La Habana

Discover travel destinations of travelers writing a travel journal on FindPenguins.
Travelers at this place
    • Day 6

      The Night Plane to Havana

      March 7, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

      Today was always going to be a bit messy. The problem was that my flight from Toronto to Havana was not due to leave till around 8.30 pm in the evening. "So what ?", you may well ask. The complicating factor was that I was supposed to be checking out of my apartment at 10 am in the morning, so what was I going to do with all those spare hours ?

      The singularly unhelpful concierge had already told me that there was nowhere I could leave my luggage. At least I thought I could spend a couple of hours sitting in the lobby before my taxi arrived to take me to the airport. That was about as much of a plan I had been able to come up with.

      Unlike the beautiful blue skies of the previous day, I awoke to a leaden cloud cover. On closer look I could see that there were intermittent flurries of snow falling. It was quite spellbinding to watch.

      After making myself my final breakfast in Toronto, I sat by the window and spent some time watching the falling snow gradually build up on the branches of the trees. Although I was supposed to check out at 10 am, there was no point in being too early. I needed to steal every hour I could.

      By 11 am I thought that I could stretch the matter no further, collected my luggage and made my way down to the foyer. I found a quiet corner, opened my computer and started watching a movie. It did not take long for my favourite concierge to come over and ask what I thought I was doing. Of course I told him I was waiting for my taxi. Since no one else needed my seat, I could not see that there was a problem. Of course I was wrong.

      "This is not a hotel", he repeated his now familiar refrain. "You will have to go". While I could have been confrontational and reminded him that it WAS snowing outside, I really had had enough of the pathetic little weasel. He obviously thought that being a concierge was only a step or two below being the Prime Minister, so I decided to pack my stuff as slowly as I possibly could and then roll my way out of the building for the very last time.

      Fortunately there was a very warm shopping centre just across the road, so that is where I went. I purchased a coffee, found a spare table and made it my home. My taxi was due at 1 pm, but did not arrive till 1.30 pm. I had spent the missing thirty minutes waiting in the doorway, while the cold was slowly permeating into every corner of my body. We just don't know what cold is in Australia, but I should have been grateful it was only about -3 C. Last year at this time it was apparently -26 C.

      Alex and I continued our discussions about the cricket all the way to the airport. I completed the self check in without incident and made my way through security and immigration. Another very long wait at the departure gate. Outside the snow was still falling. The time passed slowly. I continued watching my movie.

      The time for boarding finally arrived and we all jammed into the modest plane. There was not a spare seat in sight, but it was only a rather modest three and a half hours, so I did not really care.

      I was seated by a window which gave me a great view of the never ending succession of brightly lit cities we passed over as we flew over the eastern states of the USA. The night was crystal clear, without a single cloud to obscure the view. In some ways there is something cosy and comforting about a night flight. At times I dozed. By almost midnight we started descending into Havana Airport and another adventure was about to begin.

      As I retrieved my bag from the jammed overhead lockers, I noticed that my luggage label had somehow gone missing. I suppose I should be grateful if that was the only thing that went missing - I still had that anxious time of waiting to see if my main luggage would appear on the carousel.

      Back in Australia we had all paid significant money to the Cuban Consulate for a visa to enter their country. You can imagine my surprise when the hostess walked around the plane, handing out blank tourist visa forms and telling us to fill them in ourselves ! It looked like we all may have wasted $100, but it would not have been worth the risk.

      In spite of preliminary fears about the difficulties of entering the country, the immigration process was quick and easy. I was soon reunited with my luggage and went out the exit door into the unfamiliar world of Cuba. I had been told that a driver would be waiting for me (even though it was now about 12.30 in the morning).

      Once again the arrangements went perfectly and soon I was being whisked along in the back seat of a comfortable taxi. Even at this late hour there were plenty of cars on the road and plenty of people wandering the streets. The temperature was a comfortable 22 C. It did not take long to see the old cars that Cuba is famous for. It was like being at some sort of a retro car show. Obviously they just never get junked, they just keep rolling along.

      Our home for the next few days is the huge and very imposing Hotel Nacional de Cuba. This vast place was the place of choice for the rich and famous back in its heyday of the 30s and 40s. Even all these years later, it is still an impressive place. The foyer is massive and filled with colonial character. There was even a working lift !

      I was relieved to discover that my allocated room was clean, huge and had fully working air conditioning. I think I will enjoy my time here, but my first thought was to head for the bed and finally get some sleep.
      Read more

    • Day 7

      On our Bikes in Havana

      March 8, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

      It's now almost a week since I left Melbourne. The long journey to Cuba took me first to Vancouver, then to Toronto, before arriving in Havana two days ago. Although it has been nice to have some time to explore and soak up the history at the Hotel Nacional, of course the real reason for coming all this way was to ride bicycles. And today that is what we did.

      In our previous adventures we have been treated to some pretty large and impressive buses, but I can honestly say that our bus in Cuba is by far the biggest we have ever had. I am not sure if they did not understand the difference between 16 and 60 when they made the bus allocation as I am sure the bus could easily hold the larger number.

      The bus is actually so large that all our bikes can easily be accommodated in the huge lower storage compartments. We have now met all the support staff that will be accompanying us for the next 16 days. Apart from the youthful Lee (our main guide), we also have a bus driver (Coco) and a bike mechanic (Titi). The bikes themselves are TREK brand mountain bikes equipped with semi slick tyres.

      We began the day at 8 am with an obligatory group photo (or series of photos) in front of the hotel, followed by a short drive in the bus to the place where we would be fitting and testing the bikes. My first impression was very favourable, The bike was relatively light and easy to ride and soon we were snaking our way on the streets of Havana.

      It was something of a relief to find that the streets were almost devoid of traffic. Maybe that was because it was not only a Sunday morning, but daylight savings had only just started that morning meaning that many people may have not put their clocks forward and were still happily home in bed.

      Although the traffic was light, the wind certainly was not. In fact it was blowing a gale all day. Our cycling route took us along the coastline towards the old part of Havana. This also meant that we were heading into the wind for about 80% of the ride. We hoped that this onslaught would not become a daily feature of the weather here.

      The roads were liberally spotted with potholes of various sizes, but were probably in better condition than I had expected. During the course of the morning we stopped at a succession of historically significant locations, while Lee explained their history to us. Because I have a limited capacity to store vast amounts of this type of information, I contented myself with just looking at the buildings, rather than trying to remember all the place names and dates. One theme that did keep repeating is that the history of Cuba and Havana in particular, dates back over 500 years. The city is liberally dotted with ancient buildings that have made it a World Heritage Site.

      When our cycling was complete we adjourned for lunch in a cafe which was apparently one of the favourite haunts of Ernest Hemingway who did much of his writing in Cuba. The afternoon was spent in a walking tour of the old city, however the wind was now blowing so hard that it was hard to stand upright.

      Tomorrow's ride will take us on a much longer foray into the Cuban countryside.
      Read more

    • Day 11

      Havana last hurray

      May 4, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

      We start the day with fusterlandia. A crazy artist who decorated a whole neighborhood a la Gaudí, miro, Picasso.

      Quite interesting. Funny details we would have bought something but except hyper luxurious cigar shop no one accepts credit card - only cash.

      If we didn't had Franca or Barbara funding us pesos vs a bank transfer to their Dutch account, we would been eating white rice for a week already. There is no way to get any cah out at all or at 1/30 échange raté while the street gives you 1/110!!
      We burned our expected cash within just a few days and leaving with next to nothing 😅

      So we decide to burn the last of it on the local craft tourist market and we did a good job at it 🤣🤣

      We walk back home via a street art neighborhood - quite clean and nice actually and a hunt for bottle of water which is thus week cuban shortage. Nothing new here...

      Finally another good restaurant - top 3 in Cuba. We meet this kind of crypto American millionaire on his quest to visit 100 countries (he was at 99 already) and in a side quest for a new exotic girlfriend.

      Off to zzz, a last quickwalk and good bye to Havana. We are writing this from the Prado, just before the last shower, packing, drive to the airport one last time in Orge old timer dodge, and off to an long flight, connection in Paris, then Amsterdam in zombie mode!

      This was fun, eye opening in how poor those people are, but also how you can be happy with very little. Some things to ponder!
      Read more

    • Day 2

      Havanna, Cuba

      September 28, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ☁️ 29 °C

      Ausnahmezustand - Hurrikane „Ian“ hat ganz Kuba in ohne Strom und Internet hinterlassen. Wir sind mitten in der Nacht angekommen, keine Taxis, kein Internet, kein Geld 😅 Schließlich hat sich unter den Taxifahrern dann wohl rumgesprochen, dass der Flughafen wieder geöffnet hat und man mit der Hilflosigkeit der Touristen gut Geld machen kann. Nach einer Geisterfahrt durchs dunkle Havanna haben wir es dann sicher ins Hotel geschafft.

      1. Tag: Noch immer kein Strom auf Kuba. Auf der Suche nach trinkbaren Wasser und etwas zu essen haben wir uns zu Fuß auf dem Weg gemacht. Es ist verrückt, es war so schwierig ein geöffnetes Geschäft zu finden, als wir an einem Straßenmarkt vorbei gekommen sind, haben wir uns entschieden erstmal auf Nummer sicher zu gehen. Wir haben Reis, Tomaten und Zwiebeln gekauft und die im Hostel gekocht. Mittlerweile haben wir auch einen kleinen versteckten Shop gefunden an dem wir überteuert Wasser kaufen könnten. Wasser kostete tatsächlich mehr als ein Essen. Und auch das Wechseln der Währung war ganz anders als in anderen Ländern: Der offizielle Kurs über Bankautomaten (1:120) war schlechter für uns als der inoffizielle Kurs (1:185), und dieser wurde auf der Straße gehandelt.
      Auf der fast schon verzweifelten Suche nach Kaffee, haben wir dann kubanischen Zuckerkaffee von einer Dame bekommen, die uns diesen aus ihrer Wohnung im 2. Stock über einen Seilzug auf die Straße befördert hat.

      2. Tag: Am Morgen hatten wir zeitweise wieder Strom. Wir machten uns auf den Weg Havanna zu entdecken. Langsam kehrte auch wieder das Leben in die Stadt ein. Es öffneten weitere Geschäfte und mehr Menschen waren auf den Straßen unterwegs. Derya bemerkte plötzlich meterhohe Wellen am Stadtrand. Wir machten uns sofort auf dem Weg dahin. Der Hurrikan hatte das Meer aufgemischt und die Wellen schlugen gegen Stadtmauern und türmten sich zu riesigen Wänden aus Wasser, die dann auf die Hauptstraße schlugen. Ein Polizist rief uns mit seiner Pfeife zurück, da wir uns zu nahe am Rand der Promenade bewegten. Wir beobachten das Geschehen noch eine Weile und machten uns dann über den Plaza 13 de Marzo in die Altstadt. Da bemerkten wir zum ersten Mal die Schönheit von Havanna. Und wir haben endlich was leckeres gegessen. Und ja, Havanna Club Rum war natürlich auch am Start. #mojitomojito

      Auf dem Rückweg unterhielten wir uns stundenlang mit einem Einheimischen. Wir lernten viel über das Leben und die Probleme auf Kuba. Dieses Gespräch zeigte uns erneut wie
      privilegiert wir in Europa sind.

      3. Tag: Die Hostel-Leitung warnte uns, weitere Teile von Havanna zu erkunden. In vielen Orten hatten die Menschen seit mehreren Tage keinen Strom. Sie protestierten und schafften Menschen-Barrikaden. Mit dieser Aktion erreichten sie, das Internet in Havanna lahm zu legen.
      Auch viele Teile von Kuba konnten wir nicht entdecken, die Zigarren-Plantage war verwüstet vom Hurrikane und der berühmte Strand in Varadero war nicht lohnenswert, da dieser Ort noch immer keine Elektrizität hatte.

      Ursprünglich wollten wir dann zum 20 Minuten entfernten Strand von Havanna. Aber ratet mal was passiert ist? Es führen keine Busse und die Taxifahrer verlangten aufgrund dieser Situation mal wieder horrende Preise. Planänderung, es gingt mit der Fähre nach Casablanca. Dort besuchten wir die Statue „El Cristo de La Habana" und das Haus von Che Guevara - zumindest von außen, da dieses natürlich auch geschlossen hatte. Als wir wieder in der Altstadt ankommen sind, haben wir die berüchtigten Ernest Hemmungway Bars aufgesucht. Mit Mojitos lebt es sich definitiv besser auf Havanna.

      Marvins Flip Flops, die er natürlich extra für den Beach-Tag angezogen hatte, haben schließlich den Geist aufgeben. Wir haben uns dann mit einer Rikscha nachhause bringen lassen.

      4. Tag/Abflug: Wir machten uns morgens früh eine Stunde vergebens auf die Suche nach einem Fitnessstudio, dafür hatten wir dann aber bereits vor 12 Uhr schon 8000 Schritte auf unserem Fitness-Konto 💪🏾 Irgendwie müssen wir die Drinks ja wieder kompensieren.

      Nachmittags gingen wir nochmal in die Altstadt um uns von Havanna zu verabschieden und uns für die Reise mit dem mittlerweile verfügbaren Essen zu stärken.
      Schließlich wurden wir von einem blauen Oldtimer ala Havanna Art abgeholt und zum Flughafen gebracht. Auf der Fahrt erfuhren wir, dass das Flughafen System abgestürzt ist. Am Flughafen verlief alles allerdings ohne nennenswerte Komplikationen außer dass alles handschriftlich gemacht worden ist. Ja wirklich alles. Auch unsere BoardingCard wurde per Hand ausgefüllt und ausgestellt 😂 und es war egal wieviel Flüssigkeiten wir mit durch das checkin genommen haben 🤔 that’s Kuba.

      Zum Glück waren wir mit 4 deutschen Backpackern aus dem Hostel unterwegs, die auch nach Medellin wollten. So konnten wir uns gegenseitig etwas Mut zusprechen.

      Read more

    • Day 156

      Kreuz und quer durch Havanna

      March 30 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

      Natürlich machen wir auch eine Oldtimertour durch Havanna. Unser Fahrer fährt uns zu den bekanntesten Sehenswürdigkeiten der Stadt. Wir genießen die Fahrt und machen viele Fotos. Anschließend schlendern wir noch durch die Altstadt und die berühmte Fußgängerstraße Obispo. Am Abend trinken wir einen Daiquiri in der berühmten Bar El Floridita, die einst zu den Stammlokalen von Ernest Hemingway gehörte. Der Daiquiri ist gut und die Livemusik lädt zum mitwippen ein. Kurzum, es ist ein schöner Abend!

      Am nächsten Tag machen wir einen Ausflug zum Strand Playas del Este, wo wir bei gutem Wind abwechselnd Kitesurfen gehen. Der Opa Peter passt solange auf Marie auf und Oma ist in der Unterkunft geblieben, da es ihr heute nicht gut geht.

      Die letzten Tage unserer Reise vergehen in Havanna wie im Flug!
      Read more

    • Day 2


      August 11 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

      Hier unsere ersten Impressionen aus Havanna (faszinierend und teilweise schockierend). Wir wissen noch nicht so recht was wir davon halten sollen. Auf für Touristen herausgeputzte Straßen und Autos folgen um die Ecke marode Bauwerke, verdreckte Straßen und Armut.Read more

    • Day 1

      Havana: first room, first love

      December 1, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

      From Tijuana to Cape Horn, there are 20 Latin Americas but sometimes it feels as if there are 19, and Cuba. It spent years being virtually cut off from most of the world and still differs in many ways from most of it. It's no exaggeration to say that in many ways Cuba is locked in a time warp. The internet is starting to make inroads but for most people, access is only via prepaid cards. There are still shortages of household goods and queues outside shops are common. Electricity and water outages are frequent as well. In most streets traffic is very sparse but everything they say about the ancient American behemoths is true; some of them are lovingly restored while others rust away quietly in the backstreets.
      And the currency; where else would you find a banknote in 3 units, or parallel rates for local people who pay in pesos nacionales while tourists pay in convertibles? European winter has begun and I can't wait to get started.

      The driver collects me from the airport in the vehicle shown here. A Chevrolet of 1957 perhaps. Culture shock overtakes me as he drops me off in one of the main streets of Havana Centro. It's very run down and looks threatening but the hearsay is that the crime rate is relatively low, maybe because there isn't a serious drug issue (yet). As the days go by I start to feel that this quarter is home. An increasingly popular Cuban institution is the "casa particular", a private house where the owners let out rooms to visitors. And these can be booked in advance on line. Belascoain 360 has 4 such rooms; my hosts Daniel and Fina are charm itself and full of useful information.
      Read more

    • Day 3

      Buena Vista Social Club

      March 11, 2020 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

      Heute Abend beim Buena Vista Social Club im Hotel National, Kubas Hotel des Jahres 2017. Ein sehr schöner musikalischer Abend, den wir hier erleben durften. Angefangen hat das ganze, als unser ausgemachter Transfer um 19.30 Uhr nicht aufgetaucht ist. Kurzerhand organisierten wir das selbst und fuhren mit zwei Taxi für je 10 CUC ( ca. 10 Euro) zum Hotel. Und es hat sich gelohnt. Gefühlt gibt es wohl keinen einzigen Kubaner hier auf der Insel der keinen Rythmus und Musik in sich hat. Kaum ertönt von irgendwoher nur ein bisschen Musik, fangen alle an die Hüften zu schwingen. Wie soll man sich dem entziehen? Gar nicht! Einfach mitmachen. So das war es für heute, morgen gehts weiter, mit der legendären Oldtimerfahrt durch Kuba ...Read more

    • Day 2

      Havana - night 1

      April 25, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

      Picked up at the airport with a car from 1953, passed from generation to generation. They obviously didn't think people would travel with suitcases back then so the car was full.

      We drove to meet our tour organizer, Barbara, a cuban lady living in Amersfoort but currently in Cuba. Then off to our local casa particares, think bed and breakfast. Quite empty because very few tourist presently. Owner, Alina, and most of Cuba don't speak English but she has a neighbor helping out.

      Then we walked a bit around old Havana, where we got asked a million if we wanted to change money or get a taxi.. We were advised to always say no but we did not one time and got trapped for 10€. Live and learn.

      Old Cuba is in shambles. Overwhelming Poverty, but still friendly and safe.
      Still beautiful, still historical...
      Read more

    • Day 3

      Havana day 2

      April 26, 2022 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

      Massive healthy fruit (with taste!) and egg breakfast before a full day of walking.

      Capitoli nationale (capitol), Old churches and cathedrals, plaza vieja, Cuban fine art museum (with a lot of propaganda!), Malecon sea side, Santeria (local religion) memorabilia market where we bought a cement guardian weird statue - we'll learn more about this religion later in our trip.

      Monuments are clean and in pristine conditions, which is a big contrats to the people living conditions, when you look inside apartments (they live with open doors), it is beyond poor and insalubrious

      Prices are quite low. Lobster meal is 13€, regular meal about 6€ in the tourist area. However shortage are common. Lines for oil in the street. No milk. No chicken. Diesel hard to find....

      Our internet is very limited and slow, updates will come when we are able.

      We found a way to get rid off all the harassing people offering tours etc. "last day here, sorry". Worked so far.
      Read more

    You might also know this place by the following names:

    La Habana, Provincia de La Habana, Havanna

    Join us:

    FindPenguins for iOSFindPenguins for Android