Havana, Cuba: The Ultimate Independent Travel Guide

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Havana is the most fascinating city we’ve ever come across. It’s vibrant, bustling, exotic and raw. Cuba as a whole is a fantastic country to independently travel, but with so much to see, do and experience in the capital, you may never want to leave…

Here is some essential information and advice (based on our experience) to make your trip to Havana a memorable one.

Budget & Finance

Let’s start with the money. If you don’t have a firm grasp on the two currencies in Cuba, you can easily be taken advantage of and end up spending more than you need to.

CUC = Cuban Convertible Peso (pegged to the USD)

CUP = Cuban National Peso (1 USD = 25 CUP)

1 CUC = 1 USD

1 CUC = 25 CUP

1 CUP = 0.04 CUC

cuban currency
It’s important to know the difference between the two currencies.

The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is the currency that you’ll be using for almost all of your purchases (accommodation, transportation, restaurant meals, bus tickets, internet). The Cuban National Peso (CUP) is the currency that the locals are paid in, and the one that they most often spend. Street-food, small snacks, local buses and fruits & vegetables at the markets will be charged in CUP.

Is Cuba expensive? No. Cuba can be travelled on a budget, especially if eating at the peso shops and taking local transportation.

It’s a good idea to have both CUC and CUP in your wallet. If you want to buy an ice-cream, a glass of fresh guava juice, a small pizza, or some popcorn (among other things), you’ll need some CUP. It is possible to pay with CUC, but it’s difficult to figure out the conversion, and the person selling to you will have to come up with a lot of change.

You can take your Cuban Convertibles (CUC) to a money changer called Cadeca, this is also the place that you will change your Euros, Pounds or Dollars. Make sure to bring your passport.

Note: CUC is not a “tourist currency”. The locals have to spend it on the same items as you do. The only time that the CUC is actually more expensive for tourists is at museums and some historical sites when the cost is equal in CUC for tourists as it is in CUP for locals (ie: Foreigner pays 10 CUC ($10 USD) and locals pay 10 CUP (40 cents)).

For more information about the currency in Cuba, click here.

travelling to havana cuba
Peso pizza is one such item that you can purchase with CUP

Airport Advice in Havana

Tourist Card:

Before arriving in Cuba, you will need to purchase a Tourist Card. This is similar to a visa, but it does not get placed in your passport, it’s a separate piece of paper. Sometimes the card is included in your flight price, but more often than not, you’ll have to purchase it at the airport before departing for Cuba. Sometimes there is a separate booth for purchasing the card, while other times you can simply buy it right where you check-in for your flight.

We flew out of Guatemala City and were able to purchase the card at the Copa Airlines check-in counter. The cost of the card was (and always is) $20 USD.

On arrival at the Havana airport, the immigration officer will stamp the card, and give you back half of it. You must keep this until you depart. Losing this part of the card will result in a whole bunch of unwanted bureaucracy when you try to leave. Bottom line… don’t lose it.

tourist card havana cuba
The Tourist Card that you will need to present to Immigration upon arrival in Havana


As of May 1, 2010, it’s obligatory to have insurance coverage to travel to Cuba and you must show proof of health/travel insurance upon arrival at immigration. This needn’t be a big expense. We purchased our insurance for just $1.60 / day.

As of 2016, the popular World Nomads Insurance covers most travellers to Cuba – sorry fellow Canadians, we are not covered by them for visiting Cuba – yet. Enter your details below to get a free quote:

For more on planning and preparing for a trip to Cuba (including purchasing travel insurance), click here to see our updated article.

Getting into the City:

travelling in havana cuba
Bargain hard for your taxi!

The Havana airport is about 30 – 40 minutes away from the center of town, depending on traffic. If you are travelling early in the morning, there will be no traffic and it will only take you 20 minutes.

The cost of a taxi is 25 CUC at most. Bargain hard – we got our taxi for 20 CUC into Centro Havana.

Other Notes & Tips:

The arrivals hall is quite hectic and hot, and it takes a long time for your luggage to arrive.

The line-ups for immigration/security are very long.

There are two money changers located just outside of the airport, one to your left, and one to your right. The line-ups for the changers are massive.

