HAVANA

Cuba

Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba.The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.

Info Havana

introduction

Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba.

The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.

The city is the center of the Cuban government, and home to various ministries, headquarters of businesses and over 90 diplomatic offices.

The city of Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and due to its strategic location it served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent becoming a stopping point for the treasure-laden Spanish galleons on the crossing between the New World and the Old World.

The city attracts over a million tourists annually.  The historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is also noted for its history, culture, architecture and monuments.

In May 2015, Havana was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, La Paz, Durban, Beirut, and Kuala Lumpur.

info
POPULATION : City: 2,106,146
FOUNDED :  1515 , City status 1592
TIME ZONE : UTC−05:00 (UTC-5) Summer: UTC−04:00 (UTC-4)
LANGUAGE : Spanish
RELIGION : 85% Roman Catholic, Others 15% (Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, and Santeria)
AREA : 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 59 m (194 ft)
COORDINATES : 23°08′N 82°23′W
SEX RATIO : Male: 50.27%  
 Female: 49.73%
ETHNIC : White:63.4%, (Galician, Asturian and Canarian were the most common Spanish immigrants), mulatto: 20.4% (White/black mixed race), Black:16.4%, (brought by Spanish colonists from Sub-Saharan Africa), Asian:0.2% (reflecting immigration from China in the late 19th and early 20th centuries)
AREA CODE : 7
POSTAL CODE : 10xxx–19xxx
DIALING CODE : (+53) 07
WEBSITE :

Tourism

Havana attracts over a million tourists annually, the Official Census for Havana reports that in 2010 the city was visited by 1,176,627 international tourists, a +20.0% increase from 2005.

The city has long been a popular attraction for tourists. Between 1915 and 1930, Havana hosted more tourists than any other location in the Caribbean. The influx was due in large part to Cuba's proximity to the United States, where restrictive prohibition on alcohol and other pastimes stood in stark contrast to the island's traditionally relaxed attitude to leisure pursuits. A pamphlet published by E.C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, WI, between 1921 and 1939 promoting tourism in Havana, Cuba, can be found in the University of Houston Digital Library, Havana, Cuba, The Summer Land of the World, Digital Collection.

With the deterioration of Cuba – United States relations and the imposition of the trade embargo on the island in 1961, tourism dropped drastically and did not return to anything close to its pre-revolution levels until 1989. The revolutionary government in general, and Fidel Castro in particular, initially opposed any considerable development of the tourism industry, linking it to the debauchery and criminal activities of times past. In the late 1970s, however, Castro changed his stance and, in 1982, the Cuban government passed a foreign investment code which opened a number of sectors, tourism included, to foreign capital.

Through the creation of firms open to such foreign investment (such as Cubanacan), Cuba began to attract capital for hotel development, managing to increase the number of tourists from 130,000 (in 1980) to 326,000 (by the end of that decade).

Havana has also been a popular health tourism destination for more than 20 years. Foreign patients travel to Cuba, Havana in particular, for a wide range of treatments including eye-surgery, neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease, and orthopaedics. Many patients are from Latin America, although medical treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, often known as night blindness, has attracted many patients from Europe and North America.


THINGS TO SEE

The Old Town of Havana, La Habana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and strolling along its streets and enjoying the beautiful buildings is a must for any visitor. Some parts of the Old Town are quite dilapidated with crumbling buildings but many others have been restored to their former glory.

An evening walk along the Prado is a great way to sip in the street life and enjoying the hums of numerous cafes and restaurants. The street is however not illuminated at night. Another favorite stroll for tourists and locals alike is along El Malecón, Havanas waterfront with stunning views of the city.

  • Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución), Refugio No 1. Housed in the former presidential palace this iconic museum offers a history tour from pre-Columbian to the revolution in 1959 an on to present day socialist Cuba. Even if there's more than a hint of propaganda among the exhibitions it's still a must on any visit to Havana. Admission CUC$6, use of camera CUC$2 extra. 
  • National Capitol Building (El Capitolio), Paseo de Martí, 422,  Completed in 1929, this neoclassical building which resembles the U.S. Capitol housed the Cuban congress prior to the revolution. The building is currently being restored and will within a few years once again house the National Assembly. 
  • Partagás Cigar factory (Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas), Calle Industria 520 (Behind the Capitol Building),  A guided visit to the orignal Partagás factory gives a wealth of information about production and cultivation of tobacco and cigars. It is also theplace for buying authentic Cuban cigars, more expensive than on the street but with fantastic quality. CUC$10 for a guided tour, no photography allowed. 
  • Havana Club Rum Museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club), Avenida del Puerto 262. 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. 
  • 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.
  • Lennon Park (Parque Lennon), Calle 8 (In Vedado). Features the only statue of a western musician in Havana. Notable for the regularly stolen (and replaced) eyeglasses. 
  • US Special Interests building, Calle Calzada (In Vedado, just off El Malecón). 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 Cámara Oscura in the old town.
  • Havana Cathedral (Catedral de La Habana) (In Old Havana). Originally built in the 18th century but redesigned in the 1940s this church is a prime example of Baroque architecture in Cuba. Houses the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Cuba. 
  • Plaza de Armas. Spacious and elegant, the square is surrounded by baroque constructions that give it an 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.
  • The Royal Force Castle (Castillo de la Real Fuerza), Plaza des Armas. The oldest bastioned fortress in the New World, completed 1577. It now houses Cuba's premier maritime museum with 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 includes a huge model of Santisima Trinidad, one of the largest ships in the world during the 18th Century. The fort is also a great location for viewing the harbour and city skyline. 
  • Museo Nacional the Bellas Artes, Trocadero, btwn Agraminte and Av de las Misiones.This museum consits of two parts: international and cuban art. In the part of Arte Cubano art-lovers can spend hours admiring the works of the last centuries exhibited on three floors.CUC 8. 

History

Colonial period

Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded Havana on August 25, 1515 or 1514, on the southern coast of the island, near the present town of Surgidero de Batabanó, or more likely on the banks of the Mayabeque River close to Playa Mayabeque. All attempts to found a city on Cuba's south coast failed. However, an early map of Cuba drawn in 1514 places the town at the mouth of this river.

Between 1514 and 1519 the Spanish established at least two different settlements on the north coast, one of them in La Chorrera, today in the neighborhoods of Vedado and Miramar, next to the Almendares River. The town that became Havana finally originated adjacent to what was then called Puerto de Carenas (literally, "Careening Bay"), in 1519. The quality of this natural bay, which now hosts Havana's harbor, warranted this change of location.

Pánfilo de Narváez gave Havana — the sixth town founded by the Spanish on Cuba — its name: San Cristóbal de la Habana. The name combines San Cristóbal, patron saint of Havana. Shortly after the founding of Cuba's first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands.

Havana began as a trading port, and suffered regular attacks by buccaneers, pirates, and French corsairs. The first attack and resultant burning of the city was by the French corsair Jacques de Sores in 1555. Such attacks convinced the Spanish Crown to fund the construction of the first fortresses in the main cities — not only to counteract the pirates and corsairs, but also to exert more control over commerce with the West Indies, and to limit the extensive contrabando (black market) that had arisen due to the trade restrictions imposed by the Casa de Contratación of Seville (the crown-controlled trading house that held a monopoly on New World trade).

Ships from all over the New World carried products first to Havana, in order to be taken by the fleet to Spain. The thousands of ships gathered in the city's bay also fueled Havana's agriculture and manufacture, since they had to be supplied with food, water, and other products needed to traverse the ocean.

On December 20, 1592, King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City. Later on, the city would be officially designated as "Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies" by the Spanish Crown. In the meantime, efforts to build or improve the defensive infrastructures of the city continued.

Havana expanded greatly in the 17th century. New buildings were constructed from the most abundant materials of the island, mainly wood, combining various Iberian architectural styles, as well as borrowing profusely from Canarian characteristics.

