ViaHero · February 13, 2019
Only have one day in Havana? Just a stopover on a cruise? That’s still plenty of time to see Havana if you have a solid plan in place like a custom, independent Havana tour. All you need to do is stay organized.
Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know to discover Havana on your terms. Once you give the article a read, feel free to message us any questions directly. Planning Havana tours can feel overwhelming, but our locals are here with inside advice to make traveling to Cuba in 2019 easy and exciting.
You can travel independently in Havana—even on self-guided tours
Yes, you can travel independently in Cuba with a US passport—and it’s easy.
The only paperwork you need is a Cuban Tourist Card (sometimes called a visa). Airlines and cruise lines make it easy to get your Cuban visa through them, but you can also purchase one independently through a company like Easy Tourist Card.
After you’ve obtained your Cuban tourist card, a little careful planning will set you up for a successful trip to Cuba. Your Havana tour must include activities that comply with one of twelve authorized reasons for travel issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. For most travelers, it’s easy to comply with the Support for the Cuban People travel category. All you need to do is spend a portion of your time completing activities that directly benefit Cuban locals. Activities could include:
- Shopping at independent markets
- Taking dance classes
- Touring independently run museums
- Walking tours led by local guides
For the best Havana tour, get some local advice
Now that it’s clear that you can travel to Cuba independently, it’s time to get into the fun part of planning your time in Havana. A guidebook can help, as can articles from bloggers and travel companies. But planning is time-consuming and can be stressful, so we’d recommend chatting with a local to plan your tour.
First, match up with the best local for you (your Hero). Take our short quiz to find out which Cuba Heroes you share common interests with and select your favorite. Looking for a foodie tour? Book a foodie hero. Want to see the best art in Havana? Match with an art lover.
After you book, your Cuba Hero will set you up with everything you need for your Havana tour, including:
- Personalized guidebook
- Travel arrangements booked in advance (everything from lunch reservations to a taxi to pick you up at the port)
- Unlimited email and phone support
- Your own personal maps marked with all the places in your personalized guidebook
A few amazing things you can do on a quick Havana tour
#1: Ride around in a classic car
The classic car tour is popular for a reason: it’s a fantastic way to see the city. Companies and independent drivers offer tours lasting anywhere from one hour to ten hours. Longer tours might leave Havana, including stops for lunch or to visit historic sights, while shorter tours give you an awesome overview of Havana’s highlights.
#2: Learn all about rum (and drink some, too)
Tour the Museo del Ron (Museum of Rum) to learn how rum is made from start to finish. Then, sample one of Cuba’s most famous rums, Havana Club. If you want to try more rums or even learn to make Cuban-born rum-based cocktails like the mojito, ask a Cuban travel expert for recommendations.
#3: Take a salsa dancing class
Why just watch when you can learn? Salsa is one of many fun dances popular in Cuba today and teachers offer classes for all skill levels. Ask your Cuba Hero to find an introductory class for you, and for recommendations of bars with live salsa music where you can show off your new moves.
#4: Walk in Hemingway’s footsteps
Are you obsessed with all things Ernest Hemingway? Pair up with an equally obsessed Cuban local who can design a full day of Hemingway-themed activities just for you. Have a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio or a daiquiri at El Floridita. Head to the outskirts of Havana to visit Hemingway’s former home, Finca la Vigia, which is now a museum.