I thought I was going to get ass raped the first time I wandered into The Old Town seeking accommodation here. However, I sharp realised this was the safest place I’d felt in all of the Americas.
Here’s why you’ll feel at home backpacking Havana. I’m not sure why, but after checking into a lovely casa and doing the usual settling: Internet; maps.me; food; exploring plan, I felt right at home. I was here with my Spanish cousin who’d flew out for a few weeks. Ideal as she speaks Spanish, believe it or not.
It’s a little like Harry Potter in Cuba, every place that will give you accommodation has this weird mark that looks like it belongs in the mysterious corridors of Hogwarts. Our casa was a cracking place with a roof-top-garden, now we’re talking! A TRX area! If you’re looking for a hostel we called into Casa Habana blues. It was a charming little place, quiet and the owners were really nice. If you want more of a louder, social vibe we had a great night at Hostel Corazon del Mundo meeting up with a friend.
I’d heard Cuba was a non-stop party of music and rum and I was down with that. One small thing fucked that though. Fiddel died the night before we arrived, selfish bugger. So music and alcohol were banned for two weeks. I mean why ban something like music and alcohol when you want to celebrate someone’s life and drown your sorrows, mental. Anyway it meant we decided this was going to be a heavy adventure of exploring and making the most of not being hungover for a change.
The Old Town
As I wandered around the old town I couldn’t turn a corner without a without taking a great photo. The place is like what a Hollywood old town movie set wishes it was. Old buildings with Jumanji growing out of them mixed in with ornate architecture and bright colour.
We wandered along the Mahon, the road along the water, visited the castle, spent an entire day exploring the nooks and crannies of the old town, visited the art museum via a 3 wheel mo-ped and went to Fiddels ceremony in the main square. That was an experience. All were within walking distance.
You have to hand it to the Cubans, They’re chilled as F*. Their country has learnt to survive on its own and unite through hardship. For that reason, they don’t pester you but embrace you. We found loads of restaurants for dinner, healthy, cheat meals, pizzas, the works all over the old town and marked them off as we past to return to later in the eve.
The real joy
Regardless of the many blogs I read on where to go and what to do in Havana, I’ll be honest, I found the real joy of this place just wandering getting lost and chatting to the locales. So sod all I write, bugger off and get lost.
- Stay in the Old Town
- If you’re looking for a hostel we called into Casa Habana blues. It was a charming little place, quiet and the owners were really nice. If you want more of a louder, social vibe we had a great night at Hostel Corazon del Mundo meeting up with a friend.
- Get your visa at the airport if flying from Mexico, you can buy it at the terminal desks
- Take your time choosing the right casa. Meet the owners and ask them about the food and what they can cook. Look at the rooms and bathroom before committing
- Walk along the coastline, the Mahon
- Wander all of the old town
- Grab snacks such as nuts and tuna (protein protein macros macros) when you can
- Drink Cuba Libre till it comes out your eyes
- Approach the locals and ask/take an interest in their history they’ll love you for it
- Visit the galleries, churches, port and castle
- Visit the monuments to Fidel
- Grab a drink in a hotel to use their WIFI
- Grab a ride to anywhere in the old American muscle cars. Find a group who are going in the same direction and grab a guy at the coach station if the buses are full
- Get ripped off by expensive tourist traps and restaurants
- The locals cook amazing meals and a quick Trip Advisor search will reveal hidden gems
- Wander late at night out of the main city areas. Whilst it is friendly drug problems still exist here
- Get stuck in a bar with Americans
Tips for healthy eats
- Fruit stalls are easy to find and your casa host can make you a decent breakfast for a small additional fee if not included in your accommodation price so I would take advantage of that.
- You won’t be able to pick up food very easily here from supermarkets as they’re few and far between and sell limited things.
- You’ll find the locals selling all sorts out of their lounge windows. I’d often get an oat bowl with fruit and a Spanish omelette for next to nothing.
- Unless you eat out, and sometimes even when you do, there aren’t many vegetables available in Havana so I’d advise taking a green powder here and your own green tea bags or mate (checkout my video review of why mate is so good for your health and fitness here)
How to get meat for that protein hit
- Carry nuts and grab omelettes here and there for your protein hits. Chicken is the staple BBQ meat found in most places. Evenings are easy as the restaurants offer a wide variety.
- Your casa host will fill you for breakfast and dinner upon your return for a little extra dollar. I bought cans of tuna when I could find a local shop, which was rare.
- They’re generous with meat, especially chicken. When eating out on an eve they gave a healthy leg or breast of about 40g of chicken.
- Use your BCAA and Glutamine supp tablets when you can’t find a decent meal, they’re key to tie those aching hungry muscles over. Normally this is around lunchtime as it’s hard to stumble upon a good lunch spot that will give you a large helping of protein unless you’re willing to pay tourist fees at hotels.
Where to exercise
I hunted out casa’s that had roof top areas or little open courtyards/back gardens. I spent many a cool morning or late eve exercising looking over the city or with green cigar hills as my background in Vinales.