Our Review:

2019 We wanted very much to succeed in our first discovery of Cuba. We prepared our trip and the stages that interested us with guides like Lonely Planet and better still the Library of the Voyageur Gallimard. We also used blogs from travelers passionate about Cuba. The basis of our trip, we contacted local agencies identified on the Internet and Tripadvisor. All declined the eastern stages saying that the roads were impassable, that tourism was not developed, and that there were not many accommodations.

We therefore opted for Havana, the West and the Center of Cuba, emphasizing the authentic encounter with Cubans.

2020 Following a first contact with Cuba and the Cubans who thrilled us, we wanted to discover the East whatever the agencies say, taking the time to meet people. The most difficult was to find an agency that accepts our project, our stages and our way of wanting to discover the country.

  1. Puce We like

- Cubans in general. The "little people" who live or survive courageously alongside the exponential development of tourism and those whom it enriches, by accommodating the periodic shortages, the embargo and the lack of products and goods sometimes essential. The Cuban people are great.

- Havana is an extraordinary city. Everywhere we feel the Cuban soul vibrate, not only with its omnipresent music and architecture, but in the street, on the walls, in meetings. Beyond the sumptuous palaces, Spanish churches, all these houses and buildings of colonial origin or not, all these streets full of life ... we want to sit everywhere to watch people come and go, we want to speak fluent Spanish to build relationships, to understand, to share. Havana is a city of contrasts. Behind the tourist window, there are lots of ruined buildings where there are only balanced façades in which people and plants survive. Cuban creativity tries to make these streets and ruins pleasant to live in, transforming what could be a sign of misery into art. Plastic arts and art of living. Havana is a fabulous living museum.

- Viñales and its valley. Spending only one night in this part of Cuba is frustrating. Provided you have a guide who knows the region well, passionate about rural life, it seems interesting to plan at least two or three nights. Viñales is not enough, you also have to go to Pinar del Rio. You have to land in a village and get in touch. In this western part there is a lifestyle quite different from the rest of the island which deserves to be deepened.

- Remedios, Gibara, Baracoa quiet little coastal towns, serene towns, which have a soul and an atmosphere to make a filmmake pale, where it is good to walk, observe and meet people. Places that make you want to live there.

- Trinidad has an incredible charm, early in the morning when the buses have not yet poured out the hordes of tourists and the streets are not yet invaded by displays of souvenirs. Here too, sit in a small square or on the steps of a grocery store to listen to a group of old musicians playing traditional tunes. You could consider taking a guitar lesson with one of them. We could consider taking a pottery class with Azariel Sandanter Alcantara. Impression of a sloppy visit the first year, we will come back to it !

- The valley of los Ingenios is pleasant and has beautiful landscapes. Representing an important part of Cuban history, the visits deserve to be deepened. When you visit Manaca Iznaga there is an atmosphere that would almost allow you to perceive or feel life at the time.The guide and the driver of 2019 did not seem to know much apart from the information from their mobile.

- Sancti Spiritus is much more interesting than Santa Clara. The square is bright, the old cobbled streets are extraordinary, the Bulvar is full of life: there are not too many tourists. In calle Independencia Norte, opposite the casa particular Hostal Calle Real, there is a house where santeria ceremonies take place that can be attended. As in Trinidad with Adrian we had the impression of a city tour sloppy. We will return to this city.

- The orient is fascinating. Camagüey, Bayamo, Baracoa, Holguin, fabulous small towns. Full of talent, full of things to see and do, full of people who like to chat. Santiago de Cuba was less attractive, because it was more disjointed, more scattered and that the replacement guide may have missed the main thing: the peculiarities of Santiago. Feels like we have missed something. We will come back to redo the city with Jenny.

  1. -The activities offered by Cuba Autrement during each stage, where we finally met Cubans, discovered daily life, but also artistic life. We finally visited markets, state stores, neighborhood houses, art schools. We were finally able to spend time with Cubans and chat. Our 2020 trip to Cuba is one of the best trips we have had in our lives with Sri Lanka and Senegal in the 80s.

  2. -Unlike most countries in the world, there are no McDonald's or other American junk food temples in every main street in every city. Thank's to Fidel. As long as it lasts, we prefer bochaditos, bochadillos.

  1. Puce We don't like

  2. -The impression of being a fruit that is pressed. Castro said "tourism is gold", many took it at its word.

