Cuba, Part II

The direct nonstop service between Kelowna and Varadero is what predicates this area as being many of my clients' “first impression” of Cuba.

Like any resort town, it fluctuates to the needs and demands of its international clientele and is simply a slanted reflection of the real Cuba.

It is my role as a travel consultant to manage my clients’ expectations when discussing destinations and hence my observations regarding the level of service and amenities of the area and how they compare to former vacation hotspots.

Cuba is a diverse and complicated destination in and of itself. To enjoy it best is to be open to its political and economic challenges as well as it’s versatility and beauty. 

The island is the largest in the Caribbean, measuring more than 110,000 kilometres square. 

There are 16 international airports on the island, but few domestic flights between them, which makes the island best explored by car or bus.

However, in saying this, public transport is limited and unreliable. Local workers rely on a hitchhike-and-taxi-share process to get to/from their workplace. 

Car rental is readily available however extended travel is inhibited by a lack of gas stations once you leave the urban areas. Accommodations range from luxury hotels to unique “casa particulars,” which are their version of B&Bs. 

Again, the further you wander from the larger city cores, the fewer the accommodation options.

Our amazing tour guide during our two-day trip to Havana was a wonderful source of information. 

The government owns a controlling interest in all the hotels and resorts in Cuba. They own all the transportation vehicles, shuttle services and majority of the vintage taxicabs.

The country’s employer is the government. They own virtually 99 per cent of all residential housing. In fact, it is only within the last three years that it has been possible for Cuban nationals to purchase their own home or apartment. 

This is usually done with the assistance of overseas family as the government monitors bank accounts that show a balance above $1,500 Cuban pesos. 

Much is made about the low monthly income earned by the Cuban people, but technically the government looks after all housing costs, medical and dental requirements, food ration stamps and provides free primary, secondary and university education. 

It may surprise you to learn that Cuba is one of the leading providers of medical personnel to developing world countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

A drive through the agricultural areas of the Cuban countryside is a true eye opener. Time has truly stayed still for this section of Cuba’s population.

Small, simple corrugated roof homes with no running water and little power is the norm. Large water canisters are attached to elaborate bicycle trailers and hauled to the village centre. 

Our unannounced arrival by scooter prompted lots of big smiles and waves from the local children and a few women approached us to try to sell big blocks of fresh homemade cheese. 

It is here that you understand that all the supposed progress facilitated by the Castro government has been primarily for the city dwellers. 

As Canadian, we are taught that “the sky is the limit” when pursuing our dreams and goals. 

In Cuba, the “sky” is determined by Castro.


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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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