Havana houses some of the most beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in the world. With a population over 2 million in the Capitol city – Havana is the cultural, political and economic epicenter of the island. Few cities worldwide surpass Havana’s charisma and architecture. The city offers several attractions, museums, white sand beaches, and thrilling nightlife.
Cuba has always been a “forbidden fruit” for many citizens, as the traveling to the country is still restricted for many Americans. U.S relations and the recent visit by President Obama to Cuba has opened the door to many travelers in hopes of visiting Cuba without restrictions. Currently, United States citizens can only travel under 12 categories.
American citizens are allowed to visit the island nation without the prior permission of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control for the first time in a long while. The visit falls under one of 12 approved categories. The 12 as per the White House:
1. Family visits
2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3. Journalistic activity
4. Professional research and professional meetings
5. Educational activities
6. Religious activities
7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8. Support for the Cuban people
9. Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
You can not travel to Cuba for tourist activity.
Our trip began with arriving in Havana at midday. Disembarking of the airline was quick and simple, and with the humidity level high, the rush to get through the hot tarmac to the airport was swift. Unfortunately, the airport wasn’t much relief as the humidity carried over into the building. Customs and passport control is swift. Customs and passport control agents were very welcoming – and had very fashionable uniforms with racy lace stockings and short skirts. The airport is filled with predominantly women of color which was refreshing to see!
The longest part of the airport transition was definitely currency exchange. The wait was more than an hour. We arrived when the use of US Dollars was taxable at the currency exchange and American-issued cards do not work. We were lucky to have reserved taxi pick up before our arrival with our AirBnB host; My Proud Havana. Things to note: CUC to USD is 1/1.
After an exhausting wait for exchanging currencies, we were off to Yfanta, an area close to the Melancon in Havana. On our route, we saw the majestic greenery and beauty of this country. Untouched by foreign capitalism and influence.
Where To Stay
There are limited Airbnb options in Havana, but there are some gems like My Proud Havana. They have AirBnB’s across the city and helpful staff to guide you through the city. If you fancy a hotel, Havana has plenty! The most iconic being Hotel National.
Getting around Havana was fairly easy, everything is within walking distance. Traveling from Yfanta to downtown Havana is a distance and you have the option to ride the classic Chevy, a regular taxi, the bus or via a man-powered taxi. Everything is usually negotiable, except for the taxi and bus. Things to note: Learn a bit of Spanish to help you get around. Or carry a map and simply point to where you need to go.
Street food is always a plus in Havana. There’s always plenty of food vendors on almost every corner selling different types of eats. If you’re looking for restaurants, hotels have great options. Check out Hotel National,
Things To Do
Depending on your budget and preference, there’s plenty to do in Havana.
For city vibes, you can visit:
- Melancon which is the wall which wraps around part of the city
- Capitol is a big tourist attraction in downtown Havana
- Grab a tour with Afrolatino travel. One of the best authentic tours for Cuba. http://afrolatinotravel.com/
- There’s a market where you can shop for anything from art to shoes. Negotiate everything.
- Revolution Square
- National Museum of Fine Arts–Cuban Collection / Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
For beach, you’ll have to drive a little out of the city. However, the drive is worth it
Playas del Este is Havana’s eastern beaches;
- Boca Ciega ,
- Santa María,
- Guanabo and
Written by: Lungi Moore, Associate Editor, Modern Domestic