In 1649 a very fatal epidemic brought from Cartagena in Colombia, affected a third of the population of Havana. By the middle of the 18th century Havana had more than seventy thousand inhabitants, and was the third-largest city in the Americas, ranking behind Lima and Mexico City but ahead of Boston and New York. During the 18th century Havana was the most important of the Spanish ports because it had facilities where ships could be refitted and, by 1740, it had become Spain's largest and most active shipyard and only drydock in the New World.

The city was captured by the British during the Seven Years' War. The episode began on June 6, 1762, when at dawn, a British fleet, comprising more than 50 ships and a combined force of over 11,000 men of the Royal Navy and Army, sailed into Cuban waters and made an amphibious landing east of Havana. The British immediately opened up trade with their North American and Caribbean colonies, causing a rapid transformation of Cuban society. Less than a year after Havana was seized, the Peace of Paris was signed by the three warring powers thus ending the Seven Years' War. The treaty gave Britain Florida in exchange for the return of the city of Havana on to Spain.

After regaining the city, the Spanish transformed Havana into the most heavily fortified city in the Americas. Construction began on what was to become the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, the third biggest Spanish fortification in the New World after Fort San Cristobal (the biggest) and Fort San Felipe del Morro both in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On January 15, 1796, the remains of Christopher Columbus were transported to the island from Santo Domingo. They rested here until 1898, when they were transferred to Seville's Cathedral, after Spain's loss of Cuba.

As trade between Caribbean and North American states increased in the early 19th century, Havana became a flourishing and fashionable city. Havana's theaters featured the most distinguished actors of the age, and prosperity among the burgeoning middle-class led to expensive new classical mansions being erected. During this period Havana became known as the Paris of the Antilles.


Republican period and Post-revolution

The 20th century began with Havana, and therefore Cuba, under occupation by the United States. The US occupation officially ended when Tomás Estrada Palma, first president of Cuba, took office on 20 May 1902.

During the Republican Period, from 1902 to 1959, the city saw a new era of development. Cuba recovered from the devastation of war to become a well-off country, with the third largest middle class in the hemisphere. Apartment buildings to accommodate the new middle class, as well as mansions for the Cuban tycoons, were built at a fast pace.

Numerous luxury hotels, casinos and nightclubs were constructed during the 1930s to serve Havana's burgeoning tourist industry. In the 1930s, organized crime characters were not unaware of Havana's nightclub and casino life, and they made their inroads in the city. Santo Trafficante, Jr. took the roulette wheel at the Sans Souci Casino, Meyer Lansky directed the Hotel Habana Riviera, with Lucky Luciano at the Hotel Nacional Casino. At the time, Havana became an exotic capital of appeal and numerous activities ranging from marinas, grand prix car racing, musical shows and parks.

Havana achieved the title of being the Latin American city with the biggest middle class population per-capita, simultaneously accompanied by gambling and corruption where gangsters and stars were known to mix socially. During this era, Havana was generally producing more revenue than Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1958, about 300,000 American tourists visited the city.

After the revolution of 1959, the new régime under Fidel Castro promised to improve social services, public housing, and official buildings. Nevertheless, after Castro's abrupt expropriation of all private property and industry (May 1959 onwards) under a strong communist model backed by the Soviet Union followed by the U.S. embargo, shortages that affected Cuba in general hit Havana especially hard. By 1966-1968, the Cuban government had nationalized all privately owned business entities in Cuba, down to "certain kinds of small retail forms of commerce"

A severe economic downturn occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Soviet subsidies ended, representing billions of dollars which the Soviet Union had given the Cuban government. Many believed that Havana's Soviet-backed régime would soon vanish, as happened to the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe. However, contrary to events in Europe, Havana's communist régime continued during the 1990s.

After many years of prohibition, the communist government increasingly turned to tourism for new financial revenue, and has allowed foreign investors to build new hotels and develop the hospitality industry. In Old Havana, effort has also gone into rebuilding for tourist purposes, and a number of streets and squares have been rehabilitated. But Old Havana is a large city, and the restoration efforts concentrate in all on less than 10% of its area.

Climate

Havana, like much of Cuba, has a tropical climate that is tempered by the island's position in the belt of the trade winds and by the warm offshore currents.

Average temperatures range from 22 °C (72 °F) in January and February to 28 °C (82 °F) in August.

