Even mundane functional objects can be irritatingly elusive – don’t forget to pack your insect repellent, shower gel, and tampons. And unless you’re a fan of Che Guevara T-shirts, macramé boob tubes and maracas, shopping in Havana is not the point (and to be honest it’s a blessed relief to be free of the eat-itself excesses of consumer culture for a bit).
Having said that, you should know that if you are willing to think outside the box in regards to a ‘shopping experience’, there are wonderful purchases to be found. Please see below some of our recommendations:
Funky t-shirts and others. A favorite!403 Villegas Street between Teniente Rey and Muralla, Old Havana
Movie memorabilia, posters, and Cuban art; to be found in the back23rd Street between 10th and 12th, Vedado
Boutique crafts75 San Ignacio Street between Callejón del Chorro and O'Reilly, Old Havana.
Artisanal soapAlmacenes de San José Stand 432, Avenida del Puerto, Old Havana
Art Catalogue22 San Ignacio Street, Old Havana.
Non-expensive original art62 Callejón del Chorro Street, Old Havana
Antique bookstore and old artifacts57 Ánimas street between Paseo de Martí and Agramonte, Old Havana
Artisanal perfume156 Mercaderes Street, Old Havana.
Tattoo art108C Obrapía Street between Oficios and Mercaderes, Old Havana.
Arte and design shop (10 am - 1 pm)1604 3rd Ave between 16th and 18th, Miramar
Cuban fashion and lifestyle brand with limited edition pieces253 Amargura between Compostela and Habana, Old Havana.
Design store314 18th Street between 3rd and 5th, Vedado
We can arrange for either a private art tour or dinner reservations at their restaurant. Definitely check out the jewelry collection, and the photography (for sale).
Note: If shopping for cigars or rum, please follow the recommendations of your private concierge on land. Also, if interested in Vinyl records: a private tour to be arranged with your concierge
Music and Dance are all around you in Havana though not always at the times you may expect. Here is a brief overview of how to approach the Havana Music and Night Life Scene:
MicrobreweryPlaza Vieja, Old Havana
Gay night on Mondays and karaoke Wednesdays153 B Street between Calzada and Línea
Cuba has a rich cuisine that has evolved out of the island’s layered, émigré history, and yet a lot of people who travel to Cuba complain of having eaten badly. There are various reasons for this, but none that cannot be dealt with when you’ve got a grassroots-operating experienced travel company on your side.
Here are some highlights from Havana!
This seaside restaurant is located off a small bay where Miramar meets the Malecon and where the Almendares river ends. The restaurant has a lovely terrace facing the sea where guests can enjoy a drink while looking out over a tranquil inlet.
|Don't miss:||The swordfish ceviche, which is served with a thin layer of guacamole or the grilled fish with octopus for the main course|
Porto-Habana pairs authentic Cuban cuisine with stunning sunset views. Aside from panoramic views of the Havana coastline, the carefully crafted dishes also offer many photo opportunities of their own.
|Don't miss:||The picadillo a la habanera and the traditional ropa vieja|
New on the scene-Not to Miss!!
The seaside ambiance is embellished by a beautiful swimming pool that spills its water into the ocean. If enjoying delicious seafood dishes overlooking the crashing ocean sounds enticing, read no more, and book a table!
|Best for:||Seafood, sunset, dining|
|Don't miss:||Eggplant boat, tomato, and blue cheese soup, rabbit and eggplant in wine sauce|
This small, cozy restaurant in up-and-coming San Isidro, a colorful neighborhood in Old Havana, has the most delicious mocktails and a fresh, modern uptake on traditional Cuban food. Not to miss: every Friday chef Diana hosts theme night, with delicious international and local cuisine.
|Best for:||Drinks with friends, Tapas, Friday theme nights.|
|Don't miss:||Seviche, low-temperature ribs, “la completa”, handcrafted pasta|
Fine dining in a hip atmosphere created by chef Raulito Bazuka and artist friends. Authentic Cuban cuisine with a modern twist, in an unusual combination of informality and stylish cuisine… but it works!