In comparison with the cost of living on the island, with the average salary of Cubans and with other countries in the world, Cuba is an expensive destination: hotels are expensive, "casa particulars" are expensive, driver services / guide are expensive, many "paladars" are expensive. Every 5 minutes we are encouraged to pay from 1 to 10 CUC: toilets in restaurants and service stations, additions which often include 10% service while the waiter or waitress is waiting for an additional tip, the houses or "casa natal" which turns into a free museum where the guards discreetly ask for a "contribución", entrance fees wherever it may pay, access to natural sites, hikes where guides are required ...

In Cuba, when we are two, or even several, at the end of the day, it is a good sum. One has the impression of being a cash dispenser and ends up reducing the number of visits. The beginning of Pink Floyd's song Money haunted me ...

  1. - The suspicion of dishonesty: In all stores of food, clothing, articles and various products, and even in banks, there are queues due to the fact that we enter one by one, as d other customers go out. The door is controlled by a security guard. You have to leave the bags outside, and when you go out, the security guard checks whether the ticket corresponds to what we bought. At the bank, you cannot come as a couple at the counter, one of the two must stay at the entrance. In all the museums, we are followed by lady-guards who all end up asking for a "contribution". I admit that in Europe we have the same thing with security cameras everywhere. It's less personal, you don't feel directly targeted.

  2. -Soroa and Las Terrazas: waterfall, orchideario, lake, without interest compare to what we can see elsewhere in the world.

  3. -The Guanaroca lagoon with 2 herons and 50 flamingos, without interest next to all the ornithological reserves of the world

  4. -The cuava de los peces, which is just an uninteresting bar / restroom stop on the Bay of Pigs road

When visiting a natural site, where the toilets at the entrance were paying, enjoying being in the nature, tourists urinated against trees. One exclaimed: "Waaooouuu it's good to piss for free."  So true ....

- Most of the tours offered by the 2019 guide, were limited to the same kind of places with the same monuments, the same cathedrals, the same palaces, the same theaters and the baroque, neo-classical, post-colonial bla-bla-bla etc.

No visit to markets, no meeting with locals other than those we provoke ourselves.

- Caibarien: a city worthy of a western setting: deserted streets where everything collapses, houses in a lamentable state. We went there to see the fishing harbour, the driver never managed to find the harbour.

- San Miguel de los Baños: a dead city, deserted. Only wooden houses of French colonial style have a little charm, but there is better in Reunion, Martinique, Guadeloupe.

- Santa Clara and Cienfuegos have much less interesting and less attractive city centers than other cities in Cuba. Their bulvar and other paseo have much less charm. Impression that there is no soul in these cities, and that there is nothing really interesting to see.


Air France for its rates and significant stopover times. The only drawback is that until the last minute you are not sure you can leave because of multiple strikes that can occur anytime, especially during holiday periods. Compared to other companies (Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Swiss Air) meals on board are rather low cost.

At the boarding time for the return flight, employees of the 7 and 6 check-in counters refused to register because we had an arm in the plaster after a fall. No explanation (security reasons or other). They just urged us to move away from their counter to let other passengers pass. A supervisor intervened with a laugh, he left without explanation. After an hour and a half waiting, we called a KLM captain who was passing with his crew to embark and asked for his help. Apparently outraged, he called the Air France / KLM chief who had us registered immediately. Complaint was lodged with Air France customer service, which reacted with a commercial gesture.

This would not have happened in 2020 because a representative of the agency assisted us until the counter and the end of the registration.

Thanks to Cuba Autrement.

Local Agency :

2019 - Discouraged from making the East we have defined a route for the west and the center: Havana, Vinales, Matenzas, Cardenas, Santa Clara, Remedios, Caibarian, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, with some visits that are not in catalogs and accommodation in casa particular. We have sent this project for quotes to 4 local agencies identified as satisfactory on Tripadvisor.

An agency did not respond, an agency replied that it did not do this kind of tour, it only makes excursions from Havana or Varadero, an agency replied that it did not interest it!

Only CubanTripCompass has agreed to carry out our project.

Alejandro was attentive to our project, rare in individual tourism. Thanks to him we were able to visit Cuba pretty much in our own way. He was very keen that we add San Miguel de los Banos and El Cubano park to our program, which he presented as essential. We managed to avoid El Cubano. On the other hand he suggested to visit the Cienaga de Zapata which seemed to be an interesting visit that could not be done because it was necessary to leave early in the morning, outside the hours of the guide. Instead the guide made us do things without interest.

