Alex Burgess, from our Sales team, travelled to Cuba on our Viva Cuba tour. Find out what he thought of this colourful island.
First impressions on arrival at the airport
Modern airport with an ATM and bureau d’exchange. There was a long wait for baggage but immigration was simple as we had applied for our Cuban tourist cards before departure (this took 4 days and cost £25 inc postage). It was easy enough to hop in a taxi to Havana city centre – it cost two of us £25.
What was it like travelling in a group?
I really enjoyed travelling in a group as you get to know people you’ve never met before really well. Our group was made up of a South African lady, four Australians and the rest British. Mainly couples ranging in age from 23 to late 50s.
What did you think of your tour leader?
Our leader Raul was fantastic. Full of knowledge about the history and politics of Cuba. He always had things in control and even when the itinerary had to be changed (due to circumstances beyond his control) he remained calm and with a good sense of humour.
What were the highlights?
Everything! Each place we visited was different in character. We had a street party in Santiago and enjoyed salsa dancing, an army truck ride into the hills and swam in fresh water pools. I think my ultimate highlight was an impromptu samba band started up by some school children at midnight in the square at Santa Clara and everybody following them around the streets for nearly an hour without having a clue where we were being led!
What was your accommodation like?
Good – 2-3 star hotels, clean comfortable rooms mostly with air conditioning, televisions and en suite bathrooms. A couple even had swimming pools.
What was the transport like?
We used coach and private minibus which were new Chinese buses, comfortable and air conditioned.
What was the food like?
The food was alright but I don’t honestly think you’d head to Cuba for its cuisine. The best meals were at the homestays where lobster, plantain chips and crème caramel were cooked for us ….delicious! Lots of daiquiris and mojitos!
What was the weather like?
I travelled in November which was very warm. Some days were overcast but it was mostly sunny though it did rain heavily for a few days.
What grade would you give the tour ie physically tough or relaxing?
It is a pretty full itinerary. There is some free time to relax though if you don’t take part in all the activities in Trinidad.
How did your fellow travellers rate the tour? Did they feel it was value for money?
I think everyone felt that they had a great time. The local prices were pretty reasonable –museum entrances were only £2. The cost of an average meal wasn’t that cheap though - about £15. GBP/EUR can be exchanged at most hotels or government banks.
Do you feel that you got under the skin of a country and really immersed yourself in the local culture?
As much as possible. It would have helped if I could have spoken Spanish as English is not widely spoken outside Havana.
Do you feel your holiday benefited local people? Was it responsible?
We used family-owned restaurants, bars and hotels and bought souvenirs/cigars etc….from small, local stalls so I would say it supported the local people as far as possible.
What advice would you give to other potential travellers?
Take more spending money than you think you’ll need - I took £250 for two weeks.
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Music was everywhere – you couldn’t help but be uplifted!
What sets this tour apart from the others?
Fantastic tour leader; pretty good value for money; visits all the main cities and towns; gives a good historical insight into the history of Cuba in a neat two week package.
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