The temperature seldom drops below 10 °C (50 °F)

Rainfall is heaviest in June and October and lightest from December through April, averaging 1,200 mm (47 in) annually.

Hurricanes occasionally strike the island, but they ordinarily hit the south coast, and damage in Havana has been less than elsewhere in the country.

Climate data for Havana

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F)25.8
(78.4)
26.1
(79)
27.6
(81.7)
28.6
(83.5)
29.8
(85.6)
30.5
(86.9)
31.3
(88.3)
31.6
(88.9)
31.0
(87.8)
29.2
(84.6)
27.7
(81.9)
26.5
(79.7)
28.8
(83.8)
Daily mean °C (°F)22.2
(72)
22.4
(72.3)
23.7
(74.7)
24.8
(76.6)
26.1
(79)
27.0
(80.6)
27.6
(81.7)
27.9
(82.2)
27.4
(81.3)
26.1
(79)
24.5
(76.1)
23.0
(73.4)
25.2
(77.4)
Average low °C (°F)18.6
(65.5)
18.6
(65.5)
19.7
(67.5)
20.9
(69.6)
22.4
(72.3)
23.4
(74.1)
23.8
(74.8)
24.1
(75.4)
23.8
(74.8)
23.0
(73.4)
21.3
(70.3)
19.5
(67.1)
21.6
(70.9)
              
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN)


Average Sea Temperature

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
23 °C

73 °F

23 °C

73 °F

24 °C

75 °F

26 °C

79 °F

27 °C

81 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

27 °C

81 °F

26 °C

79 °F

24 °C

75 °F

Geography

Havana lies on the northern coast of Cuba, south of the Florida Keys, where the Gulf of Mexico joins the Atlantic Ocean. The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbours: Marimelena, Guanabacoa, and Atarés. The sluggish Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay.

The low hills on which the city lies rise gently from the deep blue waters of the straits. A noteworthy elevation is the 200-foot-high (60-metre) limestone ridge that slopes up from the east and culminates in the heights of La Cabaña and El Morro, the sites of colonial fortifications overlooking the eastern bay. Another notable rise is the hill to the west that is occupied by the University of Havana and the Prince's Castle. Outside the city, higher hills rise on the west and east.

Economy

Havana has a diversified economy, with traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, construction, transportation and communications, and new or revived ones such as biotechnology and tourism.

The city's economy first developed on the basis of its location, which made it one of the early great trade centres in the New World. Sugar and a flourishing slave trade first brought riches to the city, and later, after independence, it became a renowned resort. Despite efforts by Fidel Castro's government to spread Cuba's industrial activity to all parts of the island, Havana remains the centre of much of the nation's industry.

The traditional sugar industry, upon which the island's economy has been based for three centuries, is centred elsewhere on the island and controls some three-fourths of the export economy. But light manufacturing facilities, meat-packing plants, and chemical and pharmaceutical operations are concentrated in Havana. Other food-processing industries are also important, along with shipbuilding, vehicle manufacturing, production of alcoholic beverages (particularly rum), textiles, and tobacco products, particularly the world-famous Habanos cigars.

Although the harbours of Cienfuegos and Matanzas, in particular, have been developed under the revolutionary government, Havana remains Cuba's primary port facility; 50% of Cuban imports and exports pass through Havana. The port also supports a considerable fishing industry.

In 2000, nearly 89% of the city's officially recorded labour force worked for government-run agencies, institutions or enterprises. Havana, on average, has the country's highest incomes and human development indicators. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba re-emphasized tourism as a major industry leading to its recovery. Tourism is now Havana and Cuba's primary economic source.

Havana's economy is still in flux, despite Raul Castro's embrace of free enterprise in 2011. Though there was an uptick in small businesses in 2011, many have since gone out of business, due to lack of business and income on the part of the local residents, whose salaries average $20 per month.

In the late 1990s Vedado, located along the atlantic waterfront, started to represent the principal commercial area. It was developed extensively between 1930 and 1960, when Havana developed as a major destination for U.S. tourists; high-rise hotels, casinos, restaurants, and upscale commercial establishments, many reflecting the art deco style.

