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Cuba Itinerary help - please

Cuba Itinerary help - please

Old Feb 4, 17, 2:01 pm
  #1  
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Cuba Itinerary help - please

We are a family of 4 adults and are planning an 11 day trip to Cuba in mid May.
We are interested in all that Cuba has to offer (culture, music, food, scenery, history, and beaches). Did I mention food? . The dates are set but the cities and the durations in each I need help on. We were thinking on Havana, Viñales, Varadero. Veradero we were thinking of doing for 3 nights in the end of the vacation - to wind down. Since Viñales and Veradero are in opposite directions of Havana I am not sure which to do first... Viñales or Havana. I would have done Viñales first but we arrive on Friday in Havana and we wanted to capture the weekend in Havana.

Should I do:
Havana: Fri - Tuesday - 5 days
Viñales: Wednesday, Thursday - 2 days
Drive to Varadero: Friday - 4.5 hours
Varadero: Sat, Sun, Mon - 3 days
Tues - Fly back from Havana

Also, how do we travel from place to place. We are 4 people with 4 luggages .
Thank you.
Michael
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Old Feb 4, 17, 2:10 pm
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I guess you're aware that Cuba isn't like, say, Germany, where you arrive at the airport, hop into your rental, and drive from one place to the other.

I'd suggest to hire someone to drive you around. Yes, you can be now getting modern cars (exp Chinese Geely), and renting is possible, but it's still not as easy as in other countries. If you really want to rent it yourself, please note that most rental sides have 30 days in advance reservation. And it's NOT cheap to rent a decent-sized car. Expect around 250$ per day!

My suggestion is you get a driver, or check for alternative transportation (Cuba is definitely possible for a backpacker, but you might not like that, and with one regular sized luggage per person, being spontaneous might be much harder then with a small backpack..)

Thus: Driver, or alternative organized travel altogether. (They will organise stays in Home Stays too that way..)

This is CHEAPER than hiring a rental yourself.

According to http://www.erlebe-kuba.de/osh/de/htm...ba/0,261,.html the current rates are:

Per day outside Havanna - 1 bis 4 days, per day € 95,00
Per day outside Havanna - 5+ days, per day € 90,00

If you chose a driver to be a bit more flexible, about places to stay, I'd suggest you check out https://www.homestay.com/cuba - there aren't much hotels outside of the big cities and tourist destinations, and it's much more fun and authentic to stay with local families.
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Old Feb 4, 17, 3:31 pm
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There is only one hotel in Vinales, and that is often booked up by groups. That said, there are lots of CPs around the town well within walking distance. You can walk out to the fields and mogoles (or whatever the limestone hill are called ) from town.

You might try taxiinvinales for transport and lodging. Rental rates are high in Cuba and for us, a car with driver was the only way we could get around (other than very limiting Viazul bus).

The cheapest routing would be having the car pick you up in HAV and heading out to Vinales. Spent at least 2 whole days there and then come back to Havana with stops enroute.

You can easily do Havana on foot if you stay in the old city. From there, take Viazul (book in advance!) to Varadero and back. Not much to stop for inbetween other than maybe Matanzas (I have a partial photo trip report on Matanzas which is where we began our Cuba tour 2 years ago). I'd return to Havana a day in advance just to allow for quirks of the Cuban transportation system.
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Old Feb 5, 17, 4:24 am
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Cuba is not like the West. Nothing happens on our terms or in our time frames. Travelling isn't cheap for Westerners and the car suggestions above are probably best. Everything else requires forward booking (flying, bus etc).

Do not get excited about Cuban food. It sucks. They're on rations and the restaurants are very average. The big hotels, which are only in Havana and the beach resort places (why would you go there - there are better options) serve pretty average food. It's not a cuisine destination.

Mostly you'll stay in homestays outside of Havana which is a cool experience.

Bring heaps of medicines, everyone gets sick outside of Havana. Don't drink the water and when you see it to buy, stock up because the shops (as you'll discover) are empty.

But you will find it the most exceptional holiday destination. We absolutely loved it as did everyone we met there. Enjoy but preplan unless you're doing a package tour.
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Old Feb 5, 17, 9:16 am
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Thank you so much. All this input is great!
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Old Feb 5, 17, 9:26 am
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I will rent a taxi. Perhaps someone can recommend a private guide in Havana? Also, I hear what everyone is saying about food. I will keep my expectations down but I would appreciate a recommendation of few true authentic places.
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Old Feb 5, 17, 9:28 am
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Also, stay in Old Havana or Vedado?
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Old Feb 5, 17, 11:44 am
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Old Havana is more interesting and walkable so I recommend staying there.

The bottled water is available in 1/2, 1.5 or 2 l and 5 l bottles. I but the medium sized ones and refill from the big ones. Fuel stations sell them too, as do kiosks.
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Old Feb 6, 17, 3:55 am
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Originally Posted by mfeldman1969 View Post
Also, stay in Old Havana or Vedado?
Old Havana is fun. Vedado try a stay at Hotel Nacional which is great. Vedado from old Havana isn't that far away and you can get an old car taxi or a cheap bicitaxi for a fixed price or walk if the weather is nice.
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Old Feb 6, 17, 4:03 am
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Originally Posted by mfeldman1969 View Post
I will rent a taxi. Perhaps someone can recommend a private guide in Havana? Also, I hear what everyone is saying about food. I will keep my expectations down but I would appreciate a recommendation of few true authentic places.
Rice and beans and grilled meat and some fish seafood. Tomato cucumber and cabbage salad. Flan (creme caramel) for desert. Same menu pretty much everywhere for tourists although in some places they have lobster going cheap, but rarely cooked well.

Local village restaurants in people's houses do have more interesting options but you'll need to ask around. Some great seafood in these places. Plus a bit of spit roast pig. Ask a local they'll tell you where. Locals are VERY friendly and happy to talk and share info.

They do good rum based drinks, mojoitos everywhere which range from sickly sweet to minty good, but always with lots of booze. Plus in the countryside lots of drunken coconut (fresh coconut with a generous slug of rum poured in). They're very happy because of the music and endless booze. It's fun.
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Old Feb 6, 17, 6:19 am
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Thank you all again very much.
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Old Feb 6, 17, 11:44 am
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The best food is in the CPs. They pretty much always include breakfast, and most will do dinner for a reasonable price as long as you ask. IMHO the food in the casas is better than the food in the paladars. But, like others have said, Cuba is not a foodie destination, so keep your expectations low.

With 4 of you, hiring a driver will nearly always be cheaper and more efficient than taking the bus. If you don't book in advance, most of the time, your casa owner can arrange this for you since most of them have regular drivers who they work with.

Internet is limited in Cuba, so most arrangements happen on the ground, by phone or by lining up at ticket offices. Try not to stress about that too much; they're pretty accustomed to it, and heck, before the internet, we all used to travel that way anyway. Remember?

If you like culture, music, scenery and history, I'd put in a vote for the coastal city of Trinidad. I know you hadn't mentioned it, but it was my favourite stop in Cuba on my recent trip there.
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