Nightlife in Havana on a Budget?

Partying in Havana does not have to be a difficult if you are traveling on a budget. In the city there are clubs, bars and activities for every budget and you don’t have to stick to peso bars for it.
Here are some ideas for a great night out without having to spend a fortune:
  1. The Malecón
Do what local Habaneros do and grab some beers, a bottle of rum or if you are really on a tight budget a planchado (0,3 cl tetra packs of rum for 0,90$)  and go to the Malecón. The famous sea front fills up with people at night, especially on weekends. The area around the Hotel Nacional or the Hotels Melia Cohiba or Riviera(Malecón y Paseo) are popular spots to meet old and new friends. In august the Malecón is also the place where Havana’s carnival is hold.
  1. La Casa Balear (23 y G)
At the crossing of the streets 23 and G (or Avenida de los Presidentes) there is a big yellow mansion called la Casa Balear, like the Spanish islands. This place is a cultural centre with activities on the weekends, in particular on Sunday afternoons, but it also a bar with almost the cheapest mojitos (15 CUPs)  in city. The bar is a popular place for young Cubans to hang out with friends and a have a couple of drinks. Although crowded on weekends during the week it is a quiet place to hang out and get some drinks.
  1. Free concerts
If you are lucky enough to be in Havana during the beginning or the end of summer holidays (July/September) you have the chance to be part of some free activities, like the concerts around the university (Vedado L & San Lazaro). For the start and the end of the semester, also to other occasions, there is a big concert on the stairs of the university. Usually the places gets crowded and the groups that play are quite famous. Ask around for the exact dates.
  1. Happy Hours
The concept of Happy Hours found it’s way to Havana as well and there are a few bars around the city that have great offers. There are Bars like the Bohemio (Vedado Calle 14 esq. 19) that offer two drinks for the price of one on Friday nights and you can enjoy a really nice atmosphere. Other locations with a Happy Hour are the Bar Esencia ( Calle B e/ Línea y Calzada), also on Friday nights or the Art Pub (Teniente Rey #306 e/ Aguacate y Compostela ), until 6pm.
Many Bars in the Old Havana have Happy Hours until the evening or nighttime, so move the cocktail hour to the afternoon and stick with beers at the Malecón or the Casa Balear at nights.
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Some food related tips for Cuba

I already wrote some posts about Cuban Food and dishes you should try while you are here. This post is more about food in Cuba in general and provides some tips for your trip.
If you are a Vegetarian be aware that a trip to Cuba could be a little boring food wise. In this post you can find more information about that.
Here some food related tips for your trip:
  1. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
I know, at home you are used to go one supermarket to get all your groceries from meat and bread to vegetables and yogurt. Well Cuba is a little different: Fresh fruits and vegetables you can only find on farmers markets or buy from street vendors, not in supermarkets. But they are fresh and locally cultivated and yes, mostly organic!
Try mangos and avocados in Summer and Tomatoes and Mamey during Winter.
Some big farmers Markets are in:
19 y B in the Vedado
17 y K, also Vedado
 Mercado de Egidio, in Egidio y Corales, Old Havana
Those are just some examples. Big markets close on Mondays but you can still go to smaller ones.
  1. Big Portions
Cubans love to eat and to eat a lot. So a important criteria for a good restaurant from a local point of view is that the portions are big. It is perfectly normal to ask for a doggy bag to the rest of the food back home.
  1. Sugar
Sugar in Cuba counts almost as basic nutrition and if you love sweetness Cuba will be your place. So be aware that sweets are a little sweeter than you might be used to.
Make a stop in a Dulcería and try some pastries or get in line at Coppelia and have some ice cream.
  1. Drinks and Food
Cubans are used to have their drinks with their food. Usually     you will be asked if you want the drinks first or with the food: para ahora o con la comida?
 
  1. Restrooms 
Not directly food related but good to know: not all places have bathrooms, usually cafeterias do not have any. 
WHERE to eat?
There are different types of places to eat in Cuba, for different tastes and budgets:
 
Official
First of all, there are state owned restaurants. They can vary a lot in terms of price and quality of food and service. 

Paladares
Paladares are restaurants owned and run by private persons. Now the main restaurants and the high quality ones are private. Thanks to those places the Cuban food gained his former variety again, also the decoration and presentation of the places and dishes are usually more special. Normally better chefs work in a Paladar.
Of course there are bad ones as well.

Cafeterias
The Cafeterias are the Cuban alternative to international fast food chains. Since 2013 Cubans have the possibility to be auto employed and open small businesses so in the last years a lot of people opened their own small fast food places. Most Cafeterias are a lot cheaper than Restaurants and serve fast food or Cuban dishes for small Prices. Typical fast food are pizzas, burgers and sandwiches. Most of the bakeries and Cafés are also private run.

 
WHEN to eat? 
 
In Cuba people eat when they are hungry. Usually they have  a big a lunch and dinner, but there is no special time for time for it. 
 
For More Infos about Cuban Food and a huge list of restaurants, Bars and Cafeterias you find in my guid, available on Amazon or directly here : 
Avoid bad experiences and discover Cuban food at its best! 

Havana on a Budget- Taking the Bus

As I mentioned in some posts before, traveling Cuba on a budget can be a bit tricky, but it is not impossible.
Havana is the best place to stay on a budget because you many options. Here you have hostels and a lot of options to eat good but not expensive. In other areas, especially touristic towns and popular locations, you might have to look longer for such things, but they exist.
Moving around will affect your budget a lot and is yet one of the best chances to safe money. In Havana there are a lot possibilities to move around. The cheapest would be walking, but it is a big city and you can not walk everywhere .
A little more expensive than walking is taking the bus, or “guagua”, but really just a little. A bus ride cots 40cts from the CUP. Just be aware that if you pay with 1CUP you will not get any change back, usually and bigger bus stops there are people who change the coin to cents.
Some buses are really crowded, so always try to catch them during the first stops.
A great way to get around a little faster and still see something of the city are the P- Metro buses.
You could even safe on your city tour if you take rides on the P4 or the PC and discover less touristic areas if you take the P3.
Keep in mind that at the bus stations you should always ask for the last person in line: el Ultimo.
Have fun discovering Havana by bus.mapa-lineas-metrobus-habana

Colorful Fusterlandia

Imagine your home as a tourist attraction, you’ll get a lot of visitors from all around the world. Of course there has to be a reason why a home can be an attraction at the same time, or somebody famous lives or lived there or somebody has turned his home to something different.
That is what the artist José Antonio Rodríguez Fuster did. Fuster, who lives and works in Havana’s neighborhood Jaimanitas started to decorate his home and parts of the neighborhood with mosaic and sculptures. That project grew over the years and is now one very interesting and less known attraction in city.
Located in a less touristic area but easy to reach by taxi, route taxi or bus, Fusterlandia is a different experience of Art and community project.
Each part of the main house and the surroundings tells his own story. You can find sculptures and painting about Cuban history, culture and identity but also about other countries and personal lives of the people living close by.
The place feels like a huge playground of fantasy and things to discover. The ride there takes you through some beautiful parts of Havana and combines well with a visit to K’chos studio at the Paradero de Playa. YoloIMG_0089.JPG