Backpacking Cuba

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!

You’ve always wanted to swim in three different oceans? Well then, time to go to Cuba. The Gulf of Mexico in the Northwest, the Caribbean Sea in the South, and the Atlantic Ocean in the North – what else could you ask for? Besides hundreds of beautiful beaches, the island state has so much more to offer: A lot of viva la vida, hot rhythms, bright colours, sunshine, exuberant dances, smoking cigars, loud music. And let’s not forget about the delicious rum, relaxed atmosphere, colourful old-timers, laughter, nostalgia – pure love of life.

Cuba easily wraps its visitors around its finger with an unmistakeably Caribbean flair and distinctive charm. The joyful, unconventional manner and calmness of the Cubans are contagious and make backpacking in Cuba a very special experience: travelling to Cuba seems like a journey back in time. The traces of Cuba’s eventful history – including colonial times, influences of the Soviet Union, and the American embargo – can still be clearly felt. However, the former communist country, which was largely cut off from the rest of the world after the Cuban revolution, is opening up more and more to the West. Cuba is in transition, which makes a visit particularly exciting.

But if you want to get to know the original Cuba, you need to hurry up!

In addition to its cultural diversity, the Caribbean Island offers a diverse landscape on around 110,000 square kilometres with white dream beaches, dense rainforests, mountains, lagoons, coral reefs, and green valleys. Cuba is a very safe country and easy and comfortable to travel due to its small size. This is what makes Cuba an absolute dream destination for backpackers. Pack lots of flexibility and calmness into your backpack and experience the captivating joy of life!

See below for the perfect Cuba itinerary for an unforgettable journey:


Important Basics

Official Language

Spanish

Basic Vocabulary
EnglishSpanish
HelloHola
GoodbyeAdiós
Thank youGracias
Yes
NoNo
Capital city

Havana

Form of government

Unitary socialist republic

Telephone area code

+53

Currency

Cuban peso (CUP)

Best time to visit

November to April

Climate

ø Maximum temperature: 27 degrees

Ø Minimum temperature: 21 degrees

Fun Fact

Cuba’s main island is the largest Caribbean Island.

There are nine UNSECO World Heritage sites in Cuba.

Cities

Varadero

The peninsula in the northwestern part of Cuba is the most popular seaside resort of the island and quite touristy. However, Varadero is the perfect place to get into the holiday mood.

Here you can relax on snow-white beaches, get a tan and cool down in the turquoise blue sea. Enjoy the Caribbean flair and sip the infamous Cuba Libre.

You’ll definitely also want to rent snorkel or diving equipment to explore the gorgeous, exotic underwater world.

Varadero is known as the centre of Cuban music because various music festivals are held here throughout the year. We also recommend an excursion to the Baconao Park, where you can swim in lagoons, visit coffee plantations or go climbing.

You can get a double room for 44 euros per night at Casa Papo’s House, which is only 150 metres from the beach.

Santa Clara

For about 15 euros, we reach Santa Clara by bus.

It is the city at the western foot of the Escambray Mountains where the Cuban rebel army won against the Batista dictatorship in 1958. Santa Clara thus became the symbol of the Cuban revolution.

The main attraction of the city is the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara on the Plaza de la Revolución. The huge memorial in honour of the famous revolutionary leader Ernesto 'Che' Guevara consists of a monument, a museum about the life of Guevara and a mausoleum in which he is buried together with other fallen revolutionaries.

In Santa Clara, you will find beautiful religious buildings among many other monuments dedicated to the remembrance of the Cuban Revolution. The historic Catedral Santa Clara de Asís is particularly impressive.

Stroll through the pedestrian area around Parque Vidal with its cosy restaurants and bars or visit the urban cultural center La Casa de la Ciudad, where art exhibitions and concerts are held on a daily basis.

At the Ana y Clara Guesthouse, you pay 17 euros for an overnight stay in a room for three.

Trinidad

Next stop is Trinidad in southern Cuba. For about 15 euros, a bus will take you to the city that was built on the back of sugar production.

Trinidad is idyllically situated between the Escambray Mountains and the Caribbean Sea and is one of the hottest cities in Cuba. Here, it seems as if time stands still.

The beautiful city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and enchants visitors with its colonial charm. From the tower of the Museo Historio Municipal you have a magnificent view over the colourful houses, winding cobblestone alleys and well-kept gardens.

The Plaza Mayor and the Casa de la Musica, where locals and tourists dance to Cuban melodies under the open sky at night, are also worth visiting. Explore the old sugar cane plantations around Trinidad, drive to the popular Playa Ancón Beach or go for a hike in the Sierra del Escambray.

An overnight stay in Trinidad is about 18 euros (triple room) at Hostal Calleyro.

