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Travel to Havana: The Ultimate Guide for a Cuban Getaway


In Havana, every street corner holds a slice of history and a splash of culture. Pastel-hued buildings, kissed by the Caribbean sun, line cobblestone streets while vintage cars cruise seaside boulevards.


A true tropical must-visit, Cuba only opened to American travelers recently (that's why we launched FTLO Havana), and getting there and exploring isn’t always straightforward. Luckily for you, we’re here with our favorite tips, tricks, and insights so that you know exactly how to travel to Cuba and how to make the most of an incredible Caribbean escape.




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Why Havana Is a Great Place to Visit

With its rich history, colorful culture, and beautiful architecture, Havana offers travelers a unique and unforgettable adventure. The Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a treasure trove of history and culture. Narrow cobblestone streets lead to picturesque squares adorned with well-preserved colonial buildings. Explore the Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza Vieja, and the Malecón, each with its unique charm and stories to tell.



TIMELESS ARCHITECTURE

One of the first things that will draw you into Havana is its architectural diversity. The city showcases a fascinating mix of styles, from Spanish colonial and baroque to neoclassical and Art Deco. Strolling through the streets, you'll be surrounded by colorful, weathered buildings, vintage cars, and ornate facades that tell the story of centuries gone by.



VIBRANT CULTURE

Havana breathes culture at every turn. From the lively rhythms of salsa and son cubano echoing through the streets to the art galleries showcasing the talent of local artists, the city is a cultural paradise. Don't miss a visit to the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a cultural center where art, music, and dance converge.



VINTAGE CARS

Havana is renowned for its collection of vintage cars, mostly from the 1950s. These classic automobiles add a touch of nostalgia to the city's landscape and offer visitors the chance to take a ride back in time. Touring Havana in a colorful vintage car is a must-do experience.



WARM AND WELCOMING PEOPLE

Cubans are known for their warmth and friendliness. You'll find that locals are eager to engage in conversations and share their stories. Whether you're dancing with locals, sipping mojitos in a lively bar, or simply wandering the streets, you'll feel the genuine hospitality of the Cuban people.



CULINARY DELIGHTS

Cuban cuisine is a delightful fusion of Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavors. Try traditional dishes like ropa vieja (shredded beef), arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), and tostones (fried plantains). Havana's paladares (small, privately-owned restaurants) offer a unique dining experience with authentic Cuban dishes.



WORLD-CLASS CIGARS

If you're a cigar enthusiast, Havana is the place to be. Cuban cigars are considered some of the finest in the world, and you can visit cigar factories, where skilled torcedores (cigar rollers) create these prized smokes.



BEAUTIFUL BEACHES

Just a short drive from Havana, you'll find pristine beaches with powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters. Playas del Este is a popular destination for sun-seekers, and it's a perfect place to relax after exploring the city.



HAVANA'S NIGHTLIFE

Havana truly comes alive at night. Experience the city's vibrant nightlife by visiting live music venues, dance clubs, and bars. The Tropicana Cabaret is famous for its dazzling shows, while the Buena Vista Social Club offers an authentic Cuban music experience.



REVOLUTIONARY HISTORY

For history buffs, Havana is a treasure trove of revolutionary history. Explore the Museum of the Revolution, visit the Plaza de la Revolución, and learn about the iconic figures who played pivotal roles in Cuba's history, including Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.


 

CUBA ENTRY REQUIREMENTS


GROUP TRAVEL

The first question most travelers have is, “can Americans travel to Cuba?” Well, we’ve got some good news because the answer is yes, yes, and most certainly yes!


While Havana (and all of Cuba) has specific entry requirements, they are not too difficult to figure out. For starters, it’s always easiest to visit Cuba if you join a small group tour. Here’s what that gets you:

  • You will have a licensed tour guide who can help you navigate the city and ensure that you are meeting all of the entry requirements.

  • You will be part of an approved itinerary, which means that you will be able to visit all of the major sights without any problems.

  • You will be traveling with a group of people who are also interested in learning about Cuba, which can make the experience more enjoyable.



VISA AND DOCUMENTATION

The following documentation is required for entry into Havana:

  • A passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your planned return date.

  • A Cuban Tourist Card, with “Support for the Cuban People'' as the general license category. This can be purchased online or through your airline.

  • A country-specific visa, if required for your nationality.


 

cuban culture and community

One important aspect of visiting Cuba is that all trips must have a meaningful cultural aspect to them. And we think that is incredible!


