There are in my opinion two ways to spend a couple of weeks in Cuba … Either you stick to habana and really get the feeling of the place (you will probably make friends find nice live music places, drink a lot of rum etc) or you decide to ride through the country with as little constrains in planning (today we go here and then we go there etc) as possible …
What i did was rent a car and drive through most of cuba. Infortunately it was a white and ugly hyundai. Not a very good match to the fantastic old american cars you can see everywhere but was much cheaper to rent and more reliable.
Try to bargain a bit, especially if you take it for many days. You should also see that they have service points accross the country and a good spare tyre (+the tools to change it) we blasted at least 2 of these … Transtur is a good deal … better reserve in advance as prices rise depending on car availlability … we paid 50$/ day
Grab yourself some nice old cuban music from a music store near you (like buena vista social club) a dozen of cigars and dollars and ride on …
You see a place you like ? you stay … ask for a casa particular (20 to 30$ a night usually) and you stay over in a house … as long as it pleases you … you will eat lobster in the country by the kilos … its their favourite … If they invite to eat at their place don’t hesitate … you will know where your money goes …
any way Trinidad was my favourite … this is as far south as we managed in 15 days …
Try to find evening music happenings in the places you go … usually in places called “casa de la musica” or “casa de la trova” There you will have to find a cuban partner to teach you what real dance means … salsa !!
I dont know much about the sea … comming from greece i was not really impressed … I think Playa larga was really nice … I would definately stay away from varadero and the such … nothing cuban about them … the only people you get to know is other tourists like you but much older usually …
Stay away from the Hotel Horizontes Chain … expensive and for tourists only … very bad service usually
what to bring back?
Cigars of Course!!
(if you are allowed..)
In hotel National of Cuba (you are lucky if you stay there … old fashion real class hotel) ask for the cigar department … they usually have a very good Torcero rolling cigars in front of you … you must ask him to roll you a panatella and smoke it on the spot !! spectacular taste … buy from him the cigars he rolls !!
Of course you need to bring back Rum : the “Habana Club 15 Años Gran Reserva” very rare and very expensive outside cuba…
Go to the open-air market and fairs (habana, trinidad etc) and buy papier-maché toy cars, music instruments and fabulus necklaces made of beans !!!
Any way …
I am sure you are going to have a great time !!
A useful report for me, Christophoros, as I have heard that it can be difficult to get to many places unless you are with a tour bus. Hiring a car sounds ideal.More freedom.
although I don’t know if you noticed but the trip was actually a year ago. we did get to all the places without tour bus, met fantastic people and even the food was superb — contrary what people usually say. we stayed and ate in casa particulares in havanna, santiago de cuba, cienfuegos and isla de la juventud. lovely people, really!
Thank you for posting your pictures. I have a lot of family still there, and I grew up hearing stories of Cuba from my family members that were able to come to the USA. So there’s a connection there although I was 23 months old when I visited there last.
Some of the pictures are beautiful, and some just break my heart. I don’t know if you ever read the book “1984”. The author describes London after it’s been under siege for many years.
“This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste — this was London, chief city of Airstrip One, itself the third most populous of the provinces of Oceania. He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth-century houses, their sides shored up with baulks of timber, their windows patched with cardboard and their roofs with corrugated iron, their crazy garden walls sagging in all directions? And the bombed sites where the plaster dust swirled in the air and the willow-herb straggled over the heaps of rubble; and the places where the bombs had cleared a larger patch and there had sprung up sordid colonies of wooden dwellings like chicken-houses? But it was no use, he could not remember: nothing remained of his childhood except a series of bright-lit tableaux occurring against no background and mostly unintelligible.” exerpt from “1984” by George Orwell