October 5, 2022

For all its tropical charms, Havana isn’t the arena’s most simple town for vacationers. A singular financial scenario, top-heavy state paperwork and 60 years of isolation from its frenemy within the north (america) can position stumbling blocks in the way in which of even easy actions.

However whilst commute within the Cuban capital can pitch you the occasional curveball, it’s infrequently laborious and not uninteresting. To make issues more straightforward, listed below are some amateur tricks to put you at the proper trail in Havana.

A boulevard meals excursion via Previous Havana

Making plans your go back and forth to Havana

With Cuba being probably the most international’s ultimate Communist states, there is a little bit of purple tape to navigate. Right here are a few things to believe sooner than you return.

Carry evidence of insurance coverage

In spite of Cuba’s in depth state healthcare gadget, guests are required to have medical health insurance to go into Cuba, together with COVID-19 protection, and also you’ll want to carry virtual or published evidence of your coverage. Random tests are performed on the airport; should you arrive with out insurance coverage, you’ll be requested to shop for a Cuban coverage on the airport for US$30.

Fill in a web based immigration shape prematurely

A web-based shape referred to as D’Viajeros containing immigration and well being data should be finished through all vacationers. You’ll be able to digitally fill out the shape as much as 72 hours sooner than you arrive in Cuba, so make this a part of your pre-check-in arrangements.


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Take a look at the principles for US vacationers

Because of the strained political dating between Cuba and the USA, particular regulations follow for American citizens touring to Cuba. To consult with, you will have to follow for a different commute license in considered one of 12 particular classes. There is not any class for ‘holiday’, however guests can continuously achieve access underneath the fairly opaque ‘reinforce for the Cuban other people’ class. Take a look at our detailed information to the principles for US vacationers.

Double-check you’ve gotten a vacationer card

To go into Cuba, all guests want to provide a finished Vacationer Card. This commute report is most often to be had via your airline and is incorporated in the cost of many airplane tickets, however verify along with your airline to verify. In case your airline does not give you a Vacationer Card, you’ll be able to acquire one via a Cuban commute company; prices vary from US$50 to US$85. Twenty African and Asian nations require a proper visa to go into Cuba, so verify the principles for your house nation along with your native Cuban consultant sooner than reserving your tickets.

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It is higher to ebook lodging prematurely

Reserving your lodging sooner than you arrive is not going to simplest ensure you’ve gotten a spot to stick, it is going to additionally assist you to pay prematurely and commute with much less money – a welcome scenario taking into account the difficult regulations for bills in Cuba.

E-book a resort via a credible company – Canada-based A Nash Shuttle has some very good offers. In case you’d want to stick in a casa specific (non-public homestay), use Lonely Planet’s listings to connect to homeowners immediately by way of e-mail or WhatsApp, or take a look at the choices on Airbnb.

Vintage cars on Paseo Jose Marti in Havana, Cuba
Antique vehicles nonetheless cruise Paseo Jose Marti in Havana, as they’ve for the reason that Fifties © Serie Cuba Reportage / Getty Pictures

Sensible up at the new cash scenario

The principles for making bills in Cuba have all the time been complicated, even to Cubans, and issues have not too long ago develop into much more complicated. The rustic abolished the convertible Cuban peso (CUC) in January 2021 and took the USA greenback out of movement in June 2021, main to large inflation and the emergence of a rampant black marketplace. The knock-on impact is a bewildering twin financial system.

The reliable forex of Cuba is the Cuban peso (CUP), however foreign currency also are broadly permitted, particularly through non-public companies who want laborious money to shop for non-rationed items in particular stores that permit purchases the usage of Moneda Libremente Convertible (MLC) – principally, freely convertible forex.

As of spring 2022, the reliable euro-to-peso alternate fee used to be 1:27, however at the black marketplace, the speed used to be nearer to one:60 – an enormous distinction. State-run enterprises and banks use reliable alternate charges, however the awesome services and products introduced through non-public companies typically mirror the extra favorable black marketplace alternate charges.

When purchasing one thing from a personal industry – be it a cafe, casa specific or taxi provider – it’s most often absolute best to pay in a foreign currencies. At all times ask prematurely what currencies are permitted and the alternate fee used for printed peso costs.

