Cuba Holidays Before Big Change

Most people who haven’t yet made it to Cuba for holidays are the same – they’ve always meant to take vacation there, it’s just never worked out for them. The thing is – if you’re gonna visit Cuba, take your trip as soon as possible. Fidel Castro stepped down as president of Cuba and even though it’s his brother who took over, Cuba’s going to change.

Mass Tourism in Cuba

Cuba has already undergone a significant change and whoever took holidays at the island before that first change got the best out of it. That change came in 1994. After the fall of Berlin Wall and end of communism in Eastern Europe, Cuba’s main business partner – Russia was on the brink of bankruptcy and had to deal with its own crumbling economy so Cuba lost its foreign supportive hand and 80% of international trade. Fidel Castro – to day recognized as world’s greatest leader (recognized as such by everyone except from Americans) did the only thing he could to save his country from complete financial collapse: opened Cuba to mass tourism.

Cuba is Notorious for Endless Beaches with Fine Sand, Photo: Abdou.W, Flickr
Cuba is Notorious for Endless Beaches with Fine Sand, Photo: Abdou.W, Flickr

Still Same Old Cuba

Everything about Cuban way of life, its crumbling continental architecture, saloon cars from the 50’s, tobacco fields, cigar factories and some of the world’s best medical care and education remained the same. The difference was most noticeable in areas known for world’s finest beaches. Varadero is basically a tourist resort. It’s not even a Cuban town. It’s a location with high density of hotels and crap loads of tourists.

Similarly, while streets of Cuba are still not too busy and still dominated by those old American vintage gas-guzzling monsters, it is not unusual to see a shiny modern car in the mix. That would be a foreigner on a rental.

Old Car on a Street of Santiago de Cuba, Photo: brettocop, Flickr
Old Car on a Street of Santiago de Cuba, Photo: brettocop, Flickr

Yes, mass tourism has taken its toll on Cuba, but I appreciate Fidel Castro’s decision to allow trip companies in as it was the only way to save his country after collapse of communism in Europe. Castro also took it one step further and allowed private sector to take its share of tourism money. Cubans are now able to rent out rooms in their private houses (casa particular) to tourists. Whatever our American friends think, Fidel Castro is hands down the best country leader of the 20th century.

Major Change Still Due

Most of Cuba remains unchanged. It’s still the same it has been since revolution in 1959. Varadero is so touristy you wouldn’t be able to tell it from any other world class resort but other than that, Cuba is the same. No McDonald’s or any other recognizable fast food chains, no Walmarts or any other multi billion dollar corporation destroying small business, no drugs, no organized crime – aka, it’s still the same old Cuba that makes it so unique and so awesome. But that real and significant change is in the air. It’s inevitable. And when that change comes, it will be it.

New US president is likely to introduce a more relaxed approach towards Cuba and when the embargo is dropped, the island will get flooded with tourists to the point that it’s change country’s topography. Investors will start pouring in, ultimately putting an end to most traditional ways of business. Cuba will change and it will be significant. I can’t stress it enough – visit Cuba as soon as you can. Visit it before it changes. Once changed, old buildings will be replaced with new, old cars replaced with new, old ways replaced with new. The charm of the island will be gone. A trip to Cuba will be no different from a trip to Mexico. You’ll miss out if you don’t go before it changes.

Cuba Holidays Can Not Be Complete Without a Ride in a Coco Taxi, Photo: Mariana Ricaud, Flickr
Cuba Holidays Can Not Be Complete Without a Ride in a Coco Taxi, Photo: Mariana Ricaud, Flickr

To Varadero Or Not To Varadero?

The answer is simple – NOT. As I had mentioned above, Varadero has been turned into a tourist resort, the type you will find in Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, Curacao or whichever other tropical resort you can think of. To experience real Cuba and get the most out of its culture and history, go straight to Havana. Stay in Havana for at least three days. Havana has way more to offer and three days will hardly do it any justice, but it’ll give you more than 10 days in Varadero.

Varadero, Cuba - Known for World's Finest Beaches is Now a Tourist Resort, Photo: Andrew.O, Flickr
Varadero, Cuba - Known for World's Finest Beaches is Now a Tourist Resort, Photo: Andrew.O, Flickr

Havana

Havana has the best hospitals and schools in the Caribbean. The colonial architecture will remind you of Spaniards who conquered the island. The mass tourism has not affected Cuba’s capital much. Old hotels built in the 30’s are still in operation. Most give funky smell, but from the window you can see it all – national monuments, street performers, incredibly beautiful Cuban girls, coco-taxis, old men sitting on a street smoking cigars, little traffic mostly consisting of those old two tone saloon cars and palm trees.

Malecon Wall in Havana, Cuba, photo: damian 78, Flickr
Malecon Wall in Havana, Cuba, photo: damian 78, Flickr

Havana is Cuba the way it’s supposed to be. Go and enjoy it while it’s got its original charm.

2 thoughts on “Cuba Holidays Before Big Change”

  1. Fidel Castro the world’s greatest leader? You mean the world’s biggest tyrant, don’t you?

    Cuba today has great health care and education? Of course your hospitals are roach infested and you don’t even have an aspirin to give your patients, unless they are tourists, of course.

    Ese Fidelito que le llamas el mejor lider del ciglo 20 es en realidad el unos de los asesinos mas grande del dicho ciglo. Agarro un pais prospero y lo destrullo de una manera que es imposible calcular.

  2. Manuel Alonso, and you talk a lot of crap because if you were in that situation, being the President of Cuba, you would have done 100 times worst. Fidel has done a great job, considering how much the yanks have tried to wreck the country.
    Of course, if you have no money coming in people will suffer one way or another because a country needs billions and billions to give people the standard of living they need. Cuba just touched the bankrupcy point and recovered only thanks to the changes and implementations introduced by Fidel. See you.

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