 hours (100CUC) to 4 weeks/80 hours (360CUC). Contact Professor Judith Portal [email protected]
  • The Instituto Superior de Arte / Escuela Nacional de Arte / CNSEA offer courses of various lengths and levels in music, dance, drama, art and Spanish.
  • Babylon Idiomas, offers a wide range of affordable and high quality Spanish courses for all levels with experienced native teachers. Cultural and social activities are included in the programme. The school is located in the heart of the city, in the district Vedado. New students can start on any Monday of the year. Contact: [email protected]
  • Dance classes of Caribbean rhytms (salsa, reggaeton, cha cha cha, merengue, bachata) with professor Raul Pedroso for 7CUC per hour. Contact: [email protected] Mobile: (53) 05 352463450.
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Havana is a surprisingly expensive city to stay in; if you stay in hotels and eat in restaurants it can work out to be nearly as expensive as other popular international destinations. The problem is that Cuba has a dual economy, if you could live on pesos it would be incredibly cheap. Sadly, as a tourist this is virtually impossible. Most peso hotels won’t take foreigners or, if they do you have to pay in CUC. If you are on any kind of a budget it is advised to stay in casas particulares; it is much cheaper, often more comfortable and the food (a recurring theme in Cuba) is almost invariably better.

ATMs are not too hard to find in downtown Havana, but bear in mind that American credit- and debit-cards can not be used in Havana. Note that even credit cards issued in countries other than the USA may be issued by a bank whose parent company is a U.S. corporation. In this case, the card will not work as the parent company is bound by U.S. law. Even banks wholly owned by non-American companies may have a policy on blocking Cuban transactions in order not to compromise their US business. Always check with your bank or credit card company before leaving home to see if your card will work in Havana. Also, the ATMs do not accept MasterCard / Maestro but are marked to accept Visa.

You can withdraw money from your MasterCard in a couple of exchange offices. There is one in the basement of the Hotel Nacional, but expect quite steep service fees. Exchanging US dollars in a CADECA (Casa de cambio) will incur a 10% penality. Sterling, Euros and Canadian dollars can easily be exchanged at Cadecas and do not incur the same fee.

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Whilst Convertible Peso restaurants can be quite expensive at the top end for rather mediocre food, some such as the Café de Oriente have a splendid ambiance. The average government-run restaurants are about US$20 for two.


Peso stalls are all over the city. Look for the windows or tiny storefronts with planks hanging out front, listing items and prices. Generally, an espresso is 1 CUP, a sandwich is 5-15 CUP, a pizza is 10 CUP. Availability of other dishes varies widely, but nothing costs more than 25 CUP or so. Be nice and tip well. Some restaurants like Hanoi, in Calle Brazil, offer generous meals for 5 CUC.

  • With Cuban national pesos, you can get ice cream for only 1 peso (US$0.04) in small street booths scattered around the city. You can also get a filling bocadito (small ham sandwiches) or a cajita (small meal in a cardboard box) for less than 20 pesos (US$0.80), or a “pizza” for 7-10 pesos (US$0.40). Particularly, the Terminal de Omnibus, by the Plaza de la Revolucion, has a very good peso cafe with offerings as fried chicken for only 25 pesos ($1.00 USD).
  • Coppelia Ice Cream parlor, opposite the Habana Libre. Practically a Cuban institution with people waiting up to an hour to get a seat. Prices are in pesos and CUC (obviously the queues being for the peso area). Peso-paying sections cost 1 peso per scoop (open till 9:15pm) and outdoor convertible-paying section costs 1 centavo (0.01 CUC) per gram (two scoops and up, which will costs you minimum 2.75 CUC; open 24 hours)


Keeping your eyes open you can find complete menus (starter or salad, soup, main dish, dessert and a national beverage) for 6-10CUC. In the Vieja, there are such restaurants in the smaller, not very crowded streets. Beware that at least one paladar charges an hefty per-person service charge on top of your bill (10 CUC per couple at Paladar Amistad de Lanzarote in Central Havana) – deceivingly printed in Spanish only in a bilingual English/Spanish menu. Also no matter what the owner insists, there is never a tax levied for eating at paladares. Always ask before ordering.

