Ché: 'your example lives on, your ideas endure'. Not for much longer
Ernesto Ché Guevara, doctor, intellectual, Marxist revolutionary, guerilla and diplomat was a key figure in the Cuban Revolution that won control of the country in 1959. Ché's photographic image by Korda has been reproduced more than any other photo in history according to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Cuba is without doubt the Caribbean's most interesting island. It embraces great beaches, water sports and sun, just like the rest of those famously sunny islands, but also offers the discerning tourist gorgeous decaying towns and cars, a wild music scene, a fascinating history, friendly people, cheap living and a bizarre, collapsing Socialist system.
From Matthew Parris at The Times (London), 2013:
If you plan to visit Cuba, the old, charming, dilapidated, communist Cuba, get moving!
Havana Centro, La Habana Vieja, Paseo de Marti. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded in 1515 by a Spanish conquistador.
Once the gambling vacation of choice for wealthy Americans, Cuba island and its capital Havana is has been on the US State Department's no travel list since the revolution in 1959, though determined US citizens can get there via fairly easily Canada, Mexico or Caribbean countries so long as they book flights separately.
Cuba is a popular tourist target for holidaymakers from countries other than the USA as its combination of climate, beaches, architecture, low cost holidays and a fascinating local culture make it a unique destination, not only in the Caribbean but in the world.
A cheap shared taxi, uno collectivo Yank Tank, from pre-revolution days in the '50s.
- buses are cheap, reasonably comfortable and efficient. The best long distance line for foreigners is Viazul which runs air-conditioned buses all over the island, but preferably book 3 days in advance. Locals use the Astro bus network that is more extensive but crowded, unreliable and not comfortable.
- taxis in Havana are a bit pricey but convenient, though tourists staying in Habana Vieja will hardly need them as main sights are within easy walking distance. The little orange Coco taxis are the cheapest individual kind but whatever the vehicle make sure you negotiate the price before setting off. Yank Tank collectivos, shared taxis with a sign in the window or on the roof are also good value transport.
- hire cars are a terrific way to get around the country as roads are delightfully empty and scenery pleasant. The downsides are that signposting is rare, car maintenance shoddy and if involved in a serious accident resulting in injuries or death to Cubans you could be detained by the authorities until the legal situation becomes clear that could mean months. More on car rentals in Cuba.
- trains are generally uncomfortable and disastrously unreliable with the exception of the Tren Francés travelling between Havana and Santiago de Cuba, which is at the far eastern end of the island. Tren Francés runs every two days if it's still in service. Most travelers prefer to use Viazul bus, or fly if budget is not a problem.
- domestic flights are efficient and normally fine. Aero Caribbean is the biggest and has a fair number of routes.
- cycling around Cuba is an interesting option though distances can be substantial. Don't think about renting a bike unless it's just for a couple of days in Havana, they're cheapo Chinese makes which are neither easy to ride nor reliable over lengthy periods. If you bring your own bike with you bring all spares too. It is possible to put bikes on some buses (Viazul, for a tip!), trains and even private trucks.
- hitching. If you've got all the time in the world and some Spanish then using the official Cuban 'Amarillo' system is an adventurous option.
Dancing in the Street in Habana Vieja. Cubans, give them a chance and they dance!
A Paladar in Havana.
A Paladar is a small, cheap restaurant run as a family operation, often in the family house or apartment. They
range from semi-professional operations to mama
cooking for one in her kitchen, but serve better and cheaper food than in most
state-owned places. However, quality varies so get recommendations beforehand if possible.
El Malecon, a promenade running beside Havana's sea wall that buzzes with people strolling, chatting and drinking after sunset.
Next, more Havana attractions
Cuba has a comfortable tropical climate with
best weather from November-April. The average low temperature in this season is 18C (64F) and average high of 28C (82F) with low rainfall.