Havana

Welcome to Havana

Vintage American cars chug along the dusty roads as salsa streams out of tumbledown colonial houses. Old men sit on doorsteps drinking rum and playing dominoes, while the young dance rumba in the capital’s smoky, sweltering clubs. Revolution swept through in 1959, and to this day Che Guevera’s iconic portrait is emblazoned on every surface. In many ways, the Havana of our collective imagination is real. And yet - as frustrating as it is fascinating - the city is like nowhere you have ever been.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, monetary support dried up and Cuba entered what was called the Special Period when time truly ground to a halt. Coupled with the harsh realities of the US embargo and severities of a socialist state, soon rations became smaller, the supermarket shelves emptier and times harder.

Yet, what Cuba lacked through poverty, it made up in a wealth of cultural heritage. These are a people whose spirit is too strong and warmth too great to be broken by oppression. From the art being created in backstreet galleries to the music that follows you with every step, Cubans are quick to smile, dance and laugh with you.

With the effects of Raul Castro’s reform program of 2011 beginning to materialise, this is the new dawn of Cuba. Last year 350,000 applications were made for private businesses, and every week new boutique bars and gourmet paladares are opening up in Havana, revolutionising the previously dire dining scene. Change comes slowly, as with everything in this country, but you can feel the energy on the streets. There has never been a better time to visit than now, with the past still present, and yet the hope of the future around the corner.

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Quick facts

  • Inhabitants in Cuba:
    11,075,244
  • Inhabitants in Havana:
    2,141,993
  • Official language
    Spanish
  • Currency
    Convertibles, Cuban Peso
  • Time zone
    UTC-5
  • Emergency number
    106
  • Constitution
    Republic of Cuba, Socialist State
  • Country phone code
    +53
  • Country code
    HAV
  • Local transportation
    Bus, Taxi, Collectivo