Cuba: Viva la renovation!

Cuba is one of the most popular destinations at the moment and tourism is quite literally making the country burst at the seams, everyone wants to visit “before it changes”. However, I have to wonder, is it all a marketing ploy?

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Well, I don’t think it’ll be too long before there’s a Starbucks and McDonald’s on every corner but I’d guesstimate that it’s at least another 10 years away (yes, you can quote me in 2025)!

Cuba is at a crossroads, currently trapped in the past but striving to open up to future. When I arrived it was a bit like stepping back in time – hitch hiking is legal and popular, trains are about as fast as a snail (if they run at all) and the cars are so old that they shouldn’t work…but they do. Why? Because this is Cuba, and the spirit of the people means that even if it’s broken they’ll attempt to fix it – as that’s the only option they have.

Amazingly beautiful cars are everywhere in Havana, if only I could own one!

Amazingly beautiful cars are everywhere in Havana, if only I could own one!

So you might be wondering why I used “Viva la renovation” as my headline? Well, I visited in October 2015 and Cuba is quite literally gearing up for the hordes of tourists they are expecting. In preparation they are restoring and renovating buildings, museums and transport so many places are currently closed.

How can you spend a week in Cuba?

Well, firstly you mostly just drink mojito’s!

Secondly planning an itinerary is key if you aren’t going on an organised tour. The country is still off-the-beaten track in places and public transport seems to do its own thing.

Many tourists just want to discover Havana, but I’d also suggest getting around. My must-see places include:

  • Havana
  • Viñales
  • Trinidad
  • Cienfuegos
  • Santa Clara

If you don’t visit these places then you haven’t seen the real Cuba! I only spent one week here, although I could have easily extended my trip and explored the East of the country, it’s more rural and not usually on the tourist trail. However, it gives me and excuse to go back and visit.

What should you know before you visit Cuba? 

A typical Havana street scene, a bit like stepping back in time!

A typical Havana street scene, a bit like stepping back in time!

As a country that has been politically isolated for the past 50 years it’s no surprise there’s some misconceptions about what to expect when you arrive in Cuba.

Firstly the people you’ll meet are warm and welcoming. If you love to dance then you’ll be sure to make some new lifelong friends. Don’t be disillusioned though, there’s still some extreme poverty in places and like any other big city it’s most noticeable in Havana.

Whatever you do, don’t bring U.S dollars! You’ll be charged a premium and commission so if you can it’s best to bring € or £’s as you’ll receive the best rates.

Want to discover more about Cuba? Click to here to read some fascinating facts.

Where were my favourite places to visit?

I’ll let the photos do the talking but I highly recommend visiting some of the following places…

Viñales is a stunning region in the West of the country, a must visit!

Viñales is a stunning region in the West of the country, a must visit!

Arghhhh watch out for ali's!

Arghhhh watch out for ali’s!

Musicians are everywhere in Cuba, keep some spare change because you will be offered a CD :)

Musicians are everywhere in Cuba, keep some spare change because you will be offered a CD 🙂

Trinidad was my favourite place I visited in Cuba. It gives you a sense of stepping back in time with just the right amount of tourists (currently!)

Trinidad was my favourite place I visited in Cuba. It gives you a sense of stepping back in time with just the right amount of tourists (currently!)

I *heart* Cuba!

I *heart* Cuba!

Make sure you visit the Che Guevara mausoleum in Santa Clara

Make sure you visit the Che Guevara mausoleum in Santa Clara

Havana has beautiful hidden squares where I could happily sit and people watch and enjoy the sun!

Havana has beautiful hidden squares where I could happily sit and people watch and enjoy the sun!

Hello my name is Matt and I'm now addicted to rum!!! Thanks, Cuba!

Hello my name is Matt and I’m now addicted to rum!!! Thanks, Cuba!

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

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