Hello! In this post I want to show you how to rent a car in Havana and have a safe experience in this amazing city.
Cuba is a hot travel location right now (especially if you are American 🙂
If it’s the first time you are traveling to Cuba you probably have a million of questions and things you want to know before jumping on your airplane. That’s why you have this blog!
Are you ready? Let’s start!
Rent a car in Havana: the city
Havana is a large city divided in four main areas: Vedado, Old Havana, Miramar and Centro Havana.
Especially if you are visiting the Old part of the city (which is the most fascinating and touristic one) you will have some trouble moving with a car. Most of the area is pedestrian only and there are not many parking.
Also, there aren’t many rent a car in Cuba and the prices are definitely high. Furthermore the Old City is pretty chaotic and driving in the city might be a little tricky especially during the night time.
How to rent a car in Havana: the solution
Since I think you don’t want to make your stay in Havana a problem the best solution I personally recommend is to have a private driver driving you around the city. It’s not that expensive and you don’t need to care about traffic and other dangers.
Usually to have a private driver for the entire day in Havana is about $100 (CUC, local currency). I have different contacts so I can help you to book a driver if you need one (check the bottom of the page)
Plus, often times, the driver can give you some precious tips to help you discover amazing places. If you arrive at the Havana airport
That said, you can hire a private taxi driver with a classic car (almendron) who will drive you around the city of Havana for a tour or for the entire day if you plan to have an excursionin Vinales or Varadero
Despite renting a car might be the best solution if you want to have a trip across the island, it is absolutely better for you if you move with touristic buses or with a private taxi as I’ve previously stated.
If you need help to book a car just click on the link below and you’ll be able to book your car in Havana.
Well, if you are all set it’s time for you to start exploring what you can do once you’ll get in Havana. In this post I am going to tell you how to book a city tour in Havana by car.
If it’s you first time ever in Cuba you might find everything absolutely new and incredibly fascinating. Although, once you’ll get to the airport in Havana you’ll find a little of mess around you. That’s why it might be better to book a cab before you arrive in Havana.
You won’t bother yourself to find a taxi or to negotiate the price. I can help you to book a cab and to have a person waiting for you once you arrive. If you want to know more about it, read THIS POST.
HOW TO BOOK A CITY TOUR IN HAVANA: CAR OR BUS?
Now, of course one of the most charming thing about Cuba are the old classic cars. As you have probably seen in videos or pictures of Cuba, there are tons of Old Almendrones all over the island! And the cool things is that they are actually working perfectly.
The first time you won’t believe what you’ll see. Some of them still have the original engine! And the most of those cars are before the Revolution. I have personally talked with several professional drivers about their amazing cars. They are all proud of their classic rides and they told me the history and how they got them.
Of course it’s almost impossible for them to find spare parts in case of damage and aging, but Cubans are really incredible in the art of improvisation and “bricolage”. I have seen real miracles inside some cars engine! 🙂
That said, there are several cars offering a city tour service in Havana and you have a wide choice of classic cars, convertibles or not.
In Old Havana you can find a lot of these cars in front of the National theater (Teatro Nacional) , or in front of the Parque Central Hotel.
So, you just need to approach a driver and ask him for a tour of the city. There are different routes and itineraries you can choose. Usually you can pick an hour or a two hours tour.
IF YOU WANT TO BOOK A TOUR BEFORE GOING TO CUBA FILL OUT THE FORM AT THE END OF THIS POST
A car is the best option if you want to have a typical tour of the city and enjoy it with your friends and family. Most of the cars allow you to ride in four people plus the driver.
The price depends on the itinerary and the duration but it’s not expensive considering the unique experience.
On the other hand you can decide to have a tour of Havana with a bus. There are several rooftop red buses you can take but of course my recommendation is to go for a car. First, you can ask the driver to stop for a second if you want to take a picture; second you can change the route and make little deviations on the itinerary; third you will have a more intimate ride with your family and friends.
Now let’s see the places you can visit with a quick overview of the city.
