I just returned from a long overdue trip to Havana. Cuban culture and history were a big part of my teenage years — I devoured books and movies about the rise of communism, the embargo, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. I found it all very fascinating, from a social and historical perspective. I never thought about going to Cuba to find a great restaurant or hotel (though they can be found!) I wanted to go to Cuba to experience the rich culture, to have conversations with old people on stoops, to drink Rum on the malecon, and to revisit sites from the revolution.
So I went, with no planning. So little planning, in fact, that I didn’t have an address to head to from the airport until an hour before my flight. Since my return to the states, a lot of people have asked me for Havana tips. Where to eat, stay, dance… but I think the real tips to be given in this case are the things a lot of people forget to note about Cuba. Who they are as people? Why do they do certain things the way they do? What are their customs? They mannerisms?
The goal is to offer the relevant information that will leave you well versed enough to discover everything on your own. This way, you will be welcome, you will make friends with Cubans, and you’ll be your own travel guide.
Cubans are old school.
That means, common courtesy should be considered. Extra pleases, thank yous, hugs, notes, and personal interactions go a long way in establishing trust. The caretaker of the house I rented came over so many times that by the end of my stay I was at HER house getting her personal information because she insisted we keep in touch. My taxi drivers not only opened the door for me every time I entered and exited a taxi, one of them also went inside the airport terminal to find out where my flight would be leaving from so he could drop me at the door.
Point being, they will treat you like family, so be aware, make eye contact and be nice.