Visiting Havana, the capital of Cuba, has been in recent years in the wish list of many people around the world. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel to the island frequently! Currently the city is changing so if you’re one of those dreaming of Cuba, I recommend that you book a trip sooner rather than later.
If you are Cuban, like me, you will not have problems entering the country. You will only need your current Cuban passport. Otherwise you will need a tourist visa that you can buy directly at the airport through the airlines. The price may vary depending on which country you travel from.
If you are an American tourist, you have to bear in mind that there are 12 reasons to qualify for a visa . You will also have to bear in mind that the new Trump government law prohibits staying in hotels that are operated by the Cuban government.
You could consider going on an organized trip. I particularly go on my own, but if you are prefer the most comfortable groups, there are agencies that sell you a complete pack. If you opt by going on your own, you have to know that Cuba is one of the safest countries in Latin America.
Another thing that I would like to recommend is to bring essential personal toiletries. Especially mosquito repellent, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, medicines (In Cuba, pharmacies have very limited products). It is very important to bring wet wipes. Some public bathrooms do not have toilet paper.
I travel frequently to Cuba and I always recommend carrying only hand luggage. The airport is not prepared for the influx of flights, so it often takes hours to get
your checked-in luggage. It is awful!
You can stay in any hotel, except if you are an American tourist because the US government only allows you to stay in hotels that are not run by the Cuban government.
I recommend the popular Airbnb. You can stay in a room, house or apartment. As always, it’s important to be sure to read the reviews before booking.
Where to eat
It is important that you know that all of these sites that I mention below are paladares (restaurants run by self-employers, mostly family-run businesses). They are not operated by the Cuban government.
Paladar La Cocina de Liliam: Famous for its good cuisine and because former US President Jimmy Carter dined in this place during his visit to Cuba in May 2002. From this place I love all the dishes. My favorite is the lobster and of course you cannot miss the exquisite ice cream from Liliam.
Paladar Vistamar: If you want to enjoy a beautiful sunset, this is the right place! It has a spectacular pool that overlooks the sea with a wonderful view. Everything is exquisite but my favorites are the seafood platter and the fried malanga.
Paladar Los Amigos: It is a small restaurant but it lives up to its name: Los Amigos (Your Friends). You feel like you’re having dinner at a friend’s house. I love it! You can taste the famous “ropa vieja” (shredded stewed beef with vegetables). One of the things to keep in mind, since this place is small it’s often advisable to book and take a tour of the area, but it is worth the wait.
Factory of Cuban Art: Popular in recent years among all! Formerly an oil factory, today you can enjoy the music and exquisite typical drinks of Cuba.
Hotel Nacional de Cuba: A hotel that has been visited by many celebrities. The hotel is inspired by The Breaker’s Hotel in West Palm Beach. On the terrace you can enjoy a lovely view of the famous Havana’s Malecon. I would have liked to do the walk of fame tour. For only $5, you can go up to a room and see all the celebrities that have visited this hotel.
El Floridita: Great place for drinks and try the famous Hemingway daiquiri, have a snack and enjoy some local music! Take a break from your walking tour of Old Havana and feel the 1950’s mood sink in … as it is all original in there!
Tropicana de Cuba: No doubt you’ve heard about this famous show. It’s operated by the Cuban government so if you are an American tourist it is something that you have to take into account. You will have a similar show at the Havana Café in the Melia Cohiba Hotel. It is not under the stars as the one at Tropicana, but instead you will enjoy a show with a decor of the typical cars of Cuba and a plane with very curious decoration.