What to explore in Cuba and learn more about the Cuban culture

What to explore in Cuba and learn more about the Cuban culture

Cuba is a country, with many cultural, historic and landscape highlights but also known for its safety and the lovely people. The country is marked by the historic influence, for example the old and nice cars which came to Cuba in the late 60tes beginning of 70tes.

Old car
Old car
Old cars
Old cars

The time, when the relation to the United States (US) broke. Last year the border between the US and Cuba opened again, a historic moment in the history of the country. Since that time, Cuba is changing.

Cuba is changing

I am travelling for the scound time in Cuba, I really love this country. The first time I was in Cuba was in 2012 and since that time, a lot was and is still changing. In 2012 nowhere you could find wifi spots, even in the hotels was not any wifi available. The only thing you could use was a computer with internet, where you had to pay a lot for using them. Nowadays you will find some wifi spots in the bigger citys in Cuba, where you have to buy a card from the company ETECSA (Empresa Telecomunications Cuba S.A.) which costs 1.5 CUC/USD per hour. Compared to their salery they earn in one month, the price for the card is in my opinion way to expensive. A normal worker earns between 20 and 40 USD per month. The food and transportation are so expensive, that the Cubans can not afford to life on their own. That is why, a lot of locals offer a casa particulares (a room in their house for tourists). The government offer each month a range of nutrition to all Cubans. For example 5 eggs per person per month. But you must know, that they do not pay rents for their houses, the education and as well the medicin (hospital/consultations) are for free.

If you have a company you have to give 70 % of your profit to the government. That is how they finance all the costs which for the Cubans are for free.

I had also the impression to see less old and beautiful cars. Much more people are having a mobile and the phone booths were used less than in 2012.

Phone booth
Phone booth

Since the border to the US is open, a lot of tourists from the US are travelling to Cuba. Also two times a week a cruise ferry makes a stop in Havana.

Havana

We recommend to explore the following places in Havana :

Malecon is the promenade along the sea. Malecon takes about 8 km and you can go for a walk and enjoy the smell of the sea.

Malecon
Malecon

Exactly at 9 PM every day, you will hear a bang. The time when the wall around of the city of Havana is closing. The Cubans built a wall to protect them from the Spanish people.

The old part of Havana (ciudad vieja) is a must see. You will find colorful buildings, many souvenir stores, restaurants and bars to enjoy the day.

We in Havana
We in Havana

If you like to buy an ice cream Heladeria Coppelia is the right place in Havana. The ice creams are very famous and it is always a crowded place. Next to you will find a wifi spot, but you will use a card to get connected. One place where to buy this card in Havana is, Calle 17 between B and C and costs for 1 hour 1.5 USD.

Usually at the main streets in Havana, you will see a lot of old cars but with a closed roof. This are the taxi compartidos (shared taxis). They are much cheaper than a regular taxi, so try it out.

If you like to go out in the evening for dancing or enjoying a concert, Tropicana or Fabrica del Arte is a good choice. An other option is to book a dance class, here are two contacts:

Salsa school
Salsa school
Salsa school
Salsa school

Havana del Este

Beautiful beaches with crystal clear water next to Havana, this is Havana del Este. The best beach is in Santa Maria, where you will find many hotels to stay.

Beach Santa Maria
Beach Santa Maria

If you like to spend your time in a casa particulares, we recommend the village Guanaba, which is next to Santa Maria. From there you can take the local bus which costs 1 Peso Cubano for two persons (24 pesos cubanos are 1 CUC or 1 USD). We stayed in Guanaba with a family and we liked this place.

Viñales

The drive from Havana to Viñales takes about 2-2.5 hours in a shared taxi and costs 20 CUC per person. This part of Cuba is famous for their cultivation of tobocco. We made a half day tour with horses to visit the plants of tobocco and to enjoy the beautiful nature. Furthermore you can visit Playa Maria La Gorda, Cayo Levisa and Cayo Jutias for swimming, snorkling or hanging on the beach. You can also rent bicycles to explore the Mural de la Prehistoria, Valle de Viñales, Canopy or the Hotel los Jazmines to have a beautiful view.

In the center of Viñales is a place with wifi and music all day long. The people are dancing salsa or enjoying the sound of the music and we felt good vibes. One of the most funniest moments was, when we crossed a friend from Switzerland with not knowing that he is at the same time in Cuba. We passed a lovely evening all together and had much fun.

Trinidad

The drive from Viñales to Trinidad takes about 6 hours and costs 40 CUC per person in a shared taxi. Trinidad is a beautiful colonial city with lots of old and colorful buildings.

Cuba
Cuba

The main area is around the Plaza Mayor.

Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor

At night there are always concerts and worth to have a look.

Cuban musicians
Cuban musicians

If you like to dance salsa, we recommend the Fogon, which is next to the Plaza Mayor. 15 km from the town of Trinidad is playa Ancon, a beautiful beach to hang around or to enjoy a drink in the restaurant next to.

Trinidad is more expensive than other parts of Cuba, because each day the amount of tourists is growing. If you look for a good and cheap place to eat, we can recommend the restaurant Conde Becker, next to the Plaza Mayor.

