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Visiting Havana

Visiting Havana

Meander around one of the plazas

It’s known for it’s stunning white beaches and azure blue waters but a trip to Cuba is not complete without visiting the island’s capital, Havana.

Cuban Music

If you love salsa then you’ll love this city. Home of the Buena Vista Social Club, the most famous Cuban salsa of all, Havana has a thriving live music scene.

And it’s the place to practice your dance moves whether in one of the city’s bars or the more well-known venues such as Casa de la Musica situated in the new area of the city, with a cover charge of $10.

Cubans are so friendly so don’t be surprised if get asked to dance. As well as traditional music you’ll find flamenco shows at El Meson la Flota to entertain you as you dine.

Visiting Havana

Lose yourself in the crumbling back streets

Things to See

Havana is more of a city to relax, eat good Cuban cuisine and drink cuba libres whilst enjoying the music. The plazas are the places to just wile away the hours, people watch and have your picture taken with locals dressed in traditional costumes.

Just meandering around Old Havana with its faded pastel-colored houses and Art Deco style is an adventure in itself, losing yourself amongst the back streets and reappearing within one of the plazas.

A visit to the small Chocolate Museum is a must, even if it’s just to treat yourself to a chocolate shaped cigar.

The Revolution Museum

The Revolution Museum

For those wanting to learn more about the controversial history of this island, the Revolution Museum gives a good insight with many images but you will need to know Spanish to understand it.

There’s also an Afro-Cuban tour to learn more about Cuba’s customs and folklore, or you can take an Ernest Hemingway tour and follow the footsteps of this famous writer who once made Cuba his home (there’s even a hotel names after him).

From Havana you can take a trip to the tobacco fields to the west of the capital to watch how cuban cigars are made. There is a bus service or you can take a day tour if you don’t want to stay overnight.

View of Old Havana from a hotel terrace.

View of Old Havana from a hotel terrace

The Best Views of Havana

Although the city is divided into more than one area, Old Havana definitely has more character.

One of the best ways to see this part of the city is from a hotel terrace and there are several to choose from.

Hotel Ambas Mundos has great views of the Christ of Havana across the water from the sixth floor or opt for Hotel Raquel for a more classical Italian style roof (but there is no bar or restaurant on this one).

Taxis

Getting around Havana couldn’t be easier

Getting Around

The best way to get to the newer part of the city is by taking a big red tour bus. A day ticket is cheap at just $5 and will take you along the promenade past Revolution Square to the newer part of the city and the beach.

Cuba is also known for its 50s classic American cars which you can find in Havana operating as taxis. But if you’re feeling flashy, then hop into a convertible (with a choice of colors) and take a tour around the city in typical Havana style.

If you’ve got longer than a week in Cuba, consider a multi-center holiday by combining Havana with Trinidad before relaxing on a white Caribbean beach in the Holguin area to top up your tan before flying home.

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This post was brought to you in partnership with Air Transat.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

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3 Practical Reasons to Use TunnelBear VPN While Traveling Overseas

TunnelBear VPN program for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

TunnelBear VPN program for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, sound like something exclusive to the realm of technogeeks, hackers, and Chinese dissidents, but they are an interesting and useful service to those backpacking and traveling overseas.

A VPN is a group of computers networked together over the Internet that will allow you access to private data.

Think: employees accessing their company’s network and files while away from the office, universities and their students, etc, all while providing a secure and encrypted connection between the two.

You can use a VPN to securely protect your data and privacy while using public WiFi networks across the world, to block those cookies we all know the airline websites use to jack up the price for visitors who return at a later date, and other cool things like connecting to proxy servers in other countries.

The security and privacy aspects of a VPN are things that we all know are important, yet most of us neglect until something bad happens.

Instances of a breach in privacy data are rare and thus don’t prompt us into action until it is too late, but there are some compelling and practical reasons for using a VPN service on a more day-to-day basis.

After a period of nomadic travel and backpacking across Colombia, I decided to settle down into an apartment in Medellin.

It was around that period with my increased downtime and a steady connection to the Internet that I was reminded about all the awesome things I missed about the world wide web and couldn’t access properly while overseas.

Turns out there are quite a few websites and services that are restricted to international visitors.

I recently downloaded the TunnelBear VPN service which is a handy little program that allows you to cloak your IP address as if you were in another country.

TunnelBear is super easy to use and is totally accessible to non-techies–my mom could even use it. All you do is click the On/Off button in the program and select the country of your choice.

A funny little bear digs his way out of the country you’re in and pops up in the country where you want to appear to be.

Three Practical Reasons Why I Use a VPN

1. Netflix

You can access Netflix in many countries across the globe, but the content selection is totally different and can be quite limited.

On one hand, it is really cool to be able to access more Spanish language movies and television series (as well as US shows dubbed into Spanish), but sometimes I grow tired of the limited selection here in Colombia.

With the click of a button I can be back in the United States and have full access to their instant library as well as some features that they restrict like adding movies to your watch list.

2. Pandora

Having access to good instant streaming music was something I really missed down here during my downtime. My MP3 selection always gets a little tired with time, and streaming things from YouTube or other services is often less than ideal.

Pandora was always my favorite service back home, but it is simply not available outside of the US, Australia, and New Zealand due to their licensing restrictions.

But thankfully, again with the click of a button, I can be back in the US with all my channels and my full music selection so I can pop in the headphones and enjoy like normal.

3. The Onion

Here’s one I didn’t expect to run into upon traveling… The Onion, if you’re not familiar, is an amazing satirical newspaper. I used to read the Onion with some regularity while working in Washington DC politics, and I really missed reading their witty take on the news of the day.

I don’t know about your friends, but I was constantly seeing hilarious headlines from the Onion in my Facebook feed, so I’d click through to read and then check out a few more articles.

Inevitably I would hit the dreaded restriction for international readers which only allows five articles in 30 days. But again, using a VPN like TunnelBear to cloak your identity will allow you unfettered access to “America’s Finest News Source”, even while browsing from your smartphone.

TunnelBear for PC country selection list

TunnelBear for PC country selection list

TunnelBear VPN

There are all sorts of compelling reasons related to privacy and security to use a VPN, but yeah, those are my actual practical reasons for using a VPN–being able to access my favorite sources of diversionary entertainment.

There are tons of VPN programs and services out there and it can be hard to know what to look for. If you’re looking for simplicity, you can’t go wrong with TunnelBear.

It’s just a flick of the switch to turn it on or off. There are no complicated settings or other hurdles while setting it up or in order to keep it connect and working properly.

TunnelBear for Android connected

TunnelBear for Android, connected status

As you would expect, the program is available for Windows and Mac, of course, but what is also extremely cool is that you can get it for your Android, iPhone, or tablet as well.

This allows you to use your phone apps as if you were in the United States as well (again, practical for Pandora music, Netflix, and accessing certain websites).

Free users get 500mb of data per month, while the upgraded and unlimited account runs only $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year–a very modest expense for the benefits it provides as well as the ease of use.

Check out TunnelBear today for your VPN needs.

What about you? Do you use a VPN service on a regular basis? Other favorite websites, programs, or services that you have found to be restricted while traveling?

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This post was brought to you in partnership with TunnelBear.

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Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.