Yes, there are the old American cars, the rum and the cigars, but it goes deeper than that for the Cheap and Deep crew. A growing tourist destination still firmly rooted in socialism, Cuba has two currencies — the tourist peso, CUC and the Cuban peso, Moneda Nacional.
In addition to a roughly 24 to 1 exchange rate with the U.S. dollar, Moneda Nacional is the ultimate for a cheap and authentic trip. Getting to Havana requires some creativity but once you make it down, here’s an inside look at one of the last taboo destinations on the planet.
Baseball is in Cuba’s blood,Havana is home to one of the country’s best teams: Industriales. The team plays at legendary Estadio Latinoamericano, arguably the loudest baseball stadium in the world. You’ll have to use CUC (the tourist peso) here, but with each ticket costing 3 CUC, no one is complaining.
Getting around Havana is easy
Havana has an intricate bus system. Score a transit map from a hotel and ride almost anywhere in the city. The bus, known locally as “La Guagua,” only accepts Moneda Nacional, so bring coins and expect to pay no more than 5 cents.
Be smart with your valuables and backpacks, the Guaguas are packed.
Havana is full of cheap eatsThe restaurant Toke is a great introductory course. Check out the spot’s takeout window on the side of the restaurant and grab Cuba’s marquee dish, ropa vieja, for just over a dollar (35 Moneda Nacional).
If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, they also offer amazing pork burgers for 25 Moneda Nacional. Did somebody say garlic and sweet potato chips?
If you’re not drinking rum, you’re doing it wrongRoll up to Bar Silvia in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, and take a generous shot of Cuban rum for three Moneda Nacional (about 15 cents). This triangle-shaped bar sits at a bustling crossroad of pickup baseball games and street vendors, and even though the rum isn’t Cuba’s best, it still beats anything in the U.S.
Make yourself a local favorite and buy the bar a round for a buck.
The best nightlife in Havana isn’t in a club
The best night life is actually on the street. El Malecon runs along the city’s Atlantic seawall, and provides the liveliest hangout in Havana. This is where Cuba goes when the sun goes down.
Grab a bottle of Havana Club and some cola for 5 CUC (5 bucks) and head down to the party. Prepare for impromptu salsa dancing, music, street food and lots of new friends looking to practice their English.
See it all from Hotel Nacional’s patio
The iconic hotel sits on a bluff overlooking El Malecon, the Atlantic and much of Havana proper. Time it right and see the sunset or sunrise, or check out the old bunkers that once protected the city from foreign invasion. Nacional is expensive, but lucky for you, the views are free.
Casas Particulares are Cuba’s version of the bed and breakfast
At La Antonia near the University of Havana, expect to pay 25 CUC a night, have access to a full bath, kitchenette, TV, full size bed and a breakfast in the morning.
In addition, the rooftop restaurant and bar are a great food option. Can’t beat it.
Find out how today’s Cuba was born
Visit the Museo de la Revolucion in Havana’s Centro neighborhood. Once the old presidential palace, the museum costs 6 CUC and provides access to an array of incredible revolutionary artifacts. From the bullet holes in the wall to the boat Fidel smuggled his revolutionaries across the Caribbean, there is no shortage of amazing for any culturehead.
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