Eight months of travelling around Latin America could not have prepared us for Cuba. It’s truly a unique country and everything we read online beforehand was true. One minute it could be the most frustrating place in the world where even the simplest of tasks become a pain in the arse. The next it absolutely takes your breath away and you have to pinch yourself. Our 2 and a half weeks in Cuba were full of many ups and downs but we loved every minute of it. It all began in Havana.
Being British we are well known for our ‘love’ of queuing. We soon discovered we would be doing a lot of it in Cuba. It all began with dinner once we arrived. There were two places near us, we passed on the first as the queue was 10 people thick (Jak is not that patient). We headed along to the next restaurant where there was just one couple in front, we settled in for what turned out to be a 30 minute wait for a table
The next day was full of chores and we queued for at least 90 minutes in the space of 2 hours. It all started with the bank. We arrived around midday (the worst time possible) to a very long queue. The queues in Cuba can be very deceptive as they have a system where you ask who is last in line (making a mental note of this person), then you can leave the line and sit in the shade or wherever you wish and re join at any time slotting back into your place. Changing money was fairly painless after the long wait and that was one chore down.
Next we got in what seemed like a fairly short queue for a wifi card. This was where the queue was very deceiving and the queue grew and grew as people sitting in the shade re joined the line. What we thought would be a short 15 minute wait ended up being 45 minutes. Oh and this is Cuba, so the speed of the people working behind the counters was at the pace of a tortoise. Literally, I’ve never seen someone work so slowly.
Casa particulars are the only option for cheap accommodation in Cuba, the government allows Cubans to let rooms to tourists to earn some extra money. This extra money actually ends up being much more than what Cubans earn in government salaries so it’s big business.
Jak and I had met other travellers who’d been to Cuba and told us there was no need to book Casas in advance. On our previous trip we never booked in advance and would just turn up and look around before selecting a room. We’ve changed a lot since then and much prefer booking in advance. We dread the thought of wandering the streets with huge backpacks looking for a room.
Originally we decided just to show up in Cuba with no reservations; but a week before I bottled it and felt pretty stressed about the influx of tourism we’d read about online (Which was true, a Casa owner told us that tourists have had to sleep in the police station because the Casa’s were full in Vinales). The thought of being left stranded or having to stay in a shit hole was too much for me. We booked our first 6 nights on Air B n B which turned out to be a great decision.
Our Casa Particular in Havana was amazing and exceeded our expectations. Our hosts, Maria and Jose, were very friendly, even though Jak was the only one who could communicate with them in Spanish. Breakfast was a feast of fresh fruit, juice, coffee and eggs and we always left stuffed. It was our first experience of a Casa in Cuba and we hoped the rest would be the same.
It was absolutely amazing walking around old Havana seeing some of the sights as well as Cubans going about their daily routines. It was like being in another world, the whole country is a museum. The pictures really say it all.
Jak lost his sunglasses at the worst possible time, in the taxi on the way to Cancun airport just before our flight to Cuba. We had to search through so many stores for a pair of sunglasses, it was crazy to see what they sell and how they sell it. Clothes shops were so bare with a lot of products in glass cabinets, supermarkets only sold one brand of each product and staff would actually continue to stock shelves even if they saw you waiting at the counter. Eventually Jak found the only pair of snazzy sunglasses available in a government store.
OLD CAR TOUR
The must do tour in Havana. We jumped in an old convertible Ford and set off for a tour around key landmarks and neighbourhoods.
SUNSET AT THE MALECON
And our time in Havana wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down the malecon to watch the sunset.