Guide to Havana, Cuba

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Havana is a city that has been through a lot. It has experienced invasion and colonialism by the Spanish and British. It became a gambling hot-bed for Americans prior to the revolution. In the 1960's, a new communist regime was in full swing, and now it is a city that tourists from all over the world want a slice of.

I will be honest in saying that dilapidated buildings and the notion of going back in time is what initially captivated my attention with Havana. I am a sucker for any city that is heavily photogenic, full of life and a little bit of a time capsule. The capitals history can be felt through every element of the city. From colonial buildings that make you feel as though you are meandering through Europe, to government headquarters with Che Guevara's face dominating the facade. 

There seems to be two sides to Havana. The old town is touristy and is in the process of being restored or already has been. It feels very European with colonial style buildings, classic Spanish squares and old churches. This area definitely felt quite commercialised, but not as much as some people say.

 The other side of town, which I came to count as anywhere past El Capitolio is much more residential and run down. This is where my casa was based and so I got to know the streets quite well.

This area felt like the Havana I had seen in pictures, with lots of dilapidated buildings, rusty old cars and people lurking the streets. One thing photographs don't shed light on are the smells of unfiltered car engines and the grit and grime that fills the streets. Our walks back to our casa consisted of dodging cat and dog faeces, animal bones and on one occasion a full on goats head... just keeping it real here! I think it is really important not to glamorise a place, especially when blogging and giving advice. I loved this city but I would be lying if I said I wasn't relieved about leaving it too. It just has that effect on you!


After spending 4 nights in Havana (3 at the beginning and one night prior to leaving), I would say that you could quite easily do Havana in a day. So ideally I would recommend 2 nights in this city, as after 4 nights I was more than ready to leave the craziness!

See & Do
  • Go on your own walking tour of the city. I would highly recommend downloading the app Cuba by Triposa. It is an offline app that provides background information, offline maps with key attractions, restaurants and other helpful Cuban travel advice. It is completely free and you don't need any internet to use it. We ended up not buying a travel guide because this was so helpful! We decided to do our own walking tour of the city, hitting up all the key attractions listed on the apps map. Key sites include El Capitolo, Plaza de la Catedral, Havana Cathedral, Plaza Vieja... Just to name a few! 
  • There are plenty of museums and galleries in Havana, but we decided to just head to the Museum of the Revolution to remind ourselves of Cuba's revolutionary history. We didn't stay particularly long, but it was definitely worth visiting even despite some of its propaganda. If museums and galleries are your thing, then have a little research about others you can visit too! 
  • Watch the sunset at the Malecon. This is a broad roadway and seawall which stretches for 8km along the coast of Havana. This area is full of life come sunset, with fishermen and locals hanging around along the walls edge. As we were staying close to the Malecon, we ended up coming here most evenings to watch the sunset amongst the locals and other tourists. It is also one of the best places to spot those incredible old cars! 
  • We spent quite a lot of our time in Havana meandering the streets and photographing everything we saw. It is definitely one of the most exciting places to photograph as every street is littered with crumbling buildings, intricate balconies and rusty old cars.


Prior to arriving in Cuba, we had asked our casa owner to sort us out a taxi, as we really had no idea what to expect when it came to transport in Cuba. It turns out he pretty much just got his mate to collect us in what was probably the smallest car I have ever been in! The price was $30 but you may be charged less if your lucky.

We were staying within walking distance to the old town, but if you needed a taxi there were plenty dotted about. From Havana we got a collectivo to Trinidad, which is essentially a shared taxi. This made it much cheaper, albeit a little less comfortable. They will pick you up from your casa and drop you at the next, so its door to door service and every casa owner was more than happy to organise this for us.


Airbnb was the absolute dream when it came to choosing accommodation in Cuba. There are so many casa's to choose from and if you book in advance there are some fantastic and affordable places. Our casa provided breakfast for an additional $5 each per day, which was perfect for setting ourselves up for a day of sightseeing.


I am not the first person to say that the food in Cuba is nothing special. It can be really hit and miss but mainly the options are limited and excessively priced. Some restaurants can charge around $12 for a main meal, but we never paid more than $8 and even that was quite a lot for us. However, if you go to locals restaurants you can actually come out with your overall bill being under $10 for two. So if you're on a tight budget I would recommend scouting out some local restaurants such as La Algarabia. We also enjoyed drinks and a couple of meals at Cafe Neruda located on the Malecon. This is a great location for evening dinner as you can watch the sunset, they often had a live band and they sell decent seafood meals for around $7. These restaurants are both on the Cuba app!

Thank you so much for reading this post. I hope you found it helpful and gave you some inspiration or tips for travelling to Havana, Cuba.

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Much love,
Lizzie xx

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