My first official of my Cuba Trip 2024 has begun.

It took awhile to get here but I had finally arrived in downtown Havana.

It was a 40 minute taxi ride coming from the airport and I really regret not learning Spanish as I really would have loved to have a conversation with my cabbie instead of just sitting there in silence watching the city go by.

That has to be goal #1 before I head to Central or South America again.

Do I need to know Spanish to get by?   No, of course not.   Plenty of people speak English and with Google Translate in the palm of your hand, there’s always ways to communicate.

I just really want to be able to have an authentic conversation in Spanish.

My casa

Now, you may have noticed that I’ve called the place I’m staying at both a hostel and a casa.   In Cuba, there really aren’t any hostels.

There’s are dozens, if not hundreds, of places to stay for tourists that are called casa particulares.   It’s kind of a cross between a hostel and a Airbnb.

You’re staying in someone’s home but with multiple people in multiple rooms.

The place I’m staying at here in Havana, Club 58, is located right in the edge of the old part of Havana near the waterfront (or Malecon).

Out of the four different casas I’ll be staying at on this trip, this one is probably the most like a hostel as any.

It has multiple dorm rooms and with a front desk, it has a hostel feel to it.

The place is $10usd a night including breakfast.

One thing I noticed while checking in was the abundance of mosquitos flying around.   This was something I was totally unprepared for and I actually starting scratching my legs as I was going through the checkin process.

I was staying in a small room with 3 other people and, boy, was it humid in there.   There was a loud dehumidifier on full blast and an aircon unit on the wall turned off.

I asked my roomie if it worked and he said it was broken.

All good, man.   This was expected.   This was Cuba.

Oh yeah, there also weren’t any towels, no soap in the bathroom and no toilet seat.

Viva Cuba!

Out and about

After I had gotten settled, despite being up for 22 hours at this point, I had realized the obvious.

There was no way I was going to be taking a nap right now in that hot muggy room.

As I had entered the hostel, I had noticed a nice breeze coming off the waterfront just outside the front entrance.

I just wanted to sit there for awhile I cool off.

And, now, I had a big smile on my face.

I was here.   I was exploring a country I had long wanted to explore and I was just sitting here without a care in the world.

I went down the street to a small nondescript store that Dalia, the woman at the front desk, had told me would sell mosquito spray.

Sure enough, amongst all the bottles of rum, there was a shelf with different goods for sale and one of them was the coveted mosquito spray.


It was now 3:30 in the afternoon and, I don’t know if I had previously mentioned, but I was starving.

In the last 24 hours I had only eaten a couple of hotdogs and I was ready for a real plate of food.

There are two different ways you can experience Cuban cuisine.

You can live on the peso food which is cheap food like pizzas or hamburgers.   There are dozens of places scattered around the city with small menu boards hanging outside their window.   You go up to the window, order the food, and eat it on the go.

Think of it as drive through windows but walking instead.

Anyway, this is where you get the cheap stuff but, of course, it ain’t that good.   We’re talking pizza as tomato sauce on toast topped with melted cheese.

This is where Cuba gets their reputation for having horrible food.

When I was planning out this trip, I made a point of finding nice restaurants around the cities that I could visit and mapping them out on my offline map app (

Meals here would be in the $15-$30 range which, by Cuban standards, is uber expensive as, after all, the average monthly salary here is just $20.

For little old me though, I was willing to splurge on these.   After all, eating and trying different foods has always been a huge thing for me while I travel and I decided this trip would be no different.

I headed to a little place less than 5 minutes away from me called La Baernesa.

And lunch was…

Grilled chicken with veggies and rice.

Oh my God, that chicken melted in my mouth.   So good!

The service was nice too.   It was just an all around nice experience and it was nice to just relax and sit there on the patio watching Cuba life unfold in front of me.

Of course as the food came out, so did the stray cats.   Poor little guys.

Walking the Malecon

At 5:30 I decided I’d walk part or the Malecon which is the expansive 8km waterfront walkway that goes from my end in Old Havana to the more affluent Vedado neighborhood further down.

It didn’t take but a minute before someone approached me all friendly – “hey friend, where are you from?”

This was expected.   Yes, the people here are friendly but there’s alot of them that will approach tourists all friendly before eventually trying to either beg you for money or offer you their services as a guide or driver.

I was open to the first guy.   We had a nice conversation and when he offered me a tour tomorrow I told him I already had one planned but have a great night and I’ll see you later.

By the fifth guy, it was annoying.

Trying to make fake small talk about how it’s cold in Canada (yup, each person pointed that out when they found out I was from Canada) while anticipating their eventual query for services/money was exhausting.

Honestly, I just wanted to walk along the Malecon by myself taking in the experience of being here in Cuba.

After the last guy literally followed me down for 15 minutes and didn’t take the hint at my short answers to his questions, I finally just said “hey, I’m trying to be nice here but I need you to stop following me”.

Again, it was expected but, man, it was exhausting.

By now the sun an hour had passed and the sun was going down.

Time for dinner.

More food, more cats

It was 7pm as I headed back to the hostel to take a shower.   While I didn’t have a towel, I did have an extra bed sheet they had given me and, well, you do what you have to do, ya know.

Oh, and the a/c my roomie told me was broken.   Yeah, it wasn’t broken.   They just couldn’t find the remote.

But we found it and now there was a nice breeze coming through the room.


After the shower I felt so much better.

It was now 8pm, I had been up for 28 hours, and it was time to eat.

I actually went back to the same place I had gone to earlier to try a couple different dishes.

For dinner I had a caprese salad to start followed by shrimps in garlic with rice.

Oh and a trio of cats intensely watching me eat.

In total my bill was 3500 pesos ($14) and I left a 700 peso tip.   While I don’t think the tipping culture is completely non-existent, I’m pretty sure they’re not used to 20% tips so leaving it made me feel good and hopefully them too.

And that was my first day in Havana.

By 9pm I was crashed in bed.   A long day had finally come to an end.

Welcome to Cuba!

Cuba Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Havana, Cuba
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