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World Travel Guide > Guides > Caribbean > Cuba > Havana

Havana Weather

34°C

Local time Havana

Currency

CUC$

Getting around Havana

Public transport

Local buses are known as guaguas; service is notoriously slow, unreliable and crowded. Most visitors avoid them unless they are familiar with the routes. Service operates around the clock in theory but thins dramatically after 10pm.

Habana Bus Tour (tel: +53 7 261 1095), a hop-on, hop-off, double-decker affair, offers two loop routes: one takes in major tourist sites between Miramar and Habana Vieja, the other goes to the beaches at Playa del Este. Look for the blue and red signs at designated stops. 

Taxis

Havana features hard-currency Convertible Pesos (CUC) and collective, fixed-route taxis, which charge Cuban Pesos (also known as Moneda Nacional - MN). You can book CUC taxis by phone, flag them down in the street or find them outside the main hotels. Rates are determined by the taxi meter, though in practice drivers often negotiate an off-meter fare. Tipping about 10% of the fare is always appreciated.

Coco taxis are yellow, three-wheeled vehicles carrying up to three people; they're about half the price of regular taxis and you can contract them by day.

Arranging taxis by phone is reliable with CubaTaxi (tel: +53 7 855 5555).

Many car owners in Cuba act as licensed, freelance taxis; these cars (including pre-1960 models) can be hired per hour or per kilometre. The state company Gran Car (tel: +53 7 641 7980) runs a fleet of lovingly restored antique cars (including convertibles) serving as taxis. 

There are a small but growing number of unlicensed taxi drivers operating out of Havana Airport and around Old Havana. While the vast majority of unlicensed journeys are incident-free, they can be avoided by looking for the official blue or yellow licence plates, or just by asking drivers to see their licence before taking a ride - they won’t be offended.

Bicitaxis
A pleasant way to move around the city is via bicitaxi – similar to Asian rickshaws with the driver pedalling from the front. There is no need to look for them as the drivers solicit tourists continuously. Rates are similar to normal taxis.

Driving

Havana traffic is approaching heinous and motorists will find driving in the city nerve-racking. Traffic lights may or may not be working for instance, and not all drivers observe traffic laws. Making a right on a red light is prohibited unless signs indicate otherwise. Road signage is improving, but still wanting. Havana’s grid system means navigating is straightforward, but hazards include meandering cyclists, pedestrians and stray dogs. Night driving is particularly difficult due to limited street lighting and many potholes.

Parking is in public lots and at hotels. Where there is no secured parking, it's worth paying someone a small fee to keep an eye on the vehicle if parking overnight. Never leave valuables in a parked car. 

Car hire

Hiring a car is the easiest option for visiting places not on interprovincial bus routes. However, it is an expensive way to move around within Havana and most people prefer taxis.

The minimum age for hiring a car is 21 years. An International Driving Permit is not required. You have to buy insurance locally. It is worth noting that a driver involved in an accident is judged guilty until proved innocent. Check for any damage and that all parts (windscreen wipers, lights, spare tyres, radio) are in good working order before driving off. Car radios, spare tyres and emblems are among the most commonly stolen items and often not covered by local insurance policies.

The two major car hire companies are Rex (tel: +53 7 836 7788; www.rex.cu) and Cubacar (tel: +53 7 835 0000), with main offices in town and at the airport. The former offers luxury rentals, the latter, compact cars and sedans.

Bicycle hire

No official bicycle rentals exist, though locals can sometimes be convinced to rent bikes. Potholed streets, aggressive stray dogs, and poor lighting are problematic for cyclists. You can hire mopeds at 3ra Avenida, corner Calle 30 in Miramar and across from the Víazul bus station.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Parque Central Hotel

This well-situated, upscale hotel straddling Central Havana and Old Havana has been setting the standard for luxury lodging in the Cuban capital for years. In 2010, the Parque Central added 149 rooms in its new, chic La Torre building, further cementing its reputation as one of the city's best places to stay. Connected to the original building (with 277 rooms), La Torre is more low-key and the rooms fresher. The rooftop pool with panoramic city views is a real draw here.

Hotel El Terral

One of Havana's newest properties, this boutique hotel is superbly perched overlooking the Malecón – and every room has a private balcony from which to appreciate the killer sea views. One guest says it's like being on a ship, you're that close to the water. So chic and popular is this place, you'll be lucky to land one of the 14 rooms. Doubly lucky are those that book a corner room (with two balconies) or one of the two suites each with long, deep terraces. The staff are friendly and pay meticulous attention to detail, plus you can walk to some excellent restaurants and sites.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Built in the 1930s by a New York firm, this historic hotel is a national monument and a destination in its own right. The rich and famous have always favoured its beautiful gardens overlooking the Malecón – notable guests include Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg and Uma Thurman. The hotel's cigar bar is tops (especially during December's film festival when the Nacional is packed with luminaries) and the Cabaret Parisien is popular for its scantily-clad, floor show. The rooms here are nothing fancy; upgrade to the sixth (executive) floor if you're coming for more than the history.

Saratoga Hotel

Widely considered one of Havana's top luxury hotels (just ask Beyoncé and Jay-Z who celebrated their wedding anniversary here in 2013), the Saratoga offers understated elegance in a prime location across the street from the majestic Capitolio Building. There are 96 equally-comfortable rooms, though décor varies from charming colonial to modern chic – 'deluxe patio' (or standard rooms) overlook the interior patio and are less desirable. If budget allows, upgrade to a suite – from the wraparound balcony to mahogany interior, they're spectacular.

Hotel Saint John's

Although this hotel in Havana's verdant Vedado section of town has a great location and is walking distance from the Malecón, it has seen better days. The 86 rooms are pretty well worn and not all electrical outlets, faucets or lights may be working. But there's a small rooftop pool, the famous Pico Blanco disco on the top floor, and some rooms have sea views, which allows many guests (especially students and younger travellers, who favour this place) to overlook the shabbiness.

Park View Hotel

A great location combines with a nice price to make the Park View a perennial favourite. Close to both the famous Museo de la Revolución and the exquisite Museo de Bellas Artes, this small Havana hotel provides a warm welcome to the city. Functional rather than fancy, rooms have air conditioning, satellite TV and a safe deposit box. The on-site restaurant has awesome city views and hotel staff are friendly.