With the temperatures falling and the days becoming shorter, many Britons begin their search for sun and better climates while others look for more excitement outside of their offices and daily routines.
We put together a guide that will allow you to enjoy the hot tropical sun of Cuba and the vibrant, bustling and exotic and feel of Havana.
The Caribbean island is all about wandering streets, wafting cigar smoke, rum and sensual salsa, pausing in bars for a mojito or marvelling at the reliability of the 1950s Chevys that flash past in a range of vivid reds, pale blues, purple, deep green, yellows and pinks, complementing the pallor of the architecture.
Before arriving in Cuba, you will need to purchase a Tourist Card. This is similar to a visa, but it does not get placed in your passport, it’s a separate piece of paper. Sometimes the paper is included in your flight price, but more often than not, you’ll have to purchase it at the airport before departing for Cuba.
Virgin Altantic flies twice a week from Gatwick to Havana. Connections are also available from various UK airports via Madrid on Cubana and Air Europa, and via Paris or Amsterdam on Air France/KLM.
Jose Mari airport is 10 miles south-west of the city. The main international arrival point is Terminal 3. Passport control and customs are usually friendly and efficient. Bring a copy of your travel insurance policy!
The airport is half-an-hour from the heart of Havana.
Money, Money, Money
The airport is a good place to change sterling for Cuba’s convertible peso – the island’s hard currency, written CUC and often spoken like “cooks”. The rate is around £1 to CUC 1.60. It is then worth exchanging a few convertible pesos for the ordinary pesos, called Moneda Nacional and written $ or CUP. You can spend these in the ‘local’ economy such as transport, snack bars and with traders.
Where to sleep
The most famous property in the city is the 1930 Hotel Nacional. In its prime, it has hosted figures like Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and heavy metal legend Robert Plant.
Of the many places to stay in Havana, the most central is the Ambos Mundos on the corner of Calles Obispo and Mercaderes.
Take a ride
Much of Havana feels like an old Hollywood movie set. To sustain the fantasy, take a ride in a 1952 Chevrolet Bel-air or similar relic from Fifties Detroit, drivers show off their vehicles outside the Hotel National and in the Parque Central. You can also appreciate the culture, and see the other forms of transport, from Chinese-made buses to bicycle taxis.
Street foods are widely available. It is a raucous, music filled joint. Follow the example of Ernest Hemingway and order a mojito. Graffiti is not only tolerated, it is encouraged. Poets and politicians have left their mark here.
Paladares are privately run restaurants, who originally offered only 12 chairs but have now expanded.
The Museum of Revolution is sited in the former presidential palace. It tells the story of the conflict that began badly in 1956 with the landing in the cabin cruiser Granma, which is in the grounds in a glass case, but ended with the 1959 triumph of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.