Havana 2015, Cuba
I began my journey delays from Watford to Gatwick but arrived on time for my Air Europa flight to Havana via Madrid. There was a 2 hour transfer time but in the scheme of things it didn’t make much difference.
Havana airport 7.30pm on December 8th and waited, waited and waited some more. The baggage took nearly one hour to come through and it reminded me of the saying “Welcome to Cuba”. Eventually I got to Casa Buena Vista in Calle N and spent my first night sleeping like a log.
Early start on the Wednesday to check out a few dance places. Managed to locate Casa del Son and Tango venue in Calle Oreilly. I wandered around Havana Vieja during the day and came back in the evening to visit my favourite places, LLuvia de Oro and Cafe Europa. I managed to dance with a few people in the Bars and met up with Bailarina Sandra. She runs a dance school in Miramar for kids and dances show Salsa at various venues in Havana.
The rest of the first week was taken up visiting various dance type venues around Havana Vieja and Vedado. I visited some of the museums around Havana to experience tourist life and get a feel for the history.
Managed to contact friends from the past and deliver presents to my Cuban friends mom. A nice few hours spent, if only my Spanish was better. Back to the Casa for a quick change and then out to Calle Obispo for a few dances with friends. I like Lluvia de Oro as the groups are great and give an entertaining show. Of course, you get the regular “ladies” who dance and then look for fringe benefits. However, a polite but firm “thank you, my wife is waiting for me down the road” usually works but not always….hehehe.
The weather was amazing for the whole 3 weeks. We had one night where it rained on and off for a few hours. Umbrellas optional as it is usually windy when it rains so they blow inside out in a few minutes. Warm rain never hurt anyone as my ole granny used to say.
For a lot of my time in December 2015, I spent time in the places below for dance and to eat now and again. Most are based around Havana Vieja and Vedado. Generally speaking you can have a good night as long as you go in a small group. If you are alone in places like Casa de la Musica, Cafe Cantante, Florida, you will be hit on by Cubans looking for “business”. If that’s what works for you as a single girl or man then go to those places and be prepared to flash the cash. The girls usually ask around 40-60cuc and you will need a Casa Particular to use. Hotels still take a dim view of bringing a girl to your room. Money talks though.
If you want to do Cuba on a budget, then try using public transport and the Collectivos(shared old bangers) A lot of Cubans use them. You need to work out the routes as the usually go into Havana Vieja from different suburbs. Please make sure you change some money into Pesos. This will help on buses as the cost is 40 centavos of a peso which is less than 5p. Be prepared to be squashed and make sure you don’t wear jewellery or carry a big bag that screams out “I am a tourist and have lots of things that you can nick from me” Be careful late at night although there are lots of police around. I think it’s generally safe in Havana. The Collectivos are 10 pesos but if you are a dumb tourist you will not get change from a CUC note you give them.
#408 Calle N Appt 601 Edificio e/Calle 27 Vedado.
I stayed at the Casa for my whole stay and enjoyed the place. The manager Pablo and staff are very helpful. One has to remember its not a 4 star hotel. My bed was a bit lumpy but the rooms were clean and breakfast at 4cuc was more than ample. It seems to be a staging post for people travelling in and out of Havana. Location is great for cafes and bars.
lluvia de Oro.
Calle Obispo no. 316, Havana
Tel: +53 7 8629870
A bar/restaurante in the middle of Obispo on the left hand side of the street as you walkdown from Parque Central area.
Music playing from mid afternoon till around 10pm. Great live groups with free entry and beers around $1.75. Tips for the music is usually around $1. They also sell CDs for around $10.
A place where you just get up and dance and have a good time.
Calle Obispo # 301 esquina a Aguiar | La Habana Vieja
Tel: +53 864 4484
They have dance shows for Salsa and sometimes people get up and have a dance. Good food usually although bar service can be a little bit slow. Its a nice place to go as a group as there are quite a few tables. Best to book in advance. Life music from top band
Casa del Son.
Empedrado # 411 entre Compostela y Aguacate. Havana vieja
A Salsa and Latin dance school that turns into a club from 11pm. Always check before you go. They have
a FREE Salsa lesson at 10pm
Factoria Habana. Calle O’Reilly no.308 between Calles Habana and Aguiar, La Habana Vieja.
Tel: +53 7 86 49518
An art gallery that hosts Argentine Tango sessions most evenings. Its a kind of Camden Town society where they have little cliques
Apart from one young guy who was most welcoming, I found it not the most friendliest of places. They seem to be very much
Casa del Tango.
Calle Neptuno No.309, entre Águila y Avenida de Italia (Galiano) Tel: (+53)7863 – 0097.
They run Salsa classes and Tango sessions. A unique ceramic floored venue with photos of some of the Tango greats
adorning the walls. They host a Tango night early Monday evenings which has some of the Tango gliterazi from the Art Gallery.
A Salsa and Latin dance escuela right on the seafront. I found Juan Orestes a welcoming guy. The studio overlooks the Malecon fron the 2nd floor
He is trying to sell the venue to set up a bigger place further into town.
Best to call the venue to confirm lessons and events.
Casa de La Musica.
Av de Italia between Concordia & Neptuno, Centro Habana
Tel: (+53)7860 – 8296
The place to be for dancing Salsa as a tourist. They have a matinee session which is from 5-9pm on Wednesdays, usually a top
Cuban Salsa band will play. Cost $10. Drinks a bit more expensive but a bottle of Ron and Refresco will set you back around £7.
Calle Obispo. Havana Vieja, Havana
Tel: +53 7 8624127
A club open from around 11pm and is targetted for the tourist market. There are usually a group of Salsa teachers with students
and their “partners” who dont pay to get in and act as escorts to the ladies. There are usually “ladies” at the door looking for men
to take them in and buy them a few drinks etc.
Cafe Cantante Avenida Paseo Havana.
Tel: +53 7 8784275
A club venue in the heart of Vieja, mainly used by students. They hacve matinees and night club with famous groups usually between 10-20cuc. Very expensive for Cubans so also has a lot of Jinitera
Calle 23 No. 202 esquina O, Vedado
A Bar/Restaurante on the main street. Food OK. Drinks expensive. They never have beer on the menu at $1.50, it’s always Heineken at $2.50
They have good groups and I liked it for just having a dance and meeting friends. The waitresses need a lesson in how to smile. There are lots of “hookers” around the street and if you are into transvestites, they congregate around Calle N and 23.
A government-run cafe where they get paid no matter how bad the service.
Lessons I gave
I gave 4 private lessons at a Casa Particular in Vedado for Salsa Cuban style to a
couple from Norway that I met at a Bar on my first night.
Really good students with great attitude and feel good about their progress
$20 per hour.
Casa particular in Miramar near to La Sauca
A group session for 6 people that had attended lessons in Oreilly and didnt get on with it.
We worked together for 4 hours in total learning some basic Giros, Ochos.
3 Germans, 1 French and 2 Cubans (paid for by the Germans)
$50 for the group per hour.
Private Lesson for Salsera, Raisa Herrera.
Calle Oreilly at the Art Gallery. I videod part of the session.
A potentially excellent dancer as one would expect from a professional Salsa/Son teacher.
For a list of some good dancers/teachers I met in Havana please go HERE