In September last year Andrew and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Cuba. It's a trip we always reminisce about and we will always compare all our other adventures to this one. It was a place I had wanted to visit for a very long time and since the embargo was lifted with the US that year, we both knew it was important to see the country before the westernisation began. We packed a lot in the fortnight we were away and at the time we thought that maybe we were doing too much but we have absolutely no regrets. We moved around a lot but it was the only way to really get the feel of the island and to know we saw as much as we could. I'll break the trip in to five different posts according to the different places we stayed to make it easier to find any tips for the adventure you might be planning. The trip taught us a few wee things along the way so hopefully we might of some help!! A few tips to get you started are:
- Cuba had no AirBnB at the time of our trip but I think they now have it up and running. I would recommend maybe booking the first few days of your trip but leave some flexibility as you might really enjoy certain areas and because you will have little to no access to internet you can't cancel bookings online. There are lots of casas in every town so you will always find somewhere, we usually booked our next casa through the one were staying at the time. It seems the whole island has a relative in the next town and it's a great way to meet families and get a better deal.
- About the internet thing - be prepared for zero access. The only time we got to use the internet was in Varadero when we were at an all-inclusive resort. Even at that, there was no wifi but a computer room that reminded me of primary school and it took a good 10 minutes to get connected. The only reason I wanted to use it was because it was my birthday and I wanted to see messages from home but we really enjoyed using maps and our instincts to get us around - way more exciting!!
- Don't change your money at the airport. We experienced our first scam here when we landed and had a few quid taken off us. Not a huge problem because we weren't changing a lot of money but I would recommend maybe getting enough changed for the transport in to Havana and then getting the rest changed in the city.
- Learn as much Spanish as possible - we were told this before we left and I swiftly downloaded the Duolingo app about a month before the trip. I wasn't as strict with myself as I should've been which was unfortunate because I think we would have gotten so much more out of meeting local people if we had have known more Spanish. We stayed with quite a few locals who were among the friendliest and most open people we have ever met but a fair few of them had limited English which meant our conversations were limited too.
- Bring as many cigars home with you as you can. We only brought home 5 each and I regret not bringing home more because we saw them rolled and were walking the fields where the tobacco was grown. Rookie error!!
- There are very little shops that sell snack foods, especially when you leave Havana. For those long car journeys make sure to bring some things to munch along the way! We brought some things along with us from Ireland but they barely got us through the first week. We did find somewhere that sold Pringles but the cost is incredibly inflated. Make sure and take whatever fruit you couldn't finish at breakfast as well!
- Be prepared to travel in dodgy cars if you want to travel on a budget. We travelled in a lot of beautiful Chevrolets for very little cash but for the longer journeys make sure to use cars that look like they won't burst in to flames when going more than 40 mph. When we travelled from Viñales to Trinidad we travelled in a Peugeot 407 which seemed a lot safer until the driver insisting on sticking the footpedal to the floor for the whole journey. Poor Andrew was terrified for the majority of the journey.
- Make sure to pack a mini first aid kit with bandages, cream for blisters, chaffing and burns and bug spray. Another idea would be to pack long trousers for any horse treks because we were idiots and only had shorts and our legs and feet were ruined after them!
- There isn't a wide variety of cuisines here due to the limitations on trade and private enterprise. The food, especially when cooked at the Casa you stay in, can be very tasty, especially the seafood! We dined like kings on lobster but after a while it can be a bit repetitive.
- Take as many photos as possible. We took nearly 2000 photos and I still regret not taking more of the streets of Havana. Maybe next time.
Make sure to read my other posts on the places we travelled to while in Cuba - there's way too much to talk about in one go and the country is just too amazing for one post. I hope these posts can be of some help but please feel free to comment if you want more information!