  • El Aljibe. In the Havana suburb of Miramar, El Aljibe is the definitive proof that food in Cuba needn’t be bland. Try the house specialty, chicken in sour orange sauce. El Aljibe also has a remarkably well-stocked wine cellar.
  • La Casa, Calle 30 No. 865 e/ 26 y 41, Nuevo Vedado. Daily from 12:00 to 0:00. This stylish restaurant, located in Nuevo Vedado, is a large California-style house typical of the 1950s. The dining room and garden are inviting and intimate. The impeccable service and consistency uncommon in Cuba, are a must in Havana. Website address: Restaurant La Casa 10-25 CUC.
  • Paladar La Tasquita, Calle 27 de Noviembre (Jovellar No. 160) e/ Espada y San Francisco, ☎ 873-4916. Daily from noon to midnight. Located near San Lazaro, this Paladar (Small, family-run, private-owned restaurant) serves typical criolla food. You will be dining in the living room of a local family, so don’t expect anything glamorous in terms of atmosphere. On the other hand, the staff is very friendly and you will get the opportunity to taste typical cuban food as local families prepare it: Simply delicious. The seating is limited so reserve in advance. 15-25 CUC.

There are many good, mid-priced restaurants in Chinatown. “Bavaria” is one of the best if you can picture a restaurant named after a German province pronounced like “barbaria” with Chinese decor, serving pizzas and spaghetti.


The restaurants inside five-star hotels tend to charge excessive amounts of money for mediocre food and service.

Try La Fontana Restaurant, one of the most notable grill restaurants in Cuba. La Fontana has a refined yet sober home environment, suitable for a dinner with a touch of familiarity and a placid conversation, while enjoying exquisite dishes from its specialty, updated Cuban cuisine. Ask for octopus grilled over charcoal with pesto, or choose a sea snail in garlic and aged rum. It is about $25 per person, and you need to make a call to book: +53 7 202 8337, +53 5 293 2497, or +53 5 286 4747.

For great ambience and surprisingly palatable fare, Paladar “Vistamar” on Calle 1 in Miramar offers a top-notch wine list, excellent selection and quality of sea-food, and (very rare for Cuba) an assortment of beef dishes. Perched at the edge of the ocean overlooking the Florida Straits, you can enjoy dinner “al fresco” either on the balcony or the patio, or inside in a well apportioned dining room with (again surprisingly for Cuba) attentive and knowledgeable staff. Expect to pay for the privilège though, as an entre will set you back 10-20 CUC and an average bottle of wine hovers around 30. No reservations necessary, but a little hard to find as it appears to be a private house at first glance; get a taxi to get you there.


All the tourist hotels serve breakfast, typically a buffet with a wide variety of good food, although overpriced (15 CUC at the Hotel Nacional). If you stay in a casa particular ask whether you’ll be served breakfast. If not, ask the landlord/lady to take you shopping. Breakfast in a casa particular is rarely good value, as you’ll spend 3-4 CUC per person when you could go to a cafeteria and get a coffee and an egg sandwich for about 10 CUP. Otherwise, there’s almost no hope of finding a restaurant open for breakfast. One exception is the Chan Li Po Bar-Cafeteria, open at 9AM, in Centro Habana, near Chinatown, at Perseverancia #453 (between Zanja and San Martin).

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  • La Bodeguita del Medio is the bar in which to sample a Mojito. The former hangout of Ernest Hemingway, it is best sampled in the evening once the tourist crowds from Varadero have headed back out of the city.
  • El Floridita, Obispo St. Another stop on the Hemingway booze tour; known for its daiquirís (which are, truth to tell, overpriced and mediocre), but better visited for its atmosphere, which is almost unchanged from pre-Castro days.
  • Hotel Nacional has exceptional cocktails at Salon de la Historia. Try a Pina Colada for 5 CUC (2014) while amusing yourself at the photos of the all the celebrities who have visited over the years.
  • Los Buccaneros Hanoi, Calle Brasil. With the front of the Capitol building on your right from the main street, walk about two blocks to the left on the road that runs parallel to the Capitol. There are two bars called Hanoi. Go to the first one Los Buccaneros. This bar serves very good mojitos for 1$CUC.
  • La Bodeguita del Medio

You can have a great time just outside of the Hotel Inglaterra near the Capitólio Building, drinking good daiquiris and mojitos at an affordable price (2CUC in September 2005).

