Citrus Holidays
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Effort is underway to preserve the wonderfully eclectic buildings of the Cuban capital, whose old town has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site but as of today, crumbling facades continue to define the urban landscape of the town center – the decadent charm of city streets to outsiders being of little consolation to locals who deal with the very real consequences of this rather sad state of affairs. Beyond Habana Vieja lie some fascinating attractions and emerging suburbs worth exploring on foot or by bike, from plush Miramar to the nightlife hub of La Rampa, residential Vedado sprinkled generously with eateries and bars, African heritage-defined Cayo Hueso and the beach community of Guanabo. With economic restrictions slightly loosening, Havana sees individual entrepreneurs make timid first steps in running private businesses, breathing fresh air into Havana's dining, art and design scenes.
There is plenty to do and see in fast-evolving Havana, with modern hot-spots for art, culture and culinary effort emerging at an ever-increasing rate. Beyond the staples of Habana Vieja and the Malecón lie Havana's attractive newer districts, and unmissable attractions like the eccentric "Fusterlandia" or the original former home of celebrated novelist Ernest Hemingway.
Gone are the days when one would struggle to find a place to eat – today's Havana has no shortage of paladares (privately owned restaurants), many serving up the New Cuban cuisine pioneered by internationally trained chefs bringing expertise back to Cuba, and engaging with traditional flavors by introducing an exciting modern twist to old familiar favorites. Some local staples worth having are the ropa vieja (literally "old clothes"), a shredded beef dish, plantain and malanga chips or fritters, the ubiquitous side of black beans and rice, and the coveted Cuban specialty – the much sought-after lobster.
Havana's leisurely pace is best embraced from an outdoor terrace of the city's many cafes. Old classics mingle with hip new openings, leaving up to one's taste to pick a favorite. A good place to start is the Plaza del Cristo, where some of the trendier establishments are now concentrated - many double as bars featuring live music come sundown.
Rum flows freely into the glasses of nighttime revelers, who tend to head straight for one of Havana's three major hot spots: the Malecón, La Rampa (or Avenida 23), and the Avenida De Los Presidentes. There are plenty of establishments to suit all tastes, from outdoor salsa dance parties (Jardines de la Tropical are as de rigueur as ever) to live music concerts (anything from Afro-Cuban to jazz) and fiery cabaret shows.
As strict government control over economic activity eases, the Cuban capital sees a timid rise of private businesses producing and selling their own goods. Although such outlets are still few and far between (and many prefer to stay hidden, only made known by word of mouth), there are several reliable locations across Havana stocking high-quality, locally made souvenirs. The main Cuban exports are cigars and rum, both available in unlimited supply, which still isn't the case for daily use items foreign visitors are often accustomed to. Remember to pack all your essentials and bring them along from home, leaving only souvenir shopping to be done here, in Havana.
Passport / Visa

Passport / Visa

Travelers visiting Cuba are required to hold a valid passport valid for at least 2 months following their travel date, medical insurance, and proof of return tickets. Proof of sufficient funds to support the stay is also required (50 dollars/day). Visa-free entry for a period upwards of 28 days is granted to citizens of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malaysia, Montenegro, Serbia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belarus, Mongolia, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Barbados, Dominica and Namibia (Kazakhstan and Kenya are scheduled to soon complete the list). The remaining majority of international visitors will need to obtain a Tourist Card, Tarjeta del Turista, that grants permission to stay in Cuba for 30 days and can be extended once for a further 30. The card can be obtained via the airline, travel agent or a Cuban mission abroad. Citizens of the following countries are not eligible for a Tourist Card and will need to apply for a visa: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Yemen. Admission is refused entirely to Kosovo nationals. Special regulations apply to citizens of the USA, who (as of 2018) will need to qualify for one of 12 visitor categories in order to be granted an entry visa. The easiest way to enter Cuba for USA citizens under these regulations is to join an excursion organized by a tour operator (these are also available on board cruise ships), that falls into the "people-to-people exchange program" category of the 12 officially approved. Another, slightly more complicated route, is to obtain a license issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Plese see link below for further details pertaining to US visitors. Special regulations apply to Cuban-born foreign citizens, who will need to make visa arrangements for a Cuban visa in advance (via a Cuban Embassy), unless they hold a valid Cuban passport.

Public Transport

Public Transport

There is a hop-on/hop-off bus that operates in Havana, which can be a good compromise between private taxis and public buses. It's mostly geared at tourists, and stops at most major landmarks in Havana. Although private transportation is recommended, there are several ways of getting around like a local, although some knowledge of Havana goes a long way with those. One option is flagging down "taxi colectivos," classic old cars that circulate around Havana, marked with a "taxi" sign in the front. They run primarily between the university and Parque Central, and can be stopped nearly anywhere along the way. Although payment is normally made in the local currency, foreign visitors can also pay with CUC (CUC 1 is usually enough to cover one-way fare for two). Flag down a passing "colectivo" and name your destination (a major landmark) to the driver, who will indicate whether or not it's on his route. "Taxi colectivos" are not to be confused with regular private taxis, which charge much more for the rides and deliver you to the desired address. Public buses are another option - these have fixed routes, designated stops and most often a line of people waiting for one. The fare can be paid in CUC (5 centavos). Exit through the back and keep an eye on your belongings. If you're in the mood for something different, you might want to consider a tour of Old Havana by horse-drawn carriage. These are, of course, more of an entertainment option than efficient means of getting around.

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