Viñales

You can take a taxi to Viñales for about 30 euros.

The village is located in the legendary Valle de Viñales, which is also called Valley of Silence.

The karst mountains with their lush vegetation rise almost vertically from the ground and make this green paradise one of the most beautiful postcard motives in the country. In this fertile, tobacco-growing area you will get to know the rural life of Cuba.

Explore the valley on foot, rent a bicycle or go on a horseback tour and enjoy the sights at tobacco farms, coffee plantations and various lakes and viewpoints.

The best view over the valley is from the small restaurant Balcón del Valle. Viñales is also an ideal starting point for day trips to the North Coast. There, you will find some of the most beautiful beaches of the island, such as Cayo Jutias.

A night in a double room costs 20 euros in the Villa Maceo y Gladis.

Havana

The last stop on the journey is Havana. The bus ride to the Cuban capital is about 10 euros.

The country's cultural and political centre literally bursts with character and enchants travellers with its rugged charm. The lively old town with its colourful houses with stucco facades, flower-decorated balconies and ancient alleys is also called 'La Habana'.

You should keep your eyes open as there is great street art to discover at every corner. Locals and tourists meet on the 'Malecon’ seaside promenade to sit on the plain concrete wall, enjoy the sun, follow the colourful hustle and bustle and relish the breathtaking sunsets.

Although it is an absolute cliché, you really shouldn't miss out on a ride through the city in a colourful old-timer. Culture lovers should also visit the rum museum and the La Corona Cigar Factory.

In the centrally located Casa Novo Guest House, you pay 25 euros for one night in a double room.

A bus will take you from Havana to Varadero Airport for about 10 euros. From there you will return to your home country – with lots of Cuban joie de vivre and calmness as well as unforgettable memories in your luggage.


Varadero

Varadero

The peninsula in the northwestern part of Cuba is the most popular seaside resort of the island and quite touristy. However, Varadero is the perfect place to get into the holiday mood.

Here you can relax on snow-white beaches, get a tan and cool down in the turquoise blue sea. Enjoy the Caribbean flair and sip the infamous Cuba Libre.

You’ll definitely also want to rent snorkel or diving equipment to explore the gorgeous, exotic underwater world.

Varadero is known as the centre of Cuban music because various music festivals are held here throughout the year. We also recommend an excursion to the Baconao Park, where you can swim in lagoons, visit coffee plantations or go climbing.

You can get a double room for 44 euros per night at Casa Papo’s House, which is only 150 metres from the beach.

Santa Clara

Santa Clara

For about 15 euros, we reach Santa Clara by bus.

It is the city at the western foot of the Escambray Mountains where the Cuban rebel army won against the Batista dictatorship in 1958. Santa Clara thus became the symbol of the Cuban revolution.

The main attraction of the city is the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara on the Plaza de la Revolución. The huge memorial in honour of the famous revolutionary leader Ernesto 'Che' Guevara consists of a monument, a museum about the life of Guevara and a mausoleum in which he is buried together with other fallen revolutionaries.

In Santa Clara, you will find beautiful religious buildings among many other monuments dedicated to the remembrance of the Cuban Revolution. The historic Catedral Santa Clara de Asís is particularly impressive.

Stroll through the pedestrian area around Parque Vidal with its cosy restaurants and bars or visit the urban cultural center La Casa de la Ciudad, where art exhibitions and concerts are held on a daily basis.

At the Ana y Clara Guesthouse, you pay 17 euros for an overnight stay in a room for three.

Trinidad

Trinidad

Next stop is Trinidad in southern Cuba. For about 15 euros, a bus will take you to the city that was built on the back of sugar production.

Trinidad is idyllically situated between the Escambray Mountains and the Caribbean Sea and is one of the hottest cities in Cuba. Here, it seems as if time stands still.

The beautiful city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and enchants visitors with its colonial charm. From the tower of the Museo Historio Municipal you have a magnificent view over the colourful houses, winding cobblestone alleys and well-kept gardens.

The Plaza Mayor and the Casa de la Musica, where locals and tourists dance to Cuban melodies under the open sky at night, are also worth visiting. Explore the old sugar cane plantations around Trinidad, drive to the popular Playa Ancón Beach or go for a hike in the Sierra del Escambray.

An overnight stay in Trinidad is about 18 euros (triple room) at Hostal Calleyro.

Viñales

Viñales

You can take a taxi to Viñales for about 30 euros.

The village is located in the legendary Valle de Viñales, which is also called Valley of Silence.

The karst mountains with their lush vegetation rise almost vertically from the ground and make this green paradise one of the most beautiful postcard motives in the country. In this fertile, tobacco-growing area you will get to know the rural life of Cuba.

