Tips for Visiting Havana, Cuba
Have you ever wanted to visit Havana, Cuba? Cuba, our flavorful and occasionally controversial neighbor to the south conjures up images of sunshine, mojitos, and Hemingway. It’s all of that and more! There are many misconceptions about visiting Cuba- beginning with its difficult to go there for Americans or its unsafe. It’s not!
Just hop a Southwest flight (although other airlines fly there as well) and connect through Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale right to Havana. The rules around visiting Cuba have changed several times in the past few years. Previously, Cuba was wide open with no travel restrictions. You could even bring back cigars and rum. Currently the rules have changed to require that visitors traveling to Cuba meet one of several approved categories. One of those categories is “support for the Cuban people.” Basically, normal tourism can qualify under this category- staying in an Air BnB, going on a tour from a local guide, eating in local restaurants. Things you would most likely do anyway. Sadly, you cannot bring cigars or alcohol back to the US anymore. Americans need a visa to go to Cuba, which can be purchased right before your flight to Havana at the airport for $75.
One thing for Americans to know is that your American credit card will NOT work in Cuba. You will need to pay for everything in cash. You do NOT need to change money into Cuban pesos, and I highly recommend you do not. Everyone takes dollars (it’s the preferred currency) and prices will be quoted in dollars not pesos.
There are lots of things to do in Havana! A must-do is a classic car tour. Cuba is full of 1950s classic cars in beautiful condition. I spent the entire time gawking at them. You can take them for 1 hour, 2 hour, or longer tours. Hopping in a classic car is one of the best ways to get around when visiting Havana and see the sights. Make sure to drive down the Malecon by the ocean and see the Castillo del Morro. You may recognize it from the James Bond film Die Another Day. If you have time, drive up and stop for pictures. Drive by the Capital, the Theater, and Revolutionary Square.
After you are done driving, then get ready to start walking! Walk around Old Havana and marvel at the history and the architecture all around you. When you get thirsty, stop for an authentic mojito at Bodeguita del Medio, one of Hemingway’s favorite haunts to inspire your inner novelist.
Speaking of Papa, his influence is everywhere. You can visit his Cuban home, walk the property, and even see his fishing boat the Pilar. Fun fact: He weighed himself daily and wrote his weight on the walls of his bathroom. My favorite of his spots is La Floridita. The live music is great, but the daiquiris are out of this world. I tried all of the flavors (in the name of science of course) and mango was my favorite.
If you need a break from sightseeing, spend some time lounging by the amazing rooftop pool of the Kempinski Hotel. Day passes are available if you aren’t staying there and even include the spa. We spent the afternoon there and it was certainly a highlight of visiting Havana. It’s a beautiful spot for pictures. An added bonus is that you can use your American credit card there!
If you have time to go a bit farther afield then take a day trip to Varadero Beach about 45 minutes away from Havana or go snorkeling in the infamous Bay of Pigs which is a couple hours away but full of history and beautiful water.
Havana is an easy and wallet- friendly destination where you can immerse yourself in the culture, food, and sunshine. Head down there for a quick weekend or even a longer trip and be sure to tag me in your photos and let me know what daiquiri flavor was your favorite!
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