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

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fabrica Del Arte (F.A.C)

WHAT IS THE FABRICA DEL ARTE?

The Fabrica del Arte is the ingenious idea by the Cuban singer songwriter X Alfonso to create a cultural space where up and coming Cuban talent can perform and display their work whilst at the same time being affordable for Cubans to visit and experience something different.

At the Fabrica del Arte you will find art exhibitions, theatre, dance, film and live music. Check out reviews on Tripadvisor.

WHERE IS THE FABRICA DEL ARTE LOCATED?

It is located on Calle 26 on the corner of Calle 11, Vedado in Havana Cuba in an old olive oil factory, next door to the bar / restaurant El Cocinero so look out for the tall chimney.

The factory is spacious with a modern feel to it, ideal for presenting photography exhibitions, art installations and paint works.

HOW DO  GET TO THE FABRICA DEL ARTE?

The most economical way to get to the Fabrica del Arte is to take one of the Cuban collective taxis or almendron down Linea and get off just before the tunnel at around Calle 24 and walk a couple of blocks up to the Fabrica del Arte.

Or you can take an almendron down Calle 23 and get off on the corner of Calle 26 and walk down 5 blocks until you find the entrance to the Fabrica del Arte.

If you can’t get an almendron then take a Cuba taxi all the way to the Fabrica del Arte.

IS IT SAFE TO WALK TO THE FABRICA DEL ARTE?

One evening I tried to flag down an almendron from Calle 23 and Calle D in Vedado at around 9pm but most of the collective taxis were full and wouldn’t stop for us. We decided to walk for around 20 minutes down Calle 23. It was dark especially when you start to come away from Calle 23 and walk down the side streets, but the Fabrica del Arte is located in a residential area, often with people on the street. It wasn’t the first time I walked in and around this area. I generally feel safe and have no problem walking around the area but it is always sensible to remain street wise and avoid walking around with valuables.

IS IT EASY TO GET A TAXI FROM THE FABRICA DEL ARTE BACK TO MY CASA OR HOTEL?

There are taxis outside the Fabrica del Arte ready to take you back to your Casa or hotel in Havana. This is a convenient door to door option but expect to pay higher prices than normal. Alternatively if you are not willing to pay the taxi prices outside of the Fabrica del Arte, you can do as I do and walk to Linea and wait by the tunnel exit and waive down a taxi or an almendron.  

I have managed to get an almendron from Linea to Centro Habana at 12.30pm so it can be done, but if you are not familiar with Havana and how the almendrones work these are the things you need to bear in mind before taking an almendron from the Fabrica del Arte late at night to your Casa or hotel:

  • you need to feel comfortable walking from the Fabrica del Arte to Linea on a quiet street in the dark
  • there are fewer almendron services in operation late at night
  • it is difficult to get an almendron if there are 2 or more of you travelling together
  • you could be standing around in the dark for some time before finally getting an almendron to stop for you
  • the almendrones in Havana only operate specific routes so first check with the driver to see whether he is going somewhere close to where you are staying in Havana
  • think about where the almendron is going to drop you off, it is not a door to door service so only take this option if you are happy to walk in the dark down side streets to get from the drop off point to your Casa

HOW MUCH IS THE ENTRANCE FEE AT THE FABRICA DEL ARTE?

The entrance fee is 50 MN per person (August 2016). You can pay in CUC. The Fabrica del Arte operate a no cash system so when you pay your entrance fee the door attendant will give you a card. Everytime you get a drink or food at the bar it will be noted on your card. You pay for anything you have consumed on your way out at the cash desk. 

If you lose your card you will have to pay a 30 CUC fee.

FAC

FAC

FAC

FAC

FAC


Thursday, 25 August 2016

CAN I TRAVEL TO CUBA ON A ONE WAY TICKET?

A few people have asked me “is it possible to arrive in Cuba on a one way ticket and buy an outbound ticket from Cuba to my next travel destination when I am in Cuba?”

This is not something I have tested out. When travelling to Cuba I always have a return ticket. On one occasion, I bought a one way ticket to Cuba from Costa Rica and an outbound ticket from Cuba with another airline from Havana to Caracas.  I had these tickets before I arrived in Cuba.

Cuban immigration has never asked to see an airline ticket showing my departure date.  I have always assumed that if Cuban immigration were to ask me of my intended departure date, I would need to show evidence by providing a valid airline ticket with my departure date from Cuba.

None of the airlines I have travelled with going to Cuba have asked to see a return ticket, until recently. I arrived at Gatwick airport in London, pleasantly surprised to find no queue. I went straight to the check-in desk and the lovely ladies at Air Europa asked to see my Cuban tourist card (this always happens) and my return ticket (this is a first).

