Cuba. What to do, what to see and how to make the most of it?
It's been more than a year since I visited Cuba. I have already described the tour in Slovak, now I would like to give you some travel tips (since I'm such an expert :) ). Now, how to experience the "proper" Cuba? What is a must see? What to avoid?
First of all, I should mention that I'm absolutely against travel resorts. If your goal is to go to Varadero to a 5* hotel and spend the whole time in all-inclusive restaurants, it doesn't make any sense to keep reading. Now, if you are an adventurer and are not afraid of a bit of discomfort, this is definitely something for you.
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. As in every tourist destination, people will try to make everything more expensive for you, actually ridiculously expensive if you find out how much things actually cost for the locals. Even though it doesn't feel nice and might be a bit embarrassing, always negotiate. And, of course, agree the price before taking a taxi. Does he ask 25 CUC? Make it 10, and insist. Not that I'm cheap, but there are better things to spend money on. Such as accommodation.
Accommodation. If you don't stay in a hotel and want to travel around, you will most likely stay in casas particulares. They are pretty much standardized and really comfortable. Still, don't let yourself fool and take a look at the room(s). And don't forget to bring a power plug adapter! :) In case you need a place to stay in Viñales, let me know. Our hosts were the friendliest, cutest, loveliest. Simply the best!
Tourist attractions. If you ask the locals about what to see, they might recommend you places you might not be that interested in, such as Varadero or Cayo Levisa. They mean well - these places are for them almost inaccessible and they would love to go there as well. I mean, if you are looking for those typical beaches with white sand, hotels and waiters, go for it, but you might want to go somewhere else too. Cayo Jutías is also super nice, and you will meet there way more locals. Our hosts in Viñales arranged us a special tour to some small lakes around, where we tried fishing and enjoyed riding horses in the wild nature around. The secret is to be friendly and open-minded and the locals will help you to open a brand new world. And maybe they will also take you to a Cuban club, where tourists usually don't go. In my case, it was awesome!
Careful with drinks. I don't mean alcohol, but juices and other things. Us Europeans might not tolerate the Caribbean water, so be careful, especially with the ice. Otherwise you might start puking and end up at the emergency room, just like me. No worries, the health care in Cuba is excellent.
Make sure you go to Cuba in September. Hurricanes are awesome. Earthquakes in Mexico too.
Learn Spanish, at least some basics. I wouldn't suggest Despacito lyrics though. And get ready that people might not know where you are from. Slovakia, Occidental Sahara, same thing.
Don't eat Cuban fast food, it might ruin pizza for you for a reeeally long time.
To sum up, Cuba is a great place. Spending 2 weeks without any internet is relieving and you realize how much time you actually spend checking your e-mails, notifications, Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, etc. Experiencing the regime might be annoying in some moments, but at least it makes you appreciate all the freedom we have nowadays. Now, what should you pack?
- shorts, bikini, t-shirts. You won't need anything else
- power plug adapter
- cash. You'll need to exchange money straight after your departure
- sunblock. Tons of it.
- toilet paper. However silly it sounds, you might need to have your own
- tissues. Public toilets are not the best
- chocolate. Both you and your hosts will really appreciate it
- patience. If you are like me and you use highlighters in your agenda and basically you are an organization-freak, you are going to have a hard time
- offline maps. Internet access in Cuba is pretty restricted
- washing powder. You might sweat a bit, and you can imagine what it would be like to have your dirty clothes all together in your suitcase
Of course, there couldn't be anything better than getting robbed in Amsterdam on my way back home, but that's another story. Now pack your stuff and get ready to have some mojitos, Cuba libres and pictures of Che Guevara all around you. Cheers.