Daily Budget: 25 US dollars + accommodation
En route to…
… Airport: Arriving in Havana from Cancun, we were picked for a random security check. Typical interrogation procedure not any different from the one I faced when visiting the USA or Israel. Asked us what brought us to the country, if we knew someone, what were we planning to see and where had we been before arriving in Havana. Turns out that at the security border control you are suppose to know exactly what house or hotel you will be staying at and be able to provide address, name, phone. For us backpackers, that had everything except a strict plan, that came as a surprise. After arranging us to stay at Casa Bet-El ($25 a night) in Calle Neptuno between the Old and the New Havana, we hopped on a taxi ready to start our trip.
… HAVANA: As the car drove off, unbelievably gorgeous old cars were passing by… we were in CUBA! As a typical first reaction for any tourist, we ‘wowed’ at the beauty of the old cars, the colorful houses still from the colonial times and at the salsa music coming from every corner…
Being a taxi driver or turning your private house into a hotel is the most common source of revenue in Cuba. Tourism brings millions to the economy and is well supported by the state. For example, for those who choose to enter the business of renting rooms the state covers any damage that might happen to the house in case of an incident or natural disaster. This also means that the streets are overfilled with Casas Particulares.
We stayed in Casa Bet-El, in Calle Neptuno, and I highly recommend it. As for the majority of the houses, the lovely owners will help you plan your trip in Havana and around Cuba. For every city / village we visited we would ask our ‘house mum’, as we came to call her, to get us in touch with one of their friends who also rent rooms and to get us the best price, and she kindly did.
Heating the streets was all too overwhelming, the people stopped and stared and the brave ones approaches us asking where we all from and welcoming us to their home country.
You can discover the small streets in Havana and eat at one of the ‘restaurants’ – small windows in old houses where they sell ready dishes of the day or small pizzas for 25 – 75 MN (local currency, 25 MN = US $1).
Priorities! Whilst for europeans taxing high on alcohol aims at discourage their consumerism, Cubans as good latinos appreciate every little joy that life can provide…
Music is free in the streets and alcohol and cigars are insanely cheap. A bottle of Havana Rum that would cost around €15 in most european countries costed a ridiculous amount of US $ 2,5 in Havana. So prepare yourself for a lot of cheap mojitos and cuba libre…
Internet is only available in resorts or around the country in one specific store- ETECSA. At these stores you can purchase a card with time to use internet, either on wifi or in one of their computers (card photo below). Due to the censorship still in place, you will not be able to make use of any video call apps, such as Skype, but you can send emails and written messages.
You can go sightseeing on a typical double deck bus for only 5 CUC for one day hop-on hop-off!
DO NOT MISS…
- Museo de La Revolution – you can learn all about Cuba’s political history and the before and after conditions of the revolution in the 50s.
- Plaza Vieja – a beautiful square, where you will find local vendors with amazing books and post cards.
- Plaza de La Revolution – the iconic artwork in memory of Che and Cienfuegos.
- Calle Obispo – a must street to visit but also where you can find the bank to exchange your money for CUC.
- A ride in an old car – probably the one thing you are most looking forward to and you should definitely experience seeing Havana in one of the iconic 50s car! One hour ride can cost around 30 CUC, which divided by a group will not be much, and absolutely worth it.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will help you the best I can.