Part 1: Travel Diary
How to get there?
We go to the Viazul office in Cienfuegos 30 minutes before departure to check in, as indicated on our tickets purchased 2 days earlier. Attention! The bus does not leave in front or behind the bus office, but on the right. You should not wait for the bus in the cool, but in the street!
Day 1 : Cienfuegos -> Trinidad
Trinidad is THE city where there are the most reps. I think everyone understands this, including Viazul. The Viazul bus stop in Trinidad is now equipped with a dividing line between reamers and bus station. As you get off the bus, you can see them from afar, showing “cab” signs, or making “come to my house” signs, or showing pictures of casa. I think Lonely Planet has done a good job of preventing them for Trinidad (there is a box in the guide advising against any traveler to go through them to find a casa in Trinidad). The rabble-rousers are even less insistent here than in other cities, it’s surprising!
Photo: this is the only city where the reelers are separated from us by a small line. Usually, they jump on us as soon as we arrive
We will spend 5 nights in Trinidad. Yes, 5! All Cubans who are told this refrain from asking “but why?” but their body language shows a total incomprehension. Why 5 nights for a very small city? Because we have a lot of time to lose, that’s all!
From the Viazul bus terminal we walk to our casa
The terrace/garden, where you can hear lots of birdsong, is beautiful. We have been reserved the best room with a huge terrace + TV room, just for us.
We take a tour of the city. The streets of Trinidad are much narrower than Cienfuegos, the pollution and dust evacuate less quickly, I take some in the face, it’s super unpleasant! Fortunately, near the Plaza Mayor, the streets are paved and pedestrian, the air is breathable. It’s like in a postcard, too beautiful!
Moreover, you will find the most beautiful postcards of the country (those we see in the other cities are pixelated while those sold here are very pretty). I take the opportunity to buy and write lots of postcards to friends. Each time, I specify that “it’s the best place to finish a world tour” and “Cuba makes me relive my childhood”. This isn’t the case for JB, who has never lived under an American embargo.
I was born in 1985 and it was only in 1995 that the American embargo was lifted for Vietnam. In fact, it was in 1995 that I discovered that we were under the embargo and had to ask my parents what it meant. Unlike in Cuba, where you see a lot of posters saying “the embargo is the greatest genocide in history,” in Vietnam, at that time, no one was referring to it. And then, not having visited other countries (yet), my world was perfect, I didn’t know that my country was poor. We played with the leaves and flowers that fell on the sidewalk, we had almost all these ugly blankets with flowers on the red background (offered by the Republic of China), we all had the same metal can all deformed, we all had the same smiling doll that swings left and right making a little noise “cling cling”. How I loved the smell of this doll! Out of 10 houses (tiled like here), there was maybe one with a colorless TV. Every night, everyone would gather in front of this TV at 7 o’clock to watch the news, and when the music announcing the evening movie sounded, all the children would run to this source of wonder. All the houses had their doors open, as is the case in Cuba now, you could enter other people’s houses like a mill. Watching the children playing in the main square in Cienfuegos, sliding down the step that was supposed to be reserved for the bicycle, I remembered a “slide” like that near my house, where my cousins and I spent I don’t know how many hours sliding down 50cm. We had no smartphones, no consoles, but we were so happy!
Dad did his missions as a tourist guide from time to time, including once for 15 days for a French couple. A few years later, they went back to Vietnam, found our house and I don’t know what miracle, they remembered that daddy had a little girl, me. I remember this visit very well, I could only say “bonjour” in French, but they were very impressed to be able to talk to my grandmother, always bilingual, and then they took out of their bag a small satchel with a worn Barbie and some clothes for this Barbie. I didn’t care if their daughter had ever played with it, it was one of the best gifts they could have given me. This gift is still kept at my parents’ house in Vietnam and I still can’t get rid of it because it moves me so much just thinking about it.
So you can well understand how much it touches me to be here in Cuba: I find this atmosphere that reminds me of my childhood, this peaceful life that I can no longer find, these blank walls of advertising, these propaganda panels for the revolution, these inhabitants who sit outside and spend their time watching people go by, these children who play with nothing at all. One day, this world will disappear, and it will be more and more difficult for me to find this lost piece of paradise.
Day 2: Playa Ancon
We have a breakfast, very copious, as it is the case everywhere in the particular Cuban casas at 9:00 am.
At 11am we take the shuttle/bus turistico that connects 4 times a day Trinidad to Playa Ancon (5CUC/person/day), just in front of the Havana Tour office. Luckily we are early (10:40 am) because 5 minutes later the bus is full and about 15 people have to stand during the 30 minute trip.
The first stop is a beach full of corals. The second stop is the beach of Ancon, famous for its blond sand that stretches for several km. For swimming, this beach is perfect! You can rent deckchairs for 2CUC/transat/day. However, for snorkelling, the visibility isn’t good, there is a lot of grass and few corals.
Two salesmen pass by with (cold) pizzas. All the tourists rush on them, 3CUC the pizza, knowing that they bought them at 0.5CUC each in Trinidad.