There are two types of establishments you can go to to drink in Havana: Western-style CUC bars with near-Western prices, a good selection of quality drinks (and sometimes food), nice decorations, semi-motivated staff and often live music, typically found around tourist hot-spots such as Old Havana and tourist hotels. Here you will mostly meet other tourists, expats and a few Cubans with access to hard currency, but don’t expect a ‘local’ experience.

The alternative is to seek out local neighborhood bars where you can choose from a quality, but limited, selection of drinks (mainly locally produced rum by the bottle, beer and soft drinks, very rarely will you be able to get cocktails such as mojitos), cigars of dubious and cigarettes of only slightly better quality, and sometimes snacks. Local bars accept CUPs and are dirt-cheap, although bar keepers will often ask you for CUCs instead – it’s up to you to negotiate an acceptable price, but keep in mind that local bar staff are state employees and (literally) paid a pittance. These bars are also a good way to meet locals who may even open up a bit and talk about their lives after a couple of drinks.

Local bars are not that hard to find despite typically having no prominent signs displayed outside. Just ask or walk around a local neighborhood and look out for a bare-walled, neon-lit run-down room without any decorations or furniture, save for a bar and a few rickety chairs and tables, sullen staff and depressed/bored/drunk-looking customers, almost always men. Contrary to Cuba’s reputation as a music and fun loving nation, these places are not boisterous affairs – they are quiet, almost subdued, music is rarely played (if at all, it will come from a radio but never be live), and have the charm of third-world railway station waiting rooms.

Nonetheless, they make for a fascinating experience (especially if you make the effort to speak to some locals – offering to buy a drink will get a conversation going, no surprise there), and they provide a good insight into what life must be like for ordinary Cubans without hard currency. As a foreign visitor, you will be generally welcomed. Discussing politics over a drink is a tricky, and typically lose-lose proposition: speak negatively about the Cuban political system and you may put your Cuban drinking companions into a very difficult position as they may very well be informed on (for hanging out with subversive foreigners); enthuse about the Revolution, Che, Fidel, Cuba’s health care system, sticking it to the Gringos, etc., and people will assume that you are at best naive or at worst not in full possession of your mental faculties. Cheers!

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There are 3 main areas that travelers generally stay in: Old Havana is the liveliest (some would say hectic and dirty), Central Havana is slightly quieter and parts can be a bit seedy, and Vedado is the quietest with more greenery, and is the place to find the large hotels and nicer casas particulares. Hotels vary. Don’t be surprised if you have no hot water and bad TV-reception in a hotel that still goes to the effort of having an in-hotel doctor and hosting extravagant shows of synchronized swimming in the hotel pool.

Casa Celio, Calle D #251 e/11 y 13, Vedado (The big house at the 11 y D corner.), ☎ +5358385747. Colonial style building located in a prestigious neighborhood, next to the Chinese embassy. Four different size rooms with antique interiors, patio and an amazing terrace. 35-40 CUC for a room, breakfast is available for 5 CUC per person. The staff speaks spanish, english and russian. +5358385747, e-mail:[email protected]

List of Casas particulares Legal

Havana Room Rental provides a service to find homes that are offering rooms for rent.

