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The Best of Western Cuba CN

Visiting: Cuba
Trip Duration 8 Days
 

Reviews for The Best of Western Cuba

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The Best of Western Cuba reviews verified by reevooReevoo

97 reviews

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The Best of Western CubaScores 8.8 out of 10 based on 97 reviews
(8 out of 10)

Sandra

Greater London, UK
This was a very well planned and organised small group tour which managed to show us a wealth of sights within a short time (one week). Staying in Casas Particulares was a wonderful experience. I especially enjoyed my stay with a lovely family in Havana. They treated me as one of the family! The first day in Havana was amazing as so much was packed into the day. I was fortunate in being able to stay on for a few days in Havana at the end of the trip, as for me one week was too short a time and I would recommend this. I did not like the accommodation in Trinidad quite as much, mainly because the Casa owner seemed to be building a small empire - he was adding several extra floors to his house and, when I stayed, there were five guests staying in the house, which made it feel more like a small hotel than a family home. Also in Trinidad, some of the other members of our group were staying on the other side of town, which made it difficult for us to meet up in the evenings as a group, especially as phones didn't seem to work most of the time in Cuba! The tour leader, Jose', was very knowledgeable and explained everything very well. However, we did feel under pressure about giving tips all the time to everyone which, although more than happy to give, we didn't like being pressurised into it. We found that even when using toilets on our travel stops, we were pressed for money. I fully understand that due to the two currency system in Cuba, the Cubans find it hard to earn enough to live on and they need to supplement their income, but this constant pressure to tip did become a bit wearisome. Altogether, though, a really great experience and I would travel with Explore again.
Confirmed traveller: 27 April 2017
Published on: 29 April 2017
(8 out of 10)

Beryl

Flitwick
Overall the holiday was great. Thalia, our Leader, was excellent and always positive and helpful. The itinerary was good although the fact that our accommodation was quite a way out of the centre of town did mean that, with the limited time available for extra visits to the Old Town, a fairly expensive taxi ride was required. This is OK in a group to share the cost but limiting when one is on ones own. I have always enjoyed Explore's usual policy of having very central accommodation and with the introduction of Casas Particulares this was not the case in Havana.

The Casas were very varied. Some were good and some bad. I was unlucky enough to draw the short straw in both Havana and Trinidad. My room in Havana, with Liz, was extremely dark. There were tiny windows but they abutted a concrete wall and very, very little light came in. To add to this there was a power cut on my first morning and I was groping around in the dark. There was no other room in which to sit and no balcony. The breakfasts were not up to the standards described by other travellers.

In Trinidad the 3 oldest travellers were given the Casa Escobar up a steep, cobbled hill.
I had the front room on the roadside and all night long heavy traffic was struggling to climb the hill. This shook my room as well as being extraordinarily loud. The second night involved a local Disco until 2 am followed by young people chatting in the street outside until 3 pm. On the third night our Landlady was celebrating her birthday with a big party. (I do not begrudge her this but the accumulation of noisy nights was rather too much!).

Luckily two of the party did not return to Havana and so I was able to have their room for the last night. The comparison was immense. I had a lovely light room - with a view and the Host and Hostess were very kind, friendly and helpful. They gave me an excellent breakfast on the balcony.

I suggest that a central Hotel should be used in Havana in future and that Casas Particulares should only be used in Trinidad - with only sound sleepers using the Escobar front room!

As you know I have travelled many, many times with Explore and this is the first time I have been disappointed with Explore accommodation. The inferior rooms and the need for a taxi into the Old Town rather marred my experience.

