Cuba was on my list to visit, and when I heard about US and Cuba improving relations I moved it to the priority list. I thought it would be nice to see Cuba before it becomes a popular destination for American tourists. So did most travellers I met there. But the thing is, tourists go to specific areas, which don’t include the whole Cuba. Of course, there will be changes over time, but looking back now, I don’t think there was such a rush. Or maybe I should go in another 10 years and then tell the difference. But meanwhile, here is my story from Cuba…
A great start
I booked my flight with a very new airline, which cancelled the flights a few weeks before the actual travel because they couldn’t get the license to fly over Cuba, or something related. It created a mess in my schedule but in the end, I found another solution, it was more expensive, but not with much. And to my surprise, on my way to Cuba, I got a business class seat. I didn’t ask for it and it was the first time trying, so I really enjoyed it.
Because of all the uncertainty before, I didn’t have time to read a lot before the travel. And to my ignorance, I thought there won’t be any wifi to connect to, but I will still have mobile data, in case I need the internet. Well no, there is no mobile data and I had no maps, no plans, just the address in Habana, where I had booked a casa particular for the first 3 days. Great start huh?
I arrived at the airport and joined other travellers for a shared taxi to Habana. I got to my casa particular and I met the lovely localhost. I talked with her a lot, she told me about life in Cuba, places to visit, she put me in contact with other casas particulares and taxis colectivos. Everything is flexible. I also got a travel guide from a traveller who was just leaving Cuba. After one day in Habana, I had all the info I needed and felt very relaxed. I speak Spanish fluently so that definitively helped.
Habana is very nice and safe. I walked everywhere, also during the night. Cubans are very proud of their welcoming culture and how safe Cuba is, so they want you to enjoy it. Catcalling is quite frequent, which annoys me in general, but they back off easily. I went to visit the touristy places for a few days. I think Old Habana is a good place to hang out day or night.
And of course, I took lots of pictures of the pretty cars around the city.
The land of tobacco
I went to Vinales next, where I spent another few days. I didn’t expect much, but it was good, very laid back but still had everything you need. There were a lot of casas particulares, a small and cosy village centre, with restaurants, shops, tours info and the wifi spot (paid and very slow).
I took walking tours, as I’m not a fan of horse riding, and went to a local tobacco farm, a cave and a few viewpoints. When we went to the local tobacco farm, a heavy rain started, so the locals invited us inside for a coffee and tobacco. The tour took a few hours more than expected, but I totally enjoyed it. The lady told me more about her family and business, as they are all helping with the farm for generations.
One of the nights there was a blackout. The small village was all dark and surrounded by fields, and the sky was so clear and shining with stars. I gazed as long as I could, as my neck started hurting at some point. It was fascinating. I wish I had a book so I could understand better what I was seeing.
A bit of vitamin sea
Because I had only a week in Cuba and my flight was from Varadero, I left the last days for going to the beach. All good, except I hadn’t book anything in advance. And the internet I got there was too slow to be able to book anything. So I just checked the travel guide, picked one hotel and went there. It was a guess, but since it was during the wet season, it was less probably for everything to be booked.
For the hotel, it was not the best choice I must tell, but it served the purpose. I enjoyed the beach, did some reading, went on a tour to a cave and charged my batteries for the way back. I wish I had more time in Cuba, to explore all of it. But I also think Cuba received a lot of attention following the political events, and the neighbouring countries have a lot (similar) to offer as well. But it’s just an impression.
Do you think Cuba is nice? You should see how amazing Costa Rica is!