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.
We learned that many things can be made impossible in Cuba by the Cuban culture or the political system, for example renting a motorbike or booking an inland flight. For example, when we went to a rental place there was always no motorbike and no option to reserve or book one. The only answer we got (everywhere) was “Manjana, manjana” – which means “tomorrow, tomorrow”. So, in a way it is possible at some point, but it takes ages. Another example is booking a flight. To do that you have to be at the flight agencies office – in person, which is in Havana (the Homepage is not working, most of the time). That´s what makes spontaneous traveling very difficult and sometimes even impossible. You can´t decide to fly somewhere spontaneously. When we were there all flights for the month were booked already – so, we were unlucky. But we heard that it depends on the time and month that you want to travel.
We had to realize that Cuba is a good holiday country if you go around here in two ways: (1) You booked everything in advance and just do it without thinking about money or without the feeling you want to see the Cuban culture. You just pay the different tours to the “must see” places and you´ll have an easy time in Cuba (and that is not what we are looking for!!!!).
(2) You have to bring a lot if time and energy to organize things and it is very helpful and almost necessary to speak the language. It is possible to travel with a low-ish budget, but not the best county to save money. Since there aren´t many options to go from one place to another (either use the bus – which is often booked – or rent a car which is at least 70 CUC per day). Today or tomorrow doesn´t matter and you often spend at least one day to learn how a new place works. For example: There is a tourist train tour going to the Valle de los Indigenos at 9.30 and at 14.00. But everyone kept telling us, that the train only goes once a day and that we have to take a taxi – which of course they offered. In the end the train came and we paid 8 CUC to take the 3 hours tour. So, everybody was lying at us to get us in their taxi trying to make money with you. That´s why they often won´t give you the correct information. There are no public and official timetables, signs or information’s.
So, would we recommend to go to Cuba…?
For Backpackers, who love the freedom, love to be spontaneous and want to save money Cuba is not the right place at the moment. Maybe this changes and gets better or worse. Cuba is currently changing a lot!
Due to the politic system and the just opening borders, some things are much more complicated as we would expect them, as European Backpackers.
Most public transport is not open for tourists (officialy), sometimes they let you use it anyway, but it depends where, who etc.
The national Money is not for tourists. You can change CUC in CUP but at least in the touristic centers the Cubans don´t really like it when tourists pay with the national Money (CUP).
A lot of times you feel like people are not interested in doing their work good or bad, because they get paid anyway the same, which makes it hard sometimes.