We booked the bus to Trinidad with Transtur inside the Cubanocan office in the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel in Havana. It costs 25 CUC per person (each way) to travel around 320 kilometres and takes about 7 hours. It only takes that bloody long as they stop every hour along the way – if you hired a car you could easily travel from Havana to Trinidad in 4 hours (we tried but there weren’t any hire cars available – plus they wanted 200 CUC deposit which I’m sure you’d get back…). Cuba is really set up to screw tourists to be honest; you can’t travel from Havana’s bus station in local transport which I’m sure is a fraction of the cost of the tourist bus companies (Transtur and Viazul). Hitch-hiking is the only way to travel for local prices in Cuba and it’s actually well set up so you’re not 100% likely to be murdered. The landscape changes from city to greenery just five minutes outside Havana. There are plenty of tobacco plantations to see en route and the roads are in pretty good condition for the whole journey – very little traffic on their highways though.
Upon arrival in Trinidad you are accosted by about 20 touts trying to get you to stay at their casa particular – it’s full on insane. Instead, we found one by knocking on doors we liked! We ended up right near the bus station in a beautiful colonial house with a lovely courtyard. We payed 25 CUC per night at Casa de Alquiler. I think they make their money on food, 5 CUC per person for breakfast which consists of some fruit, tea/coffee, bread rolls and a rubbery omelette – it’s still the best food you’ll have in Cuba though. You wouldn’t believe how bad the food is in restaurants and cafés here – we’re pretty much living on ice-cream from this little spot called Crema Dulche – 1 CUC for a sundae (!!) and John reckons their coffee is some of the better stuff he’s had over here. Man I miss Sydney’s foodie culture 😦
So we decided to spend 3 nights in Trinidad which is definitely way too many – one full day would have been perfect as it’s a tiny spot. The main square, Plaza Mejor is probably tourist central and has some lovely fenced in gardens, palm trees , a view out to the Carribean Sea a few kilometres from the ‘city’, and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Kids come here in the afternoons to expertly fly their kites. The top of the plaza is dominated by the Santisima church and surrounded by beautifully painted colonial mansions (most of which are now museums). The church has 14 altars and is worth a quick look in if only to escape Trinidad’s midday heat. Next door to the church is the Museo Romantico (2 CUC entry, plus an extra 1 CUC should you wish to take photos) which is a colonial mansion as it once could have been, a labyrinth of rooms seemingly readied for guests; the dining room table is set with French crockery (I’m not joking lads – Cubans are obsessed with telling you where things are from and most of France’s crockery and tiles seem to have found a home on the island), a four-poster bed with pretty armoire in he bedroom, lots of chintzy ornaments everywhere, an amazing Italian marble bath (minus plug-hole) in the bathroom and a separate mahogany ‘throne’ across the upper courtyard from here. Whilst the Museo Romantico was definitely worth seeing, they have so many staff just teetering around pretty much on top of you that’s it’s quite annoying – they also try to sell their embroidered handkerchiefs and other wears so you pretty much rush through to get away from them. You’re then ushered out through a shop at the back for even more spending options. Unfortunately, Cuba is the worst place we’ve visited in terms of touts – it’s non-stop and I definitely would have liked to have been prepared for it – relentless! I know they’re just trying to make a living but it riles me up something wicked. Anyhoo!
Just to the left of the Santisima church on Plaza Mejor is the little wander up to the ruins of La Popa church – probably only worth doing if you’ve got a bit of free time (it only takes five minutes to get there) but there’s a nice vista from the top.
The best thing we did in Trinidad was a visit to the Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos (which used to be a convent). The yellow bell tower of this building is the most recognisable image of Trinidad. For just 1 CUC you take a walk around the museum downstairs, complete with speedboat and Russian artillery truck as well as pictures of all those who died during the Cuban revolution. The walk up the wooden staircase to the bell-tower is the best part; there are a few different levels with 360 degree views around Trinidad. It’s beautiful looking across this UNESCO city’s terracotta rooftops with locals hanging colourful washing on their upper terrace. You can hear beats from the surrounding houses too – Trinidad has music pouring out of every crevice.
There’s a market too selling lots of handicrafts which was on all the days we were there – you can buy lots of Cuba branded bits and bobs; maracas, embroidered tablecloths, little dresses for kiddies, painted license plates, woven bags and jewellery to name but a few.
Overall, Cuba was always somewhere high up on our must-visit list. I think maybe because we had such high expectations it didn’t really live up to our expectations. Centro Havana, where the locals still potter about doing their thing was amazing, as was wandering around the old town of Havana. The persistent touting, terrible food and abundance of litter everywhere (they really just don’t care!) really put us off. I’m glad we’ve seen Cuba now though, before things inevitably change. I’d still return though 🙂
Next stop: Back to Ecuador – to the town of Banos.