One of the reasons I wanted to take a cruise to Cuba is because I was concerned about safety. One day in a communist country was enough, with the theory of getting in and getting out before a revolution could break out! I found out I was being a little dramatic. After doing some research, I found that Cuba is very safe and the Europeans have been vacationing there for years.
A Havana walking tour will show you everyday life in the old city of Havana. Walking around downtown Havana will show you the historic architecture and beautiful culture of the Old City which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will give you an idea of life for people in Havana. You will see famous buildings like the Capitol building and the Original Sloppy Joe’s while walking down Cobblestone Streets.
Is Havana Safe?
The Cuban economy was absolutely dependent on cruise ships as well as other tourism for their economy to stay alive. Now that the cruises are no longer going to Havana, it should be far less busy. But this also means that the locals will be looking to get more from the people that do come to Cuba. Locals offering “help” will be your biggest issue in Old Havana.
It is in Cuba’s best interest to make sure that people can come here and enjoy the sites. The government is struggling to support the people and tourism is one of their only means of bringing money into Cuba.
This is why Cuba is very safe. They do not want visitors to be alienated.
The Cuban people are warm, inviting and friendly and with that being said an offer from a Cuban to assist you in some way will usually end with them expecting a tip of a Peso for their unsolicited assistance or a “gift”. A few people we spoke with back on the ship found the requests to be a little annoying.
Some Warnings About Havana
I tried to look at the locals asking for pesos from a different perspective. They are survivors. This is what they know and they are certainly not making a mint from this system of unsolicited “help”. We would not have gotten the picture in front of Christ’s statue if this “help” had not been offered. They struggle to get food on their plate every day. This is how they make it work in a system of rations.
I looked at it as a mission trip. A firm “no” will end the conversation when you do not need “help” or are not interested in their home-made trinkets.
Many tourists will bring toiletries to give as tips because Cubans cannot get toothpaste or toilet paper. Now don’t get me wrong….. there is luxury in Havana as well. In fact, we chose to eat lunch at the Saratoga Hotel and we did not have to pay to use their bathroom! The hotel rivals any five star US hotel and the food was amazing. But if you are walking the streets just be aware it is not all the same.
The Top 11 Spots To Visit In Havana
All of the best spots in Old Havana are within walking distance in the Old City.
- The Capitol Building – Newly renovated, you can see where the action happens in the Cuban Government.
- Taquechel Pharmacy Museum – The pharmacy sells herbs and also is a museum. The woodwork and architecture are amazing here.
- Obispo Street – The square is loaded with activity, stores and restaurants.
- Hotel Saratoga – Great views of the Capitol and excellent food at the rooftop bar.
- Plaza de San Francisco – This is definitely a local gathering spot. A Franciscan Convent located by the port.
- Museo de Armas – This museum houses Castro’s personal gun and knife collection and is located in the heart of the Old City.
- Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) – Here you can see an elegant 1700s palace with a central courtyard, housing colonial historic photos.
- Sloppy Joe’s Bar – Reopened in 2013 after being closed for 48 years, you will be able to see the original Sloppy Joe’s and where celebrities like Sinatra visited before Castro’s reign.
- Catedral de San Cristobal – Located near the port on the plaza, this is where Christoper Colombus remains were housed before being moved to Spain in 1898.
- The Malecon – Stroll with locals on one of the main roads that follow the Caribbean Sea for 5 miles.
- Drink Cuba Libras and listen to Cuban Music – As you walk the streets in Havana there will be many entertainers in the bars and restaurants.
Everyday Life In Havana
Go with an open mind and an open heart. My goal in my pictures was to exhibit the culture and lifestyle of the Cuban people so we ventured out in some other areas that were not just touristy areas.
Merchants like this are moving their food around. I also saw a man with two huge Mahi on a stick he was carrying across his back. Unfortunately, I had put my camera away and missed the shot.
Musicians are playing everywhere! Make sure you practice your Latin dancing before you go! People do dance in the streets and cafe’s.. It is totally awesome to watch.
We stopped in this little cafe and listened to the music and cooled off with some Cuba Libres! After their song was finished they pass a basket around looking for tips and want to sell their CD’s.
A Dalmatian guarding a business doorway.
Pets are lounging around all over the streets. They have tags on them so they are legal to be out. They mostly seemed to be strays but I think that is how they get food. Food can be scarce for locals and it is not like they have a Petco down the street.
A man was running his store from here. He was selling hats and T-Shirts but really did not have much of a selection. It was mostly this way in Cuba, The locals mostly sell handmade items to get extra pesos.
Everywhere we looked laundry was being hung outside. In the morning when we were driving around Havana, I noticed when you looked at the homes, women were sweeping and cleaning their homes for the day. All of the windows and doors would be open. They have no air conditioning and no hot water in their homes.
Plan on heading back your hotel or ship around mid-afternoon as it gets pretty warm and you will want a couple of hours to relax before heading out to the nightlife!
See the rest of the day here!