MEET A WARM CUBAN COMMUNITY

We believe in responsible tourism and actively engage in local initiatives that support Cuban communities. During your trip, you'll be part of a number of immersive cultural activities, and you’ll learn about the arts, music, and vital industries of the nation.



IMMERSE YOURSELVES IN CUBA'S RICH CULTURE

Immerse yourself in the rich Cuban culture through interactions with locals, visits to art galleries, and music and dance experiences. Our tours focus on providing authentic cultural encounters, ensuring a deeper connection with the Cuban way of life.



SLOW SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL

Havana's natural beauty is a precious resource. At FTLO, promote eco-friendly practices during our tours to minimize environmental impact. When traveling to a new community, we encourage responsible behavior, such as conserving water and energy and respecting local wildlife.


 

SAFETY IN CUBA


SAFETY PRECAUTIONS IN HAVANA

Havana is generally a safe destination for tourists, but it's important to exercise common-sense precautions. We recommend staying in well-established neighborhoods, avoiding poorly lit areas at night, and keeping an eye on your belongings. It’s always best to travel with a friend or a crew of new ones.

HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE

As with any international travel, it is important that you have comprehensive travel insurance for your trip in case of any emergency.


LOCAL CONTACTS

You’ll find that most locals are warm and welcoming; however, it’s always an added plus to travel with local insights whenever you visit somewhere new. FTLO adventures are all run with an expert guide and local partners on the ground. That means on our trips there’s always a support network wherever you are.


 

Cash Over Cards

Credit and debit cards are not widely accepted in Cuba, so it’s also important to bring enough cash with you. You will most likely not be able to withdraw cash with an American ATM card in Cuba.



The currency in Cuba is the Cuban peso (CUP). However, US dollars (USD) are also widely accepted, especially in tourist areas.


If you are planning on bringing USD to Cuba to exchange, you will need to do so for CUP at a currency exchange bureau. The exchange rate is not very favorable, so it is best to bring as little USD as possible.


 

best time of the year to visit cuba

When planning your visit to Havana and Cuba as a whole, it's crucial to consider the weather and the best time to experience the city's charm. Havana enjoys a tropical climate characterized by distinct wet and dry seasons. Here's a breakdown of the ideal times to explore this amazing city:



DRY SEASON (NOVEMBER TO APRIL)

For many, this is the best time to visit Havana. From November to April, the weather is pleasant, with cooler temperatures, lower humidity, and minimal rainfall. It's the perfect time to explore the city's historic streets, engage in outdoor activities, and enjoy Havana's cultural scene without the interruption of rain showers.


HIGH SEASON (DECEMBER TO MARCH)

Havana experiences a peak in tourist arrivals during these months, mainly due to the favorable weather conditions. While the city may be more crowded, there’s also a certain excitement in the air that drifts through the old streets. It's advisable to book your accommodations and tours in advance if you plan to visit during this time.


SHOULDER SEASONS (MAY TO JUNE AND SEPTEMBER TO OCTOBER)

The weather is pleasant during these periods; you just may encounter short, sporadic rain showers. The city is also less crowded, and you can find more budget-friendly deals. These months are excellent for travelers seeking a more laid-back experience.


 

TRIPS TO CUBA

Our small group trip to Havana offers up the perfect mix of guided activities and time for independent exploration. Over five action-packed days, you can join a group of new friends in their 20s and 30s and discover the rhythm of this charming, historic capital.


You’ll crisscross the cobbled streets of Old Havana, throw down a few mojitos, and check out Cuban tunes in lively local joints. And then you’ll dive in on a whole new level: we’re talking cruising the shore in 50s-era vintage cars, salsa lessons, cigar and rum experiences, outdoor markets, and more.


We’ll keep going with the culture, head to nearby farms to get up close and personal with the country’s important agricultural industry, discover a thriving arts scene, and learn about the region’s fascinating history.





 

Flights to Havana

There are a million reasons why any adventurer should travel to Havana, but one of our favorites is the cost of it all. Unlike farther-flung destinations, Havana is as close as it gets to US borders. So, what does that mean?


You guessed it, cheap flights! Round-trip flights can generally be found from Miami for around $200 or from New York for around $300. Check out Skyscanner to see what it costs from your closest hub.


With its enchanting mix of culture, arts, food, and Old Town history, Havana is a city like no other. It just takes a little bit of work to figure it all out, and it’s done easiest in a small group. So, if you’re interested in a Caribbean vacation you won't soon forget, take a look at our itinerary and discover Cuba for yourself.


If you’re interested in another FTLO adventure, check out all of our destinations.

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