Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A TRIP THROUGH THE REAL CUBA 1

A Trip Through the Real Cuba is written by Mary and Jack, our wonderful guests who stayed with us in our network of casa particulares throughout Cuba in February 2017. 


A TRIP THROUGH THE REAL CUBA
by Mary & Jack


Cuba Trip
Cuba Trip February 2017

HAVANA

Our first casa particular (Casa Maruchi) in Havana provided a large bedroom in a second-floor apartment, facing the ocean, which we shared with Maru, Aida and their friendly dog. After settling in and a walk around the Vedado neighborhood, we enjoyed a delicious Cuban supper prepared by our Cuban hostesses, then early to bed. Breakfast the next day was as excellent as it was generous - the coffee in Cuba was especially good throughout our visit. 


Casa in Cuba
Casa Maruchi Havana

The apartment was not far from the Riviera Hotel and the huge 500-room Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana, in which we found a Transtur agent...and bought our bus tickets to Viñales for three days later. We also boarded the Hop-on-hop-off bus outside the Riviera, bought our day’s ticket - an easy way to get to and from our apartment while seeing the sights of the process.


Things to do in Havana
Havana Bus Tour

Things to do in Havana
Fortress 1577 Havana Cuba

Music Havana
Ladies String Orchestra Havana

VIÑALES

Our comfortable three-hour bus ride through the Cuban countryside, ended at the bus station in Viñales, where we were met by our hosts Randy and Dayna. We taxied to their home, by far the most comfortable of our casas. Newly built by Randy, an industrial engineer and furnished by Dayna, this young couple was working hard showcase Viñales with first class accommodation for foreign visitors. Their separate cottage featured tile floors and bathroom, double beds, a fridge with beer and water and a rooftop patio. Dayna served us a delicious Cuban supper and helped arrange a guided tour of the local attractions in for the next day.


Viñales Cuba
Enjoying the Terrace Casa Randy & Dayna


Casa Viñales Cuba
Casa Randy & Dayna Viñales Cuba

Our day consisted of a visit to to the caves and a boat ride among stalactites and stalagmites, a tobacco plantation, Botanical Garden and excellent seafood lunch (El Campanero). Finding it a bit too hot for the climb up the hill,  Mary asked a young fellow (Alexander) on a horse-drawn cart if he would take us back to our casa in Viñales, and he was happy to do so for a couple of CUCs. There are many such vehicles in Cuba, some used as taxis but most as the family car would be used in Canada - the structure consists of a robust frame and axle, with bearings, car wheels and tires and the shafts that connect to the horse. It is quite a comfortable ride considering the condition of the roads in Cuba, which are often cobblestone. The small Cuban horses seemed well taken care of, and lively in spite of the temperature, a hot 32℃. We had a nice picnic supper on the roof, read books and retired early.

Transport in Cuba
Cuban Transport

To find out more about their Cuban adventures, check out "A Trip Through the Real Cuba 2" by Mary & Jack.


Experience the Real Cuba would like to thank Mary and Jack for booking their Cuba trip with us and for sharing their Cuban adventures on the Experience the Real Cuba blog.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

CUBA HAVANA


Check out this amazing video of Cuba Havana by Karim Rashad & Jessica Ross. 

Thanks to you both for featuring Experience the Real Cuba and taking part in our Salsa lessons with our partner SalsAmiga dance studio.









Thursday, 1 June 2017

SEÑORITA CAN I BUY YOUR CLOTHES

 By Lara Sabry



Trinidad, Cuba


Me and my hobo set out to Cuba in January 2016. Cuba has been on the top of our list for years, we’ve saved up a great amount and had spent months doing our research to the point that by the time we got to Trinidad, we knew the street names by heart.

Little did we know, our three-digit budget was about to take a speeding swing down to 0.

Cuba


Before heading out to Cuba we had already made all our Hotel reservations online and so we set out with a budget that would cover our daily expenses and internal transportation. The plan was to start in Havana then backpack across Cuba and end the trip in Baracoa (sounds like reasonable plan, doesn’t it?).

By the time we got to Viñales (which was our 3rd city to visit) instead of spending two nights there we ended up staying for a week. That’s when the financial crisis and excitement began!

*****


By staying in Viñales for a week, we were also deciding to miss the rest of our reservations, exciting! We had $500 to cover us for 3 weeks; that gave us $23 to spend per day on:

Accommodation, Transportation and Daily Expenses (WHAT!).

Cuba


Not only did we manage to rent a room to sleep in but we also managed to visit two more cities!

From Viñales to Varadero to TRINIDAD

You can’t simply go all the way to Cuba and not pass by Trinidad, can you?

Any Cuban you come across will almost always recommend you to go to Trinidad. What’s there not to like? From cave parties, sugar cane fields, tobacco fields, waterfalls, mountains, horse-back riding to THE Hershey City-Tour Train. Shall I say more?

Cuba


By the time we made it to Trinidad, we had been surviving on biscuits, $2 Pizza and tap water for the past 3 days. That was until our host came up to me and genuinely offered to buy my clothes (but wait, let me explain).

It is almost impossible to find clothing stores in Cuba except in Havana and with a maximum wage of $20–25 per month, Cubans can rarely afford to purchase clothes. For those not living in Havana, it is impossible.

Being far away from Havana, our host asked if we had spare clothes to sell for a reasonable price and we sure as hell did! For $15 we had sold: 2 dresses, 3 pair of pants, 2 scarves and 5 shirts. She had bought herself and her daughter a few flowery-patterned pieces of clothing and we had earned enough cash to keep us alive the next couple of days. A win-win situation is what it is! To top that off, before we departed to catch the bus heading back to Havana, she had prepared 2 pieces of bread for us, a juice box, fried chicken and a free ride to the bus station!


***

Lara Sabry was born in Venezuela and spent the majority of her life moving around Latin America until moving to Belgrade in 2005 and to Egypt in 2009. Laura went to Cuba in January of 2016, and found that Cuba was one of the most profound places she had visited. She spent 2 months roaming around Cuba and truly believes that for the first time she has found a place she could call home. 


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

CUBA, VIÑALES: JUST ANOTHER CITY?

By Lara Sabry


Viñales Cuba


Every traveler out there has a wish travel list; and Cuba was on the top of mine. Initially me and my hobo travel pal, had done our research, confirmed our Hotel and Bus reservations before traveling back to the 60s.

1st Stop- Havana (2 nights)
2nd Stop- Pinar Del Rio (1 night)
3rd Stop- Viñales (2 nights) and right there, our trip was about to take a turning point.

Let me tell you why our 2 nights in Viñales, turned into one whole week in Viñales.

VALLE DE VIÑALES 

Instead of taking a Viazul bus from Pinar Del Rio to Viñales, we settled for a one-hour taxi ride instead. We paid half the amount we would’ve paid for a Viazul bus ticket and the taxi driver suggested a few stops that we could make on the way.

First Stop Bienvenido a Viñales!

Located in the Sierra de los Órganos mountains, is the Valle De Viñales - a hill top area that overlooks the alluring texture created by nature. From mountains to tobacco fields. The higher the humidity, the better the view! Around the area there’s a bar that serves the best Mojitos and Piña Coladas. So, sit back, gaze at the view and if you’re lucky enough, there may just be a Salsa / Rumba live performance. Shall we dance?

MURAL DE LA PREHISTORIA

Welcome to the city of endless creativity!

Mural de la Prehistoria Viñales
Mural de la Prehistoria

Only a 15-minute drive from Valle De Viñales, is Mural de la Prehistoria; a dazzling piece of art! 

Originally designed by Leovigildo González Morillo in 1961 - it took 18 artists and four years to complete this strikingly inspiring beauty.

The painting consists of a snail, dinosaurs, sea monsters and humans - why? symbolizing the theory of evolution. Pretty intriguing!

By this beautiful site is a restaurant that serves deliciously cooked meals and creatively made cocktails; entrance fee to Mural de la Prehistoria is 5CUC (5$).

Don’t be scared to go all out and ask for a quick bull ride!

CUEVAS DE SANTO TOMAS

Shall we explore some more?

Cuevas de Santo Tomas Viñales Cuba
Cuevas de Santo Tomas

This was one of the major highlights for me and le hobo! Cuevas De Santo Tomas is the largest cave located in Cuba and the second largest in Latin America. Exciting!

The cave consists of 8 levels overall; however, visitors are only allowed to explore up to the fourth level, for safety reasons. Before you begin your adventure, you’re asked to choose the levels you’d like to explore. We chose, what they call, the ‘Special’ package, which includes climbing through all four levels whilst being told the complete background history of the cave.

Cuevas de Santo Tomas Viñales Cuba
Cuevas de Santo Tomas
To get to the cave, you’re escorted through a 15 minute walk (slightly up-hill) through Tobacco, Coffee and Sugar Cane plantation fields.

What makes the adventure worth-while? You’ll be mind-blown by the rock formations found within the cave, that have been created over hundreds of years, the underground pools, instrumental musical rock tools and finally, bats will gladly keep you company through-out your tour.

INSIDE THE CUEVAS DE SANTO TOMAS 

Being the awfully goofy person that I am, I fell a few times trying to climb my way through the cave - If you have poor stamina, you may want to be extra careful.

Note: The Special Excursion costs 20CUC (20$) per person.

ZIP-LINING!

Given that Viñales is a city, encircled by colorful mountains and large areas of greenery, can you imagine what it would be like zip-lining through it?

