Everything To See, Eat & Do In Havana


Havana has been on my bucket list for the last year, so I took the plunge when I booked my first international solo trip.

With a lot of research and the help of Airbnb Experiences (and my amazing host family who are now my Cuban parents), I took on Havana like a seasoned international solo traveler. Well, okay that was until I ran out of cash and had to frantically call home only to later realize I tucked away extra cash in my suitcase.

Hopefully, this travel guide will answer your burning questions about planning a trip to the country (that is just 90 miles away from the US).

​First Things First:

U.S. debit and credit cards do not work in Cuba, so you'll have to bring cash with you to exchange at the airport. Your USD will be exchanged for CUC, which are equal to the dollar — so you won't have to do any additional math in your head. Since I booked all of my experiences and casa online, I only took $420 and after the fees, I was left $384. I did run out of money on my last day spending my last 25 CUC on my cab to the airport.

Taxis are everywhere, but be sure you barter especially on the streets of Havana. A ride to and from the airport is about the same as it costs in many American cities: $25-$30 depending on where you're going to Havana.

Havana streets are on a grid system. If you're from a city like New York, this will be easy for you to get used to.

Be sure to pack hand sanitizer, Wet Ones, tissue, and any toiletries/essentials you'll need. Finding these things can be tough and expensive if you do.

Wifi is slow, so be patient. You can pick up Wifi cards at designated CADECA locations for 1 CUC, but I found it easier to buy them from Cuban people on the street for 2 CUC. Each card has to be scratched off before use, so be sure that silver strip is still intact before you hand over your money.

Apps To Download Before You Arrive:

Maps me

Maps.me became my lifeline as I tried to figure out the streets of Havana. I got lost a lot but was able to find my way with the help of this app.

Google Translate

I know very little Spanish, but was able to learn a little with the help of my casa host, and the Cuban people with whom I interacted. When I needed help, I was able to access Google Translate offline to communicate with locals.

Where I Stayed:

After searching through hundreds of Airbnbs, I settled on this private room in a Casa Particular in Vedado. You're probably wondering what a Casa Particular is, I did too before I made my reservation. Casa Particular means "private home" in Spanish. What makes these homes special is that in 1997, the Cuban government gave Cuban families the option to register their home as a privately owned business and rent out rooms to tourists — which was illegal in previous years.

Casa Particulars have many benefits. You are given a chance to support the Cuban people, you will likely learn a lot of Spanish (I did), and you will feel at ease. If I needed directions, restaurant recommendations, and had questions about catching taxis, my Cuban dad taught me.

My Casa Particular


One thing to note before you embark on Cuba is that it's important to understand the history and current living situation of the people of Cuba. Yes, the city is nostalgic, but there is a reason for that — and it affects everything including the food. Cuba has a ration system, which means Cuban families are given a certain amount of food to live on each month, and there are often shortages, which carry over into the local restaurants. That being said, I had wonderful meals the entire time I was there.

Nana's Cafe

Nana's Cafe became an instant favorite, so much so that the staff got to know me. I learned that Cubans don't often eat breakfast, but Nana's had traditional Cuban offerings as well as American options for breakfast.

My favorites were the Croquetas, Yuquitas Rellenas, the Cuban coffee, and the limonada frozen.

Waoo Snack Bar

Waoo was one of my favorite restaurants in Havana. I had the fried pork ribs with yuca. I still think of that pork rib even though I'm back in the states. The service is also fantastic.

Restaurante Paladar Cafe Laurent Habana

This beautiful rooftop restaurant is reservations only, so be sure to have your host give the paladar a call when you arrive in Havana.

What I Did:

Thanks to Airbnb Experiences, planning my trip was a breeze. I booked about 6 excursions, and I was able to get a lot out of my exploration of Cuba because of it.

A Photo Tour In Old Havana

I took a three-hour tour with a young photographer named Manuel. We walked through the streets of Old Havana, and he captured photos of us along the way. I received fifty pictures and a 3-hour tour all for under $60. Read more about that here.

Salsa Lessons

This was one of the highlights of my trip. During the two-hour class, my instructor Alejandro taught me a range of combinations, even one he named the Bianca. The salsa experiences included a taxi to and from the rooftop location, a bottle of water, and the class itself.


Snorkeling was another highlight. If I'm being honest, I was a little nervous about the entire experience, but I made it through. One thing to note about this experience is you need to be a reasonably strong swimmer. We swam about two miles to the shipwreck and two miles back. My body felt like jello when I got out of the water, but again, seeing the coral reefs made the experience worth it. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a panic attack and swam back just before we made it to the shipwreck.

Cooking Class

If you're in Havana and have the time, this is a must. Three Cuban women opened their home and taught me how to cook a traditional Cuban meal: pan-fried pork, black beans, and Tostones (fried plantains). It was one of the best meals I had while I was in Havana.

Economics Tour

My tour with Jorge changed how I saw Cuba in the best way. The tour was insightful and grounded me. If you want to go to Havana and see the city beyond the scope of photos for the gram, this tour will give you that and more.

Street Photography Class

I bought a new camera earlier this year to film video and never took the time to learn how to use the other settings on my camera. Thanks to Juan, I learned how to use my camera properly, capture real moments, and I took some pictures I am very proud of.

Featured image by Getty Images, additional photos c/o writer Bianca Lambert.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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