If you have a debit or credit card that will work for you in Cuba, we suggest going upstairs to the 2nd level where there is an ATM machine. There are hardly any line-ups here and it can save you a lot of time.

Leaving Havana:

The line-ups to check-in and drop off your bags can be very long (we waited 1.5 hours in line). If you are able to, we highly recommend finding some wi-fi and doing a web check-in (the web check-in line was 5 times faster).

There is a money changer inside the airport at Departures. In theory, it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If that one isn’t open, there is another money changer after security.

There is only one small snack shop for food in the departures hall after you’ve checked-in.

As of May 1, 2015, there is no departure tax. Nobody will be charged to leave Cuba from the Havana airport.

havana airport cuba
The line-up we waited 1.5 hours in!

Areas of Havana

Downtown Havana can basically be broken down into three main areas:

Havana Vieja: Havana’s colonial masterpiece. Located to the east of the center, a popular tourist area, many beautifully restored historic buildings, lots of sights, the most hassle from touts and lots of restaurants/bars.

Vedado: Located to the west of the center, the business/financial district, the most modern area, great nightlife, best live music, many restaurants and hotels.

Central Havana: Located between Havana Vieja and Vedado, the more “local” area, great location, many old buildings and homes, practically no hassle from touts, equal walking distance to Vieja and Vedado.

The seafront promenade (The Malecón) stretches for 8 kms along the northern coast of Havana, from Havana Harbor in Havana Vieja, along Central Havana and ending at the Vedado neighbourhood.

the malecon havana cuba
The Malecon at sunset.

Where to Sleep in Havana

In our opinion, casas particulares (directly translated: Private Houses in Spanish) are the way to go! They are the popular accommodation option in Cuba, and are a huge part of what makes this country so unique to travel in. Casas are like homestays – you have your own private room, attached private bathroom, air-conditioning, meals are available and you get to meet families all around the country.

You have three options for booking hotels and casas (one in the same in Cuba):

  1. Show up unannounced and look around until you find something that you like.
  2. Have your previous casa/hotel call ahead to your proposed next one and reserve you a room.
  3. Book your casa/hostels online before you go, or during your stay.

Keep in mind that finding and using internet and wi-fi in Cuba is a bit of a hassle, it’s best to book ahead if you can so you don’t waste your time in the country looking for a wi-fi connection!

Where to Stay in Havana

There are endless casas particulares and guesthouses to choose from in Havana. The first casa we stayed at in Cuba was “Casa Habana Blues 1940“, and it was a great introduction to casas particulares! The location was good, the hosts were excellent and our room was spacious and clean. Click Here to see the latest price on HostelWorld for that casa.

Click Here to compare prices and see reviews on hotels and casas in Havana on Booking.com

Click Here to compare prices and see reviews for casas & guesthouses in Havana on HostelWorld

There are also numerous properties available on Airbnb. If you want to join Airbnb, click here to sign up and receive $35 off of your first stay!

In Havana, we chose to stay in the Center, as we always prefer to be just outside of the main touristy areas, and walk there when we feel like it. This casa was a 5 minute walk to the Malecón, the room was very clean with private bathroom and a/c. The food cooked there was very delicious and the home was gorgeous. Daniel and Fina are very kind and welcoming.

casa particular daniel y fina in cuba
The lovely Casa we spent 6 nights at in Havana

For more on Casa Daniel y Fina, click here to see our article.

Casa Daniel y Fina (also known as Casa Habana Blues 1940)

Calle Belascoain No. 360, Apartment 1

Between San Rafael and San Jose

Centro Havana

Phone: (53) 7-870-0945

Email: daniel_renta@yahoo.es

Click here to see the latest price of Casa Habana Blues on HostelWorld 

Where to Eat in Havana

where to eat in havana cuba

Contrary to belief, the food in Cuba is actually quite good. Havana has some excellent restaurant options and it’s definitely fun to go out in the evenings for dinner. However, we suggest having at least one meal at your casa (the home cooked food is really good!)

Paladar Dona Eutimia

Located on a side-street just off of the Plaza de la Catedral in Havana Vieja.

The food here is delicious and affordable (especially for Havana). There are many touts trying to show you menus and steer you into other restaurants, but just ignore them and continue to the end of the road until you find Dona Eutimia. This place is packed so call (or have your casa owner call) and book ahead.

Location and Contact Information

Address: Callejon del Chorro # 60-C | Plaza de la Catedral, Habana Vieja, Havana 30600, Cuba

Location: Caribbean  >  Cuba  >  Havana

Phone Number: +53 7 8611332

Two must-try dishes at Dona Eutimia:

Enchilado de la Casa: This delicious snapper fish was sautéed in white wine and a spicy red sauce. The meal was accompanied by a salad, black beans and rice, as well as the fried plantain chips on the plate. At the end of our trip, this was still my favourite meal during our travels in Cuba!

This meal cost 9 CUC.

Ropa Vieja: A very popular meal in Cuba, this dish of shredded beef or lamb is fantastic. The meat is stewed in a tomato sauce with green peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and cumin and is typically served with rice.

This meal cost 8 CUC, but can be found elsewhere in the country for much less.

cuban food in havana
Yum! This Enchilado de la Casa was amazing.

La Abadia Restaurant

Located right on the Malecón, this little outdoor eatery is a great place to watch the sun set while enjoying fresh seafood and a mojito!

Arroz La Abadia (rice with shrimp, lobster and fish) is a fantastic meal and well worth the 20 minutes it takes to bake.

The cost is just 5 CUC.

Filete de Pescado (fish fillet). The fish on offer when we were there was snapper, and the meal was very good.

The cost of fish with rice and salad was 4.50 CUC.

Bar Cafeteria Lluvia de Oro (located in Havana Vieja)

This bar/restaurant has been in operation since 1920 and is very popular. While we only stopped in for a beer, many others were enjoying meals. Main dishes of chicken, pork or beef.

Meals start at 3.50 CUC.

Sloppy Joe’s Bar (Located just off of Parque Central)

Did you know that the sloppy Joe sandwich originated in Havana? Come here to try the famous sandwich, or just to enjoy a drink. The food is good, the actual bar itself is beautiful, but be warned, the staff and service are awful.

Meals are 5 CUC and up.

sloppy joes havana cuba
A Sloppy Joe sandwich, so good!

Peso Shops

You can also find many peso food spots around the city where you can enjoy cheap pizza, sandwiches and fresh juices. We highly recommend eating at peso shops, as it’ll definitely help your budget as all purchases are charged in the very cheap National Peso (pizzas are 10 CUP – 25 CUP and fresh juice is 1 CUP).

*Note: If you are backpacking Cuba on a tight budget, you can eat for very, very cheap in Havana by enjoying the peso food. However, in our opinion, if you only eat this type of food, you’ll be missing out on some of the country’s delicious local cuisine. The seafood meals are of great value and the home-cooked food at the casas is amazing.

For more, check out our article:

7 Dishes That Will Shatter Your Misconceptions About the Food in Cuba

guarapo juice in havana cuba
Freshly pressed guarapo (sugar cane) juice, for 1 peso.

What to See and Do

travelling to havana cuba what to see

The list of attractions, tours and activities in Havana is endless. There are over 900 buildings of historical importance in this city alone! With amazing nightlife, wonderful museums and a gorgeous beach nearby, you’ll never be bored here.

Here are a few of the Must-See’s:

  • El Capitolio Building
  • Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution) – 8 CUC entrance fee
  • Grand Theater
  • National Hotel
  • Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña (Fort of Saint Charles) – 7 CUC entrance fee 10 minutes from Centro.
  • Museo de Bellas Artes – 5 CUC entrance fee
  • Plaza Vieja
  • Basilica and the Monastery of San Francisco de Asis
  • The Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception (Havana Cathedral)
  • Plaza de Armas, the oldest square in Havana.
  • Playas Del Este

There are many more things that you can see while in Havana, those listed above are just our top picks.

museo de la revolution havana cuba
A painting of Fidel Castro at the Museum of the Revolution

Here are a few of the Must-Do’s:

  • Walk the Malecon in the late evening when all of the locals are out. Friends, families and couples hangout along the cement wall, music is played, people sing and dance and the atmosphere is very lively and fun.
  • Ride in a classic car down the Malecon at sunset: 15 – 25 CUC depending on your bargaining skills.
  • Explore the back streets of Central Havana.
  • Listen to live music at one of the many night clubs and bars.
  • Visit the nearby beaches of Playas del Este on a busy weekend (just 20 minutes away by bus).
  • Ride in a coco-taxi and cyclo taxi.
  • Drink mojitos.
  • Chat with the local people about their country and way of life.
  • Try salsa dancing.