Habana Vieja

  • Casa Bolsa De La Habana (Pictures of Casa Bolsa); Built into the old stock exchange of Havana, this unique place offers authentic and tasteful living in the very center of Cuba’s capital. The restored colonial building is just a few meters from Calle Obispo, where you can find a lot of cafes, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, etc. The spot offers a big open room, where you can sit in an old rocking chair, smoke a cigar and watch the bustling street life of La Habana. It’s in walking distance to Old Square (Plaza Vieja), Malecon, Artist Center, Capitolio, Park Central, Floridita restaurant and many more. Adress: Obrapia #257 e/ Aguiar and Cuba, Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Phone: +53 5 8139298 / +53 5 3687501, Email: [email protected]
  • Casa Julia and Roberto located on the center of old habana area, near from the most turisticals and popular areas and places of interest of the old havana, the appartment have two independent rooms, a balcony, kitchen, living room, and diner room, if you came here you will fall in love of the area, because you will living on the real Habana-Cuba. Contact numbers +5353906236,email address, [email protected]
  • Hostal Casa Vieja 1840 (; Wonderful authentic Hostal located in a tastefully restored, Colonial house located at just a few meters from the Old Market Place (Plaza Vieja) in Habana Vieja. Its great 100m2 terrace offers many possibilities from salsa/Spanish classes through sunbathing or a laid back after talk/diner after a busy day of site seeing. Adress: Calle Teniente Rey 110A, e/calle Cuba y san Ignacio, La Habana Vieja. +53-78620477.
  • Apartamento Roberto y Julia Two bedroom apartment located close to the Floridita bar in the heart of Old Havana. The apartment has a balcony with a view on O´Relly street where you can see the daily life of Cuban people, or relax and enjoy the Cuban Sun. +53-78615275, +53-53906236, +53-52765076, e-mail: [email protected]
  • Ana y Chuchi; Very central place with a great host who gets out of her way to make people comfortable. Three rooms of different sizes. Small windows overlook patio, breakfast and dinner are enormous. Address: Aguacate 513, Havana Vieja (/e Sol y Muralla (between streets Sol & Muralla)), ☎ (537) 861 1877, e-mail: [email protected] 25-30 CUC inc. breakfast.
  • Casa Xiomara ; Xiomara’s house is a real budget option, especially for Havana. It’s probably as close as you can get to a youth hostel in Old Havana. Most of the rooms have three beds, and you can rent by the bed for 10 CUC instead of renting a whole room. Breakfast is included, and the rooms are air-conditioned. It’s especially popular with tourists from East Asia, but all are welcome. The atmosphere is friendly and there is a large common area with couches, a balcony, and tables where guests often gather to play dominoes. It’s about two blocks from the Capitol. Address: Calle Aguila between Barcelona and San Martin, number 506, Apartment 2. Phone: +53-78639398.