HOW TO BOOK A CITY TOUR IN HAVANA: THE ITINERARY
If it’s your first time in Cuba and Havana there are several places you must visit. It also depends on your travel and how many days you have planned to stay in Havana. Of course the most beautiful and charming part of the city is Old Havana, so be sure to have at least 3/4 days to stay in the capital.
Usually a city tour of Old Havana includes the typical and most characteristic places such as Capitolio, Malecon, The Royal Force Castle and the Tobacco factory. Of course there are several more spots to visit, but it’s better to visit them by walk since most of the places are not accessible by car. Also you will really enjoy walking along the streets and focus on every single detail of the old city.
If you want to visit Vedado and Miramar you’ll pass by the Malecon and drive north. In Miramar I recommend you to drive along the Fifth Avenue (5ta Avenida). That is a beautiful street full of colonial villas. Most of them are now embassies.
If you are doing a guided tour by car, you can drive across the streets of Vedado and watch the amazing colonial houses. I did a guided tour not long time ago with my family 🙂
I have visited just Old Havana and Centro Habana with a 2 hours tour and I went all over the main areas of the old side of the city and Plaza de la Revoluticion in Centro Habana.
Centro Havana is, as I say, the “real” Cuba since you can see the daily life of the city and not only the most touristic places.
If you are looking how to book a city tour in Havana, you can fill out the form below and book a classic car before being in Havana. In this way you can also decide the best pickup location (even from the airport) and organize better your tour, especially if you are staying in Havana just for a few days.
I can help you to set up your guided tour by car! Just click the link below to see more about the tour in Havana:
Cuba is living a revolutionary period thanks to the diplomatic relationship recently established with the US. This will probably change many things and also the way to pay in Cuba and the currency available for business and travel purposes.
Today in Cuba there are two different currencies: The Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban peso convertible (CUC)
The conversion between CUP and CUC is around 1:24. This means than $1 CUC is 24 CUP. The most part of the Cubans are paid in CUP, or a small part of the wage is in CUC.
Supermarkets and shops selling basics, usually accept Cuban pesos and prices are way different from other types of stores where you can find other supply and products but you can only pay in CUC. For example for many Cubans is a problem to buy a broom just because the price is too high. It’s like buying something x24 more expensive.
Tourists generally have to pay in CUC almost anything. In fact, this is the primary reason why the Cuban peso convertible was introduced.
Why two currencies
In 1993, during the period of economic collapse known as the Special Period, the US dollar was made legal in order to encourage hard currency to enter the economy. This period concedes with the fall of the Soviet Union, the main source of supplies for Cuba at that time.
The US dollar became the currency used to purchase some non-essential goods and services, such as cosmetics, and even non-staple kinds of food and drink. US dollar was also used for tourism and Castro saw the opportunity to direct all this cash flow in the state coffers.
In 1994, the convertible peso was introduced at a par with the dollar but on November 8, 2004, the Cuban government withdrew the US dollar from circulation. CUC was officially introduced as a currency.
How to pay in Cuba
The best way for you to pay in Cuba is to change your money. You can do it as soon as you arrive to the airport. Since you need to take a cab to go in the city center, it’s better for you to have already some CUC. Some drivers accept euros or Canadian dollars but it depends.
In the cities you can then easily change your money at the Cadeca for a better exchange rate. So don’t change too much money at the airport.
Also, in case you are not pay in the national currency, calculate in advance how much is the conversion to avoid leaving more money. If you want to book a taxi in advance, you can do it HERE.
Some places already accept US dollars but the CUC is still the most used currency and the best way to pay in Cuba.
How to pay in Cuba: credit cards
Also credit cards rules are changing. If you are housing in a hotel you can pay with your credit card, Mastercard or Visa. This is a recent news since before wasn’t possible to pay with any credit card issued in the US.
