Tell me about Cuba. Have you been?
I have! Albeit 15 years ago. One of the most memorable and also stressful holidays I’ve taken…
Outside of Varadero and the very centre of Havana, there is basically zero tourist infrastructure. As in, not even a single hotel in many towns. As such, a lot of accommodation is by staying in spare rooms in family homes. Your average Cuban will speak zero words of English, so workable Spanish is essential. There’s two currencies - tourist dollars (pegged to USD) and local currency. Most of the spending you’ll do is in the former, but occasionally it is useful to use the latter.
Beguiling country. Will write more later…
So…we visited for four weeks so got a chance to travel around a bit. Although not as much as you’d think due to the creaking infrastructure. Flying internally is not recommended apparently due to the high failure rate of their ageing plane stock Would liked to have got down to Santiago de Cuba, but that’s a long way overland.
The main drawback is the amount of hassle you get as a tourist. Obviously as a westerner you are many times more wealthy than the average Cuban, but there is constant medium to high level grifting going on. Plus you will get hassle in the street, all the way from the usual scams to being manhandled. Annoying.
Started and ended in Havana, which is a lot of fun. Spent a night in Pinar Del Rio (fine) before heading on to Vinales, which is very good for hiking and nature sightseeing. Took in Cienfuegos and Trinidad, which are both very nice towns. Had a couple of nights in a hotel in Playa Ancon just as a change to staying in the aforementioned spare rooms. Headed up to Mantazas, which was awful. We were the only tourists we saw while we there, which made us the targets of every single grifter in town. It became so unbearable that we cut our stay there short and jumped on the Hershey Railway (no joke), the only electrified railway in Cuba, back to Havana. It broke down on the way there and we spent a night sleeping in the countryside before they got it running again We hadn’t planned on going to Varadero, reasoning that it was much of a muchness with other Caribbean resorts, but after a fairly tiring few days we treated ourselves to a few days in a very nice all inclusive resort (of which there are many around this area). Hired bikes and went for a ride in the countryside. My bike fell apart while we were in the middle of nowhere and I had to carry it back - this is pretty much Cuba in a nutshell, great stories and memories, but everything involves hassle in some form. It’s a crazy country…
Loved it but pls dont go expecting good food
I’ve heard this a lot of times but I thought the food was fine
Plenty of fresh produce, much of it grown in people’s gardens. Plus never ending black beans with everything. Admittedly I’m a man of simple tastes, but I ate ok…
Have wanted to go to Cuba for as long as I can remember but hearing your story, plus others that I’ve spoken to who have also been, really puts me off. The lack of basic infrastructure, the general hassle levels. People I know just went to Havana, wanted to travel round the country but there simply isn’t the transport network to do it.
Would love to visit Havana but I think I would find it so frustrating not being able to see the rest of the country.
Tbf i went before the island farming/allotment movement happened there. All we had was reheated broccoli and cauliflower for breakfasts, barely cooked chicken for dinner (got food poisoning twice) and one night in a fancy place a lobster that was merely a lobster shell with prawns arranged in it (did like)
Didnt really matter though as it was such a great place
I found it generally ok to travel around, we took one internal flight from havana to baracoa and then travelled back by intercity buses. It mostly worked fine except when we were going from havana to vinales, think the bus just didn’t turn up and we ended up having to get a taxi which involved a lot of negotiations in broken Spanish. It’s a great country to visit but certainly difficult at times.
I was briefly looked into visiting recently, but apparently everything is very expensive there now due to the last few years of sanctions
Haha. Same. Went in the late 90s. Was with my stepmum who is Peruvian but my Dad and I stuck out like a sore thumb and got hassled daily.
Food was dreadful, loads of power cuts, got cabs to a few remote places that always broke down - including Varadero. My Dad and I got the worst shits either of us had ever experienced after drinking this pressed sugarcane drink they sell on the roadsides.
I remember getting back to London and my Dad and I went for a curry before we even set foot back in the house because we were so hungry. I must have lost a stone on that trip.
But without doubt in the top 3 most memorable holidays I have ever had. Amazing.
Oh. Got taken to a cock fight by a cabbie we befriended.