Explore the valley on foot, rent a bicycle or go on a horseback tour and enjoy the sights at tobacco farms, coffee plantations and various lakes and viewpoints.

The best view over the valley is from the small restaurant Balcón del Valle. Viñales is also an ideal starting point for day trips to the North Coast. There, you will find some of the most beautiful beaches of the island, such as Cayo Jutias.

A night in a double room costs 20 euros in the Villa Maceo y Gladis.

Havana

Havana

The last stop on the journey is Havana. The bus ride to the Cuban capital is about 10 euros.

The country's cultural and political centre literally bursts with character and enchants travellers with its rugged charm. The lively old town with its colourful houses with stucco facades, flower-decorated balconies and ancient alleys is also called 'La Habana'.

You should keep your eyes open as there is great street art to discover at every corner. Locals and tourists meet on the 'Malecon’ seaside promenade to sit on the plain concrete wall, enjoy the sun, follow the colourful hustle and bustle and relish the breathtaking sunsets.

Although it is an absolute cliché, you really shouldn't miss out on a ride through the city in a colourful old-timer. Culture lovers should also visit the rum museum and the La Corona Cigar Factory.

In the centrally located Casa Novo Guest House, you pay 25 euros for one night in a double room.

A bus will take you from Havana to Varadero Airport for about 10 euros. From there you will return to your home country – with lots of Cuban joie de vivre and calmness as well as unforgettable memories in your luggage.

Cuba Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Varadero
Home - Varadero
Flight
250
Papo’s House double room
44
2. Varadero
Varadero
-
Papo’s House double room
44
3. Varadero - Santa Clara
Varadero - Santa Clara
Bus
15
Ana y Clara Three-bed dorm
17
4. Santa Clara
Santa Clara
-
Ana y Clara Three-bed dorm
17
5. Santa Clara - Trinidad
Santa Clara - Trinidad
Bus
15
Hostal Calleyro three-bed dorm
18
6. Trinidad
Trinidad
-
Hostal Calleyro three-bed dorm
18
7. Trinidad
Trinidad
-
Hostal Calleyro three-bed dorm
18
8. Trinidad - Viñales
Trinidad - Viñales
Taxi
30
Villa Maceo y Gladis double room
20
9. Vinales
Vinales
-
Villa Maceo y Gladis double room
20
10. Vinales
Vinales
-
Villa Maceo y Gladis double room
20
11. Viñales - Havana
Viñales - Havana
Bus
10
Novo Guest House double room
25
12. Havanna
Havanna
-
Novo Guest House double room
25
13. Havanna
Havanna
-
Novo Guest House double room
25
14. Havanna - Varadero - Home
Havanna - Varadero - Home
Bus + Flight
250

Total price.

Flights 500,00
Transportation 80,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 155,00
Total735,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Tostones: deep-fried plantains sweetened with syrup. The perfect way to start the day!

Soups

Pescado a la Santa Barbara: fish marinated in coconut milk sauce and seasoned with spices. A classic soup for lunch.

Main courses

Ropa Vieja: Beef is cut into pieces and then cooked with olives, onions and capers. Depending on one’s taste, the vegetables can be refined with paprika or chilli.

Morros y Cristianos: Red beans are mixed with a large portion of rice. Cubans often enjoy this dish for lunch.

Malanga: This is a tuber vegetable that is pureed. It reminds us of German mashed potatoes and tastes at least as good!

Yucca con mojo: The yucca plant is fried with potatoes in a pan. The result is a delicious vegetable pan that you should not miss.

Camarones: Fried shrimps in tomato sauce with lots of oil and onions served with a dip.

Drinks

Mojito: This cocktail originates in Cuba and tastes twice as good on the beach as it does at home in a bar.

Cuba Libre: This cocktail is also from Cuba – you can order it in almost any bar or restaurant.

Cuba

You pay in USD. The exchange rate for 1 USD is about €0.93 (as of February 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living below.

Cost of living 

Food

Free time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Dance to the music: You simply have to dance to Cuban music, so don't be shy.

Buy from the local markets: Here, you will find everything – a true paradise ranging from traditional products to handicraft art. Time to support the locals a bit.

Save water: The country depends on rainwater and the locals are very careful about their use of water. It is therefore appropriate that you also use it economically.

Don'ts

Do not take photos without permission: respect people's privacy and ask for permission beforehand.

Don't be shy: Cubans are open-hearted people and love to tell you a story or two. Try to be as open as possible.

Don't ask for a papaya: Yes, every backpacker loves this fruit, but things are different here. If you ask for a papaya, they will laugh at you since the fruit is called "Fruta Bomba" in Cuba.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Your travel documents must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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