Vedado is today Havana's financial district, the main banks, airline companies offices, shops, most businesses headquarters, numerous high-rise apartments and hotels, are located in the area. The University of Havana is located in Vedado.

Subdivisions

Havana (Ciudad De La Habana), the national capital, is sub-divided into 15 municipalities.

MunicipalityPopulation
(2004)
Area
(km²)
Arroyo Naranjo210,05383
Boyeros188,593134
Centro Habana158,1514
Cerro132,35110
Cotorro74,65066
Diez de Octubre227,29312
Guanabacoa112,964127
La Habana del Este178,041145
La Habana Vieja95,3835
La Lisa131,14838
Marianao135,55121
Playa186,95936
Plaza de la Revolución161,63112
Regla44,4319
San Miguel del Padrón159,273

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Internet, Comunication

TELEPHONE

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


INTERNET

Internet cafes can be found at ETESCA (the state telephone company) offices, 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.

Prices in Havana

PRICES LIST - USD

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter$1.75
Tomatoes1 kg$1.45
Cheese0.5 kg$4.70
Apples1 kg$3.50
Oranges1 kg$0.90
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$1.25
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$5.00
Coca-Cola2 liters$2.25
Bread1 piece$0.50
Water1.5 l$0.80

PRICES LIST - USD

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2$15.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$30.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2$40.00
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$5.00
Water0.33 l$0.55
Cappuccino1 cup$1.30
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$1.50
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$1.00
Coca-Cola0.33 l$1.35
Coctail drink1 drink$3.50

PRICES LIST - USD

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets$
Gym1 month$
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$13.00
Theatar2 tickets$40.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$0.40
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$2.00

PRICES LIST - USD

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack$10.00
Tampons32 pieces$
Deodorant50 ml.$2.90
Shampoo400 ml.$3.30
Toilet paper4 rolls$1.90
Toothpaste1 tube$2.40

PRICES LIST - USD

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1$50.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1$40.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1$70.00
Leather shoes1$50.00

PRICES LIST - USD

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter$1.25
TaxiStart$1.00
Taxi1 km$0.90
Local Transport1 ticket$0.25

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

Jose Marti International Airport (IATA:HAV). The airport 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 (about 1½ hours) when entering the country.

There’s an ATM and currency exchange located in the departure hall (1st floor), however don’t count on either being functional/opened since these service are not very reliable in Cuba.

An official taxi to Havana center costs 20-25 CUC but you can find slightly cheaper (illegal) ones. The cost is roughly 1 CUC per kilometer.

There is a bus service from the Terminal One (domestic flights) to La Habana Centro (Metro Bus 12 & 16) that runs until about 8pm and costs 0.40 CUP per person. Beware though that buses in Havana are almost always overcrowded, so this will likely be an unpleasant ride.

To get to Terminal 1 you can take a cab or use the shuttle service between terminals (Connexions).

To get to the airport from the city take bus to Santiago de Las Vegas (P-12 or P-16), which run from Parque Fraternidad next to the Capitolio and anywhere along Avendida de la Indepencia, which stop at Terminal 1. People will be helpful when asking for advice about this whilst on the bus, even without Spanish skills. You can also hail a maquina on Avenida Reina to Boyeros for 20 CUP and either walk or take a taxi the rest of the way.

There are also regular holiday charter flights to resorts such as Varadero, and these can sometimes be less expensive than those going to Havana.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

NOTE: An extensive, three-year renovation project is currently underway on La Habana Central, the central railway station. All trains now arrive and depart from the former bus station, located on the adjoining Coubre rail yard. Expect less-then-optimal conditions and queues. The renovation is expected to finish in 2018.

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 Cienfuegos, 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.

Transportation - Get In

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 3 km southwest of central Havana. Departing buses also stop at the central (Astro) bus terminal, but arriving buses do not. If you are using the central bus terminal, you buy tickets and wait for the bus in a separate air-conditioned office near the west entrance of the terminal. Schedules are posted on the Viazul website.

