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The Best of Western Cuba CN

Visiting: Cuba
Trip Duration 8 Days
 

Reviews for The Best of Western Cuba

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

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The Best of Western Cuba reviews verified by reevooReevoo

102 reviews

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The Best of Western CubaScores 8.7 out of 10 based on 102 reviews
(5 out of 10)

Andrew

The tour started off in Havana. On the first night of joining the tour at 5 pm, there was no attempt to bring the tour group together or even accommodate us together. Instead we were dispersed amongst a group of small Casa Particulares (local home stays) in the area and left to fend for ourselves.

I know Cuba is a poor country and my expectations were not high, but my room resembled a windowless soviet era prison cell and to get into my residence at night, I had to walk down an unlit back street and quietly step over a couple of people sleeping rough in the main entrance to enter the building. ! This was quite a lonely and daunting experience for a single traveller. Having said that, my landlady was lovely. She spoke some English and attempted a few (unscheduled) Spanish lessons with me.

The tour group met up the next morning and we started off with a tour of Old Havana which was OK but did not go into much depth ( it only lasted 3 hours). This was followed by a free afternoon and evening.

The next day was a day trip to Vinales which was mostly spent driving backwards and forwards (about 3 hours each way) with only about 2-3 hours to spend at Vinales itself. It would have been far better to stay overnight there and see the place in more depth.

Next day was our journey to Trinidad, stopping off for a dip in the sea in the Bay of Pigs, which was nice enough, followed by a 30 minute visit to the small museum at Playa Giron. Our journey to Trinidad continued in the afternoon via Cienfuegos. We arrived at Cienfuegos at about 4 pm, which looked really quite interesting but we only had 20-30 minutes there before being rushed off to Trinidad and deposited at our next Casa for another evening by ourselves.

Our tour of Trinidad the next day was quite good. We had a 30-40 minutes salsa lesson after lunch ( an extra £8 each) followed by more free time in the afternoon/evening. The next day was a ‘free day’ and the day after, we drove back to Havana via Santa Clara (to visit the very good Che Guevara Mausoleum)

Generally speaking, there was not that much covered on the itinerary and on every evening and most afternoons we were left to amuse ourselves. Fortunately the group got on well and we found our own entertainment.

Our guide was nice enough but didn’t seem that flexible or want to spend that much time with us. She also had a habit of shepherding us off to relatively expensive, ‘tourist’ restaurants which weren’t that good, rather than offering us a choice.

Overall I think Cuba is a fascinating place with an amazing culture caught up in a time warp and I’m glad I’ve seen some of it. I would recommend it as a place to visit but there is no rush to get there as many people seem to suggest. The changes predicted by ‘American’ influence still seems a long way off.

I’ve been on a few excellent Explore trips before but I thought this particular trip was very overpriced for the level of accommodation and experience we were given. There were lots of other things to pay for and you will need about £30-£40 a day for basic food, drinks and extras. You’d probably be better off arranging your own trip for a third of the price.
Confirmed traveller: 13 August 2017
Published on: 21 August 2017
(8 out of 10)

Simon

Extremely annoyed that some members of the trip had been offered a free beech extension .... caused a bad atmosphere.... not using you again :(
Confirmed traveller: 31 July 2017
Published on: 14 August 2017
(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