According to the Air Europa Check-In Attendant at Gatwick Airport, you do need a return ticket when flying to Cuba, or at least an outbound ticket from Cuba.

So if you are planning to travel to Cuba on a one way ticket and to buy an outbound ticket when you get to Cuba, think again. Personally I wouldn’t recommend it. Trying to sort out travel arrangements in Cuba isn’t easy. Even with WIFI hotspots dotted around Cuba, getting a decent WIFI signal and actually connecting is hit and miss, which makes planning travel on the internet in Cuba quite challenging.


If you have managed to travel to Cuba on a one way ticket, please share your experience with us.

Ticket to Cuba








Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A REAL EXPERIENCE IN CUBA

After carefully planning the perfect itinerary, Tara organised her trip to Cuba with Experience the Real Cuba. Tara visited Cuba in February 2016, she stayed at our Casas in Havana, Viñales and Trinidad and she took Spanish lessons in Havana as well as Spanish and Salsa lessons in Trinidad.

We asked Tara to share her comments with us about her trip to Cuba. She also highlighted some interesting tips for people thinking of visiting Cuba.

1.    WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TRIP?

Spending time in beautiful Trinidad - having over a week there meant I could really relax and enjoy day-to-day life...

2.    DID WE PROVIDE YOU WITH ADEQUATE INFORMATION PRIOR TO YOUR TRIP?

Yes, it was very detailed, easy to read and provided me with everything I needed.

3.     WHERE THERE ANY SURPRISES IN CUBA?

It was my second time so not really. After a couple of days it felt very natural.

4.     WHAT INFORMATION DO YOU THINK IS VALUABLE PRIOR TO VISITING CUBA?

If people have not been before:

-          Bring a decent amount of cash to exchange. ATMs can give big notes which will need to be exchanged to spend in regular places (and even in some CADECAs they will not accept them - a big hotel is probably the best bet in that case), also can be a surcharge of 3%
-          Take a spare loo roll as back up for the rooms in casas (and tissues and hand gel for when you're out and about)
-          If you are unable to get onto a popular tourist bus between locations, take a taxi colectivo! There are always people willing to take you between places for only a few CUC more than the bus
-          All tour agencies charge the same for excursions, makes the decision process a lot quicker :)
-          Be prepared for queues at CADECAs and ETECSA (and everywhere else ;) ). Ask for 'ultimo' in lines and remember who you're behind :)
-          Be prepared for male attention when not with male company (kissy noises, where are you from, do you have a boyfriend...) - all pretty harmless, just incessant :)
-          Most people are just interested to chat to you, although be aware sometimes they have an ulterior motive - offering accommodation, restaurant etc
-          Bring sufficient medicine, sanitary products, toiletries, sun block with you, but maybe leave any excess at the end of your trip
-          Expect a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches ;)

5.     DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU EXPERIENCED THE REAL CUBA?

Yes - last time I was on an organised tour, this time doing it independently gave me a different perspective. I loved taking the taxis colectivos both from town to town and around Havana, I met a lot of interesting people this way.

6.     WERE OUR CONTACTS IN CUBA PROFESSIONAL? DID THEY ASSIST YOU WITH ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES, TIPS, LOCAL INFORMATION?

Yes, Yoanka and Misleydis were both great. I greatly appreciated Yoanka's help with my changing plans!

 7.     HOW DO YOU FEEL WE COULD IMPROVE OUR SERVICE?

The communication and organisation was brilliant, exactly what I wanted. I can't think of anything lacking.


If you are interested in organising one of our specialist cultural programs in Cuba including Casa, Spanish, Dance, Music, Art programs, please contact us at experiencetherealcuba@gmail.com.

Cuba Breakfast


Learn Spanish Cuba




Cuba Breakfast

Thursday, 24 March 2016

HOW TO BOOK A SHARED TAXI SERVICE CUBA


1. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET FROM HAVANA TO TRINIDAD?

The best way to get from Havana to Trinidad or to travel from Trinidad to Havana is by using our shared taxi service.

2. WHAT IS THE SHARED TAXI SERVICE?

This is a door to door taxi service that collects passengers from their accommodation i.e. hotel or Casa Particular in Havana and takes them to their accommodation in Trinidad. This shared taxi service also runs from Trinidad to Havana.

3. WHO DO I SHARE THE TAXI WITH?

Our local Transport Co-ordinator works with a pool of cars and fills out the taxis with passengers wanting a convenient and economic taxi service from Havana to Trinidad and from Trinidad to Havana.

