4 independent reviews for Cuba budget vacation

These full and frank independent reviews are from travelers who have booked directly through Responsible Travel. They are not edited by us or any of the companies we work with. Find the real story, from real travelers below.


review 19 Aug 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The whole experience was amazing. Cuba is a fantastic place to go and one which is going to change so dramatically in our lifetimes. The atmosphere across the whole island was so warm and vibrant, with live music being heard on every street corner.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Check that the tour operator/local agents have checked flight availability from Baracoa and that there are seats for the trip you want to book on. Otherwise, you may have to endure a 6 hour drive back to Sanatiago to catch a flight, when Baracoa's airport is 10mins away. Also check that the flight time won't be 1am in the morning, meaning you miss one night back in Havana and only get to bed at 6am!! That was not a fun day at all!!!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The homestays were excellent and really benefited a certain proportion of local people. As did eating in local restaurants who would feed you a feast and whatever was left over would go to the families and friends who do not have access to this food due to their poor currency and rations.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Guide excellent. Itinerary - good as standard, we added more destinations to it, so that made it excellent, as you got a real feel for the island. Homestays excellent. The country excellent. The relation between the tour operator and the local agent - very poor.

review 20 Jan 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Wandering the cobbled streets of Havana and Trinidad. Jungle walks near Trinidad and Baracoa. Staying with friendly hosts in their own homes.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

1. Be flexible and prepared for anything! Cuba can be a very frustrating place, as government control means that things operate in a completely different way to most countries you will have been to. Don't let it get to you - it's all part of the experience! 2. Be prepared for some long days of bus travel from one city to another. 3. Learn as much Spanish as you can before you go - it will really help you communicate with your hosts in the casa particulares. Take some photos of your family / home / pets with you - even if you don't speak much Spanish they will give you something to 'chat' about! 4. Don't expect wonderful food, especially if you're veggie! 5. Choose some of the optional activities that allow you to get out into the countryside. The national parks are beautiful, and make a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle (and yes, hassle) of the cities. 6. Talking of hassle, don't worry about it too much - it isn't nearly as bad as some guidebooks would have you believe. Just use a bit of common sense, as you would anywhere in the world. 7. Take LOTS of spending money - Cuba isn't a cheap destination. Don't rely on credit or debit cards (although I was able to use an ATM in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.) 8. Talking of money, change a few pounds / dollars into the local currency - this will allow you to buy food from the bakeries and markets used by the Cuban people (when you can find them!) Not only is this MUCH cheaper than the tourist shops and restaurants, but it helps you distribute your vacation spending across a wider range of the population (see comment below.) 9. Should have put this as number 1! Book a few extra days in Havana either before or after the tour - or both! The company will arrange an expensive hotel for you, but I'd book a Casa via the internet - cheaper and nicer.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Staying and eating in the casa particulares meant that the money spent on accommodation went straight into the pockets of the local people (although they have to pay a lot of it to the government in taxes!) However my impression was that, in many cases, these families were much better off than most people. It was difficult to find ways of supporting other local people (other than by giving to people who asked for soap / money.) It was a shame an internal flight was necessary, but traveling the length of the island by bus once was enough. I'd consider finding a tour covering shorter distances (e.g., Havana, Vinales and Trinidad) with less bus travel and no need for the internal flight.

review 17 Jun 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming in a cave, with bats over head! Meeting people from completely different cultures (and dancing with them...)

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Learn Spanish - it will really help. I've never wished so much that I knew the language better. Buy a few ordinary pesos, you won't need more than 4 or 5 CUCs worth, in order to buy street food and ice cream, and eat at peso restaurants. Do what the Cubans do - buy a bottle of rum and a few mixers instead of a round of cocktails. It's cheaper. Don't forget that often there is no loo paper and no soap so plan accordingly. Everything is negotiable - taxi fares, goods at market stalls, meal prices at home stays... and don't feel obliged to eat at your home stay. I took pens, soap, note books, plant seeds and sweets with to give away. You'll get asked on the streets for pens and soap. Toothpaste was also a common request!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Hard to say really. It benefited the owners of the home stays who obviously had a better standard of living than many of the dwellings we saw. We were happy to buy drinks for, and invite some of the people we met to join us.

review 21 Jun 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Nothing that exiting happened on this vacation.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

You have a relaxing time and you see a few different places on the trip, but if you want to find out about Cuba then this isn't the trip.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We gave the locals a lot of tips and stayed in a casa particulares in one place, so the locals directly benefited form us.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Friendly people on the tour and you travelled on a private minibus so very comfortable. The places you see are different and you see a couple of different places in this part of Cuba. However you were not given any local information about how the Cubans live, work etc. So if you want to find out about the culture then you don't really want to do this trip. No information at all about the revolution, communism (current, past or future), politics, how the country works, what the Cubans can or cannot do etc. This was very disappointing. But if you want to see a few different places without any hassle of getting around then it is a good trip.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your comments. We have logged these and will ensure more cultural aspects are included in future tours.

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Unedited reviews from other travelers

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
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