Cuba – 1000 km – 2 Weeks

A two week tour around the Eastern Oriente of Cuba from 6-21 February 2008.

Our two week tour of Eastern Cuba was one of the best bike touring trips we have done. Cuba is extremely bike friendly, the scenery was beautiful, it was fairly cheap and it had a great sense of adventure to it. Many people I have talked to were concerned about crime in Cuba, but beyond one minor incident that was our fault, we had no problems. We always felt safe in Cuba and everyone treated us wonderfully. I would recommend a Cuba trip to anyone.

Tour Diary

Lessons Learned

  • Make sure the bolts on your racks have Lock-Tite on them. The rough roads will vibrate them out.
  • Bring half as much stuff as you think you need. (Isn’t this always the case?)
  • A basic understanding of Spanish is required. Outside of tourist centers, Cubans don’t speak much English.
  • Maps are not always accurate, ask directions.
  • If after asking directions, it doesn’t seem right, ask someone else. I am not sure if it was my poor Spanish, but Cubans seemed to want to tell me what I wanted to hear.
  • Islazul hotels are not worth the price you pay for them and some are fairly run down.
  • Cuban drivers are very courteous. We felt much safer here than on the roads in Canada or the United States.
  • The prevailing wind blows from the East to the West. Our tour would have been easier in the opposite direction.
  • We had fears of the unknown before coming down, but as always, everything worked out well.
  • Make photocopies of your passports, tickets, itineraries and travel documents and carry them in a separate bag. Cuban hotels and Casa Particulares cannot rent rooms without a passport, so if you lose yours, you could be in trouble.
  • A water filter and mosquito net for sleeping came in handy.
  • Beer and Mojitos have needed calories, so we kept telling ourselves.
  • Fried chicken, rice and beans still tasted great after two weeks. You won’t find variety in the food, but after all that cycling, you won’t care.
  • We took down ‘emergency’ food, but ate very little of it.

References

Bicycling Cuba

I highly recommend this bike tour guide. We combined several of the tours in the book. It was this book that gave us the confidence to venture so far and plan our route as we went. Their directions and accommodation recommendations saved our butts on several occasions. If you get one book, this is the one.

The authors also have a website of the same name, Bicycling Cuba that is worth visiting. They have updates to the guide, accommodation recommendations and trip reports from readers.

Moon Cuba

I looked at both the Moon and the Lonely Planet guides for Cuba. For most of my travels, I prefer the Lonely Planet guides, but the Moon guide seemed to be a lot more useful and up to date for Cuba. The information was accurate and the maps of the city centers were useful.

Guia de Carreteras (Road Guide)

The guide book said that these maps were available in Cuba, but we couldn’t find any. Luckily, we bought ours from Cuba Directo before our trip. This book of maps is the only map you will need for your trip. It is of a decent scale, has most of the roads on it and is fairly accurate. Cuba Directo sells several other regional maps, but we found them to be poorly drawn, inaccurate and not very useful. The city maps in the Moon Cuba book were more accurate and were all we needed for getting around the cities.

Tour Map

You can click the link below the map to download the GPX file for the trip. At the time of our trip, you were not allowed to bring GPS’s into Cuba, so the map was not produced on route and may not be 100% accurate, but it will give you the route. If you plan on bringing a GPS with you, make sure you check the regulations before you leave. You don’t want to have it confiscated when you arrive!

CubaTour.gpx