There are Cubanacan offices in many hotels, such as El Torre Hotel at Parque Central, that sell bus tickets for their own busses for the same rate as Viazul except that they pick up their passengers from major Havana hotels. So if staying in this neighborhood you can get picked up at one of these hotels and avoid the costs to get to the Viazul bus station.

Some have reported using Astro, which run from the main bus terminal near the Plaza de la Revolucion, but others report these are restricted to Cuban nationals.

Transportation - Get In

By Car

Hiring a car in Cuba will cost you from 33 to 106CUC per day. When hiring it, beware of the price of the insurance policy, as it may be subject to a scam.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.

Transportation - Get In

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 unauthorised visitors.


Transportation - Get Around

Transportation - Get Around

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 1950s, 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.

Taxi colectivos 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. They have set fares and run set routes, so you may need some assistance when taking them the first few times.

Fares vary from 10 CUP for a short (5 km) run during the day to 20 CUP for a longer run or at night. 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 colectivo as they are very popular with Cubans and often full, but the experience and the savings make it worthwhile.

Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes are a cheap way of getting around central Havana.

Transportation - Get Around

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 Havanna in April 2008 (but still can be seen elsewhere in the country) and were replaced by modern YuTong Chinese city buses.

The cost of riding the new city bus is 0.40 CUP to anywhere in the city. That is one national peso rides two people (the driver will not give you change). Almost all buses are overcrowded, there are plenty of buses running though, so if the one you want is full simply wait for the next one (don't expect to sit though). 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.

Other local buses can also get crowded, but in the suburbs, they are a practical means of transport for visitors.

Transportation - Get Around

By Car

Whilst useful for reaching some of the less central locations in Havana, the price of car hire will rarely be less than using taxis. Traffic is moderate, especially outside the rush hour. Do however expect to share the road space with a multitude of cyclists, pedestrians and poorly parked vehicles. Parking regulations are enforced in central Havana. There are many attended, on-street car parks, use them. Expect to pay 1CUC for parking.

Transportation - Get Around

By cycle

Cycling can be a great way to get around Cuba. There are a number of international tour companies [www] [www] 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.

Transportation - Get Around

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.

Hotels

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Hotels

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Shopping

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% penalty. Sterling, Euros and Canadian dollars can easily be exchanged at Cadecas and do not incur the same fee.

Restaurants

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.


Budget

Peso stalls are all over the city, particularly on Prado Marti.

Some restaurants like Hanoi, in Calle Brasil, offer generous meals for 5CUC.

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 parlour (Heladería Coppelia), 2111 Calle L(Opposite the Habana Libre hotel),  +53 7 8326184. 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)

Mid-range

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.

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.

  • 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 CasaCalle 30 No. 865, Nuevo Vedado,  +53 7 881-7000.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. 10-25 CUC.
  • Paladar La TasquitaCalle 27 de Noviembre (Jovellar No. 160) e/ Espada y San Francisco+53 7 873-4916. Daily from 12:00 to 0:00.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 seat is limited so reserve in advance. 15-25 CUC.

Splurge

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

  • La Fontana RestaurantAve. 3ra. A & 46, #305,  +53 7 202-8337. 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. Reservations essential. From $25 per person.

Breakfast

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. 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).

Sights & Landmarks

The Old Town of Havana, La Habana Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and strolling along its streets and enjoying the beautiful buildings is a must for any visitor. Some parts of the Old Town are quite dilapidated with crumbling buildings but many others have been restored to their former glory.

An evening walk along the Pradois a great way to sip in the street life and enjoying the hums of numerous cafes and restaurants. The street is however not illuminated at night. Another favorite stroll for tourists and locals alike is along El Malecón, Havanas waterfront with stunning views of the city.

  • Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución), Refugio No 1.9AM-5PM. Housed in the former presidential palace this iconic museum offers a history tour from pre-Columbian to the revolution in 1959 an on to present day socialist Cuba. Even if there's more than a hint of propaganda among the exhibitions it's still a must on any visit to Havana.Admission CUC$6, use of camera CUC$2 extra.
  • National Capitol Building (El Capitolio), Paseo de Martí, 422,  +53 7 8637861.Completed in 1929, this neoclassical building which resembles the U.S. Capitol housed the Cuban congress prior to the revolution. The building is currently being restored and will within a few years once again house the National Assembly.
  • Partagás Cigar factory (Fábrica de Tabaco Partagas), Calle Industria 520 (Behind the Capitol Building),  +53 7 8624604. A guided visit to the orignal Partagás factory gives a wealth of information about production and cultivation of tobacco and cigars. It is also the place for buying authentic Cuban cigars, more expensive than on the street but with fantastic quality. CUC$10 for a guided tour, no photography allowed.
  • Havana Club Rum Museum (Museo del Ron Havana Club), Avenida del Puerto 262. 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.
  • 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.
  • Lennon Park (Parque Lennon), Calle 8 (In Vedado). Features the only statue of a western musician in Havana. Notable for the regularly stolen (and replaced) eyeglasses.
  • US Special Interests buildingCalle Calzada (In Vedado, just off El Malecón). 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 Cámara Oscura in the old town.
  • Havana Cathedral (Catedral de La Habana) (In Old Havana).Originally built in the 18th century but redesigned in the 1940s this church is a prime example of Baroque architecture in Cuba. Houses the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Cuba.
  • Plaza de Armas. Spacious and elegant, the square is surrounded by baroque constructions that give it an 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.
  • The Royal Force Castle (Castillo de la Real Fuerza), Plaza des Armas. The oldest bastioned fortress in the New World, completed 1577. It now houses Cuba's premier maritime museum with 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 includes a huge model of Santisima Trinidad, one of the largest ships in the world during the 18th Century. The fort is also a great location for viewing the harbour and city skyline.
  • Museo Nacional the Bellas ArtesTrocadero, btwn Agraminte and Av de las Misiones. This museum consits of two parts: international and cuban art. In the part of Arte Cubano art-lovers can spend hours admiring the works of the last centuries exhibited on three floors. CUC 8.
  • Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (right after the tunnel on the other side of the Havana Bay). A well-restored fort of the 18th century that holds two one-room exhibitions about arms and Che Guevara. Every evening there is a cannon ceremony where they fire over the Havana harbour. To get there take any bus (ex. from the Parque the la fraternidad) that crosses the tunnel and get off right after it. Walk about 600m to the entrance. On your way you can also stop at the smaller Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnis del Morro located right next to the tunnel. CUC 8.

Things to do

  • 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.
  • Tropicana Show — A cabaret show that costs 90CUC. It is a must see show while you are in Havana.
  • 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.
  • National Theater (Teatro Nacional de Cuba), Paseo & Cl 39, Vedado(close to Memorial a José Martí at Plaza de la revolución). Come here for concerts, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and teatre. Functions are hold irregularly. Officially, Cubans pay MN 10 and foreigners CUC 10. Beware of scams as ushers try to sell you the same ticket for up to CUC 25 shortly before the function starts (and only paying the nationals price). Instead approach them and ask them to get you a ticket in Moneda Nacional for a small commission in CUC or go to the box office to get it for the official price.

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 publicising 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 every night.
  • 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.

Festivals and events


Havana International Jazz Festival

Many festivals held in Cuba revolve around the arts such as music, dance, art, and even film making. One such festival is the annual Havana Jazz Festival, founded by several Cuban jazz musicians, which includes Cuba's Bobby Carcasses Afro-Cuban jazz "Havana Jazz Festival." The very first venue for this jazz concert was the Casa de La Cultura Plaza in downtown Havana, which is still home to many music and jam sessions that take place to this day.


The International Havana Ballet Festival

The International Havana Ballet Festival (Festival Internacional de Ballet de La Habana) is an event dedicated to the art of dance. Created in 1960 by a joint effort of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the Instituto Nacional de la Industria Turística and the cultural organizations of the government, the International Ballet Festival of Havana was added to the plans of massive diffusion of arts started after the Cuban Revolution on 1 January 1959. This Festival, which currently is held in alternate years, is one of the oldest worldwide, and meets at different venues in the Cuban capital and in other cities. The event is non-competitive and its objective is the fraternal meeting of artists and other specialists. The International Ballet Festival of Havana attracts prestigious dancers from around the world, who perform along with artists from the country's own National Ballet of Cuba. The first ever International Ballet Festival of Havana was held in 1960 and became a biannual event from 1974. To this day, the event continues to be one of the most prominent ballet festivals in Cuba and attracts audiences from all over.


