Backpack through Cuba with these 12 tips

Posted: 23-May-16 09:44

As Cuba continues to captivate travellers with its beauty and culture some visitors look for a unique way to view the island off the beaten track. If you'd like to experience the country away from the ordinary, one writer reveals the best way to backpack through Cuba. From meeting locals to trying out Cuban rum, it comes down to 12 easy steps.

Backpack through Cuba with these 12 tips

Surrounded by colourful architecture, pristine water and an excess of culture, Cuba is enticing new visitors to come explore its bountiful scenery and extraordinary features.

There’s little doubt that travellers are flocking to the island, and if you hope to soon be one of them one author is revealing a dozen ways to make the trip more memorable. Writer Freya Godfrey recently published “12 Tips for Backpacking Cuba” on Rough Guides.

In it she gives a brief synopsis of a dozen things she says will make your trip better and more authentic. The first tip, according to Godfrey, is to plan on staying with a local family in a casa particular. While she acknowledges you pay per room and it may not be as cost efficient as staying in a hostel elsewhere, it’s still likely more budget friendly than a hotel. Plus, she adds, it’s a good way to create some memories with your hosts, gaining recommendations and tips for the rest of your trip.

Godfrey’s next few tips have to do with attitude. She says it’s important to be spontaneous. Specifically she mentions while it’s probably a good idea to plan out your first lodging location there are a lot of "casas particulares" to choose from so it doesn’t hurt to figure it out as you go.

With this in mind, she suggests taking things as they come. Things like taxis aren’t always on time, items you may want to purchase aren’t always easy to find and the weather can change from blue skies to heavy rain in an instant. Learning to accept this, Godfrey says, is just part of the charm of Cuba.

The author also advises giving yourself time to stroll the streets away from major tourist areas. She points out this is a good way to learn about Cuban life, from the street sellers to the locals hanging out in doorways. Godfrey adds this is also a good way to find a local restaurant you may not have found otherwise.

As for tips on what to bring along, Godfrey recommends dressing for the elements. This means having a raincoat handy, but also being prepared for the Caribbean heat. It doesn’t hurt to learn some Spanish before you go either. While Godfrey admits a large number of Cubans speak English almost fluently, this may not be the case when trying to converse with the owner of a casa particular.

The author says not to depend on the Internet while you’re in Cuba. While she suggests it’s becoming easier to access the Internet in Cuba, you likely won’t have free Wi-Fi where you stay. With this in mind she recommends purchasing a timed ETESCA card. Even so, she points out, you’ll still have to locate a Wi-Fi hotspot, which probably isn’t worth the trouble.

One thing the author does recommend is using a taxi. According to the article taking a private, vintage taxi usually won’t cost you more but she adds you probably shouldn’t expect to find a seatbelt. With a private taxi, too, you need to agree on a price before you go because it won’t come with a meter. For an easier, less expensive option than a bus for a long drive, Godfrey suggests a taxi colectivo. Be prepared, though, to share the ride with other travellers and possibly switch cars a couple of times along the drive.

When it comes to shopping in Cuba, the author advocates stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables when you spot a market because shops are hard to find and sometimes minimally stocked. She adds that markets are also a good place for exchanging convertible pesos into national pesos.

One item that is easily available, however, is Cuban rum. The writer claims it’s sometimes easier to track down than bottled water plus it’s inexpensive. She suggests drinking a daiquiri while in Havana, sipping a mojito on the beach and buying some rum just to bring home with you.

One more thing not to overlook is dancing. Godfrey explains you’ll hear salsa music everywhere you go, from live bands to dancers in the streets. She advises taking a dance class or asking a local for some dance tips.

Finally, the author’s last tip is that if you want to go to Cuba, go now. She predicts when the embargo is lifted completely things in Cuba will change quickly. While you won’t find many modern cars or big brand names right now, Godfrey summarizes that may not be the case for long.


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