As far as cities go, Havana is a festering treasure chest, a primary color.Brin-Jonathan Butler
September 26-October 1 2017
Since it’s founding in 1515, Havana has been one of the most important cities in Latin America. Dubbed the “Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies” by Spain’s King Phillip II, this city shows off its colorful history everywhere you look.
Let me start by saying that I planned this very last minute and was only in Cuba for a week, so I largely went into this trip blind. That was by design, as I wanted to see what it was like to come in without expectations and without many plans.
Here are some thoughts from my visit:
The people for the most part were incredibly friendly, but a lot of people wanted to show you around or have a drink, asking for a tip to do so or taking a commission from the places they took you.
Prices are higher than you’d expect, and negotiating is necessary; there are two forms of currency, the one the locals use (CUP) and the one that tourists use (CUC). As you can imagine the markup is quite high when using the tourist currency, so getting a hold of some of the local currency can be very beneficial.
My experience with the food was very hit or miss; some meals were outstandings and at a very good price, others were horrible or way overpriced for what you got. The following picture is an example of a hit, fresh lobster with veggies and banana chips.
The pollution in Havana is terrible; it was the worst I have ever experienced, to the point it made me feel unwell at times. The old cars and buses are amazing, but the amount of pollution they emit is insane.
I wasn’t quite prepared to be so disconnected. I knew internet and sources of news weren’t widely available, but actually experiencing it was pretty tough having grown up in the digital age. Maybe not a problem if you are traveling with a significant other or a group of friends to keep you entertained, but traveling by ones self it can get pretty lonely. Hostels do not exist so you can’t find other travelers to hang out with like you can in many other countries.
More planning is required to travel to Cuba then perhaps anywhere else. If you’re going to Havana, you need to do research in advance, have plans, etc. I’ve shown up in some remote places and had an amazing time and managed to get everything together, but Havana isn’t as easy.
I’m happy to have seen Havana, but wouldn’t return soon. Don’t get me wrong, I did meet some amazing people and the history and certain sites were incredible, but with the high prices, pollution, hit or miss food, and lack of wifi, I think I’m good for now.
However, if you’ve always been interested in visiting Cuba I’d encourage you to go. I’m not meaning to be negative at all, but rather just feel like some balance is useful rather than just saying you have to drop everything and visit Cuba right away.
If I go back, I’m definently going to head to for the more tranquil countryside. I would also add that I think Havana would be the perfect place to visit via a cruise, you could wander the city during the day but have a nice clean place with good food and entertainment for the night.
So where am I now after visiting Cuba? I’m now in Mexico City, my second visit since I began traveling around the world. I’ll be spending at least the next month enjoying one of my favorite cities in the world, joined once again by Maggie who has finished up some work commitments back home. I’m already amazed by the resiliancy and blown away by how the community has come together following the September 19th earthquake. Viva Mexico!