Cayo Santa Maria

The drive from Trinidad to Cayo Santa Maria takes about 3.5 hours in a shared taxi and costs 25 CUC per person. In Cayo Santa Maria are just a few hotels. We have stayed in the hotel Memories, where we had a wonderful stay. The water is extremly clear and it feels like a swimming pool.

Cayo Santa Maria
Cayo Santa Maria

After three months of travelling it was refreshing to stay in a hotel and not to worry about anything. Because travelling means as well looking were is a supermarket to buy food, at every new place looking for the best cooking pans and hoping that the food is cooking well in it, having a more or less comfortable beds or looking for a place where you can wash your clothes. We love travelling but it happens that we miss our comfortable bed at home. Our stay in Memories was fantastic and we enjoyed to play tennis, beachvolleyball, swimming in the beautfiul water or just enjoy a hugh buffet with various food.

During our stay we have meet a wonderful and lovely cuple from Argentina. We had a good and funny time together 😊.

Good times
Good times

Varadero

Varadero is splited between a part with lots of hostels and a village with casa particulares. The drive from Cayo Santa Maria takes about 4 hours and costs with the bus 40 CUC per person and with a shared taxi 90 CUC.

Varadero has a wonderful beach with crystal clear water. It is situated 2 hours from Havana and is splited in a part with hotels and a little town. Here you have the choice, if you like to stay in a all inclusive hotel or in a casa particulares with a family.

We recommend to visit as well Santiago de Cuba. We have not been there, because it is at the other end of the island and this means a 12 hours drive from Havana. But if you are travelling for three weeks in Cuba, you will have time to visit Santiago de Cuba.

How to organise your trip in Kuba?

We recommend to book your first days in advance. It is more comfortable to arrive and to know, where to stay. If you decide to stay your first nights in Havana, you can book your stay with AirBnB. We stayed with a nice family in a old building in Vedado, Havana. We loved our stay with this family and we do recommend to stay there: look for Casa Pedro and Tele, Calle 21 y 4 give a call +53 7832 8547. To organise more of your trip, you need the help of locals. They have their network in the whole country of Cuba. For example we stayed in the house of Pedro and Tele in Havana, they organised our trip to Viñales and to Trinidad. They know people with casa particulares in this two citys. So just ask locals, they do have a really good network.

Do not forget, the most Cubanos do not use the internet for renting their apartments. Every casa particulares has their connections and for sure you will use them for travelling around Cuba. Per night in a casa particulares you pay between 25-30 CUC. The following sign means, that this house rents a room. So if you are looking for a bed to sleep, ask in the houses with this sign.

Rooms for rent
Rooms for rent

An other possibility is to book some nights in Havana and then heading on to a beautiful beach in Cuba. We recommend the following ones:

Cayo Largo (you need to book a flight)

Cayo Santa Maria

Cayo Guillermo

Cayo Coco

Varadero

On all Cayos you can just stay in all inclusive hotels. In Varadero you can choose between a all inclusive hotel and a casa particulares. You can book a hotel on booking or a travel agency. Please be aware, that the prices in Cuba are exploding since Fidel Castro died in December 2016. So if you book an all inclusive hotel for much money, do not be disappointed about the standard of the hotel. The prices are getting higher and higher but the hotels are not offer more to their guests. There is a inbalance between the price and the standard of the hotels. Please note that at the moment many tourists are travelling to Cuba, everything is booked out a long time in advance.

Transportation

There are several options to move in Cuba. The most expensive option is to rent a car. Furthermore you can rent a taxi driver for your own or there are shared taxis, they are much cheaper than normal taxis. They are collecting other people. Last option is to travel by bus with Viazul or Gaviota. It does not matter which option you choose, you need to book your tickets for your trip some days in advance, because a lot of tourists are currently travelling trough Cuba.

Currency

Cuba has two currencies CUC and Pesos Cubanos. You can everywhere pay with CUC but if you like to buy fruits on the market or to use the local bus, it is better to have some Pesos Cubanos. One CUC is similar as one USD. And 24 Pesos Cubanos are one CUC.

Che Guevara

Do you know Che Guevara or did you already heard about him? In our opinion the most famous man in Cubas history. As this person is than important for Cuba, for sure he is part of the blog post. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion. He was doctor and author.

As we visited the cigar factory in Viñales, they told us that Che Guevara loved to smoke the cigar with honey, we tried it out and it was delicious.

If you like to visit his monument, Santa Clara is a must do for you.

Last but not least… 😊

Be patient in Cuba, honestly it is the country of the longest queue we have ever been. For example you have to wait outside before going into a supermarket and when you like to pay your things, you have to hold the line again. Please be aware, that when you see something in the supermarket you like, buy it and buy enough of it. When you return the next day, probably there is no more of it and you do not know, when the supermarket will have this product again. Same for buying water, buy enough when you find some in a supermarket. In supermarkets you will not find vegetables and fruits, you have to buy them on special markets. Just ask the locals on the street, they will help you to find a place. We recommend that you try the Guayaba fruit, a tipical fruit from Cuba which is also used to make a special kind of rum.

It is helpful if you speak spanish, because a lot of the Cubans do not speak English or another language.

We recommend to visit Cuba as soon as possible to life and feel the old spirit of the county, because Cuba is changing fast.

We loved our stay in Cuba and recommend this country to everybody. For sure you will enjoy it.

We in Cayo Santa Maria
We in Cayo Santa Maria

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