Cuba, without the resort

When people tend to talk about Cuba, they refer to Varadero. It is incredibly popular for Canadians to travel to all inclusive resorts in Cuba. I wanted a different kind of experience for this trip to Cuba but I hadn’t met anyone who had done this kind of trip to seek advice or tips. Once again, thank you to Lonely Planet and WikiTravel.

One of the first things I noticed while researching what to do in Havana was there was not a lot “to do” in Havana. Having a plan is a huge part of my travel process. I understand plans change due to unforeseen circumstances however I feel comforted with a plan. I made note of a few museums and historical sights to see in case wandering the streets were not enough to satisfy my urge for activity.

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Being outside seemed to be a big part of people’s lives. People ate outdoors, hung out on their balconies, talked to their neighbours through windows. There was a sense of street culture that was safe for everyone as kids played outside and older people sat of stoops talking to their friends. It was easy to explore the streets of Old Havana as the area is small.

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After a few days of Old Havana, Centro Havana, El Vededo, the Malecón,and the Playa de Este, it was time to move on to a smaller city. A $25 ticket and a few hours later we were in Trinidad, Cuba.

Trinidad is a beautiful town to spend a few days. Again, there’s not a lot “to do” but still loads of wandering to be done. There’s a handful of museums and galleries, live music venues and of course the beach.

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Playa ancon

Playa Ancon is known as the nicest public beach in Cuba. By public beach, I mean beaches at are not own by resorts which means Playa Ancon is full of locals. It’s also a 30 minute bus ride from Trinidad which makes it convenient for spending the day. Keep in mind there are limited food options with one main restaurant serving most beach goers. Bring snacks and plenty of water. Bring a beach towel or blanket and hang out under the stationary umbrellas; the lounge chairs cost a few pesos.

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The most excited to be in Trinidad, Cuba

Accommodation

The most challenging part of planning the trip to Cuba was figuring out how to book accommodation. Casa Particulares are the best sources of budget accommodation in Cuba. Casas are rooms people rent out their homes to tourists. These are the best option for budget conscious travellers. Double occupancy rooms are available starting from $20 per night.

The problem I ran into was there were multiple sites that claimed to be from casa owners that required deposits. I was not comfortable paying for a deposit on a site that I had no experience using or verified reviews. Instead I found reviews on Trip Advisor that included the casa owners email address. I booked my casas by email and hoped it worked out -thankfully it did.

Old Havana
View from our Casa

Currency

The local currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP) however foreigners are required to use Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). This can be frustrating as the CUP price is always incredibly less than the CUC price however travelling is a privilege that many other people, including many Cubans cannot afford. If I can afford to fly to Cuba, then I can afford the extra few dollars for my meal.

Other Backpacker Destinations

I never have enough time to see everywhere I want to in a country. This doesn’t stop me from going anywhere, I’ll have to return one day to finish.

Santa Clara
This city holds the mausoleum for Che Guevera and is supposed to be a lovely city to spend a few days.

Veradero
Yes, Veradero. As much as I didn’t want to stay in an all inclusive resort, these do have the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Viñales
This is my priority the next time I travel to Cuba. The landscape looks impressive as does the options for hiking and exploring.


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