In this piece we explore the home of rum, salsa and cigars. A place where vintage American classics own the roads and colourful communities give way to white sand beaches. Join The Faraway Bug with longtime friend Clive as we talk about life on the Caribbean island of Cuba.
So Clive, what took you to Cuba?
I was keen for some rest and relaxation on an annual trip with some friends. Cuba seemed like a great option.
What was life like there?
Slightly unbalanced economically. You can see a difference in areas depending on where you are in Cuba. Some of the poorer areas are described as ghettos, whereas other areas near the capital are more richly decorated. You can tell it could be difficult for a lot of people there, but it is improving. It is getting better over time.
What was your most memorable experience?
Snorkelling. Local companies take people out in boats to a reef which is a couple of hundred metres from the beach. The guides feed the fish as you get in the water and all of a sudden you are surrounded by fish. They swim so close to you.
Was there anything that made your trip more difficult?
Having to remember about “safe” drinking water. We were told the water had been treated and was safe, but we all had some trouble. Avoid drinking anything but bottled drinking water. Don’t eat salad or have ice in drinks either, unless you want a rumbling tummy.
Describe Cuba in 3 words?
Colourful, tropical and controlled.
Favourite local food or drink?
Cuba libres made with Havana Especial. That was the original Bacardi before the owner fled Cuba.
Favourite location to visit?
Havana itself was lovely. We booked a driving tour in a Chevy 57 with two men, Manny and Sepe. That was a really nice way to see the city.
Describe your perfect day in Cuba.
It would be a simple day at the beach. Cuba beaches had the whitest sand I’ve ever seen.
Did anything surprise you about Cuba?
I was surprised at how green Cuba is. Speak about Cuba and most think of the beaches, but it is a very green place too. I was also surprised at the age of some things there, for example like the cars. Everyone drives older cars as they are not allowed to import new ones, so to get round the problem new engines are put into old cars. The Cuban people are very good humoured given the situation there.
If you had one tip for readers who are visiting Cuba, what would it be?
Go to Cuba now before it becomes too touristy.
Would you go back?