As in Vietnam we discover a fairly formatted and oriented tourism : fixed hours 08:00 a day from 09:00 to 16:00 / 17:00, with breaks for the guide and the driver, unlike countries where tourists and drivers adapt according to the planned visits and the distances to be covered, without exceeding the hourly amplitude of 8:00 am and compensating from one day to another when this happens.

As in Vietnam the driver or the guide do not come to wait for us or accompany us to the airport because it is outside their working hours! It is a taxi driver who is in charge of the transfers.

2020 - Our attempt to discover the Orient with CubanTripCompass led to a huge disappointment and confirms what we felt in 2019. This agency has never taken tourists to the East. Alejandro asked Adrian to set up the project. Adrian doesn't know any of the stops we wanted to visit. He insists heavily to say that the roads are impassable, that few drivers agree to go there, to which is added that he does not know any particular case, we must give him addresses. As for the visits we wanted to make, he refused them because he hated following a defined program. He prefers to improvise on the spot. Finally he asked us to change our vacation dates because in high season the drivers do not like to go too far from Havana. While in low season, for lack of tourists and work they accept more easily. We did not follow up.

  1. Puce 2020 We discover on the internet another agency, a little bit more expensive than the others: Cuba en Liberté which accepts our project in full, our dates, and offers activities which include our wishes for visits, more others which we have not thought of.

The hours and the itinerary are flexible, subject to compliance with the working hours (08h00/day) and the kilometric rate(250km/day) but compensation from one day to the next if there has been an overrun. Although the representative in France says that the activities cannot be modified, the local representatives and guides on place affirm that they can be modified according to the centers of interests of the customers, subject to being informed. The organization is impeccable. The reception on site, the representatives at each step, the driver and the guides are very attentive and respectful of the customers.

Everything is really done to make it work as well as possible. Big advantage: the route is done by car with driver without guide.

It is cheaper and avoids any driver / guide complicity which can sometimes harm the atmosphere. Different guides who know their region await us at each stage. We have never encountered such an organization in 40 years of individual tourism.

We discover that these are several agencies that are in partnership: Caraibes Autrement, Cuba Autrement, Cuba en Liberté, bynativ, Destino World ... Difficult to know who is the "mother" agency, so as to avoid subcontracting costs, knowing that any partnership involving redistribution. We will see on a next trip. Because there will be a next trip.

Guide and Driver :  (see our criteria here)Travel_advices.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0

2019 - Adrian, behind the facade, quite disappointing: a young 27-year-old French speaker with a broad general knowledge. What sometimes had repercussions on timing, we spent time talking at the expense of many visits. This is as much my responsibility as his, although it corresponds to his aversion to constraints (being forced to follow a timing and a schedule). He did not know of several visits that we had planned.

Apart from basic visits, getting off the beaten track becomes random and depends a lot on the guide's interests. However, he did introduce us to a remarkable café theater troupe : CCPC Company.

What bothers me about him is his dislike of what is planned. He does not like to follow a program or timing as he likes to repeat: "I wanted to tell you that I love the idea of not to stick to a tight plan but to leave space for improvising instead" This is why I am content to say that it is disappointing. His improvisation leaves too much room for randomness and sometimes for emptiness.

- It is normal that we have expectations related to the preparation of a trip, it is also one of the reasons why we choose the individual trip à la carte: discover things that we have identified in relationship with our own interests. In addition to the unexpected.

  1. -When one is satisfied with the unexpected or improvisation, if the time or place does not lend itself to it, which was the case on several occasions (Ciengfuegos, Soroa, Santa Clara, San Miguel de los Banos, the Bay of Pigs and even Trinidad) sometimes we ended up raving in front of a fisherman, a bird, a hut, an old lady, a child so as not to sink into depression.

We lacked genuine human contact. We wanted to visit some markets, some villages, have meetings with people, artisans, peasants, discover the reality of daily life ... The improvisation was not there !

Like the majority of people today, Adrian is in addiction to smartphone, in the car, in the restaurant, as soon as we take a break..Very narcissistic, he is a big fan of selfies.
He convinced us that a guide is not useful for the tour.

Papito is a careful, discreet, patient, efficient driver. His calm and humor greatly contributed to making this trip pleasant. We had fun being with him. Very accomplice with Adrian, he had fun seeing us take out our road book every time we wanted to confront our reality with Adrian's improvisation, because the only concrete travel program we had was the one we had made and transcribed in this notebook! The agency only provided us a tariff, never a description of what was planned to do.

