The dos and don'ts of travelling to Havana, Cuba

Posted: 26-Mar-16 12:08

Drawn to locations across the globe, the writer behind the stories featured in "The Insatiable Traveler" shares her top dos and don'ts of travelling to Havana. From unexpected finds to what to pack, what to carry and how much money to budget, this frequent traveller shares her best tips for visiting the Cuban capital.

The dos and don'ts of travelling to Havana, Cuba

An incessant world traveller, ‘The Insatiable Traveler’ is sharing some of her best recommendations for visiting Havana. To accompany some of her other stories about the Cuban city, writer and photographer Susan Portnoy recently posted her own list of dos and don’ts.

Before you arrive, Portnoy suggests packing commonplace American items like travel toothpaste, pens and candy. Nearly impossible to find in Cuba, she used them as small thank you gifts for locals who helped her out. She also recommends packing toilet tissue. She says you won’t always find it in Cuban toilets.

Once you do arrive, Portnoy says you will be on “Cuba time”. She explains this means spending the days less hurried. She insists it’s normal for a waiter in Cuba to delay taking your order right away. Building in some extra time is also important when leaving Cuba. The writer suggests an extra three hours. As well, Portnoy maintains it’s normal to stray from your original plans, in part due to the country’s limited resources and aging infrastructure. She says it’s important not to get frustrated.

As for where to go, the writer recommends taking a stroll along the oceanfront Malecon, taking in views of the El Morro lighthouse, watching fishermen and viewing a sunset. In addition, she also recommends going to the oldest square in Havana, Plaza de Armas. She says this is a good place to pick up mementos. To beat the crowds she says it’s best to go early. She also suggests playing around with your own photography skills, snapping pictures of pedestrians or of the vintage cars along Paseo de Marti.

The writer says not to be overly concerned about going out alone. She maintains the city is safe at night and says she also felt safe in the Centro Habana neighbourhood (which she translates as Central Havana) during daylight hours. Even so, she acknowledges other travellers have raised concerns of this part of the city at night.

In regards to food, the writer advises purchasing Coco Glase from a street vendor. It will cost about $3 for this ice cream served in a coconut shell. She also likes the sweet tiny bananas found at small markets. It’s best not to drink the water, though, even at a large hotel with a water filtering system. While this may be fine for taking a shower or brushing teeth, Portnoy says the sediment from the out-dated pipes may give you a stomach ache.

Other don’ts include bringing credit cards issued by U.S. banks because they aren’t accepted, according to the writer. She explains that U.S. banks also don’t service the few ATMs. Instead, she recommends finding a bank or exchanging money at your hotel, plus carrying small change. She suggests using it to tip a bathroom attendant the equivalent of 25 cents, plus budgeting to tip about 10 per cent of cab fare. Be sure to negotiate your fare ahead of time, though. As the writer explains, Cuban cabs don’t use meters.

As well, the writer says it’s common to spend time on your trip to Cuba off the grid. She adds the only hotel that supplies in-room Wi-Fi is The Saratoga. Other large hotels will sometimes have it for sale in the common areas, but she says it’s costly, and in her opinion unreliable and slow. Some public parks also have Wi-Fi but you’ll be competing for it along with a number of others.

As for the final don’t, Portnoy says don’t forget to watch where you walk. She says some of the old streets of Havana are full of potholes, uneven curbs or are under construction. She suggests not wearing heels for this reason.

Above all, Portnoy says it’s important to spend your travels engaging with locals and striking up conversations whenever possible.


Popular Holidays in cuba

OUR EXCLUSIVE DEALS AND LATEST OFFERS

Best Value

From £599 per person
villa pinares de mayari

Villa Pinares De Mayari

4.0 stars

Beautifully perched on the panoramic Mensura Hill, surrounded by striking greenery, this blessed and secluded natural...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £619 per person
villa mirador de mayabe

Villa Mirador De Mayabe

2.0 stars

This enchanting villa hotel is surrounded by exuberant tropical plants and is perfectly located in a high point towering...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
sercotel club cayo guillermo

Sercotel Club Cayo Guillermo

3.0 stars

The perfect haven for lovers of nature in its purest state, the Villa Cojimar hotel sits in an idyllic location amidst...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
club amigo atlantico guardalavaca

Club Amigo Atlantico Guardalavaca

3.0 stars

Get away to one of Cuba's best kept secrets for a dream holiday at Club Amigo Atlantico. Guardalavaca is known to host...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £679 per person
tryp cayo coco

Tryp Cayo Coco

4.0 stars

The perfect beach holiday awaits you the all-inclusive Tryp Cayo Coco hotel, where non-stop entertainment and utmost...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation
From £699 per person
memories holguin

Memories Holguin

4.0 stars

Enjoy a perfect beach setting while you unwind in the historic sands of the all-inclusive Memories Holguin. A short...

Included
  • Flight
  • Accomodation
  • Transportation
  • Representation

More deals


Explore cuba your way

Tailor made cuba holidays

For those who prefer to travel at their own pace or to explore places not included in the brochure itineraries, we have years of experience at organising tailor-made holidays.

Create the perfect trip with the help of our specialists

Our expert tour consultants will be pleased to suggest ideas to complement your own and to organise the most appropiate programme to suit your interests, time and budget.

Call 0207 644 1600
to speak with our award-winning travel consultants.

If you would like a member of our team to contact you back, please click here Contact us