Rum, Cigars and Classic Cars: Encountering Cuba

This week’s trip report comes from a part of the world that is attracting increasing attention as a tourist destination. Throughout the past five decades, dictatorship rule and US sanctions have limited Cuba’s development and tourism opportunities. The result is a country where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into the 1960s; quite a sight to behold. While there are some fears that future flocks of tourists may cause the country to lose some of its charm, it seems that Cuba remains a very worthwhile place to visit for the time being.

Our member drron recently had an opportunity to discover Cuba as part of a cruise through the Caribbean. Departing in the Bahamas, travel continued around Cuba and beyond, through the Panama Canal and down the coast of South America to Ecuador. But as if that wasn’t enough of an adventure, our member flew both ways via Japan and the United States, trying out First Class on Japan Airlines in the process!

The highlight of the trip though seems to have been Cuba. In the colourful capital of Havana, there is no shortage of old-style Spanish architecture, cathedrals, old forts and much more to see. But it’s not just the buildings that tell the story of Cuba’s history. “Classic” cars, which you’d be lucky to find in a museum in other parts of the world, are everywhere to be seen.

Another of Cuba’s claims to fame is Cuban cigars. So it was only natural that one of the tourist attractions visited was a Cuban cigar factory. But it seems that this particular visit will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

It was then off to a cigar factory. No photos allowed there. When you saw the working conditions you knew why.

The country certainly has a rich history, but just as interesting are the people one comes across. Many Cubans have had tough lives, but it’s only once you speak to the locals in person that you can really understand how difficult some have it. This story in particular is quite remarkable…

As we were talking an old wiry looking fellow came up the hill pushing a wheelbarrow with 2 25KG sacks of flour. Turned out he was only in his 50s.He took supplies up the hill in his barrow for several restaurants which my friend said were government owned. He got 25 pesos a day as long as he did ~ 20 loads a day. No pay if it rained or nothing to transport.
I gave the fellow 5 CUCs-6 days pay. He stood there looking amazed just looking at the money then at me. My friend said Gracias and you deserve good luck for the rest of your life. And all it cost me was $US5.

Considering a visit to Cuba? This highly-detailed trip report contains tons of pictures and commentary that really give a feel for the country and what to expect. Follow the adventure HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]