“Debit cards with the VISA logo are usually accepted by your tour rep to pay for trips as well as purchasing goods at outlets that accept debit cards. They can be used in ATM’s (if you can find one and it is working) or to draw money from a Cadeca or Bank. MASTERCARD will not be accepted in ATM’s but, as with VISA cards, so long as they are issued by a non US-based bank, can be used to draw cash at the counter of a Cadeca or Bank.” Source: TripAdvisor
Transactions rate is about the 3%, which is basically the exchange fee. If you make a withdrawal the 2.99% foreign exchange administration fee is calculated for every transaction abroad.
The best thing for you to do is to call your bank and ask information about fees on transactions and withdrawals.
The goal is to extend internet usage to the entire island by 2020.
Right now the cost to the internet access is pretty high but the fee will be halved from 4.50 CUC to 2 CUC per hour. The only places available today to connect are the hotels where most of the time you have to pay around 10 CUC per hour.
The new wifi hotspots will be able to hold about 50/100 connections at the same time.
“Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York who has studied social media and the Internet in Cuba, said the decision could mark a “turning point.”
“Their model was, ‘Nobody gets Internet,’ ” he said in a telephone interview. “Now their model is, ‘We’re going to bring prices down and expand access, but we are going to do it as a sovereign decision and at our own speed.’ ”
Government said that internet connection and communication development will be a main goal for Cuba.
Finally the island will no longer be so isolated 🙂
Before April 2015 the only way to fly from USA to Cuba was buying a ticket through a non-American flight company. Fortunately the situation is changed thanks to the resumption of the relationships between USA and Cuba.
Fly from USA to Cuba today
On April 15th 2015 CheapAir became the first travel agency selling direct flights to Cuba
Departing daily from Miami International Airport and on a more abbreviated schedule from Tampa and New York’s JFK, this new option is the most convenient and most direct way to travel to Cuba. Havana is accessible via all three U.S. originating airports and Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Holguin, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba are all destinations serviced via Miami.
The only way to get there at the moment, other than a charter flight, is to buy a ticket from another country like Mexico, Canada, Bahamas or Cayman. Then you need to buy a separate ticket from one of the places mentioned above and fly to Cuba. This is a pain since you need to look for two separated flights and look for the best options and coincidences.
So, fly from USA to Cuba wasn’t so simple and immediate until now. But with CheapAir you can directly book the entire route from one website.
Who can and cannot travel to Cuba
Traveling to Cuba for Americans it’s still different from flying anywhere else in the world. Despite the embargo is about to be ended and the diplomatic relationship restored, yet just certain categories are authorized to fly from USA to Cuba.
Here are the categories and the reasons that allow you to travel to Cuba today:
Visit your family (you are a cuban-american)
Educational purpose and activities
You are a journalist
You are involved in an official U.S. government or foreign business
You are working with exportation and importation of information and telecom materials
You are doing a research, development and education with private foundations
Support for the Cuban people
You have a special permission for a specific exportation category
Professional researches and professional meetings
Public events, speaking and workshops
So, before making any flight reservation be sure to be allowed to fly to Cuba. If you can, then search for your flight to Cubahere
Right now you can just book flights to Havana, but soon will be possibile to select other destinations.
Internet connection should not be your primary need in a relaxing vacation in Cuba but I understand that you might need it to keep your communication alive with home!
So you may be wondering: How can I connect to internet in Cuba?
Well, in this post I’ll give you some options.
Wifi and internet connection
First of all I have a bad news: it’s not so easy connecting to internet. In the country, just 5% of population have access to the open internet and also for tourist is not so easy as you can imagine.
If you are staying in a good hotel in Havana there’s wifi but usually you have to pay it separately. Depending on the hotel you will pay around 10 CUC (dollars) per hour. Sometimes you can find it cheaper, like $8, but usually these are the average prices.
If you are thinking to solve the problem with a roaming data plan you are wrong. Right now, if you are american, it’s not possible for you to use your 3G.
Last time I went there I used an European SIM card with a roaming data plan but 3G connectivity was available just in the main areas of Havana but in most of other places wasn’t working properly (gprs, edge)
Also, you cannot buy a local SIM card. Just Cubans can buy it.
Solution for an internet connection
If you are going to stay in a hotel it won’t be a problem. You can use the wifi connection and, if they don’t have it, you can ask for the closest place where you can find it.
Also, consider that things are changing quickly in the last months and USA companies are already discussing potential partnership with the Cuban national telco company ETECSA.
Another recent news is that a famous Cuban artist, Kcho, is offering free wifi. So if you’re passing by his boutique you can connect for free.
Ok! May be you’ve just booked your travel to Cuba! Congratulations! So, you are now searching on Google the things to bring with you for your travel to Cuba.
Wise move! 🙂
Yes, because even if Cuba is a safe and easy-going country, you won’t find exactly everything you need in the stores. That’s why I have created a checklist of the most useful things to bring with you for your travel to Cuba. So, take a screenshot of this post and keep it with you when you’ll be out for shopping before leaving.
What it’s easy to find
Below is a quick list of the personal care items (relatively) easy to find in Cuba:
Toilet paper ( in the hotels but not always outside)
These are pretty easy to find, unless you are traveling without any tour operator.
What is NOT easy to find and it’s better to bring with you for a travel to Cuba
Ok, even if you won’t have particular problems to find everything you need in hotels or resorts, here is a list of things to bring with you. These things are particularly useful especially if you are backpack travelers or you are going to travel housing in casas particulares and multiple cities in Cuba:
Aspirins, antibiotics and tablets against diarrhea – International hospitals service is pretty good, but prevention is better than cure
Dental floss and mouthwash – supermarkets usually don’t have these products
Condoms – both if you are a couple or single traveller it’s better for you to buy it before your departure
Sun screen and body cream – you can find it in certain places but prices are way more expansive than in USA or Europe.
Insecticides – based on the season and places you have planned to visit, you might find mosquitos and other insects
Liquid for contact lenses
Washing powder – if you are traveling on your own.
Umbrella – If you are traveling in the period from July till December it’s better to have one with you.
Also, bring clothes with the idea that you won’t buy anything there. Maybe just a Che Guevara t-shirt as a souvenir, but nothing more. There are just a few clothes stores and the quality is not exactly the best. So be sure to put in your luggage:
Flip-flops and sneakers – especially if you are visiting Havana, be sure to bring with you close shoes. The city is dusty and dirty in certain area and will be safer for you.
Other useful items are:
Snorkeling kit – If you are going to Cayo Largo or in a beach resort you’ll need it.
Electric torch – Sometimes electricity is down and it’s better have it with you
Food and snacks – Food in Cuba is good, but during the day isn’t easy to find snacks except pizza, fried chicken and not really good ice-cream. You might consider to bring snacks bars, peanuts and walnuts, or any kind of food light but with an elevate energy content.
External Battery – internet data connection is not yet available everywhere, but you’ll use a lot your smartphone to take pictures. An external battery was very useful to me. I always recharged my GoPro, my smartphone and other tech devices.
You can order this food separated or mixed in many variants, often all together. For example chicken, rice, beans, malanga and bananas. Sometimes with vegetables as cucumbers and tomatoes.
Everything is good but it also depends where you are going. The quality of the restaurant in Havana is generally good but you need to know the best places.
Where to eat
One of the most famous restaurant in the Old Havana is Los Nardos, just in front of the Capitolio. Usually there’s a long line outside the entrance. You have then to climb the stairs till the first floor. The restaurant is not expansive but you can also find cheaper places with good quality food and great service.
You just need to walk and get lost in the streets of the city to find good and charming places.
If you are going to stay in the island for a week or longer you may start wondering to eat something different 🙂
In my personal experience after about 4-5 days I start feeling the need for something different. I’m Italian and I need some pasta or Mediterranean cuisine after a while!
You can find pizza and pasta, both in local or Italian restaurant. Of course you won’t find all the Mediterranean ingredients in any place. Here you can find an interesting list of restaurants in Old Havana.
This was a brief list on what to eat in Cuba. Another post with the best places to eat will be posted in future, so be sure to subscribe to newsletter to get the latest news straight into your inbox!