I would like to add that the dynamics of the group were excellent. People were very friendly and considerate (except one) and we all got on well. Thalia could not be faulted.
Confirmed traveller: 03 April 2017
Published on: 17 May 2017
(8 out of 10)

Angela

Birmingham
This is a great tour if you don't have a lot of time. We saw all the best places. Our tour leader Ycel was fantastic - nothing was too much trouble. The music and dancing everywhere just adds to the experience. Homestays are variable - our first homestay was small and dismal but the second was really good. I think we were unlucky as most people had good homestays on both stops. Nice to have three nights at each but maybe would have been good to stay in Vinnales for a night.
Confirmed traveller: 05 March 2017
Published on: 12 March 2017
(8 out of 10)

P

London
Accommodation in casas particulares - More than what I expected.

Bus driver was working long hours and running a lot to get to the places in time.

Tour guide was not looking 100% sure about the schedule, but after all "it's Cuba", so you should come prepared and be flexible - however she was trying hard to get everything done properly.

DAY 1 - Join tour in Havana - Nothing to say, almost everybody arrived arrives late in the evening, so the actual first day is DAY 2.

DAY 2 - Tour of Havana's highlights, free afternoon
The overall tour was good but it could have been organised better. The actual tour started around midday and we had a very late quick lunch.

DAY 3 - Full day trip to the picturesque Vinales countryside
Very nice, but probably Vinhales and surroundings deserve 1 more day to explore everything.

DAY 4 - Drive to Trinidad via the Bay of Pigs Museum
Long day, bus driver running a lot, arrival in evening.
Stop for lunch at the 'cenote' (pool), and Playa de Giron, where if you are not able to swim, probably it's a not a good place to take a bath given that the water is not shallow and there can be a rough sea. Anyways very nice places.
The visit to the small museum was very quick in the afternoon.
Trinidad is not Havana, you can expect something very different, more colonial, more old, more countryside.

DAY 5 - In Trinidad; tour of this pretty colonial town
Morning, city tour, very good.
Afternoon, almost free time for some hours at the beach.

DAY 6 - Free day; optional trip to Topes or boat trip to Cayo Las Iguanas
Topes very interesting 4 kms walk in the rainforest.
Easy paths and very prepared local guide.

DAY 7 - Return to Havana via Santa Clara
Che Guevara Mausoleum is the most important thing for this day.


DAY 8 - Tour ends Havana in the morning.
If your flight is in the evening you may spend some other time visiting Havana, that's what many people did given the short tour on DAY 2.

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In general the tour is good but it seems that local people/guides still struggle to understand and organise tourism. They try hard though, and they will surely improve the organisation in the next year, hopefully not losing their culture that is the actual Cuban experience.

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For internet dependant people: there are some wifi access points in various places (you can buy credentials to connect in special offices), but the connectivity is extremely poor. Suggestion: just relax without internet for some days.
Confirmed traveller: 05 March 2017
Published on: 10 March 2017

Thanks for your breakdown of the itinerary, it’s good to hear what your day-to-day thoughts were. I quite agree with your comments on tourism - guides in Cuba are excellent and really work hard, but the overall infrastructure needs a flexible outlook and a bit of a ‘go with it’ attitude! We continuously train our guides, so I hope that as new ones work more frequently with us, they will only improve. This can only have a positive effect on the Cuban tourism industry as a whole. Also, great tips on WiFi - we definitely recommend relaxing without the internet for this trip as WiFi access is quite limited and expensive.

(8 out of 10)

