Advice on holidaying in Cuba.(7 Posts)
DH has always wanted to go to Cuba but I know very little about it. Is it a safe place for tourists to go, especially tourists with smallish children (DD is 6)? And what is it like as a winter/early spring break?
what kind of holiday are you planning?
If you thinking of a resort holiday it basically what it says on the tin, and you'll come back with very little idea of what the country is like.
We travelled independently there a few years ago (just my dh and me) and loved it. Tourism is (or was) very much controlled and you will use tourist buses and find it impossible to buy train tickets, and you'll stay in officially approved guesthouses. But - we never felt unsafe and the cubans are, generally, lovely people.
You'll need to know some spanish and I don't know what it would be like with children, though I'm fairly sure it would be fine.
We went to Havana, Trinidad, Camaguey, Santiago, Baracoa, Gibara, Santa Clara. If you want any more info I'm happy to help.
Our last big holiday was 2 weeks in Canada and we hired a camper van and drove from Calgary to Vancouver and back so I would definitely prefer to go independant and make up our own itinerary in Cuba. I do feel less adventurous with DD than if it was just DH and I though. The camper van holiday was brilliant as we had a 'home' for two weeks. I'm not sure how well DD will cope with several different hotels.
I would love to go to one of the eco-hotels, would like to do some sight-seeing, walking, snorkelling etc and definitely visit lots of restaurants.
To go with info already given, I would ask questions or read previous threads and the Top Questions on the TA Cuba forum. The Destination Experts can help with advice and planning. One of the DE's is a guy called Bellagio, who is very highly regarded and visits Cuba frequently.
There are indeed many rules and regulations that tourists ( and Cubans ) have to abide, so you need to be aware of these if you are not just staying inside an all inclusive resort.
We stayed in Havana and Varadero a few years back (pre-dd) and had a wonderful holiday. Havana is a fascinating place and felt very safe - though you do get hassled a lot by people trying to sell you cigars. There is a lot of poverty though. We did a horse drawn carriage trip with a cocktail and were very sad/guilty be driving round like that only to see families all living in one room, sparse looking Xmas tree on top of the tv and a couple of wooden chairs. I wouldn't necessarily take dc there though.
Varadero is like any beach resort really. There were scuba diving/catamaran trips out to the coral reef. Swimming with dolphins, trips through the mangrove swamps etc. The people were generally lovely, though they tended to be lovelier still when when tipped with dollars.
I wouldn't get too excited about the food Callisto. If you're travelling around Cuban food will be protein (seafood/meat etc) black beans, rice, and chopped cabbage salad. Very healthy (and much better than what the Cubans get) but boring.
We stayed in Casas Paticulars (not sure about the spelling) - state approved b and b's, so you're staying in people's homes. Once you've sorted the 1st one out, unless you're very strong minded you get passed on to a friend of your host in the next place along. This actually worked very well for us, and our hosts were wonderful. I can't see children not liking this.
Highlights for us were, going to the ballet, basketball, baseball matches - all incredibly cheap.
We hired a car for the last section of the journey, and you should be aware that it is expected that you pick up hitch hikers. We wouldn't have normally done this, but we met some brilliant people doing this- even if we couldn't understand each other much. Also road signs in Cuba are rubbish, and hitch hikers can be a big help.
Re poverty, there is poverty in Cuba, but also no advertising, something that didn't strike us for a while, so people aren't being bombarded with messages that they need mobile phones/cars etc. There is a real feeling of solidarity, and pride in their young people, which is very appealing.
I noticed they also took a great deal of pride in their appearance. Hair and nail salons seemed to abound. I had long hair at the time and donated my whole bobble collection to the lovely waitress at the hotel - they just don't seem to get stuff like that. Tights and toiletries are also very much appreciated. One of my favourite memories was sitting in a barbers in Havana whilst DH got a trim and a "real" shave - think sweeney todd - and chatting to all the old men.
And you can bribe the guard to let you up to the top of the Bacardi building to see the famous bat.
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