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downundergal La Habana - A travel report by Kerrie
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La Habana,  Cuba - flag Cuba -  Ciudad de La Habana
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downundergal's travel reports

Havana - step back to the 50's

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La Habana travelogue picture
This is one of those places where you are glad you have been but happy you are still not there!
Havana is literally crumbling down around it's inhabitants with something like 40,000 buildings needing to be demolished or rebuilt. Since the US embargo maintenance and overall appearance have virtually stood still.
We purchased a package from Mexico and flew over with Air Cuba, that is another story in itself but let me say that it took us 3 attempts to find a seat where the seatbelts worked & all the locals whooped for joy when we landed.Confidence building, I think not.

Favourite spots:
La Habana travelogue picture
Hanging out down on the Malecon is a great way to meet the locals. It stretches for ages and most come out for their paseo or walk.
The old town centre has had quite a bit of work done so it is really nice to stroll around and see the buildings restored to their former grandeur. The Capitolo building is also worth visiting. It is based on the original in the US but with much more detail, so I was told.
It is easy enough to walk around but you can also take one of the pedicabs for not much money and it's a nice way to see the city.

What's really great:
La Habana travelogue picture
I especially like cruising around in the old 50's Chevies that act as taxis with their bald tyres you literally slide all over the road.
I wouldn't say that it was special but I found it a real culture shock after coming from an open society to somewhere that freedom of speech and choice is frowned on. The locals are very easy to meet & most can't help to try to sell you cigars or rum or take you to a restaurant. Nearly all were keen to talk about "the man" (Castro) if nobody was watching.

La Habana travelogue picture
The world famous rum distilleries and cigar factories are also on a must see list. Most tours will include a visit to these escpecially if you go out to Pinar del Rio.
I have to put this in although it is not a historical sight but I have never seen so much lycra on human beings in my life. Fat, skinny, short you name it, lycra everywhere!!!!!!

We stayed at the Hotel Flamingo which is located near the Malecon a little way out. US$58 a night with breakfast, ask if you want an egg rather than stale bread & cake otherwise that's all you get.
It is pretty basic but nice if you can get a room with a balcony. We found this to be a great way to people watch as most the Cubans also hang out on their balconies doing the same thing!
Make sure that you have a torch as blackouts are regular & the hotels don't have emergency lighting & are pitch black & you will never find your floor or room again!

The world famous Tropicana is on offer. We did not go for three reasons, the cost minimum US$60 each, the starting time 10pm and thirdly we were leaving early next morning to go to Vinales.

We did not find any.
There are loads of restaurants serving Cristal beer for a US$1 per can along with the ubiquitous pizza also US$1 per individual serve all over the city but no pubs.

Along with the pizza's there are also lots of nameless restaurants serving fried chicken with the local black beans & rice. This is a standard dish.
By law the local's are allowed to serve foreign guests in their homes so you can get a nice meal for around 5-6 $. Any tout can show you where one is for a fee. The same is true for accommodation, they are allowed to let out 2 rooms in their homes so you can stay with a family.

Other recommendations:
La Habana travelogue picture
I especially recommend going out to the countryside. It is sublime. We went out to Vinales & Pinar del Rio and I thought it was great.
Make sure you don't take American issued credit cards or t/cheques as they won't be accepted. The double standard is that US $ is the main currency, work it out, it dosen't make sense.

Published on Sunday December 1th, 2002

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Wed, Jul 19 2006 - 01:19 AM rating by klip

Kerrie, you have given a well constructed article. It is amazing how the feeling towards the country and the way things are done there is portrayed by almost everyone thatt visits Cuba as difficult and almost hostile. I enjoyed to read your experiences.

Mon, Feb 20 2006 - 03:15 PM rating by ehs1193

Very nice report

Sat, Oct 29 2005 - 04:32 PM rating by toribio


Thu, Sep 16 2004 - 03:41 AM rating by fidelito1951

Hello,After read all your report ,by the way very articulate,congratulation,but let me make a remark on this ,THE US EMBARGO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ALL THE DESTRUCTION IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE CITY OF HAVANA,IS CASTRO THE ONLY RESPONSIBLE,The US embargo to Cuba was the answer of the US goverment to the unilateral nationalization of all the private properties on the island at that time,not only US properties but all the private properties ,after this Cuba continuing doing trades and have relations with all the rest of the countries in the world,today Castro goverment dues raising over 74 billions,most of the business he doing today have to be in CASH ,he doesn't pay his duties to a lot of others countries,the socialist system in Cuba is a total disgrace,with not freedom at all,sorry i have to say this,but People in this world have the wrong idea about "the wonderful goverment in Cuba under Castro",I will continuing reading all your report I learn a lot from you,Thanks ,FIDEL GARCIA.

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