What will 2017 bring for you?
Another year older, but perhaps not as much wiser as you were hoping. Another batch of New Year’s resolutions that were unceremoniously ditched by the first weekend in January. And no, walking to the front door to greet the pizza delivery guy does not count as exercise. Perhaps 2017 will finally be the year that you reward yourself with that trip you’ve been fantasising about for years now.
Perhaps this will be the year that you get to discover the magic of Cuba. There are many great reasons to travel to Cuba, and yes, the simple fact that it’s there might be reason enough. But maybe you need a little more convincing, so it’s time to look at some of the best reasons to make 2017 the year in which you finally visit Cuba.
Cuban Cocktails in Cuba
What is necessary to have a great holiday? It’s nice to go somewhere exotic, to feel like a true foreigner where the people are still warm and friendly. It can be nice to soak up a bit of history and culture (and more about that a little later), but perhaps one of the best reasons to travel to Cuba is the opportunity for a generous amount of self indulgence. OK, so it’s not as though the locals are wandering around drunk, but alcohol is socially accepted on the island nation, and it’s treated with respect.
You can go into practically any bar and enjoy a cocktail so unimaginably delicious that your tastebuds might spontaneously take up salsa dancing. Cuba is synonymous with rum, and there are many variations on the rum-based cocktail. You can have these drinks in any old bar in your own town, but there’s something special about enjoying a Cuban cocktail in Cuba.
The price is also nice. If your budget allows, you might want to go into a rather posh venue such as the Hotel Nacional de Cuba and enjoy a mojito while overlooking the ocean, but this is not reflective of the average price of an alcoholic treat in Cuba. Get away from the tourist heavy areas and you will be happily surprised at how inexpensive self indulgence can be in Cuba. You might have to exercise some restraint though, since the price and quality can turn self indulgence into over indulgence. You don’t want to be fighting a hangover while exploring the wonders of Cuba.
It can be a revelation to visit a place where the arts are so well-respected. Ballet dancers in Cuba reportedly make as much money as a doctor, and there are a number of dance companies (particularly in Havana) with regular productions. Additionally, you will hear music everywhere. This might sound like an exaggeration, but trust us, it’s not. Salsa music will quickly become the soundtrack to your Cuban holiday, and the music scene might be one of your main reasons to travel to Cuba. There are no shortage of clubs and music venues in Havana, but it’s not as though the rest of the country is lacking.
Trinidad’s open air Casa de la Musica allows you to dance under the stars each and every night, in a town that is just as music obsessed as Havana. This is no tacky show staged for the tourists either, and visitors and locals will mingle on the dancefloor as the music plays (although the locals will almost certainly be better dancers). The music is played and enjoyed with beauty and grace, and you might be tempted to take a salsa lesson before the end of your stay so that you can feel like you blend in. Cuba also has a rich literary history, even though many foreigners might only think of the country as being the home and muse for some of Ernest Hemingway’s works. If you’re a fan, take a short trip out of Havana to Cojimar – the setting for The Old Man and the Sea.
The Best of the Reasons to Travel to Cuba? The People
It’s annoying that the internet in Cuba feels vaguely prehistoric, since you will meet many people who you will want to friend on social media. The warmth of the people is one of Cuba’s many charms, and the people of the country really are one of the best reasons to travel to Cuba. Life has not always been easy in Cuba, and yet the people have weathered their struggles with a cheery attitude and a laid back outlook.
You might be badgered by touts who are looking to invite you to a particular bar or restaurant (for which they receive a fee), or by locals who will be looking to befriend you so that you will pay for their drinks for the evening. These people are easy to spot, and the vast majority of locals will greet you with a warmth that is utterly natural, and is not simply put on for tourists. Cuba feels very real, which might sound like a strange thing to say, and yet the people here are not fake. Their friendliness and curiosity is authentic, which is not always the case when travelling. While you will enjoy soaking up the culture of the country while partaking in a bit of self indulgence, the people of Cuba will be one of the things that will live on in your memory (and in your holiday photos).
The language barrier can be a little problematic, and it really is worthwhile to learn even a tiny amount of Spanish for your trip to Cuba, even if it’s just the basic pleasantries. If worst comes to worst, just say “lo siento, hablo no Español” (“Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish”). You will be given a warm smile and the person will still probably do their best to help you out.
Sometimes learning a bit of mime can be helpful too…