How to Spend Three Days in Havana

Three days in Havana is exactly what I didn’t know I needed. I’m heading out from Cuba right now and all I can say is wow. It actually surprised me in a lot of ways and I’m so excited to share what I did while there. Here is how I spent three days in Havana on my trip.

As a heads up, I booked this trip to Havana fairly last minute. Two weeks before I was set to leave for Mexico, I bought a flight because well, 30 countries by 30 and I had 4 days so why not! I was definitely apprehensive about purchasing the ticket because I had heard how difficult it could be to visit. One that’s a myth – it’s really not hard to visit but there are rules to follow. Two – I love a good challenge so I did it anyway. It ended up not being a challenge at all by the way and I loved it.

If you’re worried about visiting Cuba, don’t be! It’s safe, friendly, and full of interesting things to do. Check out the notes below and my post with tips for your Havana trip. Most of my notes below are really important for Americans and helpful for everyone.

Table of Contents

Total Costs:

Flight: about $350 (I bought 2 one way tickets because I was on the way to Mexico so this flight is an estimated for three days in Havana)

Airbnb: $100 for 3 nights ($33 a night)

Tours/Activities: $120

Taxis/Tips: $50

Food/Drinks: $50

Total: $700

Tips for Visiting Havana

    1. There are three neighborhoods where most tourists stay – Vedado, Old Havana, and Central Havana. All three are lovely. I stayed in Old Havana and it was perfect for my short trip because it was so close to everything. I walked everywhere but Vedado.
    2. Hotels or Casa Familiars? Casa Familiars are where many people stay (especially Americans because you can support the Cuban people staying there and not the government). I stayed in a lovely one with a wonderful host – highly recommend.
    3. In Cuba, everything must be paid for in cash (by Americans). Your credit/debit card will not work at all there. I would budget more than you think too because emergencies could happen. I spent $75 more than I anticipated because of an injury, forgotten items, and a taxi service I prebooked failed to pick me up. Things can happen!
    4. I paid a little bit more for tours and activities by pre-booking but I wanted the security of not carrying around too much cash. It also ensured I was supporting local people.
    5. Air conditioning is not necessarily the norm but Cuba is very hot even in April. Check where you are staying has air conditioning if this is important to you.
    6. There are two forms of currency in Cuba – CUC and pesos. Both bills say pesos on them which is confusing at first but you’ll get CUC at the airport and want to check you continue to get it back when you need change. One CUC is close to one US dollar but you’ll get a better exchange if you have Euros. There is a 10% tax for exchanging US dollars.
    7. Do not overpay for taxis. They will quote you a price and agree on it before you get in. A ride from Old Havana to Vedado should be $5 CUC. A ride to the airport or back should be $25 CUC this is what locals told me. I overpaid at first and it was annoying.

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Day 1 of 3 Days in Havana

Walk Old Havana

I arrived around 2 pm on day one and decided to go right into it. I started by walking around Old Havana and taking in the city. It was a Saturday so things were busy.

See the Malecon

Malecon is a street along the water in Havana. Locals and tourists alike hang out there and people fish off the edge. I sadly only took videos here (whyyyy) so no pictures but it is truly wonderful. There are beautiful sunsets and it’s totally worth walking along with a cool breeze.

Dinner and Dancing

It was Saturday night and Havana was definitely alive! All over the city are spots to eat and enjoy a show. I went down the street from my Airbnb where I watched a dance performance, drank a mojito, and ate the delicious and famous ropa vieja, the national dish of Cuba. It’s a must-try dish and so delicious!

I tried it at Centro de Cultura Andaluza. This spot is a social club that is part of a network of societies for local Spanish descendants. Nowadays it’s dedicated almost entirely to flamenco, with performances from homegrown troupes like Ecos and Habana Flamenco. The show was great and the food was good even though it was a little more pricy, I found with the flamenco show, it was worth it.

I was solo and didn’t want to venture out to dance on my own so I just watched the performance. There are lots of places you can go to learn to dance salsa and experiences to book! Here are a few that came recommended by one of my hosts later during the trip:

Hit Salsa Clubs with Pros

Day 2 of 3 Days in Havana

My Airbnb offered breakfast daily. My very kind host had breakfast ready right when I asked with fresh fruit, coffee, eggs, bread, and juice. At $5 CUC, it was an easy and perfect way to start the day. I loved the view from my Airbnb and enjoyed a coffee while looking out at the streets.

Visit Cathedrals, Squares, and Fortresses

Before my tour, I chose to walk around to see the inside of the different cathedrals in Havana as well as the fortresses. Visiting cathedrals is free and they are lovely inside. I was there on a Sunday and got to sit in on a service. I love seeing how people worship around the world and since I consider myself a Christian, it’s always an important experience.

There are many old Spanish fortresses you can visit and seeing a few while on your trip is easy. Most charge $3-$5 CUC to get in and are fun to walk around.

There are five main squares in Old Havana and each has a different feel but all are beautiful. These are also the spots you can access WiFi easily! You’ll notice a lot of people sitting around on their phones. That’s because WiFi is only in designated zones like parks and hotels.

Walking Tour and Photography $50

I wanted to understand and get to know Havana more so I booked an experience through Airbnb to get to know the city. It was so much fun! The experience I booked was a history and photography tour. Basically, you learned history while also taking photos in the beautiful Old Havana! I love history and photos soooo it was perfect for me. It was the best of both worlds for me because often when traveling solo you have a hard time getting pictures of yourself. This made it easy plus history!

Marlon is a professional tour guide and her husband is a photographer. They are so kind and I highly recommend their tour while in Havana!

