Tips for tackling Cuba for the first time

Posted: 12-May-16 15:43

As a tourist visiting Cuba for the first time, the island nation can be both a unique and infuriating place to stay. While there are undoubtedly many quirks and eccentricities to Cuban culture that will endear the country to American travellers, it pays to be prepared when planning your trip; and in this article we'll look at the main ways you can avoid a logistical nightmare on your holiday.

Tips for tackling Cuba for the first time

While the new change in travel restrictions that allows American visitors to enjoy Cuba independently seems like a great way to take your first steps into the unknown, any would-be holidaymakers looking to visit the island should certainly take one or two precautionary measures. The Guardian has made its own list of recommendations the travel along the island and within Havana.

First of all, it would be absolute folly to arrive in Cuba without having at least the first few nights of your stay pre-booked in one of the country’s casas particulares. Effectively the network of family-run B&Bs that supports the island’s accommodation sector, sites like hostelsclub.com, cubacasas.net, Airbnb.com and homestay.com provide live availability listings for properties where you can stay with local Cubans.

Next up, Cuba’s tourist coach service, Viazul, can only be booked online seven days in advance and requires you to print and produce your reservation at the bus station in order to get a seat. Additionally, many routes are oversubscribed, so if your travel plans aren’t fixed, the only possible way to get yourself a seat is to turn up early, join the queue and hope for a space or cancellation.

Taxis not for the faint of heart

If you can’t get yourself a space on the Viazul, there are a number of private taxis or "almendrones" that will be willing to take you to your destination for the same – and sometimes even a lower – price, but be warned; the drivers really put the pedal to the metal and these rides are not for the faint of heart.

Still on the subject of taxis, the recent influx of tourism has caused the average fare in Cuba to sky-rocket, so visitors may benefit from asking their B&B owner to show them how to use an "almendron". These are essentially communal taxis that provide a fun and cost-effective way of traversing the island in classic American cars and will also allow you to meet fellow holidaymakers as you travel.

By taking these few simple steps before visiting the country, you’ll find that both travel and accommodation are infinitely easier to manage; so even if you’re a free spirit that wants to explore Cuba without a pre-planned itinerary, make sure you do some preparation before booking your trip. You can check our own recomendations and tips here.


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