José Martí International Airport, also known by its old name, Rancho-Boyeros Airport, is a public airport located 15km (9mi) southwest of Havana, Cuba. It serves as the main domestic and international gateway to Cuba, handling several million passengers per annum. It is a hub for Cubana de Aviación, Aerogaviota, and Aero Caribbean, and a former Latin American hub for Aeroflot Soviet Airlines. Currently, there are four passenger terminals functioning at the airport, and an additional freight terminal. Terminal 1 is for internal (domestic) flights, Terminal 2 is mainly for charter flights from the USA, and Terminal 3 is used for all other international flights. It is operated by Empresa Cubana de Aeropuertos y Servicios Aeronáuticos (ECASA).
What to see & do
There are plenty of places that you’ll surely enjoy visiting in Havana as it is very popular with tourists, attracting more than a million every year. This is largely due to the country’s proximity to the United States, as well as its traditionally relaxed attitude to leisurely activities. Not only that, it’s also well-known for its health tourism – offering a wide range of treatments including eye-surgery, for neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease, and orthopaedics.
Some of the local attractions that you must visit during your Havana trip are the Museum of Revolution and the Capitol Building; the lively, bustling Prado street (best time is to visit it during the evening); El Malecón, which offers spectacular views of the Bay; La Habana Vieja (The Old Town), a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site; and the massive Plaza de la Revolución. Additionally, don’t miss the chance to visit a cigar factory, where you can procure the highest quality of cigars. You can also get on a guided tour of Havana Club, one of the most famous rums in Cuba. Havana has a great live music scene, which you should have no trouble checking out since nearly every restaurant and hotel in town has a decent house band playing old favourites. There’s Hotel Nacional, La Zorra y el Cuervo, La Tropical, Casa de la Musica de Centro Habana, and Museo del Ron.
How to get around within Havana
The most convenient way to get around the city, that is, if you are a tourist, is by taxi. Havana’s taxis are usually old American Chevys dating back from the ‘50s and newer models of Russian Ladas. However, most tourist taxis are modern Peugeots, Skodas, and even Mercedes. Take note that tourists are prohibited to ride in anything other than the official government taxis. Cheaper alternatives are the Coco Taxis and the yellow three-wheel motorbikes. Cycling and walking are considered as the best ways of navigating around, just as long as you have a map or you can also sign up for a guided tour from a number of international tour companies. Buses in Havana tend to be overcrowded, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself squeezed in between. You can always wait at the bus stop if you prefer to ride on a less full bus. Road signs in Havana aren’t exactly very good, so hitchhiking is common.
How to get there
If you’re getting in by plane, you’ll most probably disembark at José Martí International Airport. Some of the airlines that operate at the airport include Aerocaribbean, Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air France, Condor, Copa Airlines, Interjet, KLM, Transaero Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic, with flights to numerous destinations within Cuba and around the world. The country’s local airline, Cubana de Aviación, also offers service, but you must reserve way ahead of time to (two weeks in advance is a minimum, usually) ensure seats. You can check with HAVANTUR offices located throughout the city and at major hotels for reservations. Havana is also accessible by train, but only from limited locations like Santiago de Cuba, Moron, Sancti Spiritus, Camagüey, Cienfuegos, among others. You can also get in by car, which must have a special tourist plate – downside of which is that you will be required to give generous tips every time you park the car in a crowded area. However, this is considered as the best option if you don’t want to wait around for public transport. Although possible, it’s very difficult to enter Cuba by sea since most ports are closed to unauthorised visitors and only mariners with advanced arrangements are allowed without hassle.
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