The next morning, we took the P5 bus to the train station (which goes nowhere. Don’