Havana Do's & Don'ts
A Follow up to my Havana recap
As cautioned by many, do not purchase cigars anywhere. While my husband did snag a very well priced small humidor in the “artisan market” , he got his cigars in the Rio Mar neighborhood. The place to go was closed when we drove by which led us to back to a restaurant we had stopped at earlier for coffee and ice-cream because, 4pm. blood sugar crash.
El Aljibe Restaurant : Large open air restaurant with a cigar shop to the left of the entrance. If you don’t want to eat there, just pop into the shop and puff puff off you go.
La Casa del Habano, 5th y 16 : There are many of these throughout Havana but this is the one you should plan to visit. Cigar Aficionado agrees.
Do’s + Dont's:
DO Download the maps.me app before you go to Havana. My cousin had this on her phone, and while we felt we were in some government tv show, it knows where you are sans wifi etc. and has all landmarks, restaurants, little streets and parks on it. Our driver had the same app!
DO Exchange money there as you go. You don’t want to be stuck with CUC’s. We exchanged our dollars in the Hotel Cohiba lobby (even though we weren’t guests) as it was very nice, not crowded and close to where we were staying. You lose 15% wherever you exchange. Some travelers take Euros but it seems like a whole lot of work to go with euros, change them there for a smaller fee and then change them back. If you have Euros you want to dump, then yolo.
DO pay it forward and tip. I like to think every extra bit helps anybody there and who knows if they actually get paid the included tip on your bill at restaurants and your drivers pay a lot in licenses to be on the road. If you are staying at an Airbnb, tip the staff. You can change someones next 6 months by leaving an amount you spend at Target in 45 seconds.
DO pack all the baby wipes you can fit and have them with you while out and about. Kid or no kid in tow…
DO get EVERY address needed beforehand. If you are a Cuban American who have family that left it all behind, chances are you’ll want to (and should) see what it is they left. The addresses in Havana are wack and haven’t changed since the exile. Hear the story of how so and so lived on that corner and across that roundabout, write it down, try to find all the intersections and what color the front door and side window and archway and roof tile look like - true life thats how we found the houses. Don’t be hesitant to speak with the current residents but get ready to be a bit irked.
DO order a Cuba Libre and ask them why it's named that. We cheers Cuba Libre's here for a different reason.
DON’T Expect to stroll into a supermarket and get all the things you left behind. Take everything you think you will need. Be an Eagle Scout. If there is a language barrier it will be easier to already have the things you need. We took about 4lbs of pepto and didn’t need it, but we had it!
DON’T Check luggage if you do not have to. We took the pack’n’play in a golf bag stuffed with my daughters milk boxes and snacks. It took over an hour to come out. It was nuts and really annoying. Nothing was stolen, but prepare yourself.
DON’T totally wing it. Yes this mentality works for some, but we found it simpler to have the plan laid out for each day. While it seemed like it was jam packed, we ended up checking off our points of interest quickly which led to extra time to do things we hadn’t planned to do. Also, you don’t really have a choice in this matter if you are traveling there on a self guided trip as an American. You will need to have an itinerary on you in case customs requests it.
DO go with open eyes and ears and speak with the locals. While you won’t get opinions on their political views, it is easy to notice a change is wanted and they cannot do it alone.