Havana – Ciudad de las Columnas or the City of Columns
Havana is home to 2.1 million people. It is the capital city of Cuba and holds together manifolds of history of the revolution. The city is still taking its baby steps in being modern, along with which it holds together its ethnicity and history. Apart from certain rules that travellers need to keep in their pockets, this colourful city is a treat throughout the year. Grab onto your sunscreen and head to the capital city!
10 Key Things about Havana, Cuba
1. History of Havana
It was found by the Spanish in the 16th century. The city’s authentic old remains were protected by the construction of walls, wells and forts. This city’s harbour holds historical significance as the US Battleship Maine had sunk here in 1898, leading to the Spanish-American War.
2. Night Life of Havana
The night life is usually buzzing with the smell of cigar and rum. One can go club hopping at the heart of Havana. Places like Capri, Caribe, Copa and Parisien also caters to ones’ club hopping needs. For outrageous live music and open grounds, one must definitely go to La Cecilia, they are known for booking beautiful live bands and the atmosphere is as Cuban as it gets. Apart from live music, there are salsa clubs which bring out the dancer in you. Cafe Cantante Mi Habana in the Avenida Paseo region literally asks you to shake a leg. You’re in for countless rounds of quirky cocktails and a sizzling night of salsa.
3. Safety in Havana
It is rather safe. Policemen can be found at every block. As the local people respect the policemen, you know you are safe around them. However, people ae best to be cautious about pickpockets. Female solo travellers do not need to fear for their safety. Though the local men may catcall, their safety is never at risk. Travellers must keep in mind that it is the photography of military, police, airport and other transport facilities is prohibited.
4. Living Expenses in Havana
Since Havana is not particularly wi-fi friendly, it is suggested that you make reservations in advance, either online or by call. The cost of rooms range from $6 till an extravagant $321. It is usually suggested that people book themselves into casas, as it will give you an authentic feel of the place. www.hostelsclub.com is one such website that will give you easy access to booking. The range of eating ranges from $16 at a local pub and will touch at $15 at a mid range restaurant (three course meal). If one were to sit at a lavish restaurant to wine and dine you might have to shell out $32.
5. Cuisines in Havana
The city is dotted with state established cafes and restaurants. Their ice cream joints are a must go! The permission for privatization of restaurants allowed the residents to open up their homes to the people for some good, authentic Cuban cooking. Cuban cuisine mainly revolves round roast pork and/or chicken that is paired up with rice, beans and root vegetables. Since the city has a coast line of its own, lobsters, fish and shrimp are a common site on the palate. To go with this wholesome food, you can always grab a pint of beer, cup of coffee or peg of rum. Cuban food is rumoured to be lacking in the flavour department. However, on contrary, the local food is absolutely smacking! One must definitely try the shredded lamb dish at Havana. In their local language, this literally translates to “old clothes”. Ropa Vieja is a local dish that is stewed in red sauce and dipped into flavours of green peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro and cumin. It is accompanied by rice. This dish can be found all over Havana and is a must try! Apart from particular dishes, the place is dotted with cafes and clubs that one can walk into.
6. Statistics of Havana
It spans over 728.26 sq.km making it the largest city by area in the Caribbean region. It is also the most populous city and the third largest metropolitan area is the Caribbean region.
The official census of Havana reports that in the year 2010, 1,176,627 international tourists visited the city, showing a prominent increase of 20.0% as compared to the year 2005. In May 2015, Havana was officially recognised as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities.
7. Public Transport of Havana
The inner city urban area is connected within a 20 km radius by the metro bus. The omnibus metropolitanos is a fleet of Yutong buses that cove a 40 km radius. It is famously known as the Metro bus Feeder Line. There is an Inter Urban tram that connects various parts of the suburban and urban parts together, the same way the rail system also does. The ferry also helps in traveling around. The roads are rather narrow. They allow horse carts more than they allow cars and other vehicles. Travellers will find themselves at the Jose Marti International Airport, about 15 kms south west of Havana.
Pollution in Havana: Havana was announced to be polluted to the extent that it drove away the marine and birds life of Havana Bay. However, recent reports state that there has been a 50%-60% revival of the fauna in the past 10 years.
8. Weather in Havana
The Cuban climate is tropical and temperate with cool trade winds to provide relief from the heat and humidity. Havana’s weather is typical for Cuba; it is generally sunny and hot year round apart from when it is stormy, which is why it is considered a year-round tourist destination. The most popular time to visit Havana is in the winter months of December and January but, although avoiding the hurricane season is probably wise, Havana’s weather is pleasant for travellers all year.
Summer: May to September: Average low: 24°C, Average high: 31°C
Autumn: October to November. Average low: 22°C, Average high: 28°C
Winter: December to February. Average low: 18°C, Average high: 21°C
Spring: February to April. Average low: 20°C, Average high: 27°C
Rainy season runs between May through to October. The city sees an annual precipitation of 1,200 mm.
9. Culture of Havana
The Roman Catholics are the largest group in this city. At the current time, about 1500 Jews seem to exist within this space. There are three synagogues that remain in Havana. One of them is an orthodox synagogue while, the other two are conservative.
It, by far, is the leading cultural centre of the country. The government paid special attention in the restoration and maintenance of the Old city, making sure that participation in festivals and activities was either of no charge or minimal. Havana is the hub of art, jazz and performing arts. It is also home to the ruins of the Old Havana, and also is the host of the Havana International Jazz Festival, International Ballet Festival and the Havana Film Festival.
10. Places to visit in Havana
Things to do in Havana: One must definitely not miss the Vedado region of the city. The beach calls out for a long drive and a day booked just for the cruise. It is highly encouraged that you take a tiny taxi driven by charming drivers who are always enthusiastic to be a part of your travel photo album. You can groove in a Havana music club or swirl a tall glass of mojito with a puff of cigar. For those who are into architecture and serenity, attend the mass at Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana.
Things to do for Kids in Havana: National Zoo, Parque La Maestranza, National Aquarium (One must definitely not miss the sea lion show!), and add a final touch of Coppelia’s for ice cream.
Museum and Galleries: Havana being the city full of history, it is home to many museums. However, the eye catching ones are the Cigar Museum, the Car Museum, The Museum of Revolution.
Places Nearby: Havana Riviera is the nearest beach zone. Las Terrazas and Soroa is 45 minutes west of Havana and has been converted into an artsy colony of tourism with ziplines and hiking and swimming. Apart from this, Varadero, Vinales are also places that are a stones’ throw away.
Offbeat places: A quiet cruise to the Casa Blanca is a must. You won’t find many tourists hovering over the cruise. There is an optional taxi route through the tunnel as well.
Author’s Conclusion: Havana is a haven for those who wish to groove and is a palace for those who look forward to serenity. Do not miss out on this city due to the rule book that you need to play by. Don on your tourist caps and enjoy the life of this place.
|Languages||Spanish (Dialects and variations)|
|Currency||Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC) (1 CUC = 1 USD as on 25-Mar-2016)|
|Time Zone||Eastern time zone; UTC -05:00|
|Driving||Right Hand Traffic, Left Hand Drive vehicles|
|Helpline||Medical Assistance, Police, Fire -106|
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