Back in the Old Days of Cuba
Cuba is a very interesting country for a road trip. It has a beautiful landscape, a fascinating culture and I felt welcome and safe in Cuba. Before you decide to go to Cuba, it is important to read about this country. What do you want to do in Cuba? What can you expect in Cuba? What is important to know? Research on the internet or read a book about Cuba before heading there.
- Do not expect a luxury hotel. It will be clean and the bed will be okay.
- Do not buy cigars on the street; they are not real. Just go to a cigar store.
- Haggling is a normal thing in Cuba
- Take toilet paper with you. That is scarce in Cuba.
- You can’t shop in Cuba because there are no stores for clothes or shoes
- Most of the people don’t speak English; only Spanish
- Take your time and relax because that is what local people do.
- When you want to meet the local people, take them out for a drink and you will have a nice time!
- The people of Cuba will ask for money for everything; taking a photo of you or parking a car at a free parking place. I am not going to tell you what to do in this situation because that should be your own decision.
I started my trip in Havana where I stayed for two days. I always take a book or map with me. In Havana, I walked a lot because I wanted to meet local people and get a taste of the atmosphere on the streets.
The people are very friendly but of course, they know you are a tourist. On every corner they will ask you, “Where are you coming from?” After a nice talk, they will want to bring you to a restaurant or bar. That is their way of earning extra money. If you are not interested, then just respectfully say “no.” They will shake your hand and wish you a nice holiday.
In Havana, I have seen all the touristy parts. This includes The Morro Castle, Marcelon, El Capitolo, Old Havana and all the beautiful old cars. If you want to take a ride in one of the classic cars, you have to decide how much you want to pay for a ride. The Cuban people know you are a tourist and they know the prices to charge.
In Havana, I rented a car for my trip. Sometimes, you have to be patient during this process because it is normal to wait for a couple of hours for your rental car.
It is a crazy experience to drive in Cuba. People are walking, selling food and riding their bike on the highway. Viñales is on the tail of Cuba (The west side) not far from Pinar del Rio. Viñales is a small town and almost every house has a casa particular, which is a private homestay. Buses full of tourists arrive everyday to this village. The valley of Viñales is very fruitful.
For less money, you could hire the owner of the casa particular as your private guide. I decided to do that and we walked for two hours through the valley. He told me all about the tobacco industry and the animals, who live in the valley.
The Cuban hutia, also called Desmarest’s hutia, is an animal of the rodent family that is found exclusively in Cuba. Unfortunately, the hutia is also a delicacy in Cuba. It is used for stew with nuts and honey.
Cienfuegos is a city on the on the southern coast of Cuba. On my way to Trinidad, I read a lot of good things about this city. I was in Cienfuegos for half a day. The city has a lot of Spanish influences and that is not strange when you know the history of this town.
If there is one building in Cuba that I recommend to visit, it is Palacio de Valle. This amazing building is a pearl of the South. Palacio de Valle is an architectural jewel located in the Punta Gorda in the city of Cienfuegos.
After my stop in Cienfuegos, I drove further to Trinidad. There are two roads that will lead you to this town; inland or by the coast. Trinidad is very touristic because a lot of people make a one day trip from Varadero to Trinidad. It is a nice town that you can see in one day. Trinidad is especially alive in the evening when people play music in restaurants and bars.
From Trinidad, I drove to Varadero and made a stop in Santa Clara, the birth place of Che Guevara. Santa Clara is the capital city of the Cuban province of Villa Clara. It is located in the most central region of the province. In Santa Clara, it is possible to visit the Che Guevara museum, as well as a huge square (Plaza de la Revolucion) overlooked by a large statue of Che.
Varadero is located in the province of Matanzas. It is the most famous beach resort in Cuba. It is also one of the largest resorts in the Caribbean. Varadero has 20 Kilometers of blue water, sandy beaches and a lot of hotels. The most amazing part of Varadero was snorkeling in the deep blue sea and seeing all the beautiful fish in all sorts of color.
I had a really good time in Cuba. When you want to do something for the local people, give your clothes, shoes, make-up or shampoo to them. People will be very happy with these items.
If you want to know anything or if you have questions, take a look at my website www.visualsofmylife.com or my Instagram @tineke_koning