|Best for:||Fine dining, cocktails, a night out with friends|
|Don't miss:||Smoked fish, mojitos, tasting menu experience|
A chic distressed interior with a huge artwork by Damian Aquiles. The chef worked for years on the diplomatic scene as one of the most sought-after chefs and the food here is simple but very elegant with excellent service
|Best for:||Live music,|
|Don't miss:||Ginger mojitos, octopus salad|
Costa Vino combines creative dishes from Mediterranean, Cuban and international cuisines with a wide selection of wines.
|Best for:||Wine, great views, elegant dining, wine pairing.|
|Don't miss:||Pork loin with chicharrones in tamarind sauce, Thai shrimps|
Elegant, sophisticated and contemporary. Otramanera provides a great dining experience, combined with its excellent wine list — definitely one of the best in town.
|Best for:||Formal dining, wine lovers, romantic couples|
|Don't miss:||The beef cooked at low temperature over roasted potatoes and caramelized onions|
Two decades on, this place has become synonymous with fine dining in Cuba. In terms of overall quality and atmosphere, La Guarida is pure value.
|Best for:||Something more than a Cuban gastronomic experience|
|Don't miss:||The Smoked Marlin tacos with rum perfume, mayonnaise, and capers appetizer, the suckling pig in a savory honey and orange sauce (try it with Champagne)|
Definitely one of the coolest bars/restaurants in town. The drinks here are exceptional. Light a cigar on the rooftop and try one of the best gin tonics, daiquiris, and mojitos in Havana.
|Best for:||Exceptional drinks, light meals, get together with friends|
|Don't miss:||Bloody Mary “Cesar Premium”, any Daiquiri available|
The eccentric mix of Cuban and Asian cuisine served here is an interesting addition to Havana. Cool and authentic, Jama is one of the go-to places right now.
|Best for:||Casual dining, quality Asian food with amazing drinks|
|Don't miss:||The steamed dumplings and signature fried rice with seafood and spices, Bloody Mary “Samuray”|
La Esperanza is one of those places which gives out its own microclimate so far removed it is from your typical Havana dining experience. The décor is a riot of a quaint English drawing-room somehow mixed up with an art deco-gone-baroque style.
|Best for:||Great drinks, no menu; the daily special is recited!|
|Don't miss:||Gin and Tonic, mojitos, Oshun banana|
With the chef’s exquisite interpretation of traditional recipes, this new paladar measures up to our expectations and goes beyond. It is now the talk of Havana.
|Best for:||Fun meals in the heart of Old Havana.|
|Don't miss:||The salmorejo, ceviche and the exquisite lamb|
A legend long before Cuban food became legendary, with classy service, secluded ambiance, and freshly cooked food to die for.
|Best for:||Fine dining, early evening, family dinners.|
|Don't miss:||Fried chickpeas, lamb stew, paella|
For a healthy light lunch of natural juices and great salads... followed by sinful desserts!
|Best for:||Breakfast, brunch, lunch|
|Don't miss:||Patty’s bittersweet sauce; pastries|
Set breakfasts at 5 CUC with great variety. Great tapas and appetizers, and amazing cocktails.
|Best for:||Breakfast, brunch, lunch|
|Don't miss:||Philadelphia sushi, seafood pasta, fresh juices, Old Fashioned|
Brunch is a relatively new concept in Cuba, but this gem has it beat. Lovely artisanal bread, great hummus, fruit salads. Vegan and vegetarian-friendly.
|Best for:||Breakfast, brunch, lunch|
|Don't miss:||Sourdough bread, fresh juices|
Funky decoration, and even funkier furnishings mixing the antique with the unusual. Delicious sandwiches and salads! Great array of coffees and teas.
|Best for:||Breakfast, brunch, lunch|
|Don't miss:||VodkaSol, Elena Ruth, Café Fortuna|
This busy restaurant in Old Havana has a full trattoria vibe. Great spot when wandering the old city to sit back, enjoy a cold beer, and share a pizza. Vegetarian-friendly with vegan options.
|Best for:||Italian food, brunch, lunch|
|Don't miss:||Pizza Margarita, seafood pasta|
In Havana, the question ‘What bar should we go to?’ is a particularly good one. With so many excellent bars to choose from you would be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed with the choice.
In Havana’s best live music bars you get to mix with locals, make friends, share stories and taste a bit of the local culture through dance, music, and drinks.