…and the list goes on. This is one of the most lively cities in the world, you’ll always find something to see and do, at all hours of the day.

classic cars havana cuba
Classic cars lined up for hire in Parque Central

Scams, Hassle and Annoyances

There are scams in nearly every city, and Havana is no exception. The people here are fantastic if you really get to know them and you’ll enjoy it more if you learn to laugh off the hassle.

In the Vieja area, you will encounter the most annoyances, as this is the main tourist hang-out. Walking away from this part of town and into central Havana will feel like a breath of fresh air – no one will bother you.

Hustlers in Cuba are so common that they have their own Spanish name (Jineteros) and when you feel like someone is being overly friendly… beware.

Things to watch out for in Havana:

  • People befriending you on the street. Although you may want to be friends with people, often (always?) if they approach you on the street, they want something other than conversation. Many times they will suggest a nearby bar or a fantastic restaurant that you should “join them at”. This will inevitably lead to you paying the bill. You’ll see unsuspecting tourists being suckered in to this little scam at nearly every local restaurant in Havana. Beware.
  • Check your bill and check your change. At every single restaurant in Havana (except for one), we were short-changed, or there were random additions on our bill. Make sure you remember the price of your meal, or ask to see the menu again when it’s time to pay the check. Look out for “tax” and other random items added to the bill.

    Service fees are often already included in the price, so make sure before paying that they haven’t charged you two times for this. When you get your change back, count it. Almost always, you will have been short-changed. Sad to say, but very true.

plaza vieja havana cuba
Beautifully restored Plaza Vieja and surrounding streets is a prime location for touts and hassle.
  • Check the currency. As listed above, there are two currencies in Cuba. If you’re new to Cuba (and the hustlers can sense it!), they will often try to rip you off by giving you change back in CUP, rather than CUC. Another scam is when the price is listed in CUP, but they charge you in CUC.
  • Make sure of the cost. If you’ve agreed on a taxi ride for 2 CUC, make sure it’s not 2 CUC/person, and that it’s 2 CUC for the whole vehicle, otherwise when you get dropped off, expect to pay 2 CUC a head. If you agree on a price before hand, don’t pay a cent more when you arrive (no need to tip).
  • Paying commission. If someone recommends that you try out the nearby restaurant, have a drink in a bar, or stay at a particular hotel/casa (and they lead you there), you’ll end up paying more for your meal, your drinks or your room – as the restaurant/hotel will be expected to pay the hustler a commission, which will be tacked on to your bill.
  • Bottled water. This isn’t really a scam per se, but it is a way to overcharge tourists. Mostly foreigners purchase bottled water and it’s the one item that often won’t have a price written on it. In the touristy areas, shop owners will try to charge you 1.50 or 2 CUC per 1.5L bottle. In reality, the price is 0.70 CUC or less. It’s so hot and humid in Havana, so if you’re spending 2 CUC every time you’re buying water, you’ll be spending a fortune each day.
  • Catcalling. Ladies, be prepared to be whistled at, stared at, and shouted at. The men in Cuba are relentless! “Hey mama, how you doin’?” “Hey baby, what’s up?” “Oh mommy, you’re so fine”, “Wow, beautiful lady” etc. etc. Women who travel alone will receive much more attention than those who are travelling with male friends or their spouse. It’s harmless, but can be annoying (or perhaps flattering?!)
people in havana cuba
Even these old guys will whistle / catcall!
  • Horrible service. A couple of the restaurants that we ate at had pretty good service and we were happy to pay the service fee. Other staff at restaurants, bars, museums and the shop owners, bus drivers, etc. were all pretty rude. Don’t have high expectations for friendly staff (except for the families at the casas) while you’re in Havana.

Transportation in Havana

In Havana, walking is the best way to experience the city. However, since it’s quite a large, spread-out place, you’ll want to take transport once in a while (especially on those days when it’s 36 degrees.)

independent travel in havana
Walking is the best way to explore Havana.


