Backpacking Cuba

We chose to fly into Varadero because most low cost airlines will fly here to cater to those heading to resorts so you could get cheap flights into here. Even if you aren’t staying in Varadero, flying here still leaves the rest of the country accessible by bus or taxi. Our first stop was Havana so we had two options to get there: we could wait to catch the Viazul bus at 6 PM which only cost 10 CUC + 10 CUC for taxi from bus station in Havana to our airbnb or “casa particular” as they say in Cuba, or we could get a taxi from the airport which is typically anywhere between 80 CUC to 100 CUC. Depending on how many people you’re travelling with, and how much time you want to spend waiting for the bus, you might end up deciding a taxi would be best.

Havana
Nights: 1
Where we stayed: Casa Ana Maria 

We chose to splurge and take a taxi (no regrets here). For these taxis chose the yellow ones. They’ll have AC and usually the price is set to abut 85 CUC from Varadero to Havana. The drivers speak some English and it will be a comfortable ride. In hindsight, we could have just gone straight to Vinales from Varadero. When we were booking this we wanted to break up all the travelling to make it a little easier on us. Our airbnb our first night in Havana was amazing. Ana Maria was  so wonderful, kind and helpful – I highly recommend staying here.

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Our first night was a bit of a mess without a map or knowing where to get some good food and bottled water. In Cuba, there aren’t grocery stores or convenient stores like the rest of the world. You need to find markets to buy fresh food and water bottles can be found at random little stores or restaurants. The streets of Havana are also seriously overwhelming especially if you don’t have a map – we got lost probably a good 10x . If you follow my tips on backpacking Cuba I’m sure it will seriously help you on your way.

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Our host organized a colectivo (collective taxi) to Vinales for the next day so it only cost us 20 CUC to get there. Our taxi showed up on time and we shared it with 2 guys from Poland. Collectivos will still be taxis driving you but you can expect it will be old cars (not the yellow taxis) and locals who do not speak English driving. Our first collectivo was hilarious. Half way into the drive, without telling us anything (something you will get very used to) our driver just turned off the highway and started going down back roads until he got to this small house where he parked in the back yard and just got out. We were all laughing not knowing what the heck was going on. He came back after a few minutes and with the car still running started to fuel the car. At this point, on the guys from Poland opened his backpack and took out some beers for us to share. The driver got in, and with us laughing and drinking beers we were on our way back to Vinales.

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Vinales
Nights: 2
Where to stay: Casa Sady

Our casa in Vinales may have been my favourite. We had our own separate guest house, with AC, hot water, comfy beds, and most wonderfully of all, a ladder that brought us to the roof where we could sit and enjoy the gorgeous view of the hills in Vinales. Within 30 minutes of arriving in Vinales we were off on a horse through the valley. Our hosts did not speak any English at all, so although it was a bit difficult at times, I really enjoyed having to try my best at Spanish to organize our tours, breakfasts, and taxis.

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They organized our horse tour for us and it cost about 25 CUC each for about 4-5 hours. We first stopped at a Tobacco farm, and then took our horses through the valley to get to this coffee plantation and lake. There was also a bar where they strongly encouraged you enjoy some beers and mojitos (no complaints here!). Then we took our horses back to the tobacco farm with the sun setting behind the mountains in the background.

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For dinner we went to a restaurant close to our casa. We still did not have wifi so we were quite unaware of our surroundings and this was the only place super close to our casa – not a bad option!

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The next day we did a taxi tour of Vinales and were able to get a better grasp of where we were. The tour also brought us to some gorgeous places in Vinales and stopped at this stunning view of the valley.

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We realized that our casa was a bit of walk from many restaurants and finally…. WIFI!! Let it be known that wifi is this elusive thing in Cuba. No one has it in their houses it’s only available in random parks and fancy hotels and you need to buy these passes to use it. Once we had wifi we were finally able to look at maps and plan some stuff out. Vinales was a beautiful area to visit and it was incredibly relaxing.

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Wifi zone

Back to Havana
Nights: 2
Where to stay: Casa Anita

We took another collectivo to havana and paid 20 CUC to get back. Our Casa here was very nice and again, our host was amazing!

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This Casa, and the one in Vinales offered to make us breakfast for 5 CUC each. I highly recommend doing this. You won’t find a better breakfast anywhere else. Both times it was an absolute feast with coffee, tea, fruit, bread, jams, eggs and veggies. The location of this Casa was right in the tourist centre, so there was plenty of restaurants and everything was within walking distance. The food that we had in this area was pretty decent. For Wifi we jut went to the big hotels and paid to use wifi in their lobby’s. We spent our days in Havana just walking around, going to museums, and eating. Our second day in Havana we wanted a break from the heat and to relax by a pool so by doing a little research online we found that you could pay to use some of the pools at certain hotels. We ended up going to hotel nacional and it was just stunning! We paid 25 CUC to get it – which seems like a lot but 20 CUC goes towards food and drinks at the bar so that was perfect for us. Since this was a very nice hotel, the food here was delicious and filling and the drinks we quite good too. We did not mind spending the afternoon lounging and swimming.

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We paid 10 CUC for taxi from downtown Havana here but decided to walk back. We walked along the Malecon and it was a beautiful walk back to the city.

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The next morning we left for the Varadero airport once again. We decided to just pay for a private taxi since I was flying standby and we wanted to get there early and without any strange delays from collectivos. There isn’t much in the Varadero airport in terms of food before you go through security. This was hard for me because I was flying standby and the flight was completely full so I had to wait until the plane had arrived for the Customer Service Agent to ask the Captain if I could fly in the flight deck with them. I ended up waiting for about 6 hours outside security with no food and then when the Captain said yes (THAANK YOUUUU) I had to rush through security to board the plane. Mamma mmiaaaa.

Check out my post for tips to backpack Cuba!

xx, S

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