Here are some of our favorite bars in Havana where you can also enjoy great live performances. Choose your tunes – jazz, trova, boleros or rock ‘n’ roll – and get a taste of Cuba’s top musical talents.
This subterranean, cramped, smoky jazz club is the epitome of the genuine jazz joint. Its tiny stage has seen some of the brightest stars of the Cuban jazz scene, ranging from Chucho Valdés to Roberto Fonseca to spontaneous visits from international giants like Wynton Marsalis. There are also performances from the young up-and-coming Cuban jazz crowd in the line-up every night.
|Opening hours:||22:00 – 2:00|
La Bombilla Verde owes its name to a song by the Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodriguez. Right now it is an active artistic space in El Vedado, a kind of cultural café and tapas bar where the Cuban Trova is the star, with live performances almost every night, sometimes programmed and sometimes improvised. Young songwriters from all over the island come to perform here. Bohemian and relaxed, it’s quite different from the prevailing bar environment in the city.
|Opening hours:||12:00 – 24:00|
El Gato Tuerto (literally “the one-eyed cat”) is a dimly lit bar with gleaming furniture, crowned with a small stage and only a few tables. Once a meeting point for local artists and intellectuals, the iconic bar is known for its intimate atmosphere and live bolero performances. Today visitors can enjoy great live, slow-tempo Latin bolero performances as well as Cuban Trova music and jazz.
|Opening hours:||22:00 – 4:00|
A cozy space located in the Vedado neighborhood, Bar Pazillo is a relaxed space reminiscent of a living room with your favorite records playing in the background. Aside from excellent live music performances from renowned artists every night of the week, the bar offers an irresistible array of the cocktails, from deliciously refreshing caipirinhas to perfectly balanced gin and tonics.
|Opening hours:||12:00 – 3:00|
Whether you call it “Elegguá”, “the bar with no name” or its official moniker, “The Conga Room” (all three can be used to refer to this place), everyone agrees there are few better things to do in Old Havana at 3 am. This is the kind of clubby bar that you discover by chance. You start the night not knowing anyone and end up inviting a dozen new friends to your home for one final drink. Dark and decadent, it is the most underground bar in Havana209 Aguiar Street between Tejadillo and Empedrado, Old Havana
Though also great for brunch and tapas, Monik is quickly becoming the new “it” place when it comes to drinks with friends.Corner of Chacón and Compostela, Old Havana
Color Cafe is a fashion workshop with original designs by Loypa Izaguirre, with a bar with creative cocktails, tapas, and live music on some nights109 Aguiar Street between Chacón y Cuarteles, Old Havana
Great cocktails, great ambiance, and excellent service, in the bustling heart of Central Havana. The “it” place par excellence.Corner of Concordia and Escobar, Central Havana
This art bar-restaurant also is known as The Graffiti Place is the new “it” place to meet friends and have delicious cocktails and tapas.20 Jesús María Street between Inquisidor and San Ignacio, Old Havana
Often, our clients want to give back to the Cuban people and we can arrange this for you, either anonymously or meeting with some our partners who contribute to different community projects and special groups of the Cuban population.
Small amounts of first aids and medical supplies.
Small amounts of school supplies.
Donations to the Oncology Pediatric Ward in Havana´s largest pediatric hospital; orphanages; senior citizen centers, schools for autistic children and various animal rescue projects/shelters.
Donations list/needs for vulnerable groups (our partner organization Cubalibro take photos, do inventory and follow up):
It is recommended that your passport be valid for at least six months prior to your planned return. Please make note of the expiration date and renew your passport accordingly if it is near expiration. As a general travel rule, it is a good idea to make a photocopy of your passport. Bring it with you and store it separately from your actual passport.
During peak travel season flights leaving the island can experience longer than normal delays due to the unprecedented number of travelers to Cuba. Flight delays are not uncommon.
A significant portion of your Cuba program is customized to maximize your cultural experience. Many of the places we visit are not tourist destinations and your particular itinerary will take advantage of what’s happening during your stay. Upon arrival in Cuba, you’ll meet with your Cuban concierge to review the details of your journey.