Nicholas

London
Our 'Best of Western Cuba' Explore! holiday was our first travelling group holiday of this kind; overall we had a brilliant time. Some of our accommodation in Havana's 'Casas Particulares' was of a lower standard than that of other members of the same party, but was generally acceptable; in Trinidad the 'Casas' were all very good. Optional trips available on the rest days are excellent, but don't forget to budget for the additional costs. Many prices were higher than we'd anticipated and are comparable to European costs for food, drinks, taxis etc - it all adds up rather quickly, giving ample opportunity to experience the local banking arrangements when topping-up! We were lucky to have a first class Group Leader with excellent english skills who ensured not only that the trip was well organised and ran efficiently, but also engendered a great team ethos, ensuring we all learned a lot whilst having a great deal of fun - nothing was too much trouble for her. If booking your own flights ensure you select the 'Land' option on the Explore! website, as the holiday dates will otherwise assume you're flying back to UK overnight on the last evening and will give the date of your arrival in UK next day as the end date. Cuba proved to be an eye-opening destination for most of our party of mixed European folks, ranging from couples to singles and from ages between 20+ and 70, which was all to the benefit of the group as a whole. Finally, do not expect to be able to access data on your phone even where there is a good signal, as it is not of sufficient speed or bandwidth (no 3/4G or even EDGE) though you can purchase a pre-paid (£3 / hour equivalent) card in some areas, giving access to a wi-fi hotspot, though you shouldn't depend on it.
Overall the trip was excellent - don't forget your basics though: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, dodgy tummy pills and your own loo roll!
Confirmed traveller: 05 March 2017
Published on: 10 March 2017
(9 out of 10)

Sue

Solomon
The trip was varied: only a week but we saw a lot and managed 2 relaxing dips in the Caribbean as well. For me the highlight was our tour guide who was not only extremely informative and interesting but also very concerned for our welfare and enjoyment.
Confirmed traveller: 13 February 2017
Published on: 16 February 2017
(8 out of 10)

Lawrence

Vancouver BC Canada
An enjoyable mix of history, culture, architecture and free time.
Tour guide was excellent, especially under the difficult conditions in Cuba at the time ( many tourists and infrastructure strained).
Confirmed traveller: 29 January 2017
Published on: 12 February 2017
(9 out of 10)

Katie

If you are short on time this tour provides a good overview of some of the key highlights of Western Cuba including Havana, Vinales, Trinidad and Che's Monument and Mausoleum in Santa Clara. There is quite a bit of travelling, but this is to be expected on such a short tour. I really enjoyed the day trip to Vinales, where a short walk highlighted some of the key products of the region (coffee, cigars, sugar cane), and we were shown how the coffee beans are processed and how cigars are made by hand (yes, we got to sample them too!). Staying in the Casa Particulares in Trinidad was a great experience as it gave me the opportunity to see more of the Cuban life and to practice some of my rather rusty Spanish skills. Breakfasts at our Casa were excellent (omelettes, fresh fruit, bread, Cuban coffee, fresh pineapple juice). I would have liked a bit more time in Cienfuegos (and less time at the 'beach') as it looked a really picturesque city, even in the dark! I enjoyed the optional trip from Trinidad into the mountains (Topes de Collantes), and swimming in a natural pool with a waterfall was one of the highlights of the trip for me. However, I think the price of this day trip was quite expensive for what it was (55 CUC). In general, Cuba was much more expensive for tourists than I was anticipating, especially as Sterling has fallen so much against the Dollar (to which the CUC is tied).

We found it quite difficult to change money and Euros are now preferred to Sterling. On arrival the queue at the airport for changing money was 2.5 hours long, and the hotel reception (Hotel Plaza) did not have any money available (on more than one occasion). The food in Cuba was much better than expected and we had some excellent meals, but it is still worthwhile to take some cereal bars or something as local shops are non-existent and it is not possible to buy snacks like you might do in other countries. In Cuba, never turn down an opportunity to change money, use the toilet or have some food! The facilities and condition of the rooms in Hotel Plaza leaves a lot to be desired (even in Cuba) - avoid rooms on the 4th floor if you can (water supply, both hot and cold is very temperamental - hot water was mostly absent), although the roof terrace and breakfast at the hotel was nice.

In summary, a great trip if you are short on time. I flew with Virgin (no delays, worth paying the extra for!) with hand baggage only, so avoided any long waits at baggage claim, which all seemed a bit chaotic.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 05 January 2017
Published on: 08 January 2017
(8 out of 10)

Simon

Birmingham
The large group size of 17 was possibly why I give a lowish score for the itinerary and leader as it was stretched at times...overall good though.
Confirmed traveller: 30 December 2016
Published on: 04 January 2017