Havana City (Spanish Ciudad de la Habana) is the capital city of Cuba, and one of the fourteen provinces of the Republic of Cuba.
In the 1950s before the Communist revolution, Havana was one of the vacation hot-spots of the Caribbean, and since Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, it has become a popular destination once again. Albeit with many fewer U.S. citizens, due to an almost total ban on travel maintained by the U.S. federal government. However, there will be lots of tourists at any time of year, so expect huge crowds and long lines in places.
Cuba has two currencies, the Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). Most tourist will be using the CUC for all purchases, hotels, taxis and activities. The CUC was created to replace all the US$ that was used in the tourist industry until the late 1990s.
For more information check the section on Money in the Cuba article.
Jose Marti International Airport (IATA: HAV) has three separate terminals. Terminal 1 is for internal (domestic) flights, Terminal 2 is mainly for charter flights from the USA and Terminal 3 is used for all other international flights.
Customs officials can be very strict, and will probably snoop out any suspicious electronics or other items. Customs officials and immigration officials also work slowly and baggage reclaim is very slow, so expect a very long wait when entering the country.
The local airline, Cubana de Aviación offers a good service, and if you want to travel from the Caribbean region, you can use CaribbeanJet  or CubaJet  (information and bookings available online).
Most trains in eastern Cuba have been suspended due to poor track conditions. Only the following trains were operating to Havana in September 2007. All services run on alternate days only.
Since these trains run every other day (when they are operating at all), you will need to confirm in advance that they are running on the day you wish to travel.
There is also the Hershey electric train running several times a day between Havana and Matanzas. The Hershey train cars are very dilapidated and will only appeal to the most die-hard train enthusiasts. The trip takes a minimum of four hours regardless of what the schedule says, and you will be standing since most of the seats are broken.
Hiring a car in Cuba will cost you from 33 to 106CUC per day. The car will have a special tourist plate, which means you will be required to give generous tips every time you park your car in a crowded place. Taking into account the all-around unreliability of Cuban transport, hiring a car can be the right choice for those who don't want any hassle whatsoever. Please keep in mind that picking up hitchhikers is almost a moral obligation for the "aware" tourist, especially when travelling between cities. Picking up a hitchhiker can be the best way to arrive to your destination without getting lost. CarrentaCuba.com  is a useful resource, you can select your car, check availability, and book online.
Viazul  operates an inter-city coach service to/from most major destinations including Camagüey, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Sancti Spiritus, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Varadero and Viñales. The main Viazul bus terminal is 3km southwest of central Havana. Departing buses also stop at the central (Astro) bus terminal, but arriving buses do not. If you are using the central bus terminal, you buy tickets and wait for the bus in a separate air-conditioned office near the west entrance of the terminal. Schedules are posted on the Viazul website.
Astro can get you from Havana to almost anywhere in Cuba.
Due to political circumstances, it is difficult to enter Cuba by sea. Visiting mariners need to make arrangements in advance of entering port to avoid difficulties. Also, most ports are closed to unauthorised visitors.
As a tourist, the most convenient way of getting around Havana is by taxi. Some of the taxis are old American Chevys from the 1950's, others are (somewhat) newer Russian Ladas, whilst most tourist taxis are modern Peugeots, Skodas and even Mercedes.
It is illegal for tourists to ride in anything other than the official government taxis. However, its is often easier to wave down one of the old Chevys or Ladas. When riding in an illegal taxi, negotiate the fare ahead of time. The fare in illegal taxis will be no cheaper than the official taxi fare. Around the city, taking illegal taxis should be no problem. However, taking an illegal taxi to or from the airport may attract the attention of the police.
Taxi collectivos are the old, beaten-up yank-tanks with a taxi sign on the roof or in the front window. Tourists are not supposed to take them, but you will rarely run into problems and they are a fun and cheap alternative to the state-run taxis. They have set fares and run set routes, so you may need some assistance when taking them the first few times. Fares vary from 10 CUP for a short (5 km) run during the day to 20 CUP for a longer run or at night. The drivers are generally honest regarding the fares, but it is best not to appear oblivious by asking how much at the end of the trip. Always watch what the other passengers give and if in doubt give 10 CUP, and if he asks for another 10 then hand it over. There can be a long wait trying to get a taxi collectivo as they are very popular with Cubans and often full, but the experience and savings make it worthwhile.
The cheapest taxi company in Havana by far is Panataxi. These are usually yellow or white Ladas with a red sign (recently they have also added yellow Peugeots) and are worth waiting for to save a few dollars. Panataxi will take you to the airport on the meter, if you ask, for around 12 CUC from Central Havana.
Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes, are a cheap way of getting around central Havana.
In the past Havana had a public transportation service called the El Camello, a split-level bus pulled by a semi-truck, and resembling a 2 humped camel (thus the name). Camellos finished operation in April 2008 and were replaced by modern city buses imported from China.
The cost of riding the new city bus is 1 national peso to anywhere in the city (the driver will not give you change). Expect some overcrowding, there are plenty of buses running though, so if the one you want is full simply wait for the next one. There are few clearly marked bus stops on route, but its clear where they stop usually as you will have other waiting at the side of the road.
Other local buses can also get crowded, but in the suburbs they are a practical means of transport for visitors.
Hiring a car can be an interesting experieince as the road signs are not particularly good. Some travelers suggest picking up hitchhikers and utilizing their local expertise to get you where you want to go.
Cycling can be a great way to get around Cuba. There are a number of international tour companies  that offer guided tours, the most popular is from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. If you are traveling in February and March avoid the west to east approach as the trade winds are tough to cycle against.
Walking around Havana is by far the best way to see and experience the city, get a decent map of the city and discover new sights on foot.