2020 With Cuba Autrement, a guide at each step is a good solution when it comes to people involved in local life. Activities are offered while trying to think outside the box. Some are respected, others not either for reasons of timing, or because the guide is not informed. Certain activities require further study. We mention suggestions in our trip description. Unlike the previous year, we never got bored. We met passionate and exciting, authentic people.


Camagüey: Félix       Dolores             Bayamo: Alain       Baracoa: Keren   La Havane: Maylin      Luis

Felix: Excellent. A warm, efficient man, very involved in supporting and monitoring clients. He even planned to change money in case we couldn't go to the bank. It is very reassuring to deal with people like him. He took care of our reservations for the visit to the Belci hacienda, our reservations for the social Havana activity, our reservation for the theater. Thank you.

Dolores: Excellent. Camagüey otherwise. A very dignified lady. French teacher, she is a scholar. She takes notes on our questions, especially those that we never asked her, in order to find the appropriate answers. Seeks to best meet our expectations. She is very involved and interested in the artistic and cultural life of the city and knows a lot of people in this environment. Thank you for visiting the big market, for the dance school, and the folk center, for the theater. Visiting Camargüey with her was a real pleasure.

Alain: Excellent. Bayamao Otherwise. He is a radio and television host. Review host in a cabaret and French teacher. We don't do 10 meters without someone coming to greet him. He too knows people in Bayamo. We will remember his favorite expression for a long time: "Ah yes Oh there". It was a pleasure to discover Bayamo with him. He has not been a guide for a long time, he should gain confidence and discover tours that are out of the ordinary in his city, given the world he knows. It will only be better. Thank you

Keren: Excellent. Cocoa otherwise. A young guide, teacher of German and French. An endearing and warm woman. She really favored our contacts with the local population. She also has a good knowledge of flora, which made our short hike exciting. She is very open to everything that is going on and helps to connect with people. Available and radiant, with it everything went easily. Thank you

Maylin: Excellent. Social Havana. A young sociologist passionate about her city. Perhaps she is not used to customers like us, eager to go deeper into the discovery of Havana. Perhaps the program imposed on it was not sufficiently constructed. We are convinced that if we warn in advance, there are ways to do other things more popular in Havana, see the suggestions in our report. Thanks for the visits to markets, state shops, for all the answers to questions from tourists may be too curious.

Luis: The driver. Excellent. Too bad we don't speak fluent Spanish. But as the French representative says, the driver is not a guide. This does not prevent Luis from offering us detours and visits that are not planned. Thank you. And sorry for the bad trail to Sierra del Chorillo.

Jenny : Excellent for the little we had in Santiago de Cuba. We regret that she was unable to accompany us for the visits. Perhaps it is necessary to review the Popular Religions program which only partially meets its objective. We make concrete proposals in the report of our trip. Thank you. No time to take a photo.

Maite: Santiago de Cuba - Popular Religion. Not only was the activity really light or poorly constructed, but in addition from the start, the current did not pass between us. The authoritarian side is not our thing except when the authority is based on knowledge or know-how.

Didn't want to take a photo.

Ariane: Holguin - Excellent. We had not planned any activity in Holguin, the majority of visits can be made without accompaniment. Ariane welcomed us warmly and gave us useful information to enhance our visit to Holguin, including the famous Casa Editora Cuadernos Papiro. Thank you and sorry for not taking time to take a photo.

Good to Know:

- The visa: one can obtain the document to fill with the agency Sol Latino SAS, 27 rue du Texel 75014 Paris tel 01 42 18 07 86. One fills an online form: https://www.sol-latino.travel / visa cuba. She sends the document by mail. € 27 per visa. It's fast and very practical. The document is to be filled (very simple) with the pen and to present on arrival and departure (think to keep it until the end of the stay).

A certificate of insurance medical expenses and repatriation can be requested upon arrival.

- Currency: The CUC, convertible pesos, whose yard is pegged to the dollar, minus a bank commission. In February 2019 the official court of the dollar is 1 € = 1.14 dollar, the exchange in Cuba is 1 € = 1.11 CUC or dollar. In February 2020 the dollar is at 1.10 €, the exchange in Cuba is 1 € = 1.08 CUC.

The Cuban pesos is still used in many towns and villages, and in shops for Cubans. 1 CUC = 25 pesos.

