Commercial cruise ships dock at the Sierra Maestra Terminal in Habana Vieja, just off the Plaza de San Francisco.
Printable map to take along.
Check here for festivals and events in Havana when you are in port.
Watch a destination video.
Old Havana in Cuba comprises streets of historic structures, cobbled plazas, castles, cathedrals and classical mansions dating to the heyday of Spain. Havana's core is unrivaled in the Americas for its legacy of historic buildings. Many are now such Havana attractions as museums, hotels and restaurants.
Beyond the old city core in Havana, Cuba, the 20th-century enclave of Vedado teems with hotels and nightclubs that still maintain their 1950s atmosphere. They are set alongside gracious, century-old mansions of the long-departed well-to-do of Havana. Plaza de la Revolucion hosts Havana's government buildings. Farther afield, visitors to Havana will find the Museo de Hemingway and the glorious beaches of Playas del Este.
At many attractions a CUC$2 to CUC$5 fee is added on for the taking of photos, and as much as CUC$25 for shooting video.
There are numerous places in Havana to listen to live music.
A new European-style beer hall, Almacén de la Madera, has opened next to the Almacénes de San José, a vast souvenir market. Other harbor attractions include a number of churches, the Havana Club rum museum and the muscular 16th-century fort Castillo de la Real Fuerza, which houses a shipwreck and treasure museum.
Havana is a great town to walk around. It’s almost entirely flat and very safe.
The Havana bus system is a disaster, you will be better taking a bike-taxi.
There’s really no reason for tourists to rent a car to explore Havana. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Moreover, streets are poorly marked and it’s a confusing city to navigate.
All of the major tour agencies offer city tours and range from 4 to 8 hours in length and cost between CUC$15 and CUC$50 per person.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here.
The Botanical Garden: On the outskirts of the city, the 'lung of Havana' provides a great opportunity to learn about flora in general, and Cuban specimens in particular. The 600 hectare park is full of greenhouses with cactuses and tropical plants. There is also a huge palm garden and a Japanese Garden with a vegetarian restaurant. Most hotel tourist desks can arrange this tour, but the Botanical Garden is a mere 25 minutes from Havana by car.
In February Havana hosts an annual cigar festival (habanos.com), which draws connoisseurs from around the world. At Plaza de Armas, just off the port road, browse the second-hand book market before stopping off at the San José shopping warehouse, south of the cruise terminal.
As in any third world country, most of the merchandise available is designed for tourists to take back home. The biggest Cuban exports for tourists are rum, cigars, and coffee, all of which are available at government-owned stores or on the streets. For genuine merchandise, you should pay the official price at the legal stores.
Watch out for:
Being that all restaurants are owned by the government and run by underpaid employees, the food in Cuba is notoriously bland. Within Cuba, the best food will generally be found in your casa particular or in paladares (locally owned restaurants in private homes).
CUC is the currency most tourists will use in Cuba. It is how you will pay for hotels, official taxis, entry into museums, meals at restaurants, cigars, rum, etc. Conversion into CUC can be done at exchange houses (casa de cambio, or cadeca). These are located in many hotels and in other places throughout the cities. The Euro is widely accepted, unfortunately the US$ is not.
ATMs are rare in Cuba. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
The official language of Cuba is Spanish.
The emergency number in Cuba is: 116.
In many cities the only way for tourists to access the internet is through the government's communications centers ( ETECSA ), it is not cheap and there is good chance that someone is "watching" your doings on the PC.
Shopping hours : Mon-Sat 0900-1700, Sun 0900-1200.
January 1st: January 1st is celebrated as a public holiday throughout the rest of the world because it is New Year. Although this same date is celebrated as a public holiday in Cuba, the reason for this public holiday in Cuba differs. January 1st is a public holiday in Cuba because it is Liberation Day.
January 28th: This date is special in the history of Cuba because it is the birthday of Jose Marti, the father of Cuban independence.
April 19th: This day is commemorated in Cuba every year because it marks the anniversary of the Cuban victory at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, when US backed Cuban exiles tried to invade Cuba and topple the Socialist Government.
May 1st: Like much of the world, 1st May is Labour Day and this is a public holiday in Cuba.
July 30th: This day is celebrated in Cuba to commemorate the martyrs of the Cuban revolution in 1959.
August 12th: This is the date that the Cuban dictator Machado was overthrown in 1933.
October 8th: Special ceremonies take place in Cuba annually on this day to remember the murder of Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967.
October 10th: This is an official public holiday in Cuba and schools and offices are closed on this day. This public holiday in Cuba is known as the day of Cuban culture.
December 25th: Although the socialist government in Cuba have stamped down hard on religion in general and Catholicism in particular, Christmas day is still celebrated as a public holiday in Cuba.
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