The euro is essentially the most interchangeable forex and the only most popular through Cubans. You’ll be able to additionally use and alternate Canadian bucks and kilos sterling, however keep away from US bucks. Whilst you first arrive, the most productive coverage is to stay maximum of your cash in a foreign currencies and simplest exchange small quantities into pesos for incidental prices akin to museum access charges, live performance tickets and guidelines. Take note, there is lots you’ll be able to see without cost.     

Etiquette in Havana

Havana has its personal manner of doing issues, so listed below are some tricks to assist guests are compatible in with the locals.

Depart the top heels and tux at house

Get dressed in Cuba is beautiful informal. Denims and a T-shirt or button-up blouse are usual apparel for guys and ladies, despite the fact that some Cuban girls put on colourful rumba attire for particular events. The one actual get dressed code is in cinemas, theaters, nightclubs and upscale eating places, the place male consumers are required to put on lengthy trousers and shirts with sleeves or half-sleeves.

Be told Cuba’s colloquial greetings

Like maximum giant towns, Havana has a wealthy seam of city slang. The vintage Habanero greeting between buddies is qué bola, asere? – which means that one thing corresponding to “how’s it going, guy?” or “what’s up, pal?” The phrase asere is derived from a Nigerian Igbo salutation initially utilized by the Afro-Cuban Abakuá brotherhood. The greeting stuck on and has now develop into a type of cope with ordinary to Havana; don’t use it in Santiago de Cuba the place they use the phrase compay as an alternative. 

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Cuban band performing in a bar in Havana
Tune is in all places in Cuba – earplugs are really useful for gentle sleepers © Lena Wurm / Shutterstock

Believe making an investment in some high quality earplugs

With Havana’s crowded properties, slim streets and penchant for loud reside song, this can also be one noisy town – and the noise from the road and neighboring rooms and structures can simply spill into the confines of your individual room.

In case you have delicate listening to, carry some earplugs or plan on staying in a quieter a part of Havana. The suburban (jap) half of of Vedado and the diplomatic district of Miramar are much less frenetic neighborhoods, with a couple of small lodges and numerous casas particulares, however crucially, few nightspots.

Remember the fact that streets continuously have two names

A few of Havana’s streets move through two names: a modern one this is famous on maps and marked on boulevard indicators and a pre-revolutionary one this is nonetheless used broadly through locals. This can also be complicated should you set out on foot to discover Havana’s numerous neighborhoods, particularly when locals get started giving out instructions or addresses the usage of the outdated nomenclature.

Some streets are all the time referred to through their outdated names – for instance, Paseo de Martí, Havana’s major tree-lined street, is invariably referred to as El Prado. In a similar fashion, Havana’s most renowned highway, the Avenida de Maceo, is universally referred to as the Malecón, whilst the principle buying groceries thoroughfare in Centro Habana (Avenida de l. a. Italia) is beloved through all as Galiano.

Be told the peculiar regulations for ready in Cuban traces

Cubans need to bear a large number of lengthy waits in uninteresting traces, so that they’ve invented some way of queueing that doesn’t contain bodily status in line. In a Cuban line, you merely roll up on the bakery/hospital/visa place of business and yell out quien es último? – which means “who’s ultimate?” – to the assembled crowd. All being neatly, anyone in a quarter-mile neighborhood will resolution your well mannered inquiry with the phrase yo (me) and that particular person might be your yardstick. So long as they’re nonetheless round, be at liberty to head for a stroll, take a seat within the lotus place or purchase an ice cream. Once they get referred to as up, be for your feet – you’re subsequent!

Ask questions greater than as soon as

Because of Cuba’s top-heavy paperwork, solutions to easy requests aren’t all the time simple and the ideas you obtain would possibly not also be proper, even from reliable resources. Probe courteously and ask a minimum of 5 other other people sooner than you’re making essential selections. Are you able to pay for that taxi in euros? How lengthy do you wish to have to attend to get a Covid take a look at? Has that casa specific you stayed in ultimate 12 months in reality closed ceaselessly? In fact continuously someplace in between the primary and ultimate resolution you’ll be able to get.

