Havana, Cuba - The Traveller


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Havana, Cuba

Havana – Leading Commercial Centre - Cuba

Havana city is the capital city of Cuba and a leading commercial centre as well as one of the fourteen provinces of the Republic of Cuba. The city extends westward and southward from the bay and is entered through a narrow inlet which divides into three main harbours namely Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Atares while the Almendares River travels across the city from south to north making its entry in the Straits of Florida a few miles towards the west of the bay.

It spans a total of 728.26 sq. km making it the largest city by area, the most populous city as well as the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region with a population of 2.1 million inhabitants.This city was founded in the 16th century by the Spanish and served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the continent.

 This was due to its strategic location and it became a stopping point for the treasure laden Spanish galleons on the crossing during the New World and the Old World. Havana was granted the title of City in 1592 by King Philip II of Spain. Many forts and walls were built in order to protect the old city and the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in 1898 in Havana’s harbour was the cause of the Spanish American War.

Centre of the Cuban Government 

Havana can be described as three cities in one namely Old Havana, Vedado and the new suburban districts where thecity is the centre of the Cuban government as well as home to several ministries, headquarters of businesses and above 90 diplomatic offices.

The city province had the 3rd highest income in the country in 2009 and its current mayor isMarta Hernandez from the Communist Party of Cuba. Before the Communist revolution, Havana seems to be one of the vacation spots of the Caribbean and after Cuba was reopened to the tourist in 1990, it turned out to be a popular destination.

The city draws over a million tourists every year and the Havana Official Census reports that in 2010, the city had around 1,176,627 international tourists which was a 20% increase from 2005. In 1982, the historic centre was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site while the city is also known for its history, culture monument and architecture.

Exploring Havana

The most convenient way of exploring Havana is by taxi where some of the taxis are old American Chevys from the 50s while others are somewhat new Russian Ladas and still others tourist taxis of modern Peugeots, Skoda and also Mercedes.

It is considered illegal for the tourist to ride in anything other than the official government taxis though it is a lot easier to wave down the old Chevys or Ladas. While riding in an illegal taxi, it is essential to negotiate the fare in advance and the fare for illegal taxis is not cheaper than the official taxi fare. Taking an illegal taxi around the city would not be a problem though it may be a cause for worry while taking an illegal taxi to or from the airport which may draw the attention of the police.

The old beaten up yank tanks with taxi sign on the roof or in the front window are the taxi collectivos and though tourist are not supposed to take them, they are fun and cheap options to the state run taxis. They tend to have set fares and run set routes.

Two Currencies –Cuban Peso/Cuban Convertible Peso

The fares may differ from 10 CUP for short run during the day to 20 CUP for a longer ride or during the night. The wait to get a taxi collective could be long since they are very popular with Cubans and are often full but the experience as well as the savings are worthwhile. A cheap way of getting around central Havana is through Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes.

Hiring a car could be an interesting experience since the road signs are not too good and some tourist recommend picking up hitchhikers and use their knowledge in getting around and explore the city. If intending to leave Havana, tourist should ensure to use an air conditioned jeep since normal cars would not be capable to cope up with the terrain of the road. It is difficult to enter Cuba by sea, due to political circumstances and visiting mariners should make advance arrangements to enter the port in order to avoid any problem. Besides, several ports are closed to unauthorised visitors.

Cuba has two currencies, such as the Cuban Peso – CUP and the Cuban Convertible Peso – CUC where most of the tourist use the CUC for most of their purchases, taxis, hotels and other activities. CUC was created to replace all the US dollars which were used in the tourist industry till late1990.Havana is an interesting destination filled with plenty of intriguing sites to visit and explore.

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