4. WHAT TIME DOES THE SHARED TAXI SERVICE DEPART HAVANA?

The shared taxi service collects passengers from Casas and hotels in Havana at around 2pm arriving into Trinidad at about 6.30pm.

5. WHAT TIME DOES THE SHARED TAXI SERVICE DEPART TRINIDAD?

The shared taxi service collects passengers from Casas in Trinidad at around 8.30am arriving in Havana at around 1.00pm.  

6. IS THIS SERVICE RELIABLE?

The service is reliable and runs on time.  If something should happen to the car during the journey i.e. if it breaks down, the Transport Co-odinator will ensure that a replacement car meets passengers ensuring that they can continue with their journey.

7. WILL THE SHARED TAXI STOP FOR A TOILET BREAK?

Yes, the driver will stop for passengers to use bathroom facilities and buy refreshments. However, I recommend you take at least a bottle of water with you at the start of your journey.

8. CAN I ORGANISE A PRIVATE TAXI?

We can organise private taxi services from Havana and from Trinidad going to various destinations across Cuba.

9. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SHARED TAXI AND A PRIVATE TAXI SERVICE?

A private taxi is a door to door service organised purely for you and your travel companions, you will not share the taxi with other passengers. You can organise the taxi to depart from your departure point at a time convenient for you and your group.

A shared taxi service is a door to door taxi service with set departure times from Havana (approx. 2pm) and from Trinidad (approx. 8.30am), collecting various passengers from their accommodation. You will share the taxi with other passengers.

10. HOW MUCH IS THE SHARED TAXI SERVICE?

For our prices, 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

11. HOW DO I BOOK TAXI SERVICES IN CUBA?

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

Please specify whether you want prices for a private taxi or a shared taxi.

12. HAVE YOU TAKEN A SHARED TAXI SERVICE?

It is always good to hear about you and your experiences in Cuba. Please feel free to share your experiences of shared and private taxi transfers in Cuba.

13. DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?

Please feel free to email me at experiencetherealcuba@gmail.com with your questions.  



Cuba Taxi

Cuba Taxi

Cuba Taxi




Sunday, 28 February 2016

HOW TO GET FROM HAVANA TO TRINIDAD

Viazul

Viazul is Cuba’s bus service that connects Havana with other Cuban cities across the country, including Trinidad.  The bus departs daily from Havana’s bus terminal to Trinidad, at approx. 8am and 1pm.  I have never booked a ticket in advance, neither have I tried to book a ticket online via their website, as I’m not sure if you can trust it quite yet.  

So what I tend to do is turn up at the Viazul bus terminal in Havana at least 1 hour before the bus is due to depart and buy my ticket on the day.  I find that the bus to Trinidad doesn’t usually fill up so there’s no problem in leaving it until the same day.  In fact the only time I couldn’t get a ticket was in July 2010 when I wanted to travel from Havana to Santiago de Cuba for the Festival del Fuego.  We turned up at the bus terminal 1 hour before departure to find out that it was fully booked, so even though we couldn’t travel as planned, we were able to reserve a ticket for the following day.  We didn’t have to pay for our ticket in advance, they asked us to pay on the day of travel.  But even if you do this, I would still recommend that you go to the bus terminal early as you still have to wait in the queue and claim your reserved ticket.    

On the Viazul Bus Cuba


I have asked around each time I go to Cuba to see if there are any agencies or hotels in or around the Parque Central area who sell tickets for the Viazul bus in advance, but all pointers lead back to the Viazul bus terminal.  Hence, when you get to Cuba, if you want to book a ticket in advance you need to travel to the Viazul bus terminal and reserve a ticket the day before you want to travel.  

In order to get to the Viazul bus terminal, I recommend you get a taxi as it is a 5-10 minute taxi ride from Parque Central.  Once you get to the terminal there is a cafeteria upstairs where you can buy food and drink for your journey.  During the journey to Trinidad the bus stops for 30 minutes so you can buy something to eat or use the bathroom facilities.

Transtur

Since I discovered Transtur I have stopped using the Viazul bus so much.  Transtur is a transfer service that picks passengers up from key hotels in Havana and travels to Trinidad.  It is comfortable, reliable and air-conditioned.  I prefer this service because you can reserve a ticket the day before at numerous hotels in Havana.  I usually go to the Hotel Inglaterra or Hotel Parque Central and visit the Cubatur bureau where they sell the tickets.  Also it saves me money as I don’t have to get a taxi to the Viazul bus terminal; I usually walk to the Hotel Inglaterra on the morning of my departure, which is one of the collection points.  The price of the ticket is more or less the same as the Viazul and it is usually quicker than the Viazul.  They usually only have a morning departure from Havana and the final drop off point is Parque Cespedes in the main part of Trinidad. 

