Any trip to Cuba must include some time in Havana. The architecture, music, old cars, and history of the place make it entirely worthwhile. I don’t think I did it justice while I was there, though.
I seemed to spend most of my time in dance classes, trying to arrange buses for later trips, dancing at night in discos/clubs, waiting in line to change money, or just walking around. This is why I plan on returning and just spending a couple of weeks in Havana alone!
Despite having a list of things I wanted to do in Havana I barely scratched the surface!
Of course, I wandered around the Capital building and enjoyed the old architecture in Havana Vieja.
I managed to spend quite a bit of time walking along the Malecon (sea wall). I didn’t manage to see the sunset here because I always would up taking private salsa classes at this time.
I went to see the Havana Cathedral but it was closed at the time so I just took pictures from the outside.
Right around the corner from there I wandered into El Bodeguita del Medio, but it was so packed with white tourists buying extremely overpriced mojitos ($5 instead of the $2 that you find in most places around Cuba) that I only stopped for a minute to listen to the barely audible live music before moving on. It was cool to see everyone’s signatures scrawled all over the walls in the old Hemingway hangout, but it did not seem very Cuban since the only Cubans were the ones working there.
I spent a lot of time with travel agents trying to book tickets on buses and even tried to visit the airline in person to see if they could miraculously find a flight for me (they couldn’t). Friends, if at all possible, buy your bus tickets and flights as far in advance as possible. I waited until two weeks before my trip and I was able to book nearly everything on my own, but Viazul buses from Havana-Vinales and Vinales-Santiago were completely booked up online at that point.
After spending hours with various tour agents in Havana Vieja I walked along the Paseo del Prado all the way to this awesome place called Info Centrum Havana (on Calle 23, Edificio Aerolineas, Tel: (+53) 78 353535). The guy there was able to book me two Transtur buses AND got me a Viazul bus ticket to Santiago. He also booked me a night at a casa particular in Trinidad to break up what would have been a hellish trip from Vinales to Santiago. Tours, flights, casa, bus tickets, this guy can help you!
If you are going to be in Cuba around Christmas book everything early!
So where did I spend most of my time? At a salsa academy called Salsabor a Cuba. I will write a whole post about my salsa escapades, but suffice to say that I the many hours I spent there made me want to never leave Havana!
Also, if I can recommend my favorite restaurant for cheap and delicious food in Havana it would have to be La Flor de Loto. It is marketed as a Chinese restaurant, but they have a massive menu of primarily non-Chinese food. I ordered some Creole chicken and was shocked when almost an entire chicken plus two side dishes arrived for about $6. My jaw literally dropped when I saw it. Then I glanced around and saw similar large serving sizes on other tables. I paid an extra 50 cents to have it boxed up for my lunch the next day.
While there are many places to dance in Havana the one that I really wanted to go to Casa de la Musica (in Havana Centro) was closed for repairs for my entire trip (I even tried to go on my last night. Instead, I went where my dance teachers suggested El Canon and Cafe Cantante. I loved every minute of both (especially since there were hardly any tourists at either spot!).
So I guess the point of this rabling post is that I feel like I need at least another week to properly see Havana!