- 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.
Published on: 08 January 2017