Cuba

Some thoughts after we spend almost one Month in Cuba!

After spending almost four weeks in Cuba, we say: This is a country like no other we have seen before.

We got the impression that Cuba is not ready for the masses of tourists that are already coming here every day. They lead to fast rising prices, some sort of social loss and the orientation towards money. We expected to not feel like walking ATMs in Cuba and we were disappointed. Cuban people are great with each other, really caring and nice. But in some touristic centers they forget that tourists are not all the same and don´t treat us the same way as each other. To cross that border you have to stay in Cuba for longer than a few weeks and you need to speak Spanish ;-). And you should stay out of the very touristic parts, because they don´t represent the country and its people at all.

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A non touristic big cuban city!

After diving in Maria La Gorda we spend one night in Pinar del Rio – a normal and big city in Cuba. We enjoyed being here a lot. People are really friendly and we ate in some very good small Cuban cafeterias and restaurants.

Our first day here we spend walking around the city center and watching people working and living on the streets. The next day we visited a working tobacco company and watched the workers rolling cigars. That´s actually really interesting and a lot of work! Every worker has to do a minimum of 100 cigars a day. Therefore they have a desk, a special and counted amount of tobacco leaves (different mixtures for different brands), special boxes to put them in, a press and a few control checks they have to pass until the cigars are ready for selling. The entrance fee was 5 CUC/ person and we had to buy them across the street at a Cubanacan desk.

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Valle de Vinales

We got to Vinales directly from Playa Giron, which is not possible by bus. You can take the bus to Havana and then change into another bus to Vinales, but that´s not possible in one day. So, we took a collective taxi, paid 40 CUC/ person and traveled almost all day. It was amazingly well organized. The shared taxi took us shortly before Havana, where we were transferred into a small bus for 12 persons to Vinales. It drove everyone to their casa.

Vinales is an amazing nice little town. Even tough it is very touristy, it still has a nice and layed-back charme! Maybe that comes with the mountains J. The countryside is known for the mogotes – the typical limestone mountain formations that look like they have grass-hair (it´s also a UNESCO natural world heritage area). Because of the limestone, there are many caves in the area.

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The Bay of Pigs

After Trinidad we decided to not see another touristic city in Cuba but go to another beach and check out some more diving areas. That´s why we drove to the Bay of Pigs. Playa Giron – at the Bay of Pigs – is a normal, not really beautiful village. There is a governmental hotel, many casas and a few restaurants (but eating in the casas is a good option here). People come here either for relaxing, snorkeling or diving. Our casa was 20 CUC/ night, 5 CUC for a very rich breakfast (perfect for diving) and 8 CUC for dinner (vegetarian should be cheaper).

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A beautiful, but touristic hotspot in Cuba

We came to Trinidad by Taxi (for 30 CUC – 1,5 hours), directly from Rancho Luna. There is no direct bus. So, if you don´t want to go all the way by Taxi you can take one to Cienfuegos and change to a bus or a collective Taxi there. A bus between Cienfuegos and Trinidad costs 6 CUC and the Taxi prices are between 6-12 CUC.

The city Trinidad is very touristic but also a nice little town. They had their 500th anniversary in 2014 and the whole old town was renovated. Now it looks nicely prepared, colorful, clean and has many restaurants. Our tour guide said that within 2 years over 50 restaurants opened in the city. And it fells like all of old town is one big casa particulares, because everyone has at least one room for rent.

Trinidad is nice because it combines mountains and ocean with town and restaurants.

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Relaxing at the beach close to Cienfuegos

A 20-30 minutes bus or car ride away from Cienfuegos lies the small village Rancho Luna. There isn´t much around, besides a beautiful beach. We went there to relax a few days and to check out the diving in this area.

We called a Casa Particulares before we arrived to ask if they have room for us, which wasn´t a problem. The Casa Larabi is a place we can really recommend. The owner and his family are the nicest people, very friendly and helpful. They spend part of the money, which they earn from the guests, for the local hospital, because he is an retired doctor. He speaks really good English and has a beautiful (all pink and purple) house with two terraces – one in the front of the house and one in the back. Different plants grow everywhere and create natural shadowy hang outs to chill and eat. There is also a beautiful garden and they make their own goat cheese! The rooms are big and clean. We felt welcome and at home there!

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Our first stop after Havana was Cienfuegos. We took a Viazul Bus to get there, which cost us 20 CUC/ person and took 5 hours. To book a ticket you have to take a taxi to the Plaza Nueva in Vedado, that´s where the terminal is and where the tickets are sold. Once upon a time you where able to just go to the bus station and take the next bus that´s leaving in the right direction – nowadays you have to book 1-3 days in advance. The earlier the better! Even for reservations you have to go to the bus station, the Viazul Homepage is not working, and crashes down regularly.

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First Impression

This country is difficult to describe, but arriving here is nice. The officers that check your passport actually look at you, say your name and welcome you into Cuba! We haven’t had such a wonderful welcome, for a long time. Getting into Cuba was easy – we had the travel card/ visa, that allows you to stay in the country for 30 days. We got it in Germany, filled it in ourselves and that was it! No one asked for a flight out of the country or anything else. Before we booked the flights we read a lot about entering Cuba, especially from the U.S., because it is new that you can enter Cuba from the USA without a special visa (we were not able to find good information about it). So, we were a little scared something might go wrong. But it was easy and uncomplicated.

Getting our luggage in Havana was an adventure, though. We stood in the middle of trolleys and people, carrying masses of electronics and others things in huge bags into Cuba. Very posh must be large flat screen TVs! We waited for ages (it took at least one and a half hours) to get our luggage – no one was complaining.

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