Upon arrival, our VIP service will meet you at the airplane ramp holding a sign with your name. If this does not happen, please let anyone in a uniform know that you have VIP service under your name. They will escort you to customs to beat the sometimes-lengthy Immigration lines. When passing through Cuban immigration, an official will review your visa (tourist card) and take your photo. Keep your visa in a safe place as you will need it again when you depart immigration. After immigration, you'll proceed through customs and go through security. Once you have retrieved your luggage and exit customs, our airport representative will be waiting to meet you, and escort you to your vehicle where your Cuban guide or guide/driver awaits.
From time to time, Cuban Customs and Immigration officials may ask you or someone from your group additional questions as you enter Cuba. Please note this is standard operating procedure is nothing to be concerned about. They will typically ask to see your passport and will record your passport number. They may also inquire about your profession, who you are traveling with, what state you are from, why you are in Cuba and ask other basic questions. Simply answer all questions truthfully.
Cuba has no clothing taboos! You typically find people are wearing very casual, colorful and Caribbean-style clothing. Very few venues in Cuba require formal wear. Pack light and very comfortable clothing, particularly comfortable walking shoes. If your itinerary includes hiking or a day in the mountains, you might want to bring boots.
Shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sundresses, and skirts are all acceptable. A wrap, sweater or light jacket is recommended for the evenings. Some clubs and live music venues have very low AC.
Though hotels will have toiletries and may have a hairdryer, we recommend bringing your own. The voltage in Cuba is 110, though most hotels have 220 plugs. Bring a multi-adaptor.
Until recently, most travelers to Cuba took it for granted that there would be no Internet access and therefore this would be their opportunity to enjoy themselves and put their phones away. This has certainly changed. Most of the best hotels have Wi-Fi access and will provide you with a login and password at check-in. WiFi is not always included in all hotels. A few of the BnBs also have Wi-Fi, access to be purchased from staff.
There are also over 80 Wi-Fi hotspots all over Cuba. Your concierge and guide can help you purchase the Wi-Fi cards with login and password (cost between 2-3 CUC per hour), and indicate how/where to use them.
Alternatively, Cuba Private Travel offers clients the use of a cell phone with data, in which your concierge will instruct you how to create a mobile hotspot so you can use your own phone.
Do not expect much: Band-width is limited and navigation is slow.
As credit cards, ATM cards, bank cards and traveler's checks affiliated to a US bank are not accepted in Cuba, bring enough cash to last your entire trip. The exchange rate is 1 CUC – 0.87 US dollars. Note that for other currencies such as Euros or Pounds this exchange fee is usually a bit less than the fee for converting U.S. Dollars.
Cards that are not denominated to a USA Bank normally will work at ATM machines, most hotels, and at the Bank Counter.
In Cuba, you can exchange your money at the airport, at a CADECA exchange kiosk, in a bank, or at your hotel. CADECA is an official money exchange agency in Cuba. Do not exchange money on the street.
We recommend 100 per person per day for meals. If you like to indulge in art, souvenirs, and evening outings, you may consider bringing more: $150-$250 per person per day.
Tipping is customary in Cuba and is perceived as a gesture of acknowledgement of satisfaction with a good or excellent service. For Cubans who work directly with visitors from abroad, such as hotel staff, the gratuities they receive are an important supplement to their income. In restaurants, 10% is the general rule. Your specialized guides are well paid in general, so tipping them should be based on your personal satisfaction with the level of service received.
For your private guide and driver, we recommend 20-40 CUC per day, each, if you feel their work was excellent. You may also leave a discretionary 5 to 10 CUC per day for your concierge and Clients Services Manager.
Since April 2010, the Cuban government requires all travelers to Cuba to have medical care and evacuation coverage under an approved plan. In the case of US traveler, as a result of this requirement, your flight package includes this basic medical insurance.
If you need to seek medical treatment while you are in Cuba and it is not an emergency, it is your responsibility to pay up to CUC $100 directly to the health practitioner. Once you are home, you can then file a claim under your travel protection plan.
- Check that the expiration date on your passport is 6 months after the completion of your stay abroad.
- Make a photocopy of your passport and store it separately. Leave a copy with friends or family back home.
- Pack medications and other valuables in your carry-on bag.
- When you receive your final itinerary and emergency contact numbers, print it out and include with the documents you bring on your journey.