In the East some popular restaurants and some popular vendors only use pesos.

It is interesting to have 200 to 300 pesos with you for small purchases in provincial cities. For example: it is more interesting to pay a pina colada 5 pesos than 3 CUC (72 pesos).

But not everyone plays the game: some restaurants have rates in pesos for Cubans and CUC for tourists, for example: a ropa vieja (minced beef with congri and vegetables) 80 pesos for Cubans and 8 CUC ( 192 pesos) for tourists.

The toilets (los servicios): with the exception of rare restaurants, in all places where there is public, a woman is sitting in front of the door, a real cerber who is waiting for a piece to be put in the basket. It does not guarantee that the toilets are clean, it guarantees her income.

In general we (Cubans and us) give 10 or 0,25 cents. In 2020 they show the price: 1 CUC. Many run behind the bushes.

- Scams: Contrary to what is written everywhere, in the paper guides and blogs, the problems of dishonesty are not so frequent. We have never had any attempt to scam both currencies or additions to restaurants, this only happened in Camagüey and Holguin. Outside of Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba, we were not bothered by jinateros. It stops quickly when they are shown that they do not interest us.

- Meals: With the exception of once, we have never had our meals in restaurants for tourists (10 to 30 CUC). There are good local restaurants everywhere, frequented by tourists, but especially Cubans. Prices range from 2.50 to 6.50 CUC, on average 3.50 CUC for a meat dish (pork, or chicken, or beef) accompanied by congri (rice and beans) fresh vegetables (grated cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber) mashed manioc, yam or malanga with garlic or cassava or banana chips.

We find very good sandwich, (bochadillo or bochadito) often hearty (chicken or tuna salad, fresh vegetables, cheese) to 2.50 CUC

Tortilla (omelette) stuffed with vegetable between 1.50 and 2.50 CUC

It is not recommended to drink tap water. We bought packs of mineral water (one brand: Ciego Montero) in supermarkets or casa del agua: 4.20 CUC the 6 bottles of a liter and a half = 0.70 CUC per bottle (0.63 € ).

Airport Tax: Many blogs and guides recommend that you charge 25 CUC per person for the return airport tax. Apparently it is no longer relevant. It may be necessary to make an update.

- Havana and American cars: rent an American car to visit Havana, it's good for a morning of fun, to do the malecon, the slope fortifications of the city, on the other side of the bay (El Cristo etc ...) and place of the Revolucion, the ideal is to have one convertible, on the other hand it is without interest to rent an american car to visit the city. It drops the clients to a place, after they walk for two hours visit ... it takes them to change neighborhood, and after they walk 1:30 visit, it takes them back to the hotel. An ordinary car is sufficient and less expensive.

About american cars, apart the body, nothing is original.

To visit Havana, it is not necessary to take a guide. In general, they repeat what is written in all the good guides. For the old tourist town: Habana Vieja, Lonely Planet is more than enough to see all there is to see. It is very easy to do by oneself.

Much less visited, Centro Habana can ask to be accompanied and transported, in this case the ideal is a bici taxi which is not a reel or an "opportunist". Many wait for the tourists near the places, a plan in the hand with prohibitive tariffs.

For a serious bici taxi, honest, helpful, reliable, who does not try to scam the tourists: Tony.  He is not "specialized" in the transport of tourists, he really serves as taxi to Cubans. He has good ideas for visiting the city. His rates are incomparable with the bici-taxis for tourists.

He can be contacted through his guardian angel Marisol who runs a Casa El Divino Niño Casa Divino + 53 7 801 5624 or + 53 5 382 5887 Peña Pobre # 119, e / Ave. from Misiones y Habana, Habana Vieja.

  1. - His own cell : 56382425  Home : 7 863 1073

  1. -Havana is not only an open-air museum limited to Habana Vieja, Cuba does not only have beaches, churches and squares José Marti, plantations and cigars, mojitos and salsa, caballeros and old cobblestone streets, its history is not limited to Cespedes, José Marti, Castro brothers and Guevara. There is so much to see and discover ... there are plenty of people just waiting to open and share, in the countryside, in in villages, in cities or less touristic areas. Attracted buy the huge business of tourism, the agencies still have some progress to make in terms of closer humane tourism and better distributed over the whole island.

  2. -If "tourism is gold", they should avoid killing "the goose that lays the golden egg". Relationships are not just about money. Especially since everyone is not necessarily wealthy, on one side (tourists) as on the other (Cubans).