Nearly every restaurant and hotel in town has a decent house band playing old favorites.
Havana is a surprisingly expensive city to stay in; if you stay in hotels and eat in restaurants it can work out to be nearly as expensive as other popular international destinations. The problem is that Cuba has a dual economy, if you could live on pesos it would be incredibly cheap. Sadly, as a tourist this is virtually impossible. Most peso hotels won't take foreigners or, if they do you have to pay in CUC. If you are on any kind of a budget it is advised to stay in casas particulares; it is much cheaper, often more comfortable and the food (a recurring theme in Cuba) is almost invariably better.
ATMs are not too hard to find in downtown Havana, but bear in mind that American credit- and debit-cards can not be used in Havana. Note that even credit cards issued in countries other than the USA may be issued by a bank whose parent company is a U.S. corporation. In this case, the card will not work as the parent company is bound by U.S. law. Even banks wholly owned by non-American companies may have a policy on blocking Cuban transactions in order not to compromise their US business. Always check with your bank or credit card company before leaving home to see if your card will work in Havana. Also, the ATMs do not accept MasterCard/Maestro but are marked to accept Visa.
You can withdraw money from your MasterCard in a couple of exchange offices. There is one in the basement of the Hotel Nacional, but expect quite steep service fees.
Exchanging US dollars in a CADECA (Casa de cambio) will incur a 10% penality.
Whilst Convertible Peso restaurants can be quite expensive at the top end for rather mediocre food some such as the Café de Oriente have splendid ambiance. The average government run restaurants are about US$20 for two.
Peso stalls are all over the city, particulary on Prado Marti.
Some restaurants like Hanoi, in Calle Brasil, offer generous meals for 5CUC.
With Cuban national pesos, you can get ice cream for only 1 peso (US$0.04) in small street booths scattered around the city. You can also get a filling bocadito (small ham sandwiches) or a cajita (small meal in a cardboard box) for less than 20 pesos (US$0.80), or a "pizza" for 7-10 pesos (US$0.40).
Particularly, the Terminal de Omnibus, by the Plaza de la Revolucion, has a very good peso cafe with offerings as fried chicken for only 25 pesos ($1.00 USD).
Keeping your eyes open you can find complete menus (starter or salad, soup, main dish, dessert and a national beverage) for 6-10CUC. In the Vieja there are such restaurants in the smaller, not very crowded streets.
There are many good, mid-priced restaurants in Chinatown. "Bavaria" is one of the best, if you can picture a restaurant named after a German province, pronounced like "barbaria," with Chinese decor, serving pizzas and spaghetti!
The restaurants inside 5 star hotels tend to charge excessive amounts of money for mediocre food and service. Other places such as the Floridita do live up to the customer's expectations considering the price.
Probably the most interesting restaurant in the country is La Guarida. It occupies a flat in what was once an elegant private city mansion and what is today a decaying set of communal apartments. To get the restaurant you must walk thru the stunning yet decaying mansion and past people’s flats. The food is probably the best in Havana, the setting is great and surreal. Its worth making the effort as its the only restaurant in the country at a trully international standard. This flat was also the setting for Cuba’s internationally acclaimed movie Fresa y chocolate. About $40 per person. Reservations essential and should be made two to three days in advance. +53 7 866 9047
All the tourist hotels serve breakfast, typically a buffet with a wide variety of good food, although overpriced (15 CUC at the Hotel Nacional!). If you stay in a casa particular ask whether you'll be served breakfast. If not, ask the landlord/lady to take you shopping. Otherwise there's almost no hope of finding a restaurant open for breakfast. One exception is the Chan Li Po Bar-Cafeteria, open at 9AM, in Centro Habana, near Chinatown, at Perseverancia #453 (between Zanja and San Martin).
You can have a great time just outside of the Hotel Inglaterra near the Capitólio Building, drinking good daiquiri's and mojito's at an affordable price (2CUC in September 2005).
There are 3 main areas that travelers generally stay in: Old Havana is the liveliest (some would say hectic and dirty), Central Havana is slightly quieter and parts can be a bit seedy, and Vedado is the quietest with more greenery, and is the place to find the large hotels and nicer casas particulares.
Hotels vary. Don't be surprised if you have no hot water and bad TV-reception in a hotel that still goes to the effort of having an in-hotel doctor and hosting extravagant shows of synchronized swimming in the hotel pool.
List of Casas particulares Legal
The city code for Havana is 7. Prefix with 0 or 01 when calling from within Cuba.
Internet cafes can be found at ETESCA (the state telephone company) offices, in Hotel Habana Libre, Hotel Inglatera (cheapest but slowest), Hotel Nacional and at the Capitolio.
The emergency number is 116. The information number is 113.
Havana is quite safe for a large city. Being a totalitarian police state, the first thing you will notice is that there are police on (almost literally) every corner. Popular tourist places (Habana Vieja, El Malecón etc.) are watched even more closely by policemen, so you don't have to be afraid of being attacked in the daytime. At night, however, there have been muggings in the dark streets of Centro Habana. While Centro Habana is perfectly safe to explore in the daytime and can safely be crossed while going to Habana Vieja or Vedado, its best not to cut through there at night. If you are going to walk, do so along the malecon where there is lighting and a lot more people. Be wary of hustlers (jinteros/as) offering to show you a place to eat or offering a tour of the city as you'll be stuck paying hefty prices to cover their commission. For the first timer in Cuba they are a real pain. Just keep walking away and soon enough they will leave you alone. Ask for menus or prices before ordering anything. There can be special 'tourist price menus' that get pulled out after you have consumed food or drink.
Embassies and High Commissions