We walked all over Havana, and I learned about the history of the city and why Cuba has evolved into the country it is today. The tour started at the capital, walked the streets, and brought me back down Paseo Marti. We saw the main attractions in Old Havana and I got great views of the city when they took me to rooftops as well. We also talked about what living in Cuba is like and they gave me lots of recommendations for things to see and do the rest of my trip.

After this four-hour tour all over the city ended and I was hot! This is why I said check your stay has air conditioning. It was so good to be able to get out of the heat and relax for a little bit after walking all over.

Vedado, Old Cars, and Rooftops $65

After I had relaxed, it was time to visit a new part of the city – Vedado. Vedado is the newer part of Havana and many of the Cuban people live there. It’s got taller buildings and is along the Malecon. I stopped at Copelli which is a famous area known for its ice cream and walked on to meet up with my next tour.

Vedado is a mix of new and old. Mansions are found all through the neighborhood, but more than one family lives in them and they are typically converted into apartments or rooms for tourists. They’re beautiful and it’s fun to walk around looking at all the different gardens and fountains.

After an hour of ice cream and walking, I met up for my next tour. When I’m traveling solo I like to do tours because you get the chance to interact with lots of people and make some new friends. It’s a different way to be social, which I love.

This experience was about riding in convertible cars and city views. It was so much fun! The tour started in Vedado and we rode convertibles to different rooftop bars around the city. It’s one of those things you just don’t know until you go. The car ride was a really fun experience and you’ll see them all over Havana. They shouldn’t be expensive to ride in so don’t overpay!

This experience was $60 and included drinks at three rooftops, two car rides, a visit to the fortress, and food at one stop. It was well worth the price. We also talked about Cuba today and the current economy which was really interesting – it’s so different from the US

Unfortunately, the one I booked is no longer available but Airbnb as many experiences in Havana to choose from.

The host, Robin, was so kind, and I really enjoyed hanging out with other travelers. There ended up being 5 other people from the East Coast of the US on the tour so we had lots to talk about! The cocktails and rooftops views were amazing. I live for sunset and was more than happy looking over Havana from the rooftops of famous hotels.

The experience ended at 8, but we ended up hanging out on the rooftop until after 10, so it was time for a quick meal and to get off to bed.

Day 3 of 3 Days in Havana

Bike Tour $19

The next morning I was up a little earlier and headed out for a bike tour of the city. I wanted to see some of the spots important to the Cuban people.

I went on a bike tour that ended up being one of those, “it’s not my lucky day,” type of scenarios. Well, I fell off the bike (my fault) then fell again (not my fault) then the bike stopped working (definitely not my fault). The first fall I was fine but by the third time I was hurting. The tour guides were probably some of the kindest people though and made my day with their kindness.

The bike tour went all over Vedado visiting victory square, (center of Afro Cuban culture), eating Cuban sandwiches, cemetery, and the forest. It was just beautiful and gave me a chance to see more important places that were not possible on foot. This tour involves a lot of bike riding, and you will have to go up and downhill quite a bit. Plus, the streets in Cuba have a lot of bumps and holes so be careful!

After my last fall, I was basically balling and the kind tour guides offered to take me off on my own to relax and get away from the group. It helped not only cheer me up but take the pressure off to keep up with the group. It was so kind and again just one of those days kind of thing. Just be careful! You’ll see a ton worth visiting on this tour that’s probably already on your list to see.

I had planned to go to the beach but after my legs getting cut up/bruised I decided against it. Instead, I went for drinks and food by hostel de angel. I think this was the prettiest spot I found in Old Havana. They grill the meat right outside on the patio and the drinks are delicious. It was also really close to my Airbnb.

Unfortunately, the one I booked is no longer available but Airbnb as many experiences in Havana to choose from.

Museo de Revolution $8 9-4 pm

There are a variety of museums in Havana you can choose from and I’m someone who always wants to check out a museum on a trip! This is a spot I wanted to visit because I wanted to hear the other side of the Cuban revolution. The building itself is impressive because it was the home of the former dictator Batista. You can still see the bullet holes in the walls from the revolution which was really interesting. There aren’t maps but know the exhibit starts on the third floor. I did the first half completely backward and was really confused. Then I realized it started on the third floor.

There is also an exhibit of cars, planes, and tanks used during the revolution that are cool to see outside and included in admission.

The whole museum took me about an hour, reading and walking through. Last admission to the museum is at 4 pm but it stays open until 5. I went at 3:50 and stayed until about 5 pm.

After the museum, I walked back down toward the Capital for dinner at a place that came highly recommended – El Chanchillo. It was so delicious! $5.50 CUC for tons of food with delicious fresh veggies and fruit. Plus a $2.50 mojito?! Yes, please.

La Floridita

I debated going here because it is touristy. But it’s known as the cradle of the daiquiri and totally worth it. They’ll get you a $6 drink quickly and you’ll enjoy listening to the music just like Hemingway would have back in the day. It takes you back in time and you can feel what Havana is famous for. It’s worth the stop.

If you’re looking for souvenirs and shopping (which I did just a little of…) then Calle Obispo is for you. There are lots of shops to choose from and every kind of souvenir. The most famous spot for rum and cigars is right there too Casa del Ron. I stopped in for a quick look but they do full tours and will show you all about Cuban rum and cigars.

By this point, my knee was not agreeing with me and it was time to head back. As I said, my Airbnb was perfect for walking to all of the things I wanted to see. I walked back and packed up for my flight the next morning, ready to explore my next destination – Tulum!

I loved my three days in Havana and honestly hope that more people begin to visit. It’s another gem I think most Americans don’t find because they think it’s hard to visit. It’s not hard to visit and incredible. I’m telling you – Visit! Hopefully, this itinerary and my post about tips for visiting can help easy your worries and help you make this trip even more fun. Enjoy your three days in Havana because I know I did!

Meghan

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