Cuba practical stuff

Maps

We used a printed map (Nelles scale 1: 775.000) for overview only. The distances on this map are not very accurate.  We mostly navigated using the Open Streetmap on our Garmin Dakota 20 GPS or using the same map on our Android smartphone (OSMand and Maps.me are recommended free apps). Signposting outside cities is scarce. You can ask and check with the locals.

There are plenty of these signs. But they only point in one direction ;-)

There are plenty of signs in Cuba. But they only point in one direction 😉

 

Language

In tourist areas such as Havana, Viñales and Trinidad are always some people who speak English. Outside those areas it’s useful to speak at least some Spanish. Or use Google Translate. Tip: it’s also available off-line.

Roads and traffic

When preparing this trip we read that traffic in Cuba is like on the English countryside in the ’40s.  Although it is getting busier every year, mainly due to the increase of tourism, it’s still a cyclists heaven on the quiet roads of Cuba.
Even on a full day riding the Autopista we did not encounter a lot of cars and trucks. Our fellow road users were more often than not horse carts, ox carts , cyclists, motorcyclists and tractors rather than trucks or cars.
All the main roads are tarmac, but the quality can be anything from fine to horrible.

Áutopista near Soroa

The Autopista near Soroa

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ox cart

horse cart

horse cart

the famous oldtimers are still on the road

the famous oldtimers are still on the road

Cuban bicycle

Cuban bicycle

 

Food,  drinks and water

In the larger cities water is heavily chlorinated. On the countryside water is not always reliable. We drank mineral water, which is widely available. Or we used our water filter. Cold soft drinks (Cuban Cola) are for sale everywhere.
We used breakfast and dinner mostly in the casa particulares where we stayed. The quality was far better than in the state run hotels and the portions huge. Another advantage: they cater for vegetarians without problems and often very tasty.
For lunch we bought some bread in one of the local bakeries (panaderia). After asking who’s the last in line (“el ultimo?”) you wait for your turn. Change is always in local money and sometimes you are not allowed to buy bread, the bakery only provides for the local ration.

Local beer such as Bucanero and Cristall are widely available

Local beer such as Bucanero and Cristall are widely available

Casa particulares generally serve excellent breakfasts!

Casa particulares generally serve excellent breakfasts and dinners!

panaderia in a village

panaderia in a village

supermarket

supermarket

 

Climate and weather

Most of the days we had hot and sunny weather with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. Some days were even hotter with 35-38 degrees Celsius in the shade. It rained on two afternoons, and it rained a lot! Major advantage: the following days were cooler.

38 celsius in the shade

38 celsius in the shade

 

Where to stay

Most nights we stayed in a casa particular. A casa particular is a bed & breakfast with normally one or two rooms and provides meals as well. These rooms were always good and often excellent. Besides a bed and private bathroom, it almost always contains airconditioning, and often a fridge and television. A few times we stayed in hotels where we got undoubtedly less value for our money. Our Google Map shows the locations of all casas and hotels we stayed.
We didn’t bother to bring our tent, as there are no campsites in Cuba. Finding a suitable spot to pitch your tent is difficult and officially forbidden.
Except in Havana we made no reservations. In some places it took some time to find a casa with vacancies. Official casas carry the blue Arrendador Divisa sign on their front door. Note: the orange coloured version indicate casas with rooms only for rent for Cubans.

Room in casa in Pinar delRio

Room in casa in Pinar del Rio

casa particular

casa particular

you recognize a casa particular by this sign

you recognize a casa particular by this sign

 

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