The only thing I recommend is that you buy your Transtur ticket before 2pm the day before you want to travel.  The last time I wanted to buy a Transtur ticket I arrived at the Hotel Inglaterra just after 6pm and they told me that the tickets were sold out for the following day.

Transtur Cuba


Shuttle Buses

When I couldn’t get a ticket for the Transtur I telephoned my family in Trinidad and through their contacts they were able to find me a shuttle service travelling the following morning from Havana returning to Trinidad.  Not all casas have such contacts but it’s worth asking.  The transfer is a 9-10 seater air-conditioned mini-van, it’s a door to door service, so they collect you from your Casa Particular and drop you off at the Casa in Trinidad.  They usually charge a per-person rate, slightly higher than the Viazul bus fare, but it’s worth it!  It’s convenient, reliable, you don’t have to worry about getting taxis anywhere or finding your Casa when you get to Trinidad.  

If you want to book a private taxi or a shared taxi service please email us at experiencetherealcuba@gmail.com for a quote.

Taxi

At the Viazul bus terminal I have seen taxis looking to fill up their car with passengers travelling to Trinidad.  They usually charge you the same fare as the Viazul bus, but you have to wait until there are enough passengers to fill up the taxi before you leave.

Trinidad Cuba


Saturday, 30 January 2016

10 TIPS ABOUT BUYING CUBAN CURRENCY BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO CUBA



1. CAN I BUY CUC BEFORE I TRAVEL TO CUBA?

No, it is not possible to buy CUC outside of Cuba.  You can only buy Cuban currency i.e. Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and Cuban Pesos (CUP) / Moneda Nacional (MN) when you arrive in Cuba.

2. WHAT IS THE CURRENT EXCHANGE RATES FOR CUC?

Check out this link to see current exchange rates for CUC:

3. CAN I BUY CUC AT THE AIRPORT IN HAVANA?

You can buy CUC at Jose Martí Havana International airport and all other airports receiving international flights.

4. WHERE CAN I BUY CUC AT THE AIRPORT?

You can buy CUC at the CADECA exchange bureau.  CADECA is the official money exchange bureau for Cuba.  CADECA bureaus can be found at the airport and across Cuba.

5. WHERE CAN I FIND CADECA AT THE AIRPORT?

At Jose Martí Havana International airport CADECA can be found outside of the arrivals terminal building. There are 2 CADCEA bureaus, one to the left and one to the right of the arrivals exit.  There are also CADECA bureaus at the check-in area on the 1st floor.

6. WHAT TIME IS CADECA OPEN UNTIL AT THE AIRPORT?

The CADECA at Jose Martí Havana International airport is open 24 hours.

7. IS THERE A CADECA IN HAVANA?

The main branch of CADECA in Havana is on 257 Obispo, Havana Vieja open Monday-Saturday, 8.30am-8.30pm and Sunday 9am-7pm, you can exchange most currencies here, including ‘moneda nacional’ and there are ATM machines.

8. WHAT IS THE BEST CURRENCY TO BRING TO CUBA? 

Check out the current exchange rates on the link provided above.  I find that you usually get more for your money if you bring £UK pound sterling, Euros or Canadian dollars to Cuba. Over the last few years, the £UK pound sterling has been stronger than the Euro. It is not commonly known, but when you exchange either the £UK pound sterling or the Euro the exchange rate is multiplied by the CUC rate i.e. if you exchange £100 sterling to CUC at a rate of 1.15 you will receive 115 CUC. However, all other currencies are divided by the CUC exchange rate i.e. if you exchange $100 Canadian at a rate of 1.13 you will receive 88 CUC.

9. CAN I EXCHANGE $US DOLLARS IN CUBA?

Whilst it is possible to exchange $US dollars in Cuba, you will receive the least amount for your money as there is a 10% commission fee applied which isn’t applied to other currencies.

10. WHAT CURRENCY SHOULD I BRING IF I AM TRAVELLING FROM THE US?

If you are travelling from the U.S. try to plan ahead and order GBP or Euros from your bank. You are usually required to give at least a few days’ notice.  

CUBAN CURRENCY
Currency Exchange Bureau - Havana Airport

CADECA
Havana Airport - Arrivals Exit Area
JOSE MARTI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Jose Martí International Airport - Havana

CALLE OBISPO
CADECA - Calle Obispo