Havana, Cuba. March 2017. Although beautifully frozen in time and home to welcoming denizens who boast their love for Obama and lament the passing of Fidel Castro, it is a place that made me realize that I won’t always find an affinity for each of the 196 countries I endeavor to see during my lifetime….and that it’s perfectly okay. In their own way, especially where it concerns connecting, places are much like people. There are those that immediately draw us into an effortless connection, and others that challenge us to look beyond what is apparent, forcing us to decide whether we want to be connected and to what extent. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, what is most important is finding an appreciation for what your chosen locale offers. Quite frankly, even though I began to lose enthusiasm for being in Havana after my third day (really, I hated it!), I am grateful to have found appreciation for its arts and culture.
As most of Havana is walkable, one could easily see it within 3 – 4 days; To stay beyond that amount of time would be overstaying your welcome—my stay was 7 days. Havana is not particularly known for its beach as it is rather rocky, but nicer beaches with sand found in magazine pictures are located 3 -4 hours beyond the city.
LET’S BACK UP: YOU NEED A VISA! VISA. VISA. VISA. VISA. VISAAAAAA.
Before you panic, rest in knowing that visas to Cuba are relatively easy to secure. In fact, so easy that you can actually purchase one at your departure gate with little hassle. You need only to declare a “reason” for your visit (my listed reason was People to People Exchange) and pay the $100. Afterwards, you’ll receive a “Cuba Ready” stamp on your boarding pass, your visa, and will be sent on your merry way.
CURRENCY IN CUBA: You'll also need to know about the currencies in Cuba. Two forms of currency are used in Cuba, CUC and CUP. While you, as a tourist, can use CUP for things like street food and souvenirs, it is highly recommended that you exchange your currency to CUC (the currency used by tourists). I learned that in restaurants, there are often two menus—one for locals and one for anyone who looks like a “visitor”. As imagined, listed prices on tourists’ menus can be more expensive than what’s listed for locals.
MUST SEE PLACES:
Museo de Revolucion
Calle Obispo Street – a carless street with a variety of shops and markets
Callejon de Hamel – a most lively street on Sundays, particularly at noon with traditional dancing, music, and drinks
Museo do Chocolate – I found this to be more like a café than museum BUT GREAT chocolate nuggets await! Give the “spicy hot chocolate”
Museo de Nacional de Bellas Artes – A museum with graphic exhibitions; Not suitable for children
Fusterlandia – similar to Gaudi’s park and works in Barcelona, Spain. A neighborhood that is completely covered in ceramic tiles. A Taxi from downtown may cost $30 (try to negotiate the price; do NOT pay more than $30) Hotel Nacional – Go here for the best sunset in Havana. It is one of the best hotels with an open bar that leads onto a terrace that overlooks the ocean
Hotel Sarotoga – Jay – Z and Beyonce stayed here during their Havana visist. Famous for it’s beautiful piano bar that’s reminiscent of the 1930s
Necropolis de Cristobal – A large yet ornate Catholic cemetary
Capital Building in Havana – was replicated to resemble the US capital building during a time when relations between the U.S. and Cuba were stable
Coppelia – BEST ice cream parlor in Havana with various flavors such as Cinammon, Almond, and Cream Cheese.
Even though I looked forward to departing Havana, I would certainly recommend a visit to Havana. If you're an American citizen it would be a historic trip for you and that alone is well worth a flight and a 3 - 4 day stay. If you're a U.S. passport holder, there is no more sneaking through the borders of other countries! You're free to go from the border of your country through the border of theirs!
Live & Travel Well,