After dreaming about visiting Cuba for so many years, I couldn’t believe I was finally going to. This was last October when I decided I was going to go with a travel company whether my friends wanted to join me or not. I was tired of waiting to meet someone who wanted to travel there as much as I did. Fortunately for me, I had made new friends that year who were as adventurous. So when I asked them, they said yes and as such my dream of a decade was coming to fruition.
Travelling to Cuba wasn’t just an idea that came on a whim though. The country had captured my heart ever since I read a novel set there when I was 17 years old. So in November 2018, I put down a deposit to the travel company and paid for the rest of the trip in monthly installments. I booked my flight in January 2019 and I was set! I’ll share all the important details such as visa, accommodation, etc at the end.
I was counting down the days to 21 March and when it finally came, it felt so surreal! I had packed the day before and was set for a wonderful adventure. It was great travelling with a company that handled the itinerary and logistics and all I needed to do was get myself ready each day. The flight was about 14 hours and we had a stop over in Madrid which didn’t take long at all. We got to Havana around 9pm their time and the process through immigration was a breeze. I was able to change money from pounds to the Cuban peso at the airport. Note that there are two types of Cuban currency. There’s the one the locals spend (Cuban Peso known as CUP) and the international one for tourists (Cuban Convertible Peso known as CUC). It’s not hard to understand the difference, but you’ll have to be careful when buying things at some local places because we were warned that sometimes they may give you change in the local currency which is of lesser value. This never happened to me or any of my companions, but it’s just something to take note of.
The first morning in Havana, we had a street food tour. We learned how they are able to make do with the limited food supplies and ingredients they have. I tried their version of pizza and ice cream. They were both good enough. Unfortunately for the tour guide, there were lots of creatives in our pack so it ended up being more of a photo walk than a food tour! I don’t even feel bad because lots of the pictures I took, I wouldn’t have been able to if I hadn’t stopped because for the rest of the trip, I didn’t return back to that area.
The trip was for 10 days and I’d say it was a good amount of time to visit a lot of places and have a terrific time even though by the end, I didn’t want to return to London just yet. I didn’t miss not being connected to WIFI all the time at all! However, there are WIFI parks where people can connect using a prepaid scratch card. Also, the bigger/luxurious hotels had the ability to connect to WIFI also.
I’ve made 2 vlogs on my Cuba experience, so you should definitely check that out to see it for yourself. So for this blog post, I’ll stick to the highlights.
After a couple of days in Havana, we took a road trip in classic Cadillacs to Viñales, a region not too far away from Havana. The trip was curated by The Viñales Experience. I’ve been told they have a page on Airbnb Experiences, so check them out if you’re ever in Cuba. They picked us up from our casa (what rented homes are called) in the classic cars and our first stop was a waterfall. Then we drove to a point (I don’t remember what it’s called) where we stopped for an amazing view. After that, we went straight to the small town (seemed like a village) where their farm is located. From there onwards, we continued our journey to the farm on horses. This was the first time I had ridden a horse by myself and I did so for about 25 – 30 minutes through the most picturesque landscape I’ve ever seen. In fact, I was a bit vexed that I wasn’t on foot because there were so many photo opportunities I definitely missed 🙁 Anyway, at the farm we learned how Cuban Cigars, honey and rum are made. Then after having a delicious meal, we got on our horses again to visit a secret cave they have on another part of the farm. The whole day was incredible! I definitely recommend. Our hosts on the farm were amazing and fed us so much good food! Their plantain chips was divine!
Another highlight from the trip was going to a salsa dance class. The novel that I read years ago that made me enthralled with Cuba was based on dance and ever since then I’ve always loved dancing salsa. So attending a class there was brilliant.
Also, we travelled to Trinidad, another town in Cuba for 2 nights. The coach ride from Havana to Trinidad was about 3 hours or so. There we had a great time on a beautiful white sand beach, visited an underground club, ate at a gorgeous restaurant and danced salsa well into the night. Everything about the trip was amazing, including the people travelling with us from other countries.
The travel company I went with also work as a creative agency so they planned the trip with lots of opportunities to take pictures and capture videos and on the last day, we had a wonderful photo and video shoot session!
For a summary, I’ll say this was a brilliant trip and I definitely encourage you to travel to Cuba! The people are really friendly and amongst all the other countries I’ve been to, it’s the top on the list where I’ve felt the safest.
Flights: Round trip from London to Havana (stop over in Madrid for 1-2 hrs) was about £500+
Travel company (Wind collective): Accommodation(we stayed in 3 different types of places booked through Airbnb), tours + dance class, itinerary, some ground transportation and hosting was £849
Visa: Cost about £50 (depending on the postage option you choose) and was ordered online. The process was so easy I was worried it might be fake. Lol
Insurance: No one checked at the airport, but it’s good to have one because you never know what might happen. I used Virgin and I upgraded to get a cover for my Nikon camera and phone.
LOVES: The friendly people, great atmosphere, dope travel companions, so much culture to take in, trying out the lovely food even though they have limited resources (this meant the food was delicious, but I could tell they mostly used the same ingredients!), dancing carefree on the streets with locals, life is slow paced and enriching.
DISLIKES: I didn’t dislike anything about the people or parts of the country I saw. However, the amount of people sitting around doing nothing showed how poor they really are. It wasn’t up in our face but you could sense it is a very regimented existence which is sad because every human should have autonomy over the lives.
Finally, if you’re wondering how it was travelling with a travel company, I’d say it was wonderful because they were the best hosts. They were very friendly and had good local knowledge. However, there were lots of organizational issues that caused us to miss some of the tours I had paid for and was looking forward to. These were issues that could have been avoided. Also, we ended up paying for some of the transportation that was supposedly covered in the package so that wasn’t cool. All in all, it was a good experience, but as an avid traveller myself, I definitely will not be paying anyone that amount of money to organize a trip for me in future.
Want to see my experience in action? Watch my Cuba vlogs!
Cuba Part 1
Cuba Part 2
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my experience, seeing the images and watching the videos. All the images in this post are mine, except the four images I captioned “by The Wind Collective”.
You’ll be happy to know that I took many more images (find some on IG) and will be releasing them next year as print collages. Watch this space…
So tell me, what do you think of Cuba? Would you like to visit?