Cuba, so colourful and exciting, a country you really should visit before it changes for ever. Sentence that is, for last 5 or even 10 years, used in every travel guide and is very much true. Cuba was very inspiring for me as I got a chance to observe and experience a unique way of life. The Cuban one. The lifestyle that is full of music, dancing, sitting, relaxing, smoking cigars and drinking – usually something containing rum.
In last 10 years, from 2008 when Raul Castro took over from his ill brother Fidel, Cuba has changed quite a lot. More and more tourists are coming here for a vacation. We hadn’t had any troubles entering the country, nobody asked us any questions, which was in the past a common practice. The diplomatic relations with USA were established again, so more and more Americans travel to Cuba. With all those changes, Cuba has lost some of its charm. So travel there now, when you can still catch some of it!
People are very friendly, sadly as most of them do not speak any language other than Spanish chatting with locals can be quite a challenge. Usually you can communicate all your needs with hands and some basic phrases. But there is one, for us it was quite big, annoyance. The ”jineteros” – these are the people who will try to sell you everything: from taxis, casa particulares to cigars… They will throw offers at you as you will walk by, some of them will stop, but others will walk after you and just continue to antagonize you. It is not like we have felt afraid, they were just annoying as hell.
Staying in Casa Particulares is, in my opinion, the best option. It is quite cheap, but you get a really comfortable room, usually with the air-conditioning. The prices are somewhere in between 20 and 30 CUC/€ per room. So for a couple this type of accommodation is really a great choice. For additional payment of 5 CUC/ person they will serve you an amazingly delicious breakfast with lots of fruits, freshly squeezed juice, bread, butter, eggs, some pastry…Most of them offer also a diner, normally for 10 CUC/person and you get an enormous amount of food. With that amount you could feed 4 adults and they would be full.
Transport wise buses are the cheapest option but definitely not the most comfortable one. Viazul is the company everyone is going to recommend – it is the cheapest and is covering most of important destinations all over country. But for more popular connections/routes you have to book your ticket at least two days in advance. We had that experience in Havana, we wanted to buy tickets to Viñales one day before departure and all buses were already sold out. This can be a problem especially on the western part of the island as it is more popular among travellers and especially tourists.
The process of boarding a bus is quite more complicated than what I was used of. You have to arrive at least 30 minutes, on some stations also 1 hour, before departure time. When you arrive you have to wait in line to get a ticket, because what you get when you pay is actually some kind of voucher. If you were lucky you got your ticket in 5-10 minutes. In Santa Clara we had to wait for 35 minutes!! That was really a disaster. So now you have your ticket and in Europe that would be the end of your troubles. But you are on Cuba, so relax :). Now you have to drop-off your luggage. You have to go to an office, but don’t worry if you won’t find them they will most probably find you. They will put paper with identification number on your luggage and you will also get a paper with the same number. Oh, and you will have to pay 1-2 CUC for that :).
Oh, the option I really do not recommend is to book any internal flights. We had one, from Santiago back to Havana, because we didn’t feel like sitting on the bus for 13 hours or more. So we had booked our flight when we were still at home. The thing with flights is that they are most likely going to have some delay. We had 2,5 h delay and when we arrived to our casa at 11 pm, we learnt that this is not a long delay for Cuba. If you have an afternoon flight it can happen that you do not arrive before the next day. If you still choose to fly I should probably warn you that you will be flying with some old Russian airplane – Antonov. But we had landed, luckily, without any problems.
For more information on our itinerary, please click here.
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