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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

96 reviews

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The Best of Western CubaScores 8.8 out of 10 based on 96 reviews
(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
(7 out of 10)

Melanie

The itinerary was good, though time management could be improved to allow a little more time in some places (e.g. only 30 minutes to explore Cienfuegos - 2 hours would have been better). Earlier starts would help accommodate this.

The tour leader had a disappointing command of English. The level of information imparted about the history of Cuba and places we visited suffered correspondingly. She would do well to plan the information before hand and deliver it in a thought-through manner. She should prepare in advance, decide what to say, say it, then invite questions. That said, she couldn't understand questions which she invited and so was unable to respond appropriately. She frequently rambled to the point of no-one understanding what she was saying or meaning.

She often showed frustration with the job and failed to deliver the level of service expected of an Explore tour leader. 'I'm only paid to do xxx and no more.'

Her expectation management was poor and could have been improved with some advance thought: e.g. the waterfall trip was described as 20 minutes when it was more than 40 minutes in each direction, and advice on appropriate footwear would have been appreciated. When we reached the casas particulares in Trinidad, she had clearly arranged with the householders that we would eat there the first night, and she should have told us that was the plan. Instead there was a proposal for a meal out that was immediately unilaterally withdrawn by her as being too expensive, and we were left unsure whether we had a choice or not.

The money solicited for the tips kitty (£25) was too much for 7 days - so much so that she ended up 'buying us lunch' with our own money at the end. It was distributed very unevenly - £20 for a museum guide for 30 minutes, £10 for a walks guide for 2 hours.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Confirmed traveller: 30 December 2016
Published on: 31 December 2016