You can find yellow, regular looking taxis all over the city. They have meters, but they don’t use them. Arrange a price before you get in. From Vieja to the Viazul bus station outside of town, the cost is 5-10 CUC depending on your bargaining skills.


There are classic cars (very old-looking ones) that run up and down certain streets in Havana. They pick up passengers on the side of the street when flagged down. The cost is 10 CUP / person (0.50 CUC). This is how many of the locals get around. This time, don’t agree on a price before getting in, or they will treat you as a tourist and charge you more! Just ask “collectivo?”, and when they dropp you off hand them no more than 10 CUP.

Click here for some great information on using Taxi Collectivos in Havana.

collectivo taxi havana cuba
A collectivo taxi

City Bus:

There are local buses in the city, going on various routes. Your best bet is to tell your casa or hotel where you want to go and they’ll point you in the direction of which bus to take, and where to catch it. These buses are jam-packed, shoulder-to-shoulder and they can be very hot. Watch-out for pickpockets on the bus as well. The good news? It’s 1 CUP for a ride (0.04 CUC).

Viazul Bus:

This is the 1st class, air-conditioned bus that most tourists take around Cuba. The only annoying thing about it in Havana is that the station is located outside of the center, and you can’t purchase tickets in town. A taxi out to the Viazul station is between 5 – 8 CUC.

However, if you plan to travel from Havana to Vinales or Havana to Trinidad, you can take a shared car, which is the same price as the bus.

This is a much better deal as you don’t have to spend money getting to  the Viazul Station to purchase tickets one day, and go back to take the bus the next. You will also be picked up at your hotel/casa and dropped off at your next accommodation (door-to-door service). Plus, you will arrive much sooner than if you took the bus.

You can purchase these tickets at an Infotur office. Ask your hotel/casa for directions (there is one at the airport and one near Cafe Paris in Havana Vieja).

If you’re travelling from Havana to Vinales, or from Havana to Trinidad, taking a shared car is a no-brainer in my opinion!

viazul bus havana cuba
The comfortable Viazul tourist bus


Apart from walking and taking the local bus, this is the cheapest way to get around. The cost of a journey from Centro to Parque Central, or Parque Central to Vieja is officially 1 CUC, but the cheapest we found was 2 CUC. We always feel bad for the guy who has to cycle our big butts around in 30+ degree heat, and we end up tipping!

Bus to Playas del Este & Fort:

playas del este beach havana

There is a bus that will take you for 5 CUC from Parque Central to Playas del Este, via the Fort, and back to Parque Central. These buses run every 40 minutes from 9:00am to 6:00pm. You can get off at the fort if you want, and then get back on another bus after you’re done, and make your way to the beach.

To be clear, this isn’t the hop-on-hop-off bus with open-air seating on the roof, this is a closed in bus with air conditioning. There is a number in the front window, look for T3.

This is actually a very good deal as a taxi to the fort will cost you around 5 CUC each way and more for wait time.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour:

This is probably the most touristy thing you could do in Havana! But many people choose to ride this bus to get themselves orientated around the city before exploring on foot. There are 60 stops on the route, and the cost is 5 CUC. The bus runs from 9:00am to 9:00pm.

Click here for more information. 


These yellow, half-shell, three wheelers are basically a novelty for tourists, but they are a fun way to get around. The cost from Parque Central to Central Havana is 4 CUC. This is definitely not the cheapest way to get around, so bargain hard with these coco drivers, this is known to be a tourist experience (and thus charged accordingly).

transportation in havana cuba
The colourful coco-taxi

Havana is for Everyone

No matter your age, your nationality or what things you’re interested in seeing and doing, you’ll find something you enjoy in Havana. Aside from those who are hustling to make a buck, the people are very friendly and will help you out with directions or anything else if they can.

The sites are incredible and the buildings are beautiful. The live salsa and rumba music is intoxicating, and after a few mojitos you’ll probably find yourself up and dancing, even though you may not know the steps.

Havana is a very safe place to travel – although at times it may not feel safe. There’s hardly any crime. Cubans are very proud of how safe their country is for tourists, and they want to keep it that way. The best part about the city is just simply walking around and getting lost in the many narrow back streets.

Bring your camera, your Spanish phrasebook, your walking shoes and an open-mind and you’ll have an excellent time in this brilliant city.

travelling havana cuba
A game of soccer on the streets of Central Havana

For more about Havana, check out:

Havana, Cuba: Could This Be Our New Favourite City?

Also, have a look at this exciting video of our time spent exploring Havana!

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Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 12 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel.

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41 thoughts on “Havana, Cuba: The Ultimate Independent Travel Guide”

  1. Wow, tons of information and must have taken time putting it all together.
    Cuba is great and Havana has to be seen – although it is not our favorite city (Trinidad is). You tend to get hassled a lot in Havana and we were surprised by the strong smell of diesel (considering not that many cars on the road in Cuba). But we loved Central Havana and all the beautiful (but crumbling) buildings. It’s a place stuck in time.
    A common scam is hustlers trying to get you to convert your hard currency to CUP at CUC exchange rates. It can be confusing as the currencies look similar. You don’t want to find out the you’ve given up your dollars for pesos worth 1/25th of the value!
    The other thing worth noting is that 1) your debit cards won’t work in Cuba and 2) they will charge you 11% on withdrawals on your credit card. This was the case a couple of years ago when we went and I don’t think anything has changed….Banking in Cuba about 50 years behind (like internet) and everything conspires to make it costly for the tourist. Best bringing all the hard currency you’ll be needing.
    Food: can be horrible, especially at government hotels and all-inclusives. Totally agree that Paladars or Casas the way to go. One thing we noticed is that food can be bland and I think that has to do with lack of condiments/seasoning. So you may want to take a few spices from home with you.
    Otherwise Cubans some of the nicest and most educated people you’ll meet anywhere (except the useless ones working in government stores/hotels). Always looking to talk. We’ll go back one of these days.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  2. Hey Frank,

    Thanks for the comment – yes, it took a long time to put together, but we LOVED Havana so it was worth every minute 🙂

    Just a couple of things –

    Debit cards do work in Cuba, unless they are issued by American banks (ie: CitiBank, etc.) We used our Canadian card (TD) all over Cuba at the ATMs and were charged 3% by Cuban ATMs for a “currency conversion fee”. The preparing and planning article we linked to from this post explains the currency in more detail.

    We found that there was way more hassle in Trinidad compared to Havana actually!…but still enjoyed it 🙂 We have a Cuba guide coming out soon that covers all of what’s currently going on in Cuba, stay tuned!

    Cheers 🙂

  3. These posts are making me miss Cuba so much. My boyfriend and I had a long conversation last night about how we need to go back as soon as possible. It’s going to be crazy to see how much the country changes as relations with the US normalize! Anyway, this is such a great, informative post. Cuba is definitely a complex country and it took us a while to figure out the ins and outs of how everything worked (the currencies, casas particulares, etc.). I haven’t been there since 2008 but it sounds like everything is exactly the same…except when I went you didn’t need health insurance.

  4. Hey Justine!

    Definitely get back if/when you can 🙂 It’s a country that we are wanting to go back to as well – we need to see more of it! It’s huge haha.

    Thanks for commenting. Cheers!

  5. Good to know about the debit card, that’s new.
    I’m surprised what you say about Trinidad. We were never hassled there but were hassled a lot in Havana. But that could also be because we stayed in a casa in Trinidad and a government hotel in Havana.
    You’re right, very special place Cuba and we want to go back. I think they’ll be rapid changes there…

  6. Ya, I don’t know what it was about Trinidad, maybe because it’s a smaller city than Havana, we just noticed the “hassle” more? We too were in a casa, and were for our whole trip.

    We want to go back to Cuba, and we just left!

    Cheers 🙂

  7. Hi Guys,

    Great stuff. Just read your articles about Cuba. I recently returned from a 2-week independent road-trip around Cuba and it was a spectacular experience. My time in Havana was excellent and was fortunate enough to stay at a pretty cool casa particular in Habana Vieja and hang out with one of the owners in parts less explored in the city.

    One thing, I believe that the departure tax still exists, but it’s included in the ticket price. Some airlines have not fully implemented this and are still charging at departure time.

    Jineteros are WAY worse in other towns, but manageable. Speaking Spanish is a big plus 🙂


  8. Guys, this is such a great and comprehensive guide. I’m glad you included the local scams since this is always one of the first things I’m looking out for. I’ve wanted to visit Cuba for a while, especially because you hear people taking about how it will probably change within few years. It sounds like it’s still quite unique 🙂

  9. Hey Hugo!

    I’m so glad you had a great time in Havana and were able to see parts of the unexplored Havana, isn’t it fantastic?! Thanks for your comment and for adding your info about the departure tax.

    From what we were told, the tax is gone as of May 1st – we didn’t have to pay it when we left, but since it’s such a new law, who knows what the actual truth is?


  10. Yes! Definitely get to Cuba when you can, it’s such a unique and amazing country…and Havana is in a league of its own 🙂 There are scams to watch out for, definitely, but it doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the city 🙂


  11. Fantastic guide guys! Thanks for all your hard work! I have a question for you. When you talk about using shared cars to go between cities (Havana to Trinidad for example) do you mean the Infotur Office is where you can arrange a shared car or is that something to book privately? Thanks for the clarification! 🙂

  12. Hi,

    Got a quick question about the Viazul buses. We’re currently looking online to buy tickets get from Vinales to Cienfuegos on the 13th May, but the bus website is saying the tickets are sold out. Do you know if the bus tickets are released this far in advance? Are they really sold out? If so, can you suggest another method for us to travel such a long distance?


  13. Hi Lucy,

    If I recall, that website isn’t the greatest and rarely works properly. When we were there, we would go to the Viazul station and book tickets that way, not online. I’m also not sure if you can go direct from Vinales to Cienfuegos, you may need to go to Havana first. In any case, you can always check with Infotur to help you book tickets, or go to the ticket office as soon as you know the date that you want to leave. Another option is with a shared vehicle. We did this a couple of times. Basically, there’s a car and driver, and a few other passengers and they take you from casa to casa. Direct door-to-door service, for the same price as the bus. We did this from Trinidad to Havana, and I’m sure they have it out of Vinales. Check with your casa, or with Infotur.

    I doubt that the tickets are booked up, and if they are, you can always take a shared car. I hope this helps!

  14. Thanks so much for writing this – I’m travelling alone around Cuba and usually I’m a very savvy traveller, but that’s because I can guarantee internet access and currency! Your info about the Infotur is great – I’ve just had all my reservations cancelled by Viazulbus (yay) so needed another option.

  15. All of your reservations were cancelled? What happened? Yes, definitely check with Infotur – they can help with shared vehicles and bus information.

    The internet situation is improving greatly from what I hear! You shouldn’t have issues finding wi-fi these days 🙂

    Enjoy! Cuba is an awesome travel destination.

  16. Thanks so much for all this information! Am getting ready to the leave the UK for Cuba on Thursday and just wanted to check I hadn’t forgotten anything (thanks for the reminder about travel insurance!) After seeing the video of Havana I am extremely excited and cannot wait to explore!

  17. Hey!

    This was extremely helpful thanks for all the info.

    I have a quick question about the transport – we are a group of 11 and we will be travelling between Havana – Vinales, Vinales – Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos – Trinidad, Trinidad – Cayo Santa Maria, and then back to Havana.
    Would you recommend we try booking the bus or just getting our own taxis?

    Thanks again

  18. Sounds like a great trip! If you all want to be together, then take the bus. If you’re happy to split up, then get taxis. I don’t know of the price of taxis everywhere, but it was the same price for a bus as a private car from Vinales to Havana.

  19. Hi! Love your blog! It’s been so helpful! Wish I found it more than two days before I leave, haha. I have a question about the taxi you got from the Havana airport, you say you haggled down to 20 CUC, that’s for both of you, right? Thanks so much!

  20. Thank you for this post, it is exactly what I was looking for!! I just booked flights for an 11-day trip to Cuba in January and am starting to freak out about being so unprepared, eeek. Any chance you could advise me on approximate time lengths needed to explore the major cities? Thanks!

  21. This is a great guide! Thank you!! I will be visiting in a couple months and this is one of the most informative guides I’ve come across thus far!

  22. Awesome info! For the shared bus tickets via the infotur, do you know if I can arrive at the Airport and purchase tickets then leave the same day?

  23. Thank you! Going to Havana next week, and I have not done as much planning/research as I normally do. Great info!

  24. Havana is a beautiful city that takes you back in time. The cars brought back memories of those that I saw when I was a child. I tried every Cuban dish that I came across and drank lots of mojitos. I stayed in a casa particular and was pleasantly surprised to have hot and cold water running in the bath. Beware of the hustlers….negotiate before you commit to anything.

  25. Hi there,

    Thanks for sharing all the information!
    I am planning to travel from havana to vinales but sadly the bus ticket is out.
    I was wondering how can I find the shared car option mentioned in your post?


  26. This article has been so helpful! My friends and I will be traveling to Cuba in a week and one of our biggest worries right now is figuring out how to find affordable transportation between Havana and Viñales. I know you mentioned the shared taxis, but how exactly does one find a shared taxi? Also, do you know how much that would cost roughly? Most of the websites I’ve looked at people say a cab from Viñales to Havana is well over 150CUC one way is the shared cab a lot more affordable than that?, also how many people can fit in a shared cab?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this, I look forward to hearing your response.

  27. Hi Mayelin! Have a great trip to Cuba I’m just going to copy and paste part of the article, because it’s easier for me! lol:

    “Viazul Bus:

    This is the 1st class, air-conditioned bus that most tourists take around Cuba. The only annoying thing about it in Havana is that the station is located outside of the center, and you can’t purchase tickets in town. A taxi out to the Viazul station is between 5 – 8 CUC.

    However, if you plan to travel between Havana and Vinales or Trinidad, you can take a shared car, which is the same price as the bus. This is a much better deal as you don’t have to spend money getting to Viazul Station to purchase tickets one day, and go back to take the bus the next. You will also be picked up at your hotel/casa and dropped off at your next accommodation (door-to-door service). Plus, you will arrive much sooner than if you took the bus.

    You can purchase these tickets at an Infotur office. Ask your hotel/casa for directions (there is one at the airport and one near Cafe Paris in Havana Vieja).

    This one is a no-brainer!”

  28. Thank you for your posts! They have been the most comprehensive and helpful Cuba guides I’ve found online! You guys are awesome!

  29. I am going to Cuba in two weeks and just came across this. Very helpful compared to other things I have read! We will only be in Havana a short time and are definitely planning to get up to Viñales on a day trip however everything I have seen and read about Trinidad has really made me want to go there, as well. It seems that you are more in favor of Havana and I’m just trying to get another opinion on whether or not it is worth the trip? I’m usually one to cram in as much stuff as possible but also want to make sure that I feel like I really explored Havana. Thanks for the help!

  30. Hi Heather,

    Hmmm… It depends on how much time you have. We are slow travellers, but if you’re a faster traveller, you would be able to see more than us. Trinidad is smaller, and therefore feels more touristy. There is a great beach nearby – Playa Ancon, and the houses and cobbled streets are gorgeous. If you have time and can see all 3 places, then I recommend you do so


  31. Anyone managed to successfully book a shared taxi from Havana to Trinidad without having to go to the bus station out of town first? I Googled for the infotur near cafe Paris mentioned in this article but it doesn’t seem to exist there… ideally want to arrange that before the day of travel (happy to do this once in Havana but hadn’t read anywhere else that you can do this in an Infotur) thanks!

  32. Hi 🙂

    Amazing and looooooooong post, but it has a ton of information, Im have saved it as Havanapedia in my favority pages 😉

    My wife and I are considering going to Cuba for two weeks and visiting Vinales and Trinidad from Havana is a must 🙂

    We have researched on the Internet and we already have an idea of ​​how much we are going to spend and the truth is that it does not seem so expensive, in terms of accommodation and food, but what does seem expensive is transportation 🙁 We have found out and the bus from Havana to Vinales costs only $ 10 USD 🙂 but the tour lasts about 4 hours which is a long time, on the other hand, collective taxis … mmmhhh we have seen videos on youtube and they really seem very uncomfortable. We prefer to pay a taxi or a private tour, although the initial idea is to spend 3 days in Vinales to get to know it thoroughly, we can adjust our itinerary.

    After a thorough investigation we have found a tour and transfer provider that seems quite professional and with reasonable prices, Havana60

    I wonder if you have ever used it or have you heard of them? Do you have any recommendations you can offer us?

    Many thanks,

    John & Wika

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