Trip to Havana for one week in March 2010, stayed at the Parque Central Hotel - see separate review. At time of visit 1CUC ~ $1CAN (90c)  

Havana is a beautiful city very walkable and safe so stay downtown. The beach is a 20 minute ride away and worth getting to. There is a bus from Parque Central on the hour and half hour that goes to Playas del Este for 3CUC round trip. It also stops at the old fort across the river. If you get off at the Atlantico you can use the faciilites including food and drink for 25CUC  a day. You could also just walk onto the beach but there is no shade and no cafes about for food. A guy walks the beach with a cooler selling water though.

Inside the city be sure to visit the Museum of the Revolution - get the guided tour and Museum of Havana, they are both very informative. The Capitolio is also fantastic. Beware of a little scam: the room guides will allow you to see special areas - they are worth seeing but the tip to go in often raises the entrance fee to 15 -20CUC. Be prepared with tips as outlined above.

At night there are lots of great places to see. The cathedral square is beautiful. There are lots of bars with great Cuban music on Obispo, Club Tropicana was another worthwhile night out- get the 80CUC seats.

In the city the Necropolis was a highlight (5CUC from downtown) as was the old fort across the bay. A guided half day tour is a good idea on the first day to get your bearings and see what is worth coming back to.

Taxis are cheap and the drivers often speak a little English. Make sure to negociate the price before you get in.

The hotel Parque Central charged them at the front desk but is was a pain to take stuff down and leave it there.

Shopping is generally not very exciting. There is a big market at the docks that had the same souvenir stuff over and over. There was a gallery/store in old cathedral square that had nice, different things. Alcohol is dirt cheap, 2-4CUC for a basic bottle of rum. Cocktails range from 2-4CUC.  Drinking tap water was no problem as was eating out at a wide range of establishments from small cafes away from tourist areas to nice restaurants. 

The people of Cuba are oppressed and poor. Unfortunately this creates a situation in which ripping off tourists is very rewarding. There are many hucksters on the streets of Havana. They are non-violent but will try every trick in the book to scam you. One example is taking your CUC and giving you change in local pesos (with 24 times less). Another involves locals talking with you in the street and inviting you to sit and have a drink with them at a bar. The bar then pulls out the "official price list" and asks you to pay some extraordinary sum of money in order for you to leave. There are unlimited scams so be very wary of speaking to any locals in the streets of Havana. They almost always have an ulterior motive - to relieve you of your money. With the average wage approx $20 to $40 per month, ripping you off is very lucrative.

Toilets outside of the hotel were interesting, no seats and no toilet paper, we learned pretty quickly to carry some with us. There is sometimes a lady outside giving away 4 squares of toilet roll but not always. As usual a tip is expected!

COMMENT: The Parque Central caters to visitors from Europe, using 220 Voltage requiring the voltage adaptors. Most other hotels in Havana run on 110 Voltage, which is what isused in North America, so Canadians and Americans visiting Cuba should be able to use their electric appliances without an adaptor. The only issue with 110 voltage is that not all plugs are three pronged and grounded connections. Keep that in mind. While you may have had no problems drinking tap water at the hotel, it is wiser to take no chances in a tropical country and drink bottled water while you are in Cuba.