Today was my first full day in Havana.   I have three full days here before I head to Vinales and other cities.   I’ll be back here again for 2 nights at the end of my trip.

I have things marked out on my map, but honestly, there’s not alot of “must see” things here in Cuba.   It’s more of a “wander through the streets and take in the Cuban laid back life” kind of trip.

With that said, three days is alot of time to be here but I’m cool with it.

There is a free walking tour company here called Strawberry Tours that actually does three different walking tours so the plan is to go on one of them each day and as for the rest of the day, well, I’m just gonna eat and hang out.

I’m in Cuba after all.   It’s laid back and relaxed here.

The three tours are the Cuban Revolution tour, a food tour and, the one I did today, the Essentials tour around Old Havana.

Up early

Remember how I said we got the a/c working in the room?   Well, I went to bed at 9pm last night, and by midnight it was freezing in the room.

So, we turned it off.

Fast forward to 5am and it was now hot and humid in the room as it’s a small room with no windows or real ventilation.

Let’s just say I had a “scattered” sleep last night.

I got out of bed at 5:30 to the sound of rain falling on the metal roofing in the common area just outside my room.

I spent a little over an hour putting together yesterday’s blog but, as it’s Cuba, nothing’s easy.

You see, I have a sim card on my phone so I have data but the signal doesn’t reach into the hostel at times of the day.   As for the wifi here, it works in the common area but doesn’t reach into my room.

So, it’s 5:30am and I want to write a blog.

Can’t go outside for my sim card data to work cause it’s raining.   Also, can’t sit in the common area for the free wifi cause, well, it’s raining and the roof is leaking all over the place.

Ha ha.   Well, this sucks.

I finally just walked upstairs to an unused room close enough to the wifi zone in the hostel to get enough of a signal to pump out yesterday’s blog.

There’s always a solution…

I was done the blog by 7:30 and there still was no one up and about in the hostel so I went back to bed until I heard 80s music playing in the common area an hour later.

The staff was up preparing breakfast.   Good as time as any to get outta bed.


Dalia, the woman who works here, had remembered I couldn’t eat bread and brought me out my breakfast without bread which I thought was a nice touch.

Breakfast was black bean soup and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.   Not the typical breakfast I’m used to back home but I’m all for new things and having black bean soup at 8am is definitely new.

At the breakfast table I met Lee from China and Fergel from Luxembourg.

Fergel went on his own way after breakfast but I talked Lee, who is only here for the one day, to come with me on the 10:30 walking tour.

Essentials Walking Tour

Well, I’m glad I talked Lee into coming with me because we were the only two there for the free walking tour.   There were 4 others but they opted for another guide offering the tour in Spanish.

Our guide was Gollo (pronounced goy-yo) and, because it was just the three of us, we got a much more intimate tour than you’d normally get.

We were able to ask any questions that came to mind as we walked the streets through Old Havana and Gollo would take the time to answer each one in depth.

It actually was one of the most informative tours I’ve been (and I’ve been on alot).

Here’s some tidbits I learned during the tour:

Bodegas:   Cuban residents get allotted a certain amount of pesos and food items each month in their books that they can use at bodegas which are basically government run stores.   If they run out of goods, as they do often because it’s not enough to last a month, they can purchase additional items at private stores.

Private stores:   There are private stores all throughout the city.   Usually, it’s just somebody sitting on a stool outside their house selling things on a little table.   Where do they get these things?   Well, alot of it’s from the items they got at a bodega but at a marked up price.   While rice at a bodega costs 7pesos (3cents) for a pound, it’ll be marked up to 200 pesos (80cents) at a private store.

Avoiding demolition:   At one point many years ago, there was a plan to demolish a whole area of the city.   In order to avoid the demolition, many of the buildings actually removed their decorated facades to make the building appear “old” and “historic” and more desirable.

Gollo’s travels:   In hindsight, it should come as no surprise, but our guide has never traveled anywhere outside the country.   He’s never seen real shops, never experience the hustle and bustle of a major city, and never eaten at a McDonalds.

Population:   There are currently 11 million people living in Cuba with 3 1/2 million of them living in Havana.

Cannon balls:   A famous tourist attraction, the 9’oclock cannon, used to fire actual cannon balls but there were so many landing in the water outside the castle that they changed it to gun powder instead.   Back in the day, the cannon itself used to be used to alert everyone of the curfew around the city.

Go Canada!   Canada is the top group of tourists that visit this country each year.   Of course, many of them opt for the beach resort town of Veradado.   Near the top of the list is, surprisingly, Russian tourists.   During our tour today we came across another walking tour in Russian.

Cat lady:   As we were walking down the street, we came across a lady sitting on a curb feeding a group of a dozen or so cats from a big bag.   I smiled from ear to ear.   I also gave her 1000 pesos so there’d be plenty of cat food to go.


For lunch, I walked a further 10 minutes from the tour’s ending point deeper into the “real” Havana to a place, Jibaro, that I had also marked on my offline map.

I asked the waitress if she spoke any English and, as usual, she answered with “a little”.   I asked her about the menu and she proceeded to aptly describe each of the dishes.   Seems her “little” bit of English was pretty damn good.

I ended up having Mariscada which was a mixed of different seafoods in a tomato sauce.   The cost was 2300 pesos and I left a 500 peso tip so, all together, lunch was about $11.

A took a street back to my casa that I had marked an ice cream parlor on.   Yup, I deserved some ice cream!

I got my two scoops (480 peso, $2) and headed out the door.



No worries man!

I got all the time in the world!

I just stood under the stoop protected from the rain eating my ice cream and watching the rain pour down.

And then, as if serendipitous, the rain stopped as I was finished my last spoonful of ice cream.

Nap time

I got back to the hostel at 3:30 and I crashed.

I had been up so long yesterday and had woken up early this morning after an iffy sleep so I was pretty tired.

So tired that I actually didn’t wake up until the sun was long gone and it was 8pm.

Man, I needed that.

Of course, when I went back to bed tonight would be another question…

Dinner injuries

I headed out at 8:30 to grab some dinner at the place around the corner I went to last night.

I wasn’t but a block away, looking at my phone, when I stepped off a curb into an uneven sewer grate.


Yup, I banged up my knees pretty bad on this one.

Dinner would have to wait.   I needed to go back to the casa and clean and bandage myself up.

A quick fixup and, despite being a little worse for wear, I finally went to dinner.

Tonight it was a grilled pork chop with veggies and rice.   Oh, and a cuba libre, cause, ya know, when in Cuba…

I was weary of the ice in the drink but the owner told me he uses bottled water for his ice cubes so I felt safe with it.

By just after 9:00 I was back at the casa.

Rum and friends

I joined a table of people in the common room who were sitting and chatting.

There was Fernana and Rafael from Brazil and Jeremy from the UK.

The two Brazilians didn’t know each other before today were on their first day here in Havana and Jeremy, who’s an older man currently on a 3 year trip all over, had been in Cuba for a couple of weeks now.

We sat at the table drinking rum and having nice chats about Cuba and about traveling in general.

Telling my old stories brought back alot of great memories I’ve had while on the road and, honestly, whenever I talk about travel, my juices get flowing and I want to travel more.

By 1am, it was time for bed.

It was a great day and, except for the bandaged up knee caps, exactly how I envisioned my time here in Cuba.

Tomorrow, there’s another tour at 3:30 in the afternoon so the plan is to get some lunch, go on the tour, and then, I don’t know, see where the day takes me…

Cuba Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Havana, Cuba
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