The 19 most important tips for backpacking Cuba(2)

10. Don’t miss Vinales!

Havana, the capital, is often at the center of many Cuban trips. But if you only visit one place in Cuba, it should be Vinales.

It is a five-hour drive to this town, located in the tobacco region of Cuba. The valleys are surrounded by limestone mountains and the flora is fascinating. The unique landscapes and beautiful scenery around town can be explored by hiking or cycling. Visit a tobacco plantation to understand the process of tobacco growing and making cigars.

Vinales was the place where Cuba really clicked with me after my initial struggles in Havana.

It was a wonderful experience exploring the valley and hiking. I also learned about tobacco culture. At night, I went to a super fun reggaeton party inside a cave bar (Palenque de los Cimarrones). The Havana Club had probably been too much for me, so I took an old-fashioned mint taxi to get back to the guesthouse. As I sat in the taxi and watched the Cuban scenery from the window, my thoughts were “holy crap! This is crazy.” Cuba has the power to put you under its spell.

11. But maybe skip Varadero

Varadero, Cuba’s most popular beach resort is a favorite of Canadian tourists. Many fly directly there. Varadero was a ho-hum place for me. If there is one thing to leave off your trip, it would be Varadero.

It’s true that there’s some nice hotels and a beach, but it’s really not what people come to Cuba for. There are better beaches in other countries. I would personally focus more on Cuba’s culture. Varadero, being a commercial resort, is also more costly.

Consider destinations like Cienfuegos Trinidad Santa Clara and more.

12. Learning some Spanish can be useful

You will be able to connect more with Cuba when you speak Spanish.

When I went to Cuba, I only knew a very beginner’s level of Spanish. I managed just fine. Sometimes it was through gestures and other times by meeting English-speaking Cubans.

13. If you are an American, then you canenter.

It’s been harder for Americans to travel to Cuba due to US sanctions. However, this isn’t impossible. There are visas which allow you to visit Cuba for a specific reason, like ‘cultural interchange’.

You can go to Cuba and not let anyone know. My trip to Cuba was partly accompanied by two Americans, who flew from Mexico directly into Havana. If you request it, the Cuban border agent will not stamp your passport. They don’t even care that you are an American. You can leave no digital trace if you are careful (e.g. If you try to use your bank card or credit cards inside Cuba, it will be as if you never went.

This is not something I would recommend, just a fact that some backpackers do it. The best option is to get a visa for cultural exchange, as it will be legal.

As a European, I did not have any problems getting my visa at the airport.

14. Get some salsa moves.

Salsa originated in Cuba! You’ll have the opportunity to see some amazing salsa dancing on your vacation. You can also learn the steps by taking dancing classes in Havana. This is a great way to get familiar with Cuban salsa.

Cuban salsa differs from international styles like LA. It’s a more traditional salsa, with the dancers staying closer together.

15. Local bars are a great place to go.

In central Havana there are a few cocktail bars that cater to tourists, but you can have a much more enjoyable time if you go to local bars.

You can ask the owner of your particular casa where to find them. When I was backpacking Cuba, there were huge differences in prices. You might have to pay up to $10 per mojito in tourist bars. A local bar charged me only $0.20. Whoa!

A visit to the local bar led to some confusion. While I was sitting with some male travel companions in a bar, enjoying some cocktails and cigars, we made a joke to the bartender. “Hey where are all the girls here?” “. This was the bartender’s cue for a herd of prostitutes to rush in and attack us immediately. We had to make a lot of effort in order to tell the bartender that we were not interested.

In clubs and bars, you might get lots of attention from women. It’s possible that this attention is not entirely free or innocent. Women who don’t want to be prostitutes might try to throw their bodies at an unemployed foreigner. The same thing may occur when genders are switched.

You could be the subject of a genuine interest. Use your best judgement in Cuba because the lines can be blurred.

16. Watch out for scams

Cuba can be a safe place (but not in terms of serious crimes). However, it’s possible to run into scammers. They might try to shortchange you, or sell you fake cigarettes. This seems to happen more in the Havana tourist area. This is not a major issue, but is something to keep in mind.

My first day in Havana I was pushed into buying a cigar box I had never intended to buy. When something is shady, leave the situation.

17. Latest Situation

Cuba is a popular destination for travelers who want to see it “before it changes”. It is never hard to feel that the current situation isn’t meant to last forever.

The Cuban economy is changing slowly. For example, internet access has increased dramatically in the last few years. You should check a variety of sources, even the official ones. Some details might have changed.

The visa regulations, especially for Americans, are subject to a lot of change. The visa regulations were made more lenient under Obama and then harder under Trump. Now, they are a little easier.

18. Take the Ride!

Traveling in Cuba may seem difficult, but the reality is that it is quite simple. It’s similar to backpacking and traveling on your own anywhere else.

Cuba is a relatively safe place, with few concerns. The only real issue you may have are a few minor practical ones like the generally poor Internet access or whether your card works at ATMs.

This is a destination everyone should visit at least once. After my trip to Cuba I was relieved to be back in Mexico. I missed the great food and other comforts of ‘capitalist-style’ living that Mexico offers. This is also part of the Cuban experience.

Cuba is a unique destination, a place with many problems that is also very welcoming. You’ll have some amazing stories and impressions if you visit Cuba with an open mind.

Further reading

  • firmoo_BOGO

    Say Goodbye to Boring Glasses: Firmoo’s Got the Perfect Pair for You

    Get Ready to Level Up Your Eyewear Game Hey there, fellow young adults Are you tired of sacrificing style for affordability when it comes to your eyewear? Do you lead an active lifestyle and need glasses that can keep up with you? Look no further than Firmoo! Style and Affordability: The Perfect Combo Firmoo offers […]
  • 10 Delicious Snickerdoodle Shakeology Recipe Ideas

    Experimenting with Shakeology recipes is like going on an exciting culinary journey. Some days, you’ll crave Chocolate; on certain days, it will be a Cookies & Cream affair. Don’t abandon the Café Latte, Vanilla, and Strawberry flavors either! Hold on — what about Snickerdoodle? These 10 Shakeology recipes are tailored specifically for Snickerdoodle, the latest […]
  • 8 Strategies to Stay Active Even When You’re Out of Sync with Exercise

    Feeling too exhausted, whining about the chill in the air, complaining about the distance to the gym, or being too snug on your home couch – these are all familiar excuses we’ve all probably given when we’re simply not in the mood to exercise. “Lack of motivation or simply not being in the mood for […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *