So my journey started pretty awesome. All my friends who had time, where at the airport in Zurich to say goodbye and wishing me luck for my grand path 2017.
Before I could enter the security zone of course I had to check-in my baggage and get my boarding pass. Small hint by the author: Do not forget the Cuban visa for the check-in procedure. Even I flew over Moscow they had to check it in Zurich. Also I was pretty lucky about the POOT (proof of on-going travel). The check-in personnel could have checked it also in Zurich and I could not have checked-in due to the missing on going travel proof. But for this problem there are different approaches for “cheating” the system, which I will list in the future. The flight from ZRH to Moscow was pretty quick and the stop over at the Moscow Airport was kind of comfortable. With the free Wi-Fi and a blanket it was pretty comfy. Also there are free water fountains for drinking. Unfortunately on my flight from Moscow to Habana I had some really strange persons next to me in combination with the NOT working inflight entertainment it was a loooong flight to Habana.
The horror did not stop when I landed, I waited about 1h and 30 minutes for my checked in baggage…. But before I could wait I had to go through the Visa check. I bought my visa at the airport Zurich (at the desk of Hotelplan), I think it was a rip off (CHF 70.-) for just a small greenish paper. I think there are cheaper ways for getting the visa. One is I think directly at the embassy but I did not look in to that because I thought I can get it cheap at the airport. At globetrotter the visa costs CHF 90.- (including shipping).
At the boarder visa control they asked me if I was in Africa (maybe due to malaria and other illnesses? I do not know). After this question the guy said “Welcome to Cuba”! which I first did not understand due to the surprising content.
On Cuban soil I went straight to the 2nd floor to change my Euros to CUC. The ratio was (including commission) 1.1. So for 140 Euros I got around 154 CUC. Take your time while checking the money.
Anyway at the moment I asked another tourist if he also goes to Habana central and if we could share a taxi. For my luck and his, his answer was yes. The taxi driver first wanted 30 CUC for the ride but we could lower it down to 25 CUC so we paid 12.5 each. The ride was so cool and I got the first Cuban impressions. I arrived at my very friendly cute casa perticulares (booked over homestay). Felize (the owner) was really supportive and explained me the important things. For example the wifi zone, the bank (open Monday to Saturday) and where I can get the wifi card (trajeta de wifi, 1.5 CUC for 1h, sometimes sold for 3 CUC directly at the wifi zone).
- Wifi: 1.5 CUC for 1h
- Taxi, Airport to Habana 20-30 CUC
- Water 1.5 l for 1.2 – 2 CUC
- Cervezas / Beer nacional: 1 – 1.75 CUC, can are mostly cheaper than bottles ask before buy
- Casa perticulares 20 – 35 CUC
That night I met the tourist form the airport again, (funny dutch surfer guy) with others from his hostel we had a great time and also a nice walk in the night at the Malecon. The dutch, Loren and I walked up and down the Malecon and enjoy the vibes from Habana. Also Mr. Teeny (Señior Pequeña) was accompanying us. We had also a chance to try self-made?!? Rum from a Cuban. Can you remember Dutch guy? Thank you for the good laugh. The scenery around us looked like exactly from the game GTA Vice City. Imagine some old buildings with some green magenta neon lights, so awesome. The 70s hotel had also a club downstairs which cost 5 CUC entry fee unfortunately no entry due to my small bag.
Unfortunately the Dutch and I missed the appointment, and then I decided to go to the museo de la revolucion. The whole story with all the details was really interesting but the quality of the exhibition was not really worth 8 CUC and in combination with the three souvenir shops it seems to me like a cash cow. The most interesting part for me was the memorial at the back of the museum (it is for free!!!). You have to enter the museum from the front and when you are inside go straight to the toilet and the left then right to the cafeteria where you can walk ahead to the memorial with the nice vehicles. Later, I enjoyed the Cuban life style in the park next door where I also learnt some words in Spanish.
Around 20:00 I have met two guys from couchsurfing, Ferran and Juan. Together we discovered the 23rd avenue where we wanted to enjoy live jazz in a bar but we found out that there is no entry with tank-tops. After some beers at the Malecon we called it a day.
Next day I started with my Spanish lesson. I found out I still have to learn a lot J. The private teacher costs 5 CUC – 1 h. That day I took 2 hours and after that my brain had a memory overflow. Therefore I met with Juan, together we walked around Vedado (western part of Habana). Some important things to see: plaza de la revolucion, mirador de Juan Marti, cemetery and John Lennon statue.
- Plaza de la revolucion: a lot of nice Cuban old cars and the two buildings with Guevara and Cienfuegos
- Mirador: 3 CUC for going up, totally worth it, 5 CUC for the combination of tower and museum
- Cemetery: had a short walk around
- John Lennon statue and park: so beautiful and worth to just hang there and read a book or drink some Havana Club. You should also enjoy the vintage cars around you.
For lunch / dinner we went to Las Duenas (Calle 19, 14 y 16) this means at street 19 between street 14 and 16. Las Duenas is a really small cute restaurant for small budget tourists. You get a big portion and awesome flavours come with the dishes. I had fried pork with onions. After that I took the gaugau (bus 27) to center vieja for 40 cents.
Night life: Friday night it was time for la fabrica de Arte Cubano. 2 CUC entry (do not lose the card). At the entrance you get a card, on which the bartenders will write down what you ordered and in the end (when you leave) you have to pay, really dangerous. I have never been to such a random place / club. There a two version how you can describe the club or museum.