Zipline Cuba
Zipline Viñales

TAKE THE PARTY TO THE CAVE

Palenque, what?

Every city in Cuba has its nightlife ‘ritual’. What’s similar between all rituals? The party doesn’t stop.


Palenque Cuba
Palenque

Viñales was my favorite! Me and Le Hobo arrived to Viñales in the morning and so we had a little time to explore the city before sunset. By the time it was 8PM we were already exhausted and decided to settle for a laid-back beer session in one of the bars located in the center. After a few beers, we couldn’t resist the Reggaetón music and we curiously went to see where it came from. 

‘Casa de la Música’ (or House of Music), only a few minutes after we entered this lively place, we had already met a few locals that were about to make our stay in the city a worthwhile one! Around 10 is when everyone heads to Casa de la Música to start their night - From Salsa to Reggaetón. 

The place closed around 1AM and everyone was shouting out ‘PALENQUE!’ and heading to 

Casa de la Musica Cuba
Casa de la Música

catch a taxi. Of course, we too wanted to see what Palenque was all about.

CASA DE LA MÚSICA 

Viñales will grow on you; with everything it has to offer, from its nightlife to its natural sights and the wonderful humans that live there  - eventually becoming your little Cuban family. If ever in Cuba, make sure you give Viñales more than two days.

*****

Lara Sabry was born in Venezuela and spent the majority of her life moving around Latin America until moving to Belgrade in 2005 and to Egypt in 2009. Laura went to Cuba in January of 2016, and found that Cuba was one of the most profound places she had visited. She spent 2 months roaming around Cuba and truly believes that for the first time she has found a place she could call home. 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

DOES TRANSTUR HAVE A SERVICE FROM TRINIDAD TO VIÑALES

Transtur in Cuba no longer run a transfer service from Trinidad to Viñales.

If you want to travel with the Transtur, they only operate a service from Trinidad to Cienfuegos or from Trinidad to Havana. You have to be at Parque Cespedes in Trinidad at 08:00am outside the Iberostar Hotel and it drops you off at key hotels in Cienfuegos and Havana.

Experience the Real Cuba does not take bookings for the Transtur service and it is not possible to make a booking with Transtur online. The only way to book a Transtur service from Trinidad is at a Cubanacan travel agency. There is a Cubanancan agency in Trinidad located on Maceo on the corner of Desengaño in the pastry shop / internet café. There is also a desk at the Universo shopping area on Jose Marti between Colon and Rosario opposite the BANDEC bank.

You need to make the booking in person at least 2 days before you want to travel and pay in cash.

If you want an alternative method of travel from Trinidad to Viñales or from Trinidad to Havana, Experience the Real Cuba offer a shared taxi service. These are door to door services, they start collecting from Casas at about 08:30am in Trinidad.

Experience the Real Cuba also offers a private taxi service from Trinidad to Viñales, from Trinidad to Cienfuegos, from Trinidad to Havana and from Trinidad to other locations around Cuba.

To book a shared taxi service or a private taxi with Experience the Real Cuba, please send us an email to experiencetherealcuba@gmail.com with the following information:

  • Date of travel
  • Time of preferred travel (if req
    uiring a private taxi service)
  • Number of passengers
  • Pick-up Address
  • Drop-off Address




travel to Viñales
Cubanacan bureau - Maceo

Book Transtur Travel Cuba
Cubanacan bureau - Universo

Thursday, 15 December 2016

TRAVEL FROM HAVANA TO TRINIDAD - TRANSTUR

I recently received the following comments from a traveller after their trip to Cuba (October 2017) and wanted to share on the blog:

“You asked me to let you know about our Transtur coach journey between Havana and Trinidad. The booking and pick-up point nearest to Hotel Telegrafo is the Hotel Plaza, just across Parque Central from the Inglaterra in Havana. I bought our tickets two days before our journey and was told the journey would take about 5 hours including rest breaks. The cost was 27 CUC per person.

Unfortunately the journey from Havana to Trinidad wasn't the best. The Transtur coach turned up over an hour after the time we were told to assemble outside the Plaza Hotel in Havana. It then took over 6 hours to get to Trinidad via several stops to drop off/pick up passengers in Cienfuegos. I was expecting to go directly from Havana to Trinidad like a scheduled bus service! Finally, the toilet on the coach was locked so we had to wait for the rest stops - not so great when you're in your 50s!

Despite these problems it was well worth the journey to see Trinidad. It is a beautiful town with lively streets and bars and great restaurants. The national period of mourning in Cuba started while we were there. What a difference! Suddenly there was no music on the streets of Cuba or in the restaurants in the evening, and no alcohol sales.”

Thanks Ian for sharing your comments on your Transtur journey from Havana to Trinidad in Cuba.

Experience the Real Cuba does not take bookings for the Transtur service and it is not possible to make a booking online.

