This section is dedicated to take away all your "I wish someone had told me that before I went!" experiences. This way, you are better prepared for what to expect, what not to expect and can spend less time settling in, and more time making new friends in your chosen hostel. We share our insider knowledge of tips, tricks and important things to look out for in Havana. To help you make friends with Havana before you visit, we've included a few helpful and fun things you should know about the area. Enjoy!
To wander Cuba’s capital city - though it is slowly developing - is to feel like walking around on set of a movie from the fifties. It is impossible not to be charmed by the crumbling colonial buildings, patched-up classic American cars, and a laid-back Caribbean attitude, which make Havana the rightful tourist hotspot of this amazing country.
There are plenty of options for hostels in Havana and places to stay, whether in happening Vedado or amidst the splendor of Havana Vieja (Old Havana). Cuba allows its citizens to register with the state in order to open their houses up to paying guests and most "hostel" accommodation is to be found in such Casas Particulares.
Quality and hospitality is usually of a very high standard, though backpackers will find that staying in a Casa is more expensive than typical hostel accommodation elsewhere in the world as prices tend to be per room. Meals are generally offered too but probably won’t be as cheap as eating out in many places, though they are likely to be high quality and enormous. Budget backpackers will have to get their fill of cheap eats in the form of poor quality pizzas and hotdogs.
Flags and Communist slogans are everywhere, amidst a constant peppering of Che Guevara’s iconic image. This is never more apparent than at the Plaza de la Revolución, where the vast monument to Cuban hero Jose Marti is almost overshadowed by two Soviet-looking tower blocks bearing the images of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Havana has plenty of sights, museums, and activities to occupy the most restless of travelers. Visit a cigar factory, sample the national tipple at the Havana Club Museum, marvel at historic buildings, or engage with the country’s fascinating past at the Museum of the Revolution.
The daytime action in Old Havana stretches from the Capital Building and down the busy Paseo del Prado, where many shops and restaurants can be found. In the evening, the hustle and bustle moves to the waterfront promenade -- the Malecón. Children splash about in pools, fishermen unravel never-ending reels of nylon, lovers stroll, and buskers bask in the hazy sunlight; it makes for excellent people-watching and great photographs.
Most tourists will undoubtedly pay at least one visit to the huge Hotel Nacional to sit in the grounds and sample a mojito or two and watch the action of the Malecón unfold on the street below. Less touristy nightlife is generally found away from the old town. Vedado has a good mix of bars and live music venues frequented by locals and visitors alike. Ernest Hemingway fans can devise their own pub crawl by visiting the various haunts frequented by the American writer during his Cuban residency from the forties to the sixties. There is also a highly acclaimed museum devoted to the author in his former home on the outskirts of the city.
Written by local enthusiast for Havana hostelsLaura T