Centro Habana

  • Casa de Ania Jovellar 160, entre Espada y San Francisco. Centro Habana. tel-537 870 4881. A friendly casa particular on the border of Vedado and Centro Habana within walking distance of all the major tourist sites. Great atmosphere within the house, with a social area and food on offer. A great option for solo travellers as it has some of the only dorm beds in Havana. Private rooms from 15CUC per person and dorm rooms from 10CUC, all with A/C. [email protected]
  • Casa Yamir Obrapia No. 401 apto. 2, Centro Habana. A well located casa run by the ever smiling Yamir located near the busy Obispo and National Capitol building. In addition around 10 minutes walk from the upscale hotels that offer the cities only wifi connections. Room prices from 25-30 cuc per night. Some have rooms have A/C and all others have fans but worth checking when calling. Tel: 05 281-6962. At present phone bookings only but Yamir hopes to get an email account shortly.
  • Casa Miriam Hostal Colonial Lealtad 206. entre Virtudes y Concordia. Centro Habana. tel-537 8631657. A typical colonial style house, built in 1883,recently converted into a small and cozy hostal. Private ensuite rooms. Central location just a few steps from the ocean.Prices from 20-30 cuc per night. [email protected]
  • Casa Mabel, Industria No. 270 (altos), e/ Neptuno y Virtudes, Centro Habana (One block from Parque Central and Prado. Close to Malecon and Havana Vieja.), ☎ +53 7 8635706. A very friendly family home. 2 comfortable rooms with balcony and great view for rent. 25cuc. (mail to:[email protected]).
  • Casa Olga, Galiano No. 206 e/Virtudes y Concordia (just around the corner from Hotel Lincoln), Centro Havana. Olga rents her entire 2nd floor including full kitchen, living room and three single beds for CUC$25-30. She’s extremely friendly and not pushy like other casa owners can be. Phone: +53 7 863 5547.
  • Señora Ivette Flores rents out three private rooms with air conditioning and independent entrances in Centro Habana, near the Casa de la Música. 213 San Nicolas / Concordia y Virtudes / Centro Habana. ppn: 25 CUC including abundant breakfast.
  • Kenia Apartment. Maloja #6 Apt 302, /Ángeles y Águila. Independent apartment, clean, well furnished with A/C, short walking distance from the Capitolio, Casa de la Musica, Old Havana and major touristic sites. Perfect for singles and couples that want to enjoy the city staying in a quiet and comfortable place at reasonable price. (20-30 CUC per night). Kenia: tel +53 53451612 email [email protected]
  • Casa Tere ($25CUC/night, 1 room with air con, 2 single bed), Consulado no. 303, entre Neptuno y Virtudes, Havana Center. Near Park Central, Capitolio and Paseo del Prado, Telephone house +53 8642689.
  • Casa Lopez, situated in a very central part of the city, just a few blocks from the Capitolio and Old Havana.
  • Casa 1932 ($30CUC/night, 2 room with air con, 2 single bed & one Double bed), Campanario 63 bajos entre San Lazaro y Lagunas, Havana Center. Near Havana’s sea wall. Telephone house +53 8636203.
  • Casa Milagros Diez (from $25 CUC/night, 2 double rooms & dorm, both with en-suite shower bathrooms. Even for people in wheelchairs), Calle Manrique No. 208 (bajos),entre Concordia y Virtudes (left entrance of the building, the groundfloor). Centro Habana Havana’s Music House neigbourhood. E-Mail: [email protected] Mobile phone +53 53905001.
  • Casa Xiomara Hernández (from $25CUC/night, two double rooms en-suite) Calle Aguila No. 506 Derecha 2do. Piso -right entrance of the building, second floor; entre San Jose y Barcelona. Nearby National Capitol Building. Telephone +53 7 8639398 E-mail: [email protected]
  • Casa Cary, Virtudes #511 (top floor, between Lealtad and Preseverancia), +53 7 863 1802.
  • Casa Ines, Calle Segunda #559 (between Ayesteran and Ayuntamiento), Plaza de la Revolucion, +53 7 870 0237.
  • Casa Clara, Bed and Breakfast, Calle San Nicolás 652, between Reina y Estrella, Centro Habana, Near National Capitol Building and Chinatown. Balcony, Private bathroom, A/C, Taxi service, Airport pickup, Telephone +53 7-860-0139, E-mail: [email protected]