Determine easy methods to differentiate between state-run and personal companies

It’s now not all the time simple for first-time guests to inform the adaptation between state-run and personal companies in Cuba – each sorts have their execs and cons, however through going non-public, you’ll be placing cash immediately into the wallet of the Cuban other people, and personal companies continuously be offering higher requirements.

So far as eating places move, if the meals is excellent and the provider pleasant and tasty, you’re most likely consuming in a personal eating spot. In the case of stores and galleries, puts promoting reliable products akin to cigars and rum are most often state-run, whilst extra esoteric companies promoting artwork, second-hand books and distinctive crafts are typically non-public.

People dancing in a public square in Havana, Cuba
Havana is a protected town, however control your valuables if you end up in a crowd © Lesinka372 / Shutterstock

Well being and protection in Havana

Havana is typically a protected town for vacationers, and a bit fundamental commute commonplace sense could make it even more secure. Listed here are some guidelines.

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Stay valuables hidden to keep away from attracting pickpockets

Havana is a protected town and most commonly bereft of violent crime. Pickpocketing is extra commonplace however now not rampant, and it’s most commonly avoidable if you’re taking a couple of fundamental precautions. Put on a cash belt, use protected bins in resort rooms and don’t flash your money in public. Strolling round along with your pockets on show to your again trouser wallet may be a no-no.

Don’t exchange cash on the street

Cuba’s common black marketplace provides all types of choices in relation to converting cash, however don’t be talked into exchanging your international notes with unlicensed investors in the street. You run the chance of receiving estafas (cast notes) and different sorts of swindles.

Carry your individual medications

On one degree, Cuba has a excellent well being gadget – as only one instance, Cuban medics invented and briefly disbursed 3 other COVID-19 vaccines – however it’s perennially in need of imported prescribed drugs. Carry the entire medicines you assume you’ll want, together with prescription medications and pharmacy necessities akin to ibuprofen and paracetamol.

In case you’d love to donate some medications to the folk of Cuba, it’s lately conceivable to usher in 10kg (22 kilos) of scientific provides tax-free, however you’ll be able to want to pack them in a separate bag. Quite than giving out stuff out willy nilly, it’s higher to depart your donations with a relied on Cuban touch to distribute (should you’re staying at a casa specific, ask the landlord).

Two barmen preparing mojitos in Havana, Cuba
Get your cigars from bars and state-run stores, now not out in the street © Salvador Aznar / Shutterstock

Steer clear of sketchy cigars and different scams

Scams perpetrated through jineteros (hustlers) are not unusual and are typically preceded through pleasant chitchat adopted through elaborate tales about super-cheap cigars or professional guiding services and products. Whilst jineteros can also be power, they’re infrequently threatening; a well mannered however company no gracias most often does the trick of dissuading them.

As a common rule, cigars offered at the streets are most often manufacturing facility cast-offs or counterfeits of actual manufacturers. If you wish to have the true factor, purchase your cigars in state-run stores such because the Casa del Habano chain. Guides can also be hit and miss, and people who over-enthusiastically attempt to communicate you into the usage of their services and products continuously fall into the latter camp. The most efficient coverage is to get involved with the respected other folks at Unfastened Strolling Excursion Havana.

Watch out for sidewalk stumbling blocks

Havana’s sidewalks are stuffed with hidden – and now not so hidden – stumbling blocks. Fruit carts, asymmetric paving stones, canine droppings and exposed manholes are simply one of the most hazards that might destroy your idyllic night walk. In case you have a tendency to stroll round having a pipe dream or observing your telephone again house, pay further consideration in Havana.

Pack bathroom paper

The pandemic has made the availability of antiseptic hand lotion extra commonplace, however the similar can’t be mentioned for bathroom paper. Public bogs infrequently supply provides so elevate your individual roll or gravitate to four- or five-star lodges should you’re stuck quick within the town.

Don’t drink the water

Havana’s faucet water most likely gained’t kill you, however it will probably simply come up with a bit queasiness or an dissatisfied abdomen. Bottled water is simple to seek out and inexpensive, however to chop down for your plastic use, believe purchasing a commute water bottle with a integrated filter out sooner than you commute and replenish it at your lodging (sadly, there aren’t any public water fountains across the town).