VENIMOS A DEFENDER
I have been to Cuba twice, during and after Fidel.
I saw La Habana change so much in a few years.
Not the city, not its streets, not its buildings, not the black smoke of its old cars.
I saw his air, his atmosphere, his people change.
And, for me, certainly for the worse.
I saw a large part of Cuba, the one far from the resorts, where you can still breathe the Revolucion. I came to see it. I came to defend her.
I went to Santa Clara, where the mausoleum of Che is the symbolic place, but you have to get lost in its streets to breathe its life, its influence.
Cienfuegos is to be visited calmly. The Paseo el Prado crosses the whole city, up to the point in the homonymous bay.
From here you can start to do some diving.
The cobbled streets of the colonial Trinidad always offer new views. Surely the center can be identified in the Plaza Mayor.
In the steps of the church, improvised bands are the background to the coming and going of foreigners and locals who, like zombies, look for the best wifi signal in one of the few areas of the city that offers good service.
Santiago de Cuba represents a travel into the travel. Perhaps for this reason foreigners can be counted on the fingers.
Yet the city deserves to be lived for a few days.
Much of Cuban history began and still lives here, in the steep streets, in the cheerful and proud people of the revolutionary fire, in the Cuartel Moncada attacked in 1953. And then the Cementerio Santa Ifigenia, where Fidel Castro, Josè Martì, various revolutionary heroes, musician Compay Segundo, Emilio Bacardi lie.
HOW TO GET TO CUBA
Where to start
It takes some time on momondo.com to find the cheapest flight.
From Europe, less expensive direct flights can depart from Rome, Milan, Madrid, Paris.
Moscow is a possibility for those who have no problem to extend their flight by a few hours.
The best stops are usually Mexico City and Cancun.
Where to land
The main airport is certainly the Josè Martì of La Habana.
Other international airports are located in Varadero, Camagüey, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba.
The choice must be made considering the general costs and the organization of the trip.
FIRST IMPACT WITH CUBA
You can find yourself a bit lost on arrival, with many people coming to meet you as if they were old friends.
They will tell you that the “casa particular” (particular house) booked does not exist and will offer you the beautiful home of their sister.
They will tell you that taxis cost a lot and that you will save a lot by getting into their car.
They will tell you that their friend’s restaurant is the best in all Cuba.
They will only tell you lies trying to rip you off as much as possible and as soon as possible.
Be serene and reject everything. Observe and take the time to understand the situation.
Do not change more than 100 CUC at the airport, in the official gearboxes, where you read Cadeca.
Consider that a taxi journey from the Habana airport to the city costs from 15 to 25 CUC, depending on how much you want and are good at dealing.
Never accept the first price they tell you, it is always exaggeratedly high.
Always remember that Cubans want to cheat you. Always. Everywhere.
It is mandatory to have 3 documents to travel to Cuba:
– passport: residual validity of at least 6 months
– medical insurance: in the event of an accident you may have to pay high amounts for your care.
It is possible to have an annual multi-trip insurance for less than € 100.00. In addition to accidents, you will also be covered in the event of loss of luggage, theft or cancellation of travel.
– visa tarjeta de turista: the tourist card is a rectangular piece of paper (two equal squares) with your data. A part will be retained by the customs officer upon your arrival at the airport, the other party will have to hold it until it is returned when you leave Cuba.
You will also need to temporarily leave it to the owner of the particular house where you are staying. It is his duty to register your stay in his home.
The tarjeta costs about 20 euros. If the airline or travel agency asks for more, it’s because they want to make money from that too.
You can refuse and do it yourself.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Sleeping in Cuba, for me, is only casa particular.
It can be considered a bit like a b&b.
Prices range from 15 CUC upwards. You will have practically the house available and, if you are interested, paying something extra you will also have breakfast, lunch or tour organized by the landlord.
Of course, never consider them disinterested friends and evaluate everything they propose to you and the asking price.
If you go to his sister’s restaurant, take his cousin’s taxi or sleep at his mother’s house (listening to the Cubans, they should have endless relatives), you will surely pay more for the commission.
It’s a never-ending round of money.
However, I advise you to book only the casa particular for the first nights or for the first city. Between mothers, sisters, cousins and friends you will have no problem to find a place to sleep.
MOVE TO CUBA
The main cities are often also connected by air. Obviously the prices are quite expensive and rarely does this mean.
The Viazul bus connect all of Cuba. They are safe and comfortable but you have to organize yourself for the cold air conditioning.
The professionalism of the drivers is not always proverbial: I happened to stop for more than half an hour in the middle of nowhere because the driver had to enter the home of some friends to get eggs, chickens, bread etc etc.
Try to book a few days in advance of your planned departure or you can risk not finding a place and having to change your schedule or itinerary.
Official taxis never use the taximeter.
You have to bargain, knowing that the first price they ask you will be at least double the correct and honest one. If you don’t like the price, ask another taxi driver.
Hitchhiking in Cuba practically does not exist. Or rather, there is no free hitchhiking. Often it will not even be necessary to make a gesture with the arm. Just stop for a moment and watch the car so the driver stops immediately.
You will also hear the horns playing to offer you a ride when you wouldn’t even think about it.
But remember: they want to cheat you money, even more than official taxi drivers.
They could offer you some restaurants to get the commission.
The Cubans’ imagination is endless.
Listen for curiosity, but be prepared for a disadvantageous proposal.