El Vedado

  • Alicia Beaton, Havana, CRESPO No. 10, Vedado (between San Lazaro and Malecon), ☎ +53 7 863 9616. This is very convenient hostel, located close to the Malecon and near the Park Central area. The pristine house and bedrooms are located on the third floor of the building. Please ask the owners to turn off the air conditioning if you are too cold. $CUC20-$CUC25.
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  • La Casa de Ana, 17 St #1422, Apt 1, Vedado (between 26 st and 28 st), ☎ +53 7 833 5128 ([email protected]). Ana is receiving guests in its house for more than 20 years. It is one of the most popular houses in Cuba, so be sure to book well in advance.
  • Señores Elsa y Julio Roque, Consulado No. 162, apto. 2, Centro Habana (between Colon and Trocadero), ☎ +53 7 860 1257 ([email protected]). A very friendly couple rent rooms in their centrally located house, and help find other houses in case they’re full. Both speak good English and offer helpful information. Reservations can be made by e-mail either in English or in Spanish.
  • Casa Ese, Havana, Calle linea #256, Vedado (between J and I), ☎ +53 7 832 9978 ([email protected]). Living room, 2 bedrooms available and AC. Great cooking, great location, walk to Malecon. Julio and Martha both speak English.
  • La Casa de Haifa y Pavel, Calle 19 No. 1353, Vedado (between 24 and 26), ☎ +53 7 830 1247 ([email protected]). Comfortable house, two independent rooms with hot water, terrace, air conditioning, fridge. One of the rooms have a kitchen. $25CUC – $30CUC.
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  • Sra. Ivón de los Angeles Acosta, Central no. 2, Nuevo Vedado (between Conil y Tulipán), ☎ +53 7 879 1223 ([email protected]). Nice roof terrace just for yourself, great meals and super friendly hosts.
  • Casa de Jesus y Saida Valdez, Calle 24 #262, Apt #5, Vedado (between 17 and 19), ☎ +53 7 830 7279.
  • Jorge Leon de la Hoz, Neptuno No. 1218 (altos), Vedado Plaza (between Mazon an Basarrate – close to the University end of Neptuno street), ☎ +53 7 870 7723 ([email protected]). A very friendly family home, close to the Universidad de la Habana. Room rates are negotiable depending upon the length of stay.
  • Casa de Lydia y Felix Pedro, 15 St #456, Vedado (between E and F), ☎ +53 7 832 6223.
  • Casa Mra Cristina & Guillermo, Calle 21, Building #15 Apartment 7-A, Vedado (between N and O – steps to the Hotel Nacional), ☎ +53 5 270 8449 ([email protected]). A very friendly family home with two univeristy aged children who speak english. 2 comfortable rooms with balcony and great view for rent. Ask for “mi cafe cita” in the morning on the balcony! $CUC 35.
  • Casa Nora, Havana, Calle 27 No. 954, Apt 4, Vedado (between 6 and 8), ☎ +53 7 830 9800 ([email protected]). Casa Nora is a lovely apartment right in the heart of Vedado. Her wonderful, friendly family makes you feel at right at home. Very safe area. The rooms are very big with AC and television, and they have an incredible view of Vedado and the ocean. Great food as well. $CUC20-$CUC25.
  • Casa Particular Havana, 28 St #270, Apt F, Vedado (between 23 and 21), ☎ +53 7 830 8007 ([email protected]).


  • Casa Nora, Havana, ($35CUC), Calle 64 No. 4105 e/ 41 y 43, Playa. Living room, bedroom and compact kitchen. George speaks wonderful English and has a wealth of information.
  • Casa Mireya, 47 Ave. #5211 (between 52 and 54), Playa, +53 7 209 13 54.
  • Casa Mari y Jose, Calle 8 No. 511 e/ 5taA y 5taB, Miramar-Playa, La Habana, Frente al Restaurante Kasalta. Booking:


  • Casa de Sergio and Miriam, Luz 109 (in the center of Old Havana), +53 7 860 8192.
  • Hotel Inglaterra, Paseo del Prado, Old Havana. A popular hotel with a restaurant for those wanting to stay closer to the action yet still in the comforts of a hotel. Rooms from US$80.
  • Hotel Mercure Sevilla Havane, Trocadero 55 e, Prado y Zulueta Habana Vieja, Tel. (+53)7/8608560, Fax. (+53)7/8616565, E-Mail: [email protected]
  • Hotel Telegrafo, Prado and Neptuno, Old Havana. A popular hotel just around the corner from Parque Central, right next to Inglaterra. Renovated in 2004, and now really nice inside, a welcome haven of peace away from Vieja. Rooms US$80-120, cheaper if you book ahead with Opodo.


