Lots more to see.
05.03.2016 - 12.03.2016 -30 °C
I booked an all inclusive 1 week trip to Cuba (Memories Varadero Beach Resort) so I could help my girlfriend photograph a wedding.
I knew before I left that only staying for 1 week would not be enough to see much of anything. That said, I did get to see a bit of the country.
First of all a little warning about "All Inclusive" vacations. These types of vacations would be awesome for the less adventurous types, people who like to hang around the resort and beach and go off on guided day tours. Everything is planned, and food and drinks are free all day. Resorts can get quite busy and noisy. People are walking around with free drinks in their hands already in the morning and some are getting overly loud by evening. All the noise and rushing about is not my idea of relaxing.
We were told that resort food is bad and that it was. Our favourite restaurant was Jesus's Resaurant. The resaurants that the taxi drivers take you to are generally quite expensive. This place cost the two of us about $70 CDN and no alcholic beverages where ordered.
If I went to Cuba again it would be for at least 2 weeks. The island is big and it takes time to see stuff at a relaxed pace. Install the Calileo Pro App. and download a map of Cuba before you leave. It will even help you if you are lost at your huge resort complex after dark.
I would stay at Casa Particulars. Casa Particulars are private homes that are registered with the government where you get your own private room and bathroom, plus free roam of the house. You get to meet the locals and save money while enjoying it. Check out the Cuba Junky App. for your smartphone.
Don't depend on banks to be open or your bank card to always work (idiots at Visa), so carry enough money to get to the next location your headed. A second credit card by another company may be a good idea also. Don't bring US currency or you get charged 10% extra. No American Express Card either.
If you plan on travelling the country then use Trip Advisor before you go and bring a Lonely Planet Guidebook.
Don't stress. There is only 1 speed in Cuba so just go with the flow. A taxi driver can get you most anything.
On our little trip we would hire taxis and tell them to show us the back streets so we could photograph ordinary Cubans going about their daily lives. They thougth it was a bit strange but showed us places that we would not have seen on a normal tour.
Havana is a very polluted city with Chinese, Russian and a bunch of old vehicles beltching out black exhuast everywhere. The streets are just a haze. Our taxi and tour guide we hired got tired of waiting for us at the resort and left. Unfortunately the taxi driver we then hired was not the best tour guide for Havana. I wish I had gone to the Cigar Factory and the Cemetary in Havana.
We stayed overnight in Havana and then went to Vanalis Valley National Park. The place is beautiful. Well worth seeing. If your looking for organic cigars that don't have the tar and nicotine that normal ones do then this is the place to buy them. There was a spot just past Vanalis where the taxi drivers take you where they grow tabacco and role cigars. 15 Cigars for $45 CUC ($1 CUC = $1 USD). A underground boat ride in the caves is also quite interesting as long as you don't mind standing in line for half an hour.
My next stop would have been the Playa Larga region where there is another Park with lots of wildlife to be seen. I was also told that a drive down the East Coast is very scenic.
I think I can tell you more about what I missed seeing than what I did see. I guess I will have to head back there some day and take in the rest of the sites and sounds.
Next time I would like to go outside of tourist season for 1 month, rent a car and see the country at a leisurely pace.