For the return at 3:30 pm, it’s a bit of a war to get into the shuttle, in “every man for himself” mode, people lose all education. One woman even refused to leave a free place next to her (which she wanted to reserve for her husband) for a mother with a 2 year old child! So if you need to sit down obligatorily, forget this shuttle, take a cab instead (20CUC round trip).
In the evening, in front of the Casa de la Musica, there is a concert (like every night), people sit on the steps to watch the concert, some dance, others sip a mojito while lighting a cigar.
We dine next door, at the Aldaba restaurant recommended by our host of casa. It is a very popular place for the locals thanks to its low price. The pina colada is to fall! The portions are unfortunately too small, we finish with a pancake Nutella (3CUC) in a restaurant next door to be sure not to be hungry tonight.
Days 3, 4 and 5: Trinidad
The rain is announced every day around 12:00 so we aren’t very motivated to go to the beach. We know well the streets of the small town of Trinidad now and can move without looking at the map.
I exchange 400€ at CADECA. The employee tells me that she only has 3 pesos bills, so she gave me 135 3CUC bills. I feel like a millionaire 😀 Another tourist sees me with my pile of money and tells me that it’s better than being with only 20 pesos (you can feel the experience). Here, even for a 5CUC bill, people don’t have (or pretend they don’t have) any change.
There are a lot of “massage” signs, 16€ per hour, it’s too tempting! It doesn’t equal the Thai massages but it has the merit to put my bones back in place. After the massage, I wait for JB in the store. Two German girls come in and ask if they can get a massage right away. The masseuse doesn’t even get up from her chair, tells them that the place will be available in 10 minutes. This nonchalance discourages the German women who leave faster than their shadow. I am surprised that the masseuse did nothing to hold back these tourists, and then after reflection I think that maybe that was the secret of happiness, something that those who run after money will not be able to know. My masseuse made her day by pocketing 16CUC with me (half of an average monthly salary), what’s the point of getting worked up?
We then visit the city museum (2CUC/person), whose only interest is a magnificent view of the entire city from the top. These red roofs, these paved streets, these colored walls… all this will remain exactly like that in a few years because the city is classified UNESCO.
We pass by the Maqueta de Trinidad (1CUC/person), where there is a model of the city. The only interest is to find our casa on this model and point it by saying “my room is HERE” For us, it will be disappointing because our casa isn’t on this model, being right on the border between the old city and the modern city.
We dine twice at Iberostar Grand Hotel, the service is excellent and every night there is a music band playing there.
Tomorrow we will leave for Varadero
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Accommodation : Casa particular 25CUC/night
- Breakfast : 5CUC/person
- Shuttle to Playa Ancon: 5CUC/person/day
- Food: it depends on the restaurants, but it is between 15CUC and 30CUC a meal for two.
- Massage: 16CUC/one hour massage
Our favorite addresses :
Casa particular :
Hostal Dr. Lara y Sra Yuda
Notice: https: //www.tripadvisor.fr/Hotel_Review-g285731-d1427290-Reviews-Hostal_Dr_Lara_y_Sra_Yuda-Trinidad_Sancti_Spiritus_Province_Cuba.html
Address: Camillo Cienfuegos 118 | e/Miguel Calzada y Frank Pais, Trinidad 62600, Cuba
Other addresses :
- Iberostar Grand Hotel: 30CUC/meal for two drinks included, impeccable service, very pleasant live music
- San José Paladar: 30CUC/meal for two drinks included, I recommend their seafood paella
- Aldaba: 15CUC/meal for two drinks included
- Restaurante Plaza Mayor: all-you-can-eat buffet at noon, 12,5CUC/person, one drink included
- Ice cream: a few houses away from CADECA on rue José Marti, a lady sells Italian ice cream to fall, at only 3CUP (moneda nacional). Only until 15-16h.
- At 4-6 houses on the left side of CADECA, there is a long queue for local 15CUP pizzas (moneda nacional). Only until 14h-15h.
- Cubatur offers many excursions, buses to Varadero, Havana, Cienfuegos, snorkelling, diving etc… I took pictures of their excursions and prices, see below
- If you want to visit El Nicho, it is better to go there from Cienfuegos (from Trinidad, the mountains are too high for old American cars)
- The shuttle/tourist bus Trinidad Bus Tour that goes from Trinidad -> Playa Ancon leaves from Havana Tour. Type “Bus to Praia” on Maps Me to find the exact location. This bus leaves Trinidad at 9am, 11am, 2pm and 5pm. It leaves from Playa Ancon at 10am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm and 6pm. 5CUC/person/day. The ticket is bought directly in the bus.
- Come early to catch the tourist bus, otherwise you might be up for 30mn.
- There is also a tourist train that leaves every day at 9:00 am and 2:00 pm, going to Valle de los Ingenios, Mirador, San Isidro and Manaca Iznaga. Departure in front of Havana Tour. Price: 8CUC/person