  • Tryp Habana Libre Hotel, La Rampa (just off the Malecón in Vedado). A Havana landmark in a good location, it’s popular with tourists and journalists, has a good 24 hour cafe on site, and a business center with decent internet connections.
  • Hotel Habana Riviera, Paseo and Malecón, Vedado. Located along the Malecon, Havana’s waterfront boulevard, this elegant hotel is considered a classic among Cubans. Its proximity to the historical-cultural center of Havana, makes this hotel the perfect place from which to explore the city. In the night time the Riviera offers excellent entertainment featuring both the exclusive Copa Room Cabaret and one of Havana’s top restaurants.
  • Hotel Nacional, Calle 21 and O, Vedado, +53 7 836 3564. Overlooking the ocean on the Malecón, this hotel is legendary, having hosted international VIPs for 30 years. Many years of neglect, coupled with an only partially successful renovation, have left the Nacional a step below its former glory. That said, some stay here and rarely leave the hotel, enjoying the restaurant, terrace, frequent live performances by renowned Cuban musicians, and enjoying the views while sipping Mojitos. But did you come to see Havana, or hang out in a hotel? Maybe some of both is called for. The hotel also has an excellent, albeit expensive business centre featuring CNN, internet access and a bar. Rooms from US$150.
  • Hotel Saratoga, corner of Prado and Dragones, Old Havana, +53 7 868 1000. Opened in November 2005, it is regarded as one of the higher quality hotels in Cuba.
  • Hotel Parque Central, on Neptuno (between Agramonte and Paseo di Marti), +53 7 867 1037. Similar to the Saratoga in quality, and has a beautiful ground floor lobby as well as a rooftop swimming pool. The recently-opened Torre wing may have the best rooms in Cuba, at least by Western standards.
  • Hotel Conde de Villanueva, Calle Mercaderes esq. Amagura, Old Havana. A beautifully restored colonial home, this hotel is the ultimate destination for a connoisseur of Cuban cigars; each room is named after a tobacco plantation, and, of course, all rooms permit smoking. Boasts an impressive cigar shop in the hotel, in addition to a (reasonably average) restaurant. Be warned, though: if you like to sleep late, there is a peacock that wanders around the courtyard that begins to make noise as soon as the sun comes up.
  • Hotel Ambos Mundos, Obispo esquina a Mercaderes. Writer Ernest Hemingway stayed and wrote most of For Whom the Bell Tolls here, a fact which adds historical charm to this well-located hotel in Old Havana. The Plaza de Armas is a few steps away, and the establishment has an elegant and lively lobby where piano and jazz musicians perform.
  • Hotel Park View, Colón 101. A popular hotel in the 1920s, the Park View (reopened in 2002) is a small establishment just off Prado, close to the colonial centre of Old Havana and the seawall. It does not share in the historical or decorative charm of other Old Havana properties, but it is certainly a practical option for anyone interested in exploring Old Havana and traveling on a tighter.


  • Hotel Plaza, Ignacio Agramonte No. 267. The Plaza is one of Havana’s oldest hotels. In addition to a beautifully restored interior and a great location near many places of interest in Old Havana, the hotel also has some interesting anecdotes. Albert Einstein once dined here, and Babe Ruth stayed at one of the suites, today a museum (where his bat has been preserved).
  • Hotel Santa Isabel, Baratillo 9. Considered Old Havana’s flagship hotel, this establishment is one of the classier – and more expensive – colonial-era options in this part of town. The long terrace overlooking the Plaza de Armas, shared by 10 west-facing rooms, is one of the hotel’s most evident charms, as are its colonial appeal and a magnificent location.
  • Hotel Meliá La Habana, Ave. 3Era. E/ 76 Y 80 Miramar. A modern five star hotel with very big and comfortable rooms, and possibly the biggest swimming pool in Havana.
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Havana is quite safe for a large city. Heavily dependent on tourism, Cuban police are everywhere and pay special attention to spots where travelers congregate (Habana Vieja, El Malecón. etc.), so you don’t have to be afraid of being accosted in the daytime. Prison sentences for crimes involving tourists are extremely harsh, a fact which residents are well aware of, which adds an extra layer of deterrence. At night, however, there have been muggings in the dark streets of Centro Habana. While this part of town is perfectly safe to explore in the daytime, and can be crossed safely while going to Habana Vieja or Vedado, it’s best not go there at night. If you are going to walk, do so along El Malecón , where there are lights and a lot more people.