Havana's International Film Festival

The Havana's International Film Festival or (The International Festival of New Latin American Cinema) was founded on 3 December 1979 as a way to pay tribute to Spanish-language film makers. As a tradition, the festival takes place every December in the city. The event organizes several contests in categories such as fiction medium- and short-length films, first-timers, documentary, animation, scripts and posters, though the major attraction of the whole event is the Official Section Contest, in which some 21 feature films compete for the Coral Award. The festival has been the starting place for many now mainstream films includings the critically acclaimed movie City of God, which was Brazil's official film submission for the festival in 2002.


Habanos Cigar Festival

Every year Havana plays host to the Habanos Cuban Cigar Festival in the month of February. The festival is usually held over five days, with activities including: tours of cigar factories, a trade fair, various seminars focused on the production, distribution and history of Havanos cigars, cigar tastings,Habanosommelier contest, an instruction class on how to roll a Habano, and visits to tobacco plantations. Attendees of this event include distributors, “La Casa del Habano” managers from all over the world, production and sales executives, producers and marketers of luxury and smoker products, tobacco producers, dealers of the tobacco industry, artisans and collectors, smoker clubs, and amateur smokers.


Others

  • Love In Cuba and Love In Cuba España
  • The Havana International Book Fair
  • International Percussion Festival
  • Cuba Pista Cycling Cup
  • May Theatre
  • Havana International Guitar Festival and Competition
  • International Ernest Hemingway White Marlin Fishing Tournament
  • International Boleros de Oro Festival
  • The Havana Carnival
  • The Festival of Caribbean Culture
  • The Havana International Theatre Festival
  • The Havana Festival of Contemporary Music
  • Havana International Festival of University Theatre

Nightlife

There are two types of establishments you can go to drink in Havana:Western-style CUC bars with near-Western prices, 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. 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, 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 naïve or at worst not in full possession of your mental faculties.

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).

  • La Bodeguita del MedioCalle Empedrado (Across the plaza from Havana Cathedral),  +53 7 571375. 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 BarCalle Obispo+53 7 8671300. Another stop on the Hemingway drinking tour; best visited for it's its atmosphere, which is almost unchanged from pre-Castro days. Their daiquirís are however - certainly much to Hemingway's grievance - mediocre.
  • Los Buccaneros HanoiCalle 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.
  • Factoría Plaza Vieja (Taberna de la Murallo), Plaza Vieja. Brewpub located on the pretty Plaza Vieja. The pub has three main beers (light, dark and black), with seasonal additions. Beer cocktails, along with a meat-based food menu, also feature. 2CUC for a glass of beer, 12.50CUC for a 'metre' of beer.

Things to know


Currency

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. The CUC was created to replace all the US$ that was used in the tourist industry until the late 1990s.

Safety in Havana

Stay Safe


Havana is quite safe for a large city. Heavily dependent on tourism, Cuban police are everywhere and pay especial 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 nice bar or restaurant, 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. There are a few well established scams you should learn about in order to be prepared.

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.

When paying, it is recommended to give the exact amount of cash. If you don't have it, it is wise to state clearly how much money you are giving and how much you should get back. Otherwise, they might try not to give you your change back.

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.

People on the streets try to sell you cigars. Often they say (after asking when you arrived in Havana) that the "Cigar Festival" is on today, where people sell cigars in their homes for half the price. These are usually fake cigars and they are trying to push you a whole box of cigars even if you just want to buy a few.

In general, it is wise to not let people "help" you in any way. Even when offering to take a picture of you in front of a landmark with your camera/phone, they then ask for money afterwards for their "service".

The air in Havana is very polluted because of old cars and factories. This will cause respiratory conditions to some visitors.

Very High /9.7

Safety (Walking alone - day)

Very High / 8.2

Safety (Walking alone - night)

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