- It is a museum with nice art in which you can also dance, drink to music and enjoy live music
- It is a club in which you can get culturally wasted / enjoy fine art / discuss different opinions
It is up to you which version you chose but in the end it is pure awesomeness to enjoy a night in there. For me a must for every tourist that is in Habana. Live music (in my case Spanish rap), outside bar, inside bar, dance basement, art gallery.
Also I heard the restaurant and bar “1830” is really good (eating and dancing) but reserve a table before you go, expect huge queues.
Play del este
On Saturday I took the tourist autobus (leaves at the central park next to the capitol) for 5 CUC. I left at el Megano. At the beach I met Kiko a Cubanero and we had a great time. Good conversation and a lot of fun. Unfortunately I left him with mixed feelings but indeed he was friendly and outgoing but in the end there is always the same question that stays in the room. In total I had a great time at the beach. You could even buy original (for sure) Habaneros for 10 CUC ;). My recommendation: go before midday or around 15:00. The sun likes white skin to grill. Keep in mind that the last bus is at 18:00 and in my case I tried to take it. As a European I had optimistic thoughts. The bus that arrived around 18:20 was full with tourists, more than full, let’s say like sardines in a can. In the time I was still waiting no other bus came so I tried to find a taxi (prices varies from 10 to 20 CUC) or a colectivo. My first colectivo wanted 5 CUC, I said to myself I can do better so I waited for the next (I just had 3 CUC in my wallet left). The next one wanted 2 CUC and I took it of course. In that colectivo I have met Alejandro (don’t call my name) and Gustavo. They are two IT students which enjoyed their holidays at the beach. Hopefully I meet Gustavo again in Santa Clara (he lives there). With them I had a two hours conversation in Spanish / English, oh that was great fun, muchas gracias.
For the night program I met Juan again. First we ate near his hostel; I had a Schnitzel (Cuban style) with rice and avocado. D E L I C O U S! The size-quality to price ratio was top. Unfortunately I cannot recall the exact location but it must have been around the street “Hospital” and “Vapor”. The night ended with a beer at the Malecon.
On Sunday I found out that the Cigar factory is closed. But I was so lucky, the cigar outlet was open that day. From my “trusted” source the outlet is just open once a month. I absolutely believed him, aaahaaa. Also all the cigars and cigar boxes my trusted source showed me, looked really nice and the prices where affordable. Comment from the author: the trusted source was a stranger (Cuban), which will get a commission when I would have bought some products. In the end of course I have left with nothing, maybe the cigars were original, but as a non-cigar-expert I cannot tell the difference. Any money not spent is saved ;). The adventure was going on and had a walk around the east part of the Malecon. Slowly I got hungry and I went to the restaurant Hanoi, where I ate some delicious starts. Pulled pork surrounded by plantanes (1.95 CUC). As a main dish I had fish with rice and fresh vegetables and a Bucanero (beer national) made the finish. The pulled pork was so good I went also the other day again for lunch.
Monday, a day of surprises, I found out that the cigar factory is just opened until 13:00, hahahah. So I missed the tour again because the clock showed already 12:20 until when I arrived at the ticket office. Anyway I had still to do something else “The undiscovered land in Habana Vieja”. I did the Lonely Planet walking tour through Old Habana.
On my list where following buildings and sights:
- Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana
- Plaza de la Catedral
- Castillo de la Real Fuerza
- Plaza de Armas
- Palacio de los Capitanes Generales
- Calle Obispo
- Calle Mercaderes
- Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco de Asis
- Plaza Vieja
- Old Wall
As you maybe know, I am not a big fan of museum. Again in Habana I have not entered any museum in the old part. I would have entered the Museo de la Ciudad (City history) but unfortunately it was closed.
Around 14:00 it started to rain so heavily that the whole life stood still. It took around 40 minutes until the sky was getting calmer.
For the night program I have met my casa perticulares mates and Alex from Moscow (Couchsurfing). We had a great evening and big fun in the patio de la casa perticulares Felize. We also tried out the Habana Club especial años for 6 CUC a bottle. We had a really fun night at the Malecon. Also I have met a big group of Mexicans.
Finally at Wednesday, 19.07.2017 I could visit the Cigar Factory. I expected more insight in to the manufacturing process but unfortunately it was a really quick tour.
Time flew by and on the 20th there was a big surprise. Alex showed up after some days of no response. That night I have met Baldo, nice Cuban man. Also I have visited Bolabana (bar/club) in Miramar which was great fun. Even next day Alex and I went there again due to too many people at the fabrica de la Cuban arte.
Alex and I left Habana by Colectivo. Viazul buses were sold out for the next couple of days. After hard bargaining we got a colectivo to Playa Larga for 25 CUC.
Comment from wwW: the Wi-Fi in Habana has an upload of circa 250 kB/s. Not that bad.
- Walk on the Malecon (during night and day and also near to the sunset)
- Memorial / Pavillon Granma behind the museo de la revolucion (should be free)
- Plaza de la revolucion
- Mirador Jose Marti (wwW rule: always see the city from the top)
- John Lennon statue park (bring a book and/or rum with you)
- Fabrica de Arte Cubano (2 CUC entry, drinks 1.5 to 3), taxi 5-7 CUC (day & night, bargain and take your time, I took the taxi from Malecon y 23rd
- Las Duenas (deliciously good food), Calle 19, e/ 14 y 16, Habana Vedado
- Learn some Spanish with Esteban (tel: 53339368, 5 CUC an hour)
- Hanoi, cheap and good restaurant, Calle Brasil, e/ Bernaza y Av de Belgica
- Bolabana (bar, club) for some nice Cuba libres with modern music accompanied with live instruments: saxophone and drums