Cuba: What to Expect (or not)

The first time I landed in Cuba I was feeling jet-lagged and recovering from a nasty case of food poisoning. But it was my first time in the Caribbean, so I forced a smile and hopped aboard the hotel shuttle bus. Eduardo, the hotel rep, grabbed the bus microphone and bellowed “Welcome to Mexicooooo!” to a bus full of stunned tourists, most of whom believed him for a split second. This was my first encounter with the infectious Cuban sense of humour, and the last time I associated Cuba with anywhere else in the world.

Visiting Cuba is a cultural adventure, and that’s a huge part of its appeal. But the gap between expectations and reality can leave some people unhappy with their visit. Before travelling to Cuba it’s important to understand what to expect so you can be sure it’s the right place for you.

Cuba is famous for its laid-back, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere. As much as we dream of this lifestyle, you have to remember that with it comes sporadic public transport and less of a service-oriented atmosphere in hotels and restaurants.

You won’t find any sort of schedule. For anything. Ever. So expecting things to run with Swiss-style efficiency will leave you feeling frustrated and angry. My advice: leave you watch at home, and take a flexible attitude – it will help if you ever have to improvise with your plans.

A bus stop in Holguin, no timetable in sight!  

What you won’t find in Cuba:

  • Big brands, chain restaurants, huge shopping malls, mass-produced goods, or commercial advertising.

This can be a huge adjustment, particularly to those who like to start their day with a tall vanilla latte from Starbucks, spend the day shopping in an air conditioned mall, and finish up with a meal at Wagamama’s.

Cuba has experienced huge growth within its private sector in recent years; but they’re still resisting the invasion of the big American brands. For 53 years Castro has kept capitalism at bay. The private sector is mainly family-run restaurants, which means you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking restaurants; and they won’t be serving the same old dishes you can find anywhere else.

  • Be prepared for the occasional power cut, and please don’t expect to be able to access high speed wi-fi too easily – just ask Veronika about this one! 
  • And finally, Cuba is a very safe country, so you won’t see as much crime as you would in a country with a wider economic gap, like neighbouring island Jamaica. 

The best way to experience Cuba is with a little help from an insider; which is where Vamos*Cuba comes in. Tell us what you love to do, and we’ll help you plan the perfect trip!

Click here to contact us and start planning your dream Cuban holiday!

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