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Cuba Libre! CL

Visiting: Cuba
Trip Duration 15 Days
 

Reviews for Cuba Libre!

Travellers were asked to provide a review of the trip, including highlights and tips.

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Cuba Libre! reviews verified by reevooReevoo

115 reviews

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Cuba Libre!Scores 8.4 out of 10 based on 115 reviews
(8 out of 10)

Alan

Alsager
A great itinerary covering the main points of the island. The 2 days in the mountains and the visit to Fidel's camp were particularly good. The only downside is 2 very long travel days in the bus.
Confirmed traveller: 29 November 2016
Published on: 02 December 2016
(8 out of 10)

Shirley

Gillingham
The accommodation I believe was very expensive. The 2 hotels in Havana. All other accommodation's were great. tents and veranda and home stays. The hotel although central I would have preferred small refurbished hotels I stayed prior to the trip in One called O' Farill. This was lovely and boutique like and much more friendly and authentic. Cuba is very expensive and its very hard to get money out of banks and hotels my trip found. I got all my money exchanged in a money exchange the first day. I had a good rate and then didn't have to worry about money again. Others on trip had to queue and worry where they would be able to get money wasting a lot of their time visiting banks instead of sights!!!

Snacks are definitely not needed. There was soo much food available we missed some meals. If one wants snacks crisps etc. can be bought. Walking pole advised, definitely walking boots or proper walking trainers. Sleeping bags also definitely needed. The walking I felt was very easy and too slow.

Don't over pack as need to get into case dailey to adjust for days needs. Small back pack needed for dailey needs.

Keep money on person or in back pack on person at all times do not leave anywhere even if some one says they will look after it!
Confirmed traveller: 27 November 2016
Published on: 06 December 2016
(9 out of 10)

Stuart

Yorkshire
The trip was superb, great to see the real Cuba as opposed to the view from a beach resort. Highlights were old Havana, staying with the family in Trinidad for 2 nights and meeting all the incredibly friendly Cuban people. Even Fidel passing on our last full night in Havana did not mar any interaction with them.
Jose, our tour leader was excellent. 1 or 2 slip ups perhaps due to translation but he really went above and beyond when helping one of our group on all the walks; walking alongside her and supporting her throughout every walk.
Rene, our driver, what a guy. So happy and friendly and good at his job. This was the first time abroad that I felt 100% safe all of the time while being driven on a foreign road.
Tips:
Air Europa was not as bad as its been painted in previous reviews, food ok and all flights on time.
You can get away with taking a liner as opposed to a sleeping bag but you do need something as its too cold if just using the blankets available in the mountains.
Be prepared for some really long coach journeys as roads are slow and some distances are perhaps too long. I'd suggest Explore cosiders using at least 1 internal flight.
Take plenty of insect repellant and try to Santiago de Cuba 12 year old rum, its sublime.
We had a wonderful group and had a fantastic time.
Confirmed traveller: 27 November 2016
Published on: 30 November 2016
(9 out of 10)

Douglas

Inverness
Highlights included music everywhere, tour of Havana in an old convertible, and the waterfall hike at Topes Collantes. The waterfall is a couple of hundred yards past the swimming spot and is over 100 feet high, you don’t need to swim to experience it. The tour is better value if you can get four per car. Don’t forget to pack insect repellent, good walking shoes, torch, sun hat, towel for swimming, books or e-reader for long bus journeys, and I also found a foldaway day sack very handy. There are a few ATM’s in Havana but they can run out of cash by Sunday evening. The only ATM I found in Trinidad does not accept VISA. There is an ATM on the main square in Santiago. If you are changing money, queues can be quite long at banks and hotels only do this for a limited period of time each day. Someone said there is an ATM upstairs at Arrivals at the airport. Some restaurants default to offering a set menu, but we generally preferred to go a la carte, the exception would be 5 Esquinas Trattoria in Havana where the set menu, including grilled seafood, is well worth trying ( you’ll find it on Tripadvisor, but many people have and it gets busy). Other spots to eat include Estes no es un Cafe just off Plaza de la Catedral. In Santiago Paladar Salon Tropical is good ( take a taxi from hotel and go a la carte and if you want wine get a bottle rather than by the glass). Also St Pauli in Santiago centre, near Plaza de Marte, is good and actually offers a couple of vegetarian options, you’ll pass it on your walk. A blanket and a basic mattress are provided at the camping sites, we used a sleeping bag liner to save space in luggage which was just about OK in the tent on the second night, but a bit cool on the veranda the first night – though tents are also available. The tents though are thin and most of the zips on the entrances are broken. The salsa lesson in Trinidad is a tad expensive, but good fun and the trip to La Comandancia very interesting.
Confirmed traveller: 27 November 2016
Published on: 30 November 2016
(8 out of 10)

Sheila

Aylesbury
+Good group, good guide, we saw a lot.
+Highlights for me were Trinidad and mountain trips. Especially the smaller hacienda.
+Really valued the videos in the bus, and Marlon's encyclopaedic knowledge

-I hadn't really worked out how often we had very long bus rides.
-We were taken to quite expensive eating places and missed out on some Cuban experiences.
-More casas particulares would have been great.
Confirmed traveller: 22 November 2016
Published on: 24 November 2016
(9 out of 10)

Ian

Southampton
It was a great trip...very colourful and fun.

It was more pacy than I thought but that was a bonus.

The treks in the mountains were great and

sleeping under the veranda and tent wasnt as bad as anticipated.

Accomodation and food was nothing to right home about but thats Cuba!

However the tips kitty was yet again a major dissapointment and should have been
disclosed before booking as it brings feelings of anger/guilt .

However it was a great holiday.


Ian Wood
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 13 November 2016
Published on: 19 November 2016
(6 out of 10)

Wendy

South Wales
The activities were great, particularly walking in the countryside or towns. The accommodation was good. The only problem was the amount of time in the bus driving between places. From Santiago to Vinales was almost 2 days straight in the bus. That was the killer for me. Everything else was good or great.

The group of people on my tour was the best ever.

If Explore could find a way to reduce the travel time then I'd recommend the tour.
Confirmed traveller: 06 November 2016
Published on: 12 November 2016
(5 out of 10)

Colin

This trip with Explore was chosen because it toured most of the island and our interest of its history. The tour is advertised as a 15 day tour, yet on Day 1 and Day 15 there was no sign of the tour leader, so the tour started with an introductory meeting after breakfast on Day 2 and finished when we arrived back in Havana on Day 14.

Although 2 days of trekking was part of the tour, it did not have any relevance to the theme of Cuba Libre. All tents except one or two at Hacienda Gallega had holes and/or broken zips. The tour leader said these have been like this for some time – information he provided later in the evening after many of us had searched for a serviceable tent, which was futile. At Hacienda Codina, the tents were not waterproof.

The accommodation was mostly good. The most enjoyable were
located in or close to the centre where you could wander and interact with the locals. This gave us some insight of Cuban life.

In Havana, Hotel Sevilla, which is being renovated, was great. The service and information received from porters to the hotel manager was excellent. Hotel Inglaterra was enjoyable for drinks: cool inside during the day and sitting outside to soak up the atmosphere and meet other tourists and locals in the evenings.

Some banks will change the CUCs into CUPS (local currency). This can be used when you go to the farmers market where 1 CUC = 24Cups should be sufficient to buy some fruit. It can also be used in local shops and cafes where locals are welcoming and happy to converse, despite the language barrier.

Our Tour Leader was Ernesto. We can only echo the previous reviews made by Nicky and Judy. Although Ernesto is knowledgeable, some of the historical facts were inaccurate. We relied on our own information and the information gained from the locals. We were often given misleading information regarding coach timings and durations e.g. in Santiago we were told that we were going to the city centre for a meal and ended up in a restaurant only 500 metres from the hotel, on a trip to Vinales centre we were told it was going to be for an hour then on the coach told it was going to be for 2 and a half hours.

The tipping, controlled by the tour leader, was totally excessive and in some cases undeserved; we felt we were effectively paying twice. Once having paid for the trips, tours and events through Explore and then again by the excessive tipping. The tips we personally gave to the locals, who were not expecting anything, were genuinely appreciated. One elderly Cuban with an excellent command of English told us be careful as some Cubans see tourists and think of money.

On the last day, Ernesto announced that the driver was going to be given a ¼ of the kitty, 150 CUCs (approx £120). This is minimum of 2 months salary for 10 days driving (not all full-time). This extortionate amount was a shock and we asked for the return of our part of the remaining kitty.
As tipping is subjective, individual tipping would be better than the current system of group tipping. The current system promotes complacency resulting in poorer service levels.

Overall, our objective of seeing the historical sights and learning about them was achieved.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 01 October 2016
Published on: 11 November 2016

Thank you for providing your thoughts on your trip to Cuba, it’s a shame to hear that it did not quite meet your expectations. I must firstly explain that due to the nature of camping and the environment on this trip, the tent zips can sometimes become dusty, making them harder to use which increases the force needed to operate them, eventually resulting in the zips failing. Our agent confirms that, to mitigate this issue, the tents are renewed each single season and they check them regularly to try to pre-empt any failures.
We’ve noted your comments regarding Ernesto and this has been addressed with him. Tipping is entirely voluntary and if you would prefer to tip independently just let your leader know at the beginning of the trip, so they can be sure not to include you in the tips kitty.

(7 out of 10)

Nicky

Stevenage
This is an extremely full on tour where you will see everything that the 'real' Cuba has to offer (if you want to see tourist Cuba then go to Varadero and don't do this tour).

Be prepared for a LOT of travelling. Two full days on the minibus gets very tiring, although you are rewarded with a full day on the beautiful Cayo Levisa at the end of it, and Vinales is a stunning finale to the tour.

Our guide, Ernesto, could not be faulted on his historical knowledge and passion for his country, however I would strongly question his interpersonal skills as it never felt like he 'gelled' with us as a group or that he had our best interests at heart with regards to creature comforts especially when it came to suggestions for places to eat, and that they were chosen to fit in with the needs of himself and the driver, rather than the group.

Some important tips:

Take EVERYTHING that you need with you (toiletries, medicines, books, clothing etc). It is virtually impossible to find shops in Cuba.

The water is likely to fail at some point during your trip. Most likely in the hotels. Wet wipes are vital.

Toilet roll is a luxury item. Take your own with you as you will need it.

A torch is useful - the campsites aren't lit and finding the toilet in the middle of the night can involve dodging various forms of cattle

Take a towel - there are frequent stops for swimming in lakes/sea

Accept that whilst camping you will get woken up at 3am by cockerels and will probably end up sharing your tent with a chicken. Mattresses are provided but a sleeping bag is an essential as sheets aren't supplied.

Food quality varies significantly. Anything government run (mainly the hotels) is likely to be disgusting but the casa particulares are exceptionally good. Try to eat in the private run paladars if you can. In Santiago, try to find Paladar Salon Tropical (our guide didn't recommend this, the group found it ourselves from a guide book). Stunning rooftop views and gourmet quality food. It was also one of the cheapest places we ate during our trip.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 28 August 2016
Published on: 10 October 2016
(9 out of 10)

Penelope

Malaga
Pretty full one but would have to be to fit it all in. Loved the history of revolution and getting to see places of importance, totally in love with Che - Fidel ain't so bad either!
Confirmed traveller: 28 August 2016
Published on: 15 September 2016