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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

Havana should be on every traveller’s bucket list. While it may look like a cash-strapped backpacker’s dream of a destination, Havana costs more than the average traveller thinks. If the Cuban capital is where you’re headed, here’s how to experience the city without breaking the bank.

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Havana is a city that has no shame in targeting tourists and getting every last dollar out of them that they can. Want to re-live Ernest Hemingway’s days with a tipple at El Floridita? A single daiquiris will set you back $6. Want to bring home some authentic Cuban cigars? Knock-offs are as common as anything and only a knowledgeable buyer will be able to spot the difference. Budget travellers need not worry though, there’s plenty to experience here, from colonial architecture to classic cars and more while on holidays in Cuba.

Here’s how to experience Havana without spending a penny.

Explore Old Havana

Old Havana’s Spanish colonial architecture will charm, despite it’s somewhat decaying facades. To catch all the main sights, just wander around to all four of the main squares: Cathedral Square, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja and Plaza San Francisco. You’ll find all your Cuban souvenirs in Plaza de Armas, from vintage coins to kitsch Che Guevara memorabilia. Just steer clear away from the cigars here.

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Walk the Malecon

The Malecon, or seawall is the centre of social life in Havana and stretches 4 miles from Old Havana to the Almendares River. Construction started on it in 1900 during the US occupation but it wasn’t finished until the late 1950s. No matter the time of day, there always seems to be something going on along the Malecon. In the early morning, spot fishermen casting out their lines. In the afternoon, children run and jump from the wall, summersaulting into the sea below. In the evening, it’s the perfect place for a walk, hand in hand with your beau.

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Seek out the classic cars

Havana is like a living, breathing automobile museum with the biggest collection of 1950’s cars in the world, and they’re still in everyday use! Some have been polished up and restored to perfection while others tug their way down the city’s streets, seemingly losing bolts and parts along the way. You’ll find many along the streets near the Capitol building and for motorcycle enthusiasts, try the roads just down from the Hotel Nacional.

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Like to travel for free? We’ve created dozens of free city guides on the Traveller’s Blog from Venice to Vancouver, Paris to Hong Kong.

Imgs: Anton Novoselov / Flickr cc.

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