Don't Forget to Move issues a guide on how to train travel in Cuba

Posted: 20-Sep-16 13:13

An online article published on Don't Forget to Move, a website for travel adventurers and those seeking authentic encounters, shone some light into the peculiarities of train travel in Cuba and how to make the most of the off-the-beaten-path experience by venturing outside the tourist trail. The idea behind it being to get a true feel of the real Cuba in the shoes of a local. Here we echo some of their tops tips on journeying through Cuba by train.

Don't Forget to Move issues a guide on how to train travel in Cuba

Advising inquisitive travellers to embark on a unique, somewhat uncomfortable but totally rewarding experience, author and traveller Julian Hatfield writing for Don’t Forget to Move gives some insight into how to journey through Cuba by train with top tips and plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour – which you’ll definitely need to cheerfully jump over some of the non-straightforward hurdles along the way.

Whether you’re a natural adventurer or simply looking for an alternative, raw and real way to see more of the real Cuba amidst average Cubans, train travel through the island comes highly recommended. That’s not to say it will be a smooth journey but as traveller Julian Hatfield puts it, that’s part of the fun!

The first challenge to tackle is finding out about the different train travel times and which trains stop where. With no official website to book your tickets from ahead of travel, and information found online only to be taken as a guide (as Cuban train schedules can vary from month to month), plans for booking your train tickets must be done in person by paying a visit to the train station and speaking to one of the clerks behind the window. Alternatively, if the booking office is closed you can check the board and ask around if in doubt of which train stops at your chosen destination.

If you’re based in Havana, head to the train station of La Coubre, as the one main central one in Old Havana is closed for refurbishment and is not due to open again until 2018, and that’s a tentative date, as everyone knows Cuba is famous for its delays and setbacks, meaning that very few things open right on time.

Taking that last point into account, train departure times in Cuba are equally not to be taken too seriously, as our author soon find out upon hopping on the wagon at the stated time only to have to wait there two further hours before the wheels started to turn. The most cumbersome aspect of the wait, they said, was how hot and stuffy it was inside the train, to the point that a passenger passed out and had to be seen by a doctor onsite. Once the train started to make its way along the tracks and cool wind entered the windows the stuffiness and heat subsided making the journey all the more pleasant.

About the journey itself, Mr Hatfield stresses that while it was far from ideal, with two passengers behind them cranking up the volume with reggaeton music on full blast (clearly not to their taste) for two hours non-stop, midnight was for its most part quiet and upon sunrise the sights to be observed from the windows were a special treat, with rare rural views in which a peasant could be spotted in the distance tending to its crops or rounding up cattle. When it came to passing smaller towns, the author said he loved indulging in the views of urban centres without a single tourist infrastructure in sight.

Other peculiarities of the train journey as they slowly chugged their way along from Havana to Camaguey were the frequent stops, which no sleeping passenger could ever possibly miss as an attendant comes down the aisles shouting out the stops and the way the train comes to a sudden halt is everything but delicate – the crank and jolt will almost throw you out of your seat every time.

Morning vendors awaken passengers’ brief slumbers to the cries of their wares, selling everything from pastries and sandwiches to milk powder and lightbulbs. The author says they couldn’t help but admire their perseverance as they paced along. 


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