You would think with how tired I was after arriving in Cuba, I’d have passed out right away. But this is definitely not the case. Havana is an extremely noisy city – dogs barking, roosters crowing, horns honking and people shouting all night long. Even 20 stories up, these noises carry, keeping me awake. Closing the windows makes the room stuffy, and ear plugs don’t do enough. I lie awake until after midnight until I finally figure out how to turn on a fan. It both drowns out the sounds below and keeps me cool. Sometimes I think maybe I just get so tired, I can’t sleep. Is that weird?
Despite the lack of sleep, there’s no time to laze about this morning. We have sightseeing to do! The plan for today is to take the Havana Bus Tour around the city, hopping on and off as we see interesting things to take a closer look at. I’m not sure what the highlights will be and can’t wait for Havana to reveal itself to me.
We stop for breakfast at the Hotel Inglaterra. The food is decent, but more importantly, Maggie can get her wifi fix.
I’m loving the artwork on these tables.
Right next to the hotel is the Gran Teatro de la Habana. Lonely Planet recommends this as a must-see activity, however it’s packed with tourists, so we admire it from the outside.
And next to the theater is the capitol building. It’s designed after the capitol in Washington D.C., though slightly taller. This makes me chuckle. Of course if you model your building after another, you have to make it slightly better.
Unfortunately it’s undergoing renovations while we’re here, so we can’t take a tour. Boo.
From Parque Central, directly across from Hotel Inglaterra, runs the Havana Bus Tour. Everything I read online (including their own website) and in the guidebook lists this as costing $5 a day for unlimited hop on, hop off trips. So imagine my surprise when they charge me $10. Sure enough, all the signs have been crossed out and $10 written over. I guess they’ve raised their prices.
I’ve done bus tours like this in Madrid and Sydney and I found them a really informative and convenient way to get around a new city. Havana is big, and I’m not sure what exactly there is to see, so this seems like a good way to get an overview. Unfortunately, unlike other bus tours, this one has no commentary on the sights we’re seeing. At least they provide a map – sort of. It lists out the different stop, but it doesn’t tell you anything about what is there.
Today we’re taking the T3 route, heading in the direction of Central Havana and out further towards the airport. Tomorrow we’ll take the T1 through Old Havana, which picks up on the opposite site of the park. You can ride them both on the same day, with the same ticket, but I’m not trying to rush our sightseeing.
We head west along the Malecón, passing the National Hotel and the US Embassy. I’m a bit overly excited by the latter. I never knew if the US Embassy would return to Cuba in my lifetime, so I’m thrilled to see it with my own eyes.
The bus makes several stops picking up and dropping off people, but it’s hard to tell if some of the stops are worth getting off at. The first obvious place worth checking out is the Plaza de Revolucion. Apparently it’s the 31st largest square in the world. Seems kind of random, but kudos to them?
While there are definitely things to see here, we decide to ride longer. We’ll return this way later, so maybe we’ll check it out then.
The next worthwhile stop is the Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) Cemetery. We do decide to hop off here and explore.
Admission is 5 CUC. Is it weird to charge tourist fees to a cemetery? It seems like it, but I guess they need to maintain the grounds somehow.
I immediately begin snapping away. Perhaps it’s a little morbid to photograph a cemetery, but it’s quite beautiful.
Past the cemetery, we meander through older homes and eventually find ourselves following the waterfront. There are several hotels, but the beaches don’t look all that inviting.
While it’s a pretty drive, there isn’t anything worth getting off the bus for. We make our way back towards city center, past the cemetery and Plaza de la Revolucion to the Malecón.
If you’re short on time, I recommend only going as far as the cemetery. It’s a pleasant drive after that, but there’s nothing really worth seeing. Though if you are staying in one of the hotels along this route, the bus is an easy and inexpensive way to get to and around the city.