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Havana Travel Tips

If you don’t want to walk for too long while visiting Havana, take a car tour, which costs about 20-30 CUC an hour. You can find rentals around the Hotel Inglaterra or even nearby the Museum of the Revolucion. Taxis are available though you might be amused to learn that many are actually old 1950 Chevy cars, and a few Russian Ladas. Government sponsored taxis are the only legal means of transportation thought some illegal taxis may offer you services. Do not take illegal taxis to or from the airport, since this will attract attention. Short of this, many tourists do ride the “Taxi collectives” and get around just fine for short distances. Fares are about 10 CUP.

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image : (c) istock/thinkstock

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If you don’t want to walk for too long while visiting Havana, take a car tour, which costs about 20-30 CUC an hour. You can find rentals around the Hotel Inglaterra or even nearby the Museum of the Revolucion. Taxis are available though you might be amused to learn that many are actually old 1950 Chevy cars, and a few Russian Ladas. Government sponsored taxis are the only legal means of transportation thought some illegal taxis may offer you services. Do not take illegal taxis to or from the airport, since this will attract attention. Short of this, many tourists do ride the “Taxi collectives” and get around just fine for short distances. Fares are about 10 CUP.

Another method of transportation is that of coco taxis. Cycling is another method of transportation, as well as motorbikes. There are various companies that even offer cycling tours. Foot travel is actually quite common for the central area.

The city bus option is ideal for longer distances. These China-made buses will take you anywhere in Havana for one peso. The downside to buses is that there are overcrowded and not especially comfortable. The best way to avoid this problem is to simply wait for the next bus rather than squeeze your way inside. They are most often used by suburbanites.

The option of taking a car is questionable because signs around Havana are not very legible. Some tourists pick up hitchhikers to help navigate around the city in a rental, but for obvious reasons, this isn’t recommended.

Trains have historically been used, but not very often for domestic or entryway travel. In fact, trains in the eastern part of the country have stopped because of unsafe tracks. Still, there are some trains still running to Havana. Services run on alternate days, or every other day. Make sure that they are actually travelling on the day you require before booking. The most commonly known train is the Tren Frances, which from overnight from Santiago de Cuba via Matanzas, Santa Clara and Camagüey.   There is another night train travelling from Santiago de Cuba, Moron, and Sancti Spiritus. They make stops in Matanzas and Santa Clara, as do the day trains. Day travelling trains travel from Camagüey, Cienfuegos. The trains also return to the Havana area at night. The Pinar del Rio and Hershey electric train also run in the day time, and travel between Havana (specifically, referring to the Casa Blanca station, as well as the major areas like the Matanzas or downtown section. Train cars are not great quality and may be more adventure than you can handle.

Safety

How safe is Cuba and Havana in particular?

Havana is large and that will be among the first things you experience upon entering. This is good news, since the presence of police officers is felt everywhere and so crime against tourists is practically non-existent. The economy is dependent on tourism, and the police actually keep watch out at night, in the daytime and in areas where many people are assembled. Crimes against tourists are punished severely, so it’s highly unlikely anything will happen—not even a fistfight.

That said, respect the rules at all times, particularly regarding your equipment. Carry receipts with you and cooperate with inspectors upon entering. Prostitution is illegal and not merely “illegal and accepted” as in other parts of the world. The sex workers will probably approach you at some point, especially around the Habana Vieja area. Of course, with so many local Cubans serving jail time for these minor offenses, police have started to look the other way as much as possible, so as long as tourists or locals don’t blatantly break the law. This explains why sex workers tend to be more aggressive in solicitation around clubs. Unfortunately, you get to see the ugliest side of sex solicitation, since some of the prostitutes are underage. Do not contribute to the problem and politely decline—to protect yourself and to cooperate with the government.

The most dangerous part of the area is probably Centro Habana at night, which is occasionally left unmonitored by police. This is why there are reports of muggings every so often, as well as street hustlers who are less intimidating but just as crooked. Be careful to ask prices in restaurants or bars before agreeing to pay, so you can avoid scams.

For Internet services, you can visit a cafe and buy a card for an hour’s usage. Hotels like Habana Libre, InglateraNacional and at Capitolio offer Wi-Fi.

Cuba’s relationship with the United States has been strained over the years. At one time, before the communist revolution, the city had an open tourism industry. A resurgence of interest in visiting took place in the 1990s, but United States travellers were not very common since they were all but practically banned by the U.S. government. England has no problem travelling to and from, and for that matter there are embassies for the UK, US, Canada, China, Grenada, Greece, Japan, South Africa and Venezuela.

There are two types of currency you will be working with. First, is the CUC or Cuban Convertible Peso, and the other is simply the Cuban Peso. The CUCs are commonly used for travelling tips and prices, and was exclusively created to replace US money that was formerly used in the 1980s and before.

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.