I arrived to Havana a few hours late and was really worried that my transport would’ve left. I booked my transport via the owner of my ‘Casa Particular’. They are essentially like AirBNB but an older version. I booked it via hostelsclub.com but if you are interested, you can email Yara directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. The room was decent sized with a double bed, and Maji, her friend that loooked after me during my stay, was amazing. She made the best breakfast and we would spend hours speaking, where she would teach me Spanish and I would teach her English.
Anywho, Yara organised airport pick up and sent me a whole itinerary via email about what I should do whilst there. I can’t recommend it enough.
First set of business was getting money exchanged but the queue at the airport was just ridiculous so my driver took my down town after I had dropped my bags. NOTE: I took euros with me as it is more expensive to get US dollars exchanged and the rate for pounds is poor.
The driver then took me around the new and old Havana, showing me possible sites and areas to visit. I spent most of my time around the area of Capitolio. The Inglaterra Hotel was my favourite. I walked around in old Havana and snapped pictures and just enjoyed the environment. Revolution square is another spot which many like to visit. The Malecon (beach walk) is a must! However, there was a lot of sleezy men trying to approach me. I quickly learnt to pretend I didn’t speak Spanish and made the excuse that my friends were waiting for me. I don’t know if that’s because I was alone or because they haven’t seen a lot of Muslims there, but it did get quite annoying at times. Other places in Cuba were not as bad as Havana. Apparently cat-calling is normal for Cuba but I have never experienced it to this extent. It was quite a shock so just something to prepare yourself for if you’re going solo. I do have to emphasise though, I never once felt unsafe.
I had my dinner at La Nariz / Orchids. They are two restaurants in one and situated in the building that is opposite Capitolio. I had the Ajillo fish and it was banging!! I kept coming back for that dish as they are otherwise low on vegetarian options. Regarding halal food, you can pretty much forget about that. Cuba has been under an embargo for years which means they have limited access to certain spices. I personally didn’t like a lot of the food in Cuba but then again I was restricted in my diet.
I used to take a Collectivo home – this is the way Cubans themselves travel. Taxis take extortionate prices. Collectivo is a car driven by a local, which has set pick up and drop off points in the city. Its dirt cheap and some Cuban don’t like that tourist use it. But I did and I loved it. You got to see the city and its people in a different way. They used to play their own Cuban music in them as well and I’d just enjoy the ride. It took me some time to figure out how they work – I GOT LOST SO MANY TIMES! LOL. They cost 50 in their own money (remember there are two currencies in Cuba!)
The next day I booked a guided day tour to Vinales. It was the best! I went to Havana Libre hotel which is the base for most tours. I booked in and was told to wait in the lobby of the hotel next morning for the tour. There are quite a lot of tours going on at the same time so make sure you find your company. At this point I was starting to feel a bit lonely so I was extremely happy to be around people who I could communicate more freely with. My host Maji was amazing – I learnt so much Spanish from her too.
On the trip, I met a nice Dutch family and Luz and Nery from down town LA or as they called it themselves, ‘the ghetto’ LOL. It was lovely spending time with them and just talking and sharing our experiences. We all spoke and connected with each other and these are the things that I love the most about travelling. Meeting and speaking to people you otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to! The tour took us through a Cigar factory, a Museum, the ‘Indian tunnel’ via boat, a view point in Vinales, to Mural de la prehistoria, for lunch (not halal or vegetarian, unfortunately!) as well as to a Tobacco farm. All in all I thought it was good value for money and I had a great time. All the tours are similar so it doesn’t really matter what company you go with.
Highly recommend it!🇨🇺
More on Trinidad and Varadero later XO