Stepping foot in Havana for the first time

While my time in Havana seems like a mere dream now, it’s still a place very deserving of recognition for its culture, vibrancy and history. While influenced by Europe in its wonderful bohemian architecture and Spanish cultural traits, it still feels like you’re very much in the Caribbean thanks to the hot weather and the jungle-like exteriors fringing the city.

It might seem clichéd to describe visiting Havana as like taking a trip back in time, but it really is true. While they may have most of the modern conveniences we recognise in our own daily lives, there’s none of the excessive technology or flashiness of other 21st century cities. Vintage is very much the norm, from Smeg fridges to classic cars.

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While you’d expect the historic buildings of Old Havana to be worn away by time and a lack of money to restore them, the same is actually true of the rest of the city as you’ll see on your way to and from the airport. The edges where the plantations begin are evidently poor, and even the newer part of the city has an air of neglect about it.

You’ll also notice that modern cars are few and road rules even less; expect to see seven person-strong families packed into chugging Chevys, and horse and carriages sharing the busy roads with the cars.

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I didn’t expect to see quite so many of the old cars that Havana is known for, but it turned out that about eight out of ten of the vehicles on the roads dated back to at least the 1960s. While most of them are hired out by tourists, regular people used them too as their everyday modes of transport.

Hiring an old car with a driver for an hour, although touristy, was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. With a huge choice of bright colours and attractive styles to choose from, it’s important to pick your car wisely before you climb in. We went for a lime green open top car, and our friendly driver took us on a brief tour of the city’s main attractions.

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We stopped at a couple of places for photos, including the Plaza de la Revolución and the gorgeously green Parque Almendares that was home to some of the most gigantic trees I’ve ever seen! We also drove along the seafront and were given a glimpse of the newer part of the city with its less picturesque seventies high-rises.

There’s far too much to write about this glorious city in just one post so here are just a few tips that I wish I’d been told before heading to Havana:

Don’t expect to get phone signal and Wi-Fi everywhere you go. Some hotels and bars may advertise that they have access to internet, but it’s usually very limited or doesn’t work. It’s best to download Google maps, learn any useful phrases before you go, and store up your photos to post on social media once you’re back home.

In the summer, Havana is HOT and there’s little to no respite. Only hotels, cigar stores and some more high-end shops have air-conditioning so you will almost certainly get a bit sweaty. It’s best just to embrace the heat by walking around the streets slowly, drinking water regularly and staying refreshed with a mojito every couple of hours (you are in their birth-place, after all!).

The food in Cuba is not like food in the rest of the Caribbean. It’s actually quite bland and mainly consists of simple meat or fish dishes paired with beans, rice and vegetables. Simple and wholesome is how I’d describe it.

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Have you been to Havana? Let me know what you thought of the vibrant city in the comments below 🙂

 

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