Traveling Independently In Cuba

Old Oct 8th, 2003, 03:56 PM
  #1  
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Traveling Independently In Cuba

We are 50's (Cdn) retirees and would like to visit Cuba for a month or so next winter. We usually plan our own holidays and travel independently. The info on doing this in Cuba seems a little scant. Has anyone any suggestions about traveling Cuba this way? What is the deal on car rental (is insurance a hassle) - is this an expensive way to go? We are happy with simple accommodations, meals etc. but I haven't had much success finding info. I looked at the Horizontes website fly and stay package - is anyone familiar with this company? How did it work out?
Thanks!
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Old Oct 9th, 2003, 10:26 AM
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Cuba
Ernest Hemingway visited Cuba and stayed for three decades, enthralled by its people, culture and nature. Since then, Cuba has gained a reputation as an "all-inclusive" destination. But long-term stays are becoming a possibility again, with tourist cards now valid for three months, and communities for foreigners popping up everywhere. One is Villa Armonia, a refurbished 1950s era, Florida-style community on a secluded beach 20 minutes from Havana. Prices that include full maid and laundry service, start at US$30 a night during the off-season for a one-bedroom villa. Visit www.gocuba.ca; www.cubanacan.cu.


Look at the website above for answers to some of your questions. As for Horizontes, I know it is a hotel chain found widely throughout Cuba. The Albatours travel brochure has a section on Longstays that you might have a glance in to pick up some more into.
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Old Oct 9th, 2003, 04:30 PM
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Trillium,
Thanks for the info. I was looking at the train/bus service on the websites you mentioned. Do you (or anyone) have experience with Cuban transit? We always get a bit freaked out renting a car in the islands where roads and drivers seem a bit dodgy to us! I wonder if it is possible to take transit from place to place. That would sure be a cheap way to do things! I think I would much prefer a more adventurous type of holiday to the Varadero AI experience.
Lin
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Old Oct 9th, 2003, 05:10 PM
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Here's a little gem you'll enjoy reading through for trains and buses

http://www.cuba-individual.com/e_horario.htm
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Old Oct 9th, 2003, 06:30 PM
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Hola Travellin:
Sounds like you are off on a great adventure, and boy do I envy you both. I also travel independently in Cuba and I generally stay at Casa Particulars, which are the Cuban equivalent of a Bed and Breakfast. The Casa's are legal and you negotiate your own price to stay with them. I stay at one in the suburbs of Havana and have been back 6 times. It is almost my second home.

As to Horizontes, they offer a package called "Flexi Fly and Drive" which you pre-pay and book before you leave Canada. You get a rental car for the duration of your stay, and vouchers for use in any Horizontes hotel. You book your first two nights before you leave Canada, then each evening at your hotel front desk you book either the same hotel for the next night, or any other Horizontes hotel for the next night. Sort of like an all-inclusive plan with hotel flexability. Only thing is that the hotels are 3 star hotel (not bad, just not real fancy) and that you are committed for each night of your entire stay to be at a Horizontes property.
If you decide to try something different, you are locked in and would end up not using your voucher for that night, but you paid for it anyway.
Here is the Horizontes website which wil give you some more info.
http://www.horizontes.cu/

Also, here are some good general info sites for Cuba.

http://www.transtur.com/eng/

www.1click2cuba.com

www.cubalinda.com

Also there is another great travel discussion board at

http://www.caribline.com/islands/cu/forum.shtml

where you can post a question and also read lots of reviews. The Cuba section is much more active than this site.

And lastly, here is my personal Cuban photography website (with full information on each location) that will give you a little more insight on my travels.

http://photopilot.tripod.com

You can send me an email through this site. Note that there is no www in the URL and that sometimes the site shuts down if there have been too many visitors (such is life with a free hosting site), but if you try the next day you can almost always get in.

Hope this all helps you some with your planning.
Enjoy the Cuban experience.
Steve
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Old Oct 10th, 2003, 03:45 PM
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Thanks for your insight Steve. I am encouraged that a non resort trip to Cuba is not only possible but preferable! Lots of research to do yet! Have you used intercity transit or do you always rent a car? Car rental seems very expensive by our standards.
Cheers,
Lin
We are north of Peterborough, ON!!
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Old Oct 10th, 2003, 05:36 PM
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Hola Lin:
Well I have rented a car in Cuba, but you are correct in noting that it is a pretty expensive proposition. Including rental, insurance, gas I generally budget around $80 - $100 per day for car. And that's US dollars.
One other alternative, at least in the Havana area (100-200km radius) is to hire a local Cuban car and driver/guide. This can be done for about $50 US per day, plus gas. This actually can work out cheaper than car rental, and saves the hassles. Why in Havana area only you might ask? Well because I use a retired gentleman who speaks excellent English and used to work for the Cuban diplomatic Corps before he retired. He is well versed in hospitality etc. But generally he doesn't go beyond day trips, or extended day drips from Havana. I met him through another Canadian businessman friend who also stays in Havana at the same Casa I stay in. The daughter of the Casa owners lives here in Toronto, and her Mother is presently visiting Toronto. Just one big extended family you could say. If you are in Toronto in the next month or so, perhaps we can arrange for you all to meet. As a Cuban national (resident) perhaps she could answer a lot more of your questions about Casa stays etc.

As to my intercity travel, I have taken a cab (3 of us split it and it was cheaper and faster than bus), also I have taken intercity flights with Aero Gaviota and Cubana. If you like old Russian aircraft that certainly is the way to travel. Also got a ride on an old DC-3 that is still used by Aerotaxi.
I should say that I LOVE planes so it was a thrill.
How far north of Peterborough are you? Stoney Lake, Bancroft....???
Let me know if there is anything else you need to know. You can send me a direct email through the Contact Steve tab on my website.
Ciao
Steve
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