In the dead of winter, reminiscing over the warmer days of the year can boost the spirits. Cuba. Just the name evokes thoughts of intrigue, curiosity and for a few enmity. However, no one can deny the beauty and history of the city. Jill and I booked our tour through the Sunwing representative in our hotel. It’s an all day tour spanning from 9am until 7pm or later if there is bus trouble (which happened to be the case for us). Regardless it was an eyeopening experience and a fantastic look at the history of this still mysterious country.
What To Bring: Just a heads up, you will be walking.. a lot. As I’m writing this from Seoul, imagine visiting all the palaces, a night market and Insadong in one day. It’s going to be a busy day. So with that said, bring a comfortable pair of running or walking shoes, and cool clothing. It’s a hot walk throughout the city streets of Havana. Other necessities that will come in handy: bottled water, toilet paper and wipes and feminine hygiene products. This is a fast-paced tour with not much stopping, so empty the bowels before getting on the bus. Our tour bus had no toilet. Welcome to Cuba.
All Aboard: Our resort was located in Jibacao which is about a 45 – an hour drive. We were the last ones to get on the tour bus, but we were the first ones off on the way back! The bus was comfortable enough with plenty of air conditioning and comfy seats. We had one bathroom and drink stop on our way there. Pick up a nice cool Mojito for the road 🙂
Havana Harbour: The first stop was Havana Harbour. It was a quick 10-minute stop to get some photos of Havana from a far. There is a small fort nearby. A word of advice: Do not go into the fort or away from your tour guide! These dumbass Canadians wandered off the tour to go explore the forts and we were delayed by about 20 minutes as our guide had to chase them down. If you want a private tour, they are easily obtainable at your hotel by doing a little asking around 🙂
Old Havana: Old Havana was my favourite part of the tour. The colonial architecture blended in with the recent (at least in their history) revolution. There was also a lot of street art, hawkers selling 1980s pop music via cassette tape and school tours bringing life to the old town. The highlight for Spanish colonial buffs was the Museo de la Ciudad (City Museum) which has a vast collection of Spanish colonial artifacts.
Rush Rush Rush: We only got a few minutes to see Plaza De Arms, a street of cafes, bars and restaurants. This is personally going to be a day trip for me next time. There were so many tiny cafes and restaurants that we wanted to try but time was so limited. We got a few pictures of Caterdral de San Cristobal, which unfortunately, was under renovations. Pro tip: If you are going into Havana, a private tour of this area would be highly recommended.
Revolution Square: Viva La Revolution! The epicentre of Castro’s socialist revolution. The square is huge with a giant statue of Castro. Lots of vintage cars to take photos of in case your not into the whole socialist revolution thing. It’s about a 10 minute pit stop to take pics and head back on the road.
The Market: The final stop on the tour is to a cigar shop and a market. First, the cigar shop is highly overrated and you should save your peso and purchase your cigars from either the airport or some “independent vendors” around your hotel. For example, the price at the shop for a box of Cohibas was 300.00CAD.. pft. I bought 2 boxes on the beach at our hotel for 150.00CAD. Don’t be a sucker. Now that that rant is over, the market was pretty awesome. I got a humidor for 50.00 CAD and Jill got a painting of Hemingway’s bar for 25.00CAD. The market is full of Cuban tourist stuff such as t-shirts, paintings, wooden sculptures, etc. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but it’s bustling and full of energy. As always, haggling is completely acceptable.
Final Thoughts: Havana in a flash is the perfect description. If you don’t have much time in Cuba, this would be a pretty good tour to go on. If you are a wanderer, as clearly some people in our tour were, I would highly suggest looking into a private tour. The price was 75.00CAD and that included lunch. The lunch, by the way, is definitely catered to Western tourists (turkey and mashed potatoes, no joke). My only qualm was that the bus broke down, but at the same time, it’s Cuba. If everything were to go as planned, you would be robbed of the Cuban experience.