This wonderful house is located in the center of Havana with a wonderful view to the sea because is beside the Malecón (the esplande) in Havana. Clarita is the best and help me in all that I asked.
Marina # 61, Havana 10300, Cuba
Once you've booked your first casa particular you enter an unofficial chain where the owners of your present casa will offer to book your next one and arrange for you to be picked up at your point of arrival. We were gently bounced from one casa to the other up and down Cuba. Of course they're taking a cut but it does make things easier for you.
Do get yourself some pesos and buy food from the stalls/windows. It's delicious (freshly made egg tortillas, oyster cocktails, flan pudding hot from the tin), ridiculously cheap and completely safe - food hygiene is fanatically enforced. Also, it's a lovely change from the endlessly repeated chicken/pork/prawns/lobster plus rice plus symbolic amount of salad combo you get in the restaurants. Hard to believe as it is, you can get very tired of lobster.
Hackneyed though it may be, the hop on/hop off tourist bus in Havana makes a lot of sense. First off, in a city where transport is pricey for tourists, these CUC$5 are well spent if only as a means of getting around. Secondly, while you won’t be using the bus to explore the crumbling splendour of Havana Vieja’s side streets, you will hit other more distant spots like the Plaza de la Revolucion, with its somewhat scary murals of Che and Camilo Cienfuegos, and the artisan market. But nicest of all, in a city where much of the life (and best photos) happen one floor up on the bustling, colourful balconies, the open-top bus gives you some of the best views in town.
From the Hotel Inglaterra in the Parque Central, and various other points around the city.
Google map: bit.ly/e5glFN
This is an excellent café selling strong espressos for 1 Cuban peso (extremely cheap about four pence!)
Unlike most of the tourist cafés and restaurants, there were always Cubans there enjoying a coffee.
On the corner of Calle Amargura and Mercaderes, Habana Vieja
Casa Carlita is a casa particular with the feel of a B&B - a set of three guest rooms with an immaculate shared bathroom.
The casa is located right next to Havana University and within a short walk of Havana Libre and The Nacional, two big hotels where you can change money, hire a car, book excursions or top up on food/drink.
The Casa offers good food whenever you want it, though it is located in the Vedado area, which also has a range of alternatives. Vedado is supposedly great for nightclubs, though we hit it while jetlagged on a Monday, so can't vouch for this.
It is a 30 minute walk (or $2-4 taxi ride) along the Malecon (sea wall) to Old Havana. We stayed in Old Havana later in our trip but would be happy to stay in Vedado again.
This was a great first stop on our tour of Cuba. It was also good value. I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
Avenida San Lazaro no 1207
entre Mazon y Basarrate
Cuba is great and part of the fun is discovering places to stay by yourself - we stayed in many casas particulares (private homes) - some better (and friendlier) than others, but none were dire. A great way to meet locals, especially if you find ones where you can communicate with the owner (ie if you speak Spanish, or they speak English).
When travelling around, taxi drivers (some licensed, some not) hang around bus stations to offer shared rides - which can be cheaper and get you to your destination much quicker.
Remember to take cash - cards don't work in ATMs and changing money on a card, or buying anything on a card is punitively expensive - around 12% charge.
Avoid Varadero if you can - you may as well go to the Costa Del Sol.
If you want to experience great Cuban hospitality with a lovely family in central Havana I would highly recommend Casa Mer.
Wilfred and his family share their sweet art deco villa for a very affordable price and it's just a stroll or taxi away from the jazz clubs, the Malecon and central Havana shopping and night life. They also recommended to us other Cuban families to stay with in other towns which worked out well as the local government hotels aren't so great and cost about five times the price!
calle 28 # 206
entre 21 y 19
Vedado Habana Cuba
telefono (537) 833 44 12
Staying at Casa Antigua gives you first-hand experience of how the Cubans live. Horatio and Marta run their “casa particular” (the Cuban version of a B&B) with a great deal of pride. They have managed to restore their 1940s villa, replacing once-lost original features, and have rescued their family's antique furniture to create a fascinating environment for their guests. With limited resources, they offer a warm welcome, good breakfast and tips and ideas for how to make the most of your stay in Cuba. Speaking excellent English, they are happy to talk about the history and politics of Cuba as well as recommending the best bars, restaurants and things to do in and around Havana. To get the best out of Cuba, stay with a family - it's an experience you'll never forget and much cheaper than staying in impersonal hotels.
The casa is in the district of Vedado, Havana;
Because of the dual currency system in operation in Cuba, going out to the usual tourist haunts in La Habana Vieja can get really repetitive and they aren't the place to meet locals, simply because they don't earn pesos convertibles and therefore can't generally socialise in these places. Instead I'd recommend the malecon (the seafront promenade in La Habana) to anybody looking for an authentically Cuban experience. Get down there before sunset (which is spectacular in itself) with a bottle of rum and some friends, and watch the place take off on a Saturday night. The atmosphere is electric, there's music everywhere and you're guaranteed to meet some characters!! Not only is it a cheap way to socialise, but you won't be surrounded by tourists.
Along the seafront, La Habana.
Watching sport abroad is fun. You get to see people at rest, and having a good time. And Cuba are the world's best at baseball.
When we were in Havana in December we went to see one of the early games of the National League. Industriales is Havana's big and very popular team. Their match schedule was available online and also in the daily paper. We asked our concierge how easy it was to get tickets, and he reckoned that it was only really a problem towards the end of the season.
All Cubans can get in for free, but we had to go to the foreigners' door and pay 3CUC each. This gave us seats in an enclosure guarded by a stern looking lady. The stadium is huge, and has the usual vendors climbing around offering food and drink.
One word of warning. There were NO taxis anywhere. We had to wait 30 minutes in a fairly deserted area of town. I got, probably needlessly, quite scared. I wished we'd asked our cab driver to pick us up.
This is a cheap pizza place (less than 1 CUC for two pizzas) but the experience is even better than the price. You have to pluck up the courage to stand in the middle of the road and shout up your order (in Spanish) to a face hanging out over a balcony on the roof, three stories up.
You then wait with all the locals until your pizza is lowered down to you in a basket attached to a Heath Robinson style pulley system. You then swap pizza for money and the basket goes back up. If you need change then the basket is lowered back down and money is distributed fairly under the command of the man on the roof pointing at you and shouting “Seven pesos!' The pizza is good too, if a little oily.
In the Vedado area. On San Rafael, near the junction with Infanta - look for the crowd of people standing in the middle of the road then look up
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