The Cuban capital of Havana has, over the past decade, regularly made it into top ten lists of the hottest destinations around. Given its unique way of life, stunning architecture, and wonderful year-round good weather, there are many reasons why. So why should you drop everything and visit Havana today?
The times, they are a changin’
These Bob Dylan lyrics were written not long after the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s, but they nicely summarise what’s going on right across Cuba at the moment. Under the presidency of Barack Obama we saw a softening of stance between Cuba and the United States, which has placed a complete trade embargo on the island since the communist revolution of 1959. Relations got so good the US embassy was reopened in Havana, and travel for US citizens in particular was made easier. Now, with the end of the Castro-era, if not the communist regime, the country’s approach to politics and economics is softening again. In short, Havana is changing, if slowly, and will only become more like much of the rest of the world as time continues to pass.
Great value for money
Even with the dual currency system used in Cuba, which sees tourists use a special convertible peso (CUC) and locals an alternative system, Havana offers incredible value for money for tourists and visitors coming from North America and Western Europe. Good clean accommodation can be had for as little as US$25 per night in casas particulares (of which more below), while food and drink is also very keenly priced. There aren’t many places in the world where you can buy a beer in a bar for around a dollar, or enjoy a freshly mixed mojito for just a dollar more. Stay away from the top end hotels except for a special treat and you’ll find Havana very friendly to the wallet.
Unique accommodation and dining options
As private enterprise gets more and more accepted by the country’s ruling elite – its currently severely limited – the big hotel brands and chain stores we take for granted at home may well start springing up across Havana, but for the moment at least the capital offers almost unique accommodation and dining options. Casas particulares are privately-run bed and breakfast style accommodation. Owned by individual families, they are generally small, with just a handful of rooms, and individually decorated and set up with amenities. They are also a great entry point into Cuban culture at ground level. Likewise, paladares are locally-owned restaurants or cafeterias serving good authentic Cuban cuisine at local prices!
Get away from it all
In need of a digital detox? Havana is an ideal destination for you! While internet access is available, and WiFi hotspots can be found right around the capital, access to the world wide web is by no means as readily obtainable as you might well be used to in your home country. So while you’ll still be able to check your emails, Havana is a great opportunity to go back to basics, forget the social media accounts for a few days, and enjoy life without ‘the cloud’. Sounds like a good idea? We think so! Just make sure you have all your bookings and maps printed out before your arrival!
Immerse yourself in a very special local culture
You don’t need to spend long in the Cuban capital to realise it is a city built on music and dance. Join a tour run by expert companies such as Locally Sourced Havana through the narrow streets of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and you’re likely to find would-be troubadours on many of the corners of its shady plazas and parks. Most of the large hotels and restaurants host regular live performances, by very talented musicians and dancers, while there are music schools and smoky jazz clubs right across the city too. To mingle with the locals rather than other tourists leave the Old Havana area and head instead for the Miramar district, where you’ll find the Casa de la Musica, as well as many other clubs.
Enjoy the mid-century ambience
Imagine a city where adverts are replaced with revolutionary mantras, and where vintage vehicles rumble along the seafront promenade as if the last fifty years haven’t happened. Welcome to Havana! Here is a city where you can discover the world of Fidel Castro and ‘Che’ Guevara’s revolution in the Museo de la Revolucion among other sites, or enjoy the ambience and retro charm of Coppelia, an ice cream parlour of the old order that is still a popular hangout for residents of the city.
Life is slowly changing in a variety of ways in Havana, meaning there’s been no better time to visit the Cuban capital. Get there before the largest of changes take place to ensure you’re able to explore Havana at its most authentic.