Cuba is very interesting. We did a trip staying in Havana for a few days and then a week on a beach . Travelling around Cuba needs a tour or taxis , their public transport is more for locals. We met people who did a tour and recommended it as you see a lot more of Cuba . Car hire can be problematic as the cars aren’t in great condition and you need a phone card to use your mobile phone . The food is average and they runout of stuff a lot due to sanctions . One thing to remember is that if you intend to visit the US in the future and visit Cuba first . You’ll need a visa to visit the US . And ESTA isn’t allowed .
Strongly recommend a tour as you then experience things not easily available to the independent traveller. We had a lovely lunch in the garden of an entrepreneurial woman . She insisted that we inspected her kitchen first to verify its cleanliness - not something that I've ever done! It was a good change from hotel/ restaurant food and an insight into everyday Cuban life.
Our trip to Cuba 10 years ago was one of our best ever and we have great memories. Unfortunately I can’t recommend a company as we went with Cosmos and it looks like they no longer do Cuba tours.
We had a local guide who was brilliant, was with us throughout the tour and gave us so many insights into local life. It’s a fascinating country with so much to learn. Our guide’s father was a GP so told us a lot about the healthcare system, eg every GP lives (or did at that time) in accommodation attached to their surgery and is responsible for 100 families, who can call on them day or night. He told us not to tip in hotels or restaurants, as those like him, working in the tourist industry and with access to foreign currency, were amongst the wealthiest in Cuba - he earned a lot more than his father. From memory we went to Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and the Vinales valley, as well as having a few days in Havana, which is fabulous, music on every corner, so much history, and all the connections to Hemingway. Of course we went round a cigar factory and rum distillery, local markets and bars, and the chocolate museum, one of my favourite places.
Be warned that the food is pretty basic, or was when we went. On the first night we got chicken, potatoes, “a little salad” and ice cream. It was better than we had been led to expect, but we soon realised that this was the standard meal most days after that. Some of our party seemed oblivious to the fact that they were in a poor country and did a lot of grumbling about the menu, which was embarrassing.
We were the only couple on the tour who didn’t choose to have the extra week at an all inclusive complex, so had a long drive back to the airport by taxi. Our driver spent much of the time cursing those “monster hotels”, and how they were taking from the economy and lining the pockets of the rich. And he also swore long and loud about “the bearded one”, whenever we hit a pothole, which was every couple of minutes!
Things must have changed if you need a visa to go to the US after visiting Cuba - we’ve been there twice since just on an ESTA.
Thanks for this. We have traveled ( both worked with people ) so are used to dealing with others blissful ignorance. We have time left on esta from previous US trip if we fancy that too. My inclination is for a few days in London on the way home though …….