If you want an alternative method of travel from Havana to Trinidad, we offer a shared taxi service. These are door to door services, they start collecting from Casas at about 2:00pm in Havana.

We also offer a private taxi service from Havana to Trinidad and other locations around Cuba and can be organised at a time that suits you.

To book a shared taxi service or a private taxi with us, please send us an email to experiencetherealcuba@gmail.com with the following information:

Date of travel
Number of passengers
Pick-up Address
Drop-off Address


How to travel Cuba

Travel Cuba

Monday, 31 October 2016

14 THINGS YOU SHOULD PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO CUBA

WHAT SHOULD I TAKE TO CUBA?

When packing for your trip to Cuba, the best policy is “if in doubt, take it”. When you go to Cuba make sure you have everything that you think you may need for your holiday in Cuba. Don’t look at that tube of toothpaste and think “I will buy one when I get to Cuba”. You can not assume you can buy it in Cuba. If you go expecting to buy things in Cuba, you will be disappointed and you will wish you had packed said item before leaving to go to Cuba. 

CAN I BUY TOILETREIS AND CLOTHES IN CUBA?

Cuba is not a shopping destination; you will be surprised how few shops there are in Cuba and how few products or range of products you will find in the shops in Cuba.  When you travel to Cuba, it is better for you to bring everything you need from home to Cuba.

WHY DON’T CASAS PROVIDE…… IN THEIR ROOMS?

So when you get to Cuba and you find yourself asking, “why don’t Casas in Cuba have a hairdryer in the rooms?”, just remember that Cuba has been in an embargo for over 50 years. You may think to yourself that offering a hairdryer or a safety box is such a simple thing to make the guest experience better, but because of the embargo, finding such items in the shops in Cuba is not so easy. These items are only just starting to appear in the shops in Cuba and they usually get snapped up quickly; there is not always enough to meet the demand.

In general you should ensure you include the following items in your luggage when travelling to Cuba:

1. TOILETRIES

You will not find many supermarkets or chemists in Cuba and when you do you will either find unknown brands at inflated prices or you will find that they are sold out of what you need. So do not hesitate to take:

Shower gel, razor, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, face creams, hair gel, hair spray, nail clippers, tweezers, scissors, itch cream, ear buds, band aid or a first aid kit.

2. SANITARY ITEMS

Plan ahead as you will not find Tampax in Cuba or any other recognisable sanitary products.  

3. MEDICATION

If you are prone to headaches, get a dodgy tummy or find that the air-conditioning gives you a sore throat; you don’t want to get stuck without your trusty, feel good products. You will not find the following very easily in Cuba:

immodium, paracetemol, ibuprofen, nurofen, aspirin, digestion / diarrhoea solutions, throat lozengers 
don’t forget to take any prescribed medication from your doctor.

4. BATH TOWELS

Casas in Cuba do provide bath towels but they are generally smaller than what you are used to. If this is a problem then bring a soft fibre compact travel towel as they pack up small in your luggage.

Bath Towels Cuba


5. HAIRDRYERS

Things are changing but not all Casas in Cuba supply hairdryers in their rooms.

Hairdryers Cuba


6. SARONG

Casas in Cuba do not provide beach towels in the rooms and they do not really like you taking bath towels to the beach. As beach towels can take up a lot of space in your luggage, I recommend bringing a sarong to Cuba instead.

7. SUN PROTECTION

The sun is hot in Cuba especially in the middle of the day so you will need;

Hat, sunglasses, sun protection, lip protection, after sun, aloe vera lotion, umbrella, fans.

Sun Cuba


8. COMFORTABLE SHOES

Walking on cobbled streets in Cuba with stilettos is not a good idea.

9. EAR PLUGS

Cuba is noisy; you may be woken up by cockerel’s crowing, dogs barking, vendors selling bread on the street at 7am!

10. MOSQUITO SPRAY

Protection and after-bite.

11. SMALL LUGGAGE LOCKS

Not all Casas in Cuba have safety boxes in their rooms, so take a luggage lock and keep personal items locked in your luggage in your room.

12. TRAVEL WASH

There are no laundries in Cuba so you might want to hand wash in the shower.

13. TRAVEL ADAPTER

Cuba voltage is 110V, but some casas in Cuba now have the odd 220V plugs in rooms. You will need a UK/EUROPE/ASIA to US adapter:

2 pin flat head
2 pin thin round head

Travel Adapter Cuba


14. ELECTRICALGADGETS & THEIR CHARGERS

If you like your gadgets, take them with you:

Travel speakers to listen to music, cameras, ipads, portable battery chargers etc.

FEEL FREE TO ADD TO THE LIST

If you find this list helpful but then go to Cuba and then think of something else to add, please feel free to share……..

Microfibre Towel Cuba