Local guides in Havana Cuba?
September 5, 2017 2:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm heading to Havana, Cuba for a few days later this month and would love to hire a local guide to show me around a little bit - both the touristy areas and maybe a few things off the beaten path.

I plan to do a lot of exploring on my own too, but since this is my first time in Cuba I think it would be helpful to spend some time with someone local to better understand the city. I'm open to group tours too... I've found private guides on toursbylocals.com and group tours on havanatourcompany.com but thought I'd check here to see if anyone has any other recommendations.

Any recommendations? Any Havana residents here on AskMeFi?

I don't really need a real guide - just a local would be great.
posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around Havana, Cuba (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did this in May with I Love Cuba Guided Photography Tours! I highly recommend them. Just heading home from work, I'll add some details in a couple of hours. See trip advisor for their reviews.
posted by kitcat at 3:35 PM on September 5, 2017

kitcat - thanks for the recommendation! I just contacted them.
posted by kdern at 5:55 PM on September 5, 2017

Hi, so sorry to get back to this so late. Anyhow, our tour was done by a local. I can't remember his name, but he was a young guy, maybe 24? The owner is Yosel and you will only do photography if you book specifically with him. I don't know if he is Cuban or not. We were staying at a resort in Varadero, so I arranged for our tour guide to pick us up there. He arrived with a driver and they drove us to Havana (about 1.5 hours I think) in an awesome, gorgeous old Ford. The whole time, we picked his brain, asking every question about Cuba I could think of. The breadth of his knowledge absolutely astounded me. It was so interesting. However, some things he told me, if he believed them, and I think he did, were a bit naive - for example he claimed that there is no censorship in Cuba, and swore that no politicians profit from their offices and that there are absolutely no corrupt rich people in Cuba. I didn't push it because I didn't want to offend him.

I didn't have a firm idea of what I wanted to see, so I told him basically that I definitely wanted to see Fusterlandia and some Hemingway places, but other than that he could take us where he liked. You can absolutely tailor your tour however you want. I wasn't ambitious because we had our 6 year old. He took us to all of the major tourist destinations and explained the history and significance. They would drive the car to a certain section of the city, then we would get out and walk around for 45 minutes or so, as we liked. He was fine with hanging back as we got mojitos in one of the famous Hemingway bars, for example. One really neat thing was that he showed us how tiny and dilapidated some of the housing was. The people who lived there noticed and invited us in. They wanted us to see how they lived, but to convey that they were happy. I wish to god I had brought some toys for the kids or something, but I had left all those gifts at the resort. Don't be dumb like I was!

At the end of the day, he dropped us off at our Casa Particular. Oh - they also didn't mind taking us there first thing when we got to Havana so we could give them our passport info.

So, we had a fantastic 8-hour, personalized tour with transportation to Havana and it cost $200 US. Well worth it. If you have questions, feel free to ask here or memail me.
posted by kitcat at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2017

Hey, another idea is to try to get in touch with a non-Cuban English-speaking local. I got lost getting back to the casa in the morning after grabbing breakfast and luckily met an American woman who was studying sexual health in Cuba. I remember saying "You're so lucky!" and her response - "Oh, honey." She would have had some stories, I'm sure. Like you, I wanted to get an insider view, but it's no simple matter. The interactions I had with daily, working, on-the-street Cubans were no good for that - I have zero Spanish and I only encountered one woman with any English, and it wasn't very good. The tour guide was amazingly fluent, however.
posted by kitcat at 11:39 AM on September 6, 2017

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