Nights out and soaking up Havana

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
1
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
8
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
9
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
9
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
9
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Cuba
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 200
Time of year visited
May
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
22nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

Wandering the historic city streets of Havana, feeling at times like you’ve been transported back to the old colonial Spanish capital yet with an otherworldly feel of being in a country that went on a different tangent to the rest of the world, siping mojitos as you move from one music filled bar to the next and sampling food from restaurants that in any other city would be a highlight for their architecture alone.  When you throw in the sheer friendliness and positivity of the locals, Havana, if done the right way, is a truly unique experience and, in my opinion, the best Old Town to visit in Latin America

highlights

#1 Wandering the truly wonderful Old Town, and trying and succeeding to get thoroughly lost along the way

#2 Jumping in one of the old school colourful cabs and just watching the city go by

#3 Working your way through the mojitos and the cigars. As expected, they really are done best in Havana

#4 Taking in some of the superb restaurants, with their at times fantastic architecture

#5 The amazing colours! All seems so much brighter in Cuba

Travel Tips

  • Get lost in the Old Town – best tip for Havana is to let yourself get lost in the maze of streets in the historic Habana Vieja.  Its safe, atmospheric and when you get tired just drop into one of the bars or restaurants for a mojito
  • Meet as many Cubans as you can – Cubans are seriously friendly, but in the tourist areas, like anywhere in the world, there can be street hawkers trying to sell you things.  My suggestion is to engage in a conversation with some of them – sure they will be trying to sell you something, but often they are also happy for a longer chat over lunch or for a drink nearby.  Each time we visited, we met a Cuban trying to engage us in conversation on the street and ended up going for lunch with them.  Yes we paid for lunch and yes he was probably getting a cut from bringing us there, but the cost was tiny and we loved learning more about their lives in Cuba
  • Not as good off a cruise ship – I’m not so sure just how good a Havana experience you’ll have from a Cruise Ship stopover.  It may very well be fun, but there was something great about staying in a private homestay (see below) that really added to the overall experience that I fear you may miss if jumping back onboard a pristine cruise ship for the evening
  • Restaurant / bar recommendations:
    • La Guarida – do it, simply for the architecture and views across the city
    • Los Mercaderes – gorgeous food and see if you can get a table on the outside balcony
    • Ivan Chef Justo – restaurant brimming with character and very decent food
    • Hotel Sevilla – great spot to sit in the courtyard, listening to the live music and having a drink

 

  • Broad travelling in Cuba tips:
    • Cuba often feels like another world – my suggestion is try to embrace this and enjoy the experience.  Throw out the window the expectations of efficiency and how you think things should be run, and be prepared for things simply not to work.  The idea, for example, of customer service can often be very alien in certain industries and you’ll find yourself often being completely ignored in a shop when the shop attendant has found something more interesting to do
    • That being said, the Cuban people are a seriously friendly bunch who, if you engage them with the right level of friendliness and respect, can be the real highlight of your trip.  To be able to have a discussion (languages permitting) with people who look at the world so differently to you and are so proud and enthusiastic for their country, is something you’ll always remember
    • Stay in a Casa Particular – from what we saw, some of the international hotels (in particular in Havana) were super expensive.  Way better to stay in a casa particular (private homestay).  Whilst the standard won’t be high, its a better experience as it allows you to meet local Cubans (arguably the highlight of the whole trip for us) and to see more of the real side of Cuba (think living in a tropical 1950s).  To find the right homestay, I’d suggest starting with Airbnb and www.cubacasas.net (booking.com didn’t work at the time in Cuba)
    • Cash – the money situation is a funny one and one that seems to change quite often.  The best tip is just to do a 10min search on google before you go and check with your bank / credit card company as to whether your card will work for withdrawals and for spending.  Broadly when we went, anything US-aligned (eg cash and cards) didn’t work.  Euros did
    • Getting around – taxis in Havana are cheap, safe and fun.  From town to town, my suggestion is to get a local Cuban (such as in your homestay) to help you out – a driver through them will be more expensive than local public transport but save you a lot of hassle and time
    • See here for my itinerary for Going back in time for a week in Cuba

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone