|El Capitolio - La Habana|
We flew to Charlotte, NC the night before and took a 8:50 am flight to Havana from Charlotte. The c
heck-in process for American Airlines was a little different, as once you get the boarding passes, you need to get a "Cuba Ready" stamp on the boarding pass before boarding the flight, which is done at a separate counter near the check-in area. The agent basically verifies that you have a valid "Tourist Card", and stamps a red "Cuba-Ready stamp" on the boarding pass, as shown in the pic above.
We had brought Mexican pesos, Canadian dollars and some Euros to exchange, as USDs incur a 10% penalty in addition to the 3% conversion fee for exchange.
|View from our Airbnb|
We explored the Old Havana on day one and Modern Havana on day two, with excursions booked via a local company called "Nosotros Cubaneamos".
On day 1, we walked and discovered historic places through Old Havana. Starting with the El Capitolio (modeled after the US Capitol in D.C.), moving on to Plaza Vieja passing by historic
|From Castillo de la Real Fuerza|
|At the bosque del Habana|
|Colon Cemetery, Havana|
Day 2, we explored the modern part of Havana. Our drive picked us up in a classic blue American car and drove us first to Miramar and then the famous 5th avenue which hosts almost all of the foreign embassies in Havana. Our first stop was a visit to Casa Fuster, Cuba's answer to Gaudí. Renowned Cuban artist José Fuster uses his entire barrio of Jaimanitas on the outskirts of Havana as a canvas, decorating the walls, squares in ornate ceramics, mosaics and bold splashes of color.
|Casa de Fuster|
|Mass at Iglesia del Miramar|
Our next stop was the Necropolis de Colón (Colon cemetery). Founded in 1876 in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana on top of Espada Cemetery, it known for its many elaborately sculpted memorials.
|Colon Cemetery, Havana|
|Malecón as seen from Hotel Nacíonal|
|Cristo de la Habana|
|View from Cristo de la Habana|
|Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro|
|Watchtower at the fort|
Our last but one stop was at the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Moro, and was the highlight of the day. Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Moro is a fortress guarding the entran
ce to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba. The design was drawn up by the Italian engineer Juan Bautista Antonelli; originally under the control of Spain, the fortress was captured by the British in 1762, and was returned to the Spanish under treaty terms a year later.
|Museo de la revolucíon|
|Our AirBnb accomodation|
|University of Havana|
1) Buy the tourist card before boarding if departing from the US to avoid lines/hassle at the airport.
2) Avoid USDs, or exchange USDs for some other hard currency like Euros at the US departure port, as it still be cheaper than the 10% penalty imposed. FYI, Cuba has a dual currency system.
3) Cuban food is bland, so don't expect excellent or flavorful food.
4) The US does not care, any longer, if you visit Cuba, but you need one of 12 reasons to visit and stick to the reason throughout the journey. This applies to US residents only, so if you're flying from Canada, they will not ask for this.
5) Internet is a little tricky in Cuba.
6) Hotels in Havana are booked up to 6 months in advance and are operated by the government. Hence, Casa Particular or Airbnb is probably the best way to experience the local life, save money and support the Cuban people.