After the US, Canada, Mexico and Guatemala, it’s time for my 5th country – Cuba. Not being from the US, I have no problems going to the country. Return tickets from Cancun to Havana are about $280, bikes have no special fee and I’m allowed 40kg (90lb) of luggage, flying with Cubana. I can get a 30 day tourist card at the airport, and it can be extended 30 days when I’m in the country for a minimal fee.
A Warmshowers host here in Cancún, Cesar, works at the airport and is going to take me to get a bike box, help me pack it, let me leave some things in his place while I’m Cuba, and then take me to the airport before I fly. Warmshowers and the people on it are glorious.
As far as Cuba goes, a few sites I’ve read are…
Crazyguy – Emphasising how it’s a good idea to ride from east to west.
Bicycing Cuba – A book about cycle touring in Cuba, 10 years old, but Cuba seems like one of those countries where things don’t change quickly, so it’s apparently not too out of date.
TravellingTwo – They’ve just done a trip with their young son and have lots of articles.
El Pedalero – Has done wild camping in Cuba and described it as one big campground.
Since the ’90s, tourism is the biggest source of foreign money in Cuba. Therefore, the government does its best to maximise this. It have a system of casas particulares (private houses that pay a licence fee of maybe $150-200 a month for the ability to host) and it’s not allowed to host people outside of this, other than the twice a year they are allowed to apply for permission from the government, although that’s used to let family members who live abroad stay. That means things like couchsurfing does not exist as a hosting network, but more as a place to meet locals to show you around, or for casa particulares to advertise themselves. Wild camping is a grey area, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ll end up having to stay in official places in big cities, like Havana, Santiago and maybe famous touristy places like Trinidad, but who knows. I might meet people who know people who let me stay, or … who knows. If I were travelling with someone, the money for the casas particulares might be more acceptable as they’re room rates, but when I’m travelling by myself, I seem to meet more random people looking to help.
I’m going to fly in to Havana early afternoon on the 27th, stay there for 3 nights and then take a bus to the city of Holguín on the east side of the country. The trade winds come from the east and so riding into a headwind out of choice would just seem foolish to me. I’ve used the Bicycling Cuba book to come up with an idea for a route, which you can see at the bottom of this post, but of course that’s very open to change.
I’ll be leaving some things in Cancún. I can’t take my GPS with me, because it’s not permitted to enter Cuba with a standalone GPS. If I tried, I would almost certainly have it confiscated if they checked my bags. I’ve found a decent map to download that I’m going to have on my Kindle. I might pick up a paper copy of that map, but I’m undecided. It’s apparently only $6 and it’d be interesting to travel with a paper map for once. If it were part of a smartphone, or something else where it was the secondary function, it would be permissible, but not if it’s just a GPS. I’m also almost certainly leaving my laptop behind. There’s not going to be internet. It costs $6 an hour, and with my plan to wild camp so much, I’m not going to have anywhere to charge it. I’ll have my Kindle and iPod, for entertainment, it just means that my Cuba blogpost might comprise be a couple of parts that I write when I get back to Mexico at the end of March, rather than daily reports!
It’s now time to go through my bags, organise and charge things while I still can! Back in a month!