Be wary of hustlers (jinteros/as) offering to show you a place to eat or offering a tour of the city, as you’ll be stuck paying hefty prices to cover their commission. Just walk away and continue walking — soon enough they will leave you alone. In local restaurants, ask for menus or prices before ordering anything; there can be special ‘tourist price menus’ that get pulled out after you have consumed food or drink. If you’re male, expect to be accosted regularly by prostitutes and/or their pimps, especially in Habana Vieja. While technically illegal, erstwhile mandatory jail time for prostitution filled prisons so quickly that the regime had little choice but to start looking the other way. The result is a steady, depressing stream of solicitations that can wear down even the most cynical traveler unless he’s prepared for it. Particularly disheartening are the offers from young girls, some no more than 11 or 12. Accept this situation as a fact of life in modern-day Cuba — and don’t contribute to it.

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The city code for Havana is 7. Prefix with 0 or 01 when calling from within Cuba.

Internet cafes can be found at ETESCA (the state telephone company) offices which sell internet cards for $4.50CUC for an hour, in Hotel Habana Libre, Hotel Inglatera (cheapest but slowest), Hotel Nacional and at the Capitolio.

Wireless Internet access – some high-end hotels such as Hotel Parque Central sells wi-fi scratch cards at the rate of 8 CUC per hour, which can be used inside the hotel and works well with iPhone/iPod Touch.

The emergency number is 116. The information number is 113.

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  • Algeria, 5ta Ave, No. 2802, Esq. a 28, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-2835 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-2702).
  • Angola, 5ta Ave, No. 1012, e/10 y 12, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-4391 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-0487).
  • Argentina, Calle 36 Nro. 511 Entre 5ta y 7ma, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-2549 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-2140).
  • Azerbaijan, 5ta Ave, Nro. 9608, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 207-9280 ([email protected]).
  • Bahamas, 5ta Ave, No. 3006, 3/30 y 32, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 206-9918 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 206-9921).
  • Canada, Calle 30 No. 518 (esq. 7ma) Miramar, Playa, ☎ ++53 7 204 2516 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-2044).
  • China, Calle 42 No.313, 5ta Avenida Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 8333005 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 8333092).
  • France, Calle 14 No.312 e/ 3ra. y 5ta Miramar, ☎ +53 7 201-3131 (fax: +53 7 201-3107).
  • Germany, Calle 13 No. 652, esq. a B, Vedado, ☎ +53 7 833-2569 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 833-1586).
  • Grenada, 5ta. Ave. No. 2006, e/20 y 22, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 2046764 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 2046765).
  • Greece, 7802 5th Ave.& 78 str.Miramar Playa, ☎ +53 7 2042854 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 2079770).
  • Italy, 5 Avenida n. 402, Esquina Calle 4, Miramar, ☎ +53 7 204-5615 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-5659).
  • Japan, Centro de Negocios Miramar, Edi, 1-5 to. Piso, Ave. 3ra, Esq. a 80, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-3355 (fax: +53 7 204-8902.
  • Mexico, Calle 12 No. 518 (esq. 7ma) Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-7722, [49].
  • Netherlands, Ave. 7ma. #2007, esq. 22 Miramar, ☎ +53 7 204-2511 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-2511).
  • Russia, 5ta. ave. esq. A 66, # 318, Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 204-1074 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 204-1987).
  • South Africa, ☎ +53 7 204 9671.
  • Spain, Cárcel, 51 (esquina a Zulueta), ☎ +53 7 866-8025 ([email protected], fax: 53 7 866-8006).
  • United Kingdom, Calle 34 No. 702 (esq. 7ma) Miramar, Playa, ☎ +53 7 214-2200 ([email protected]).
  • United States, Calzada between L & M Sts, Vedado, ☎ +53 7 839-4100 (After hours emergencies +53 7 833-2302, [email protected]).
  • Venezuela, ☎ +53 7 204 2662 ([email protected], fax: +53 7 207 9790).
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Havana, capital of the Republic of Cuba, is the main administrative, political, cultural and scientific place in the country. Its Historic Center and its Fortress System were declared World Cultural Heritage in 1982 by UNESCO.

Travel and tourism in La Habana. How to get in, maps, activities to do, where to eat and sleep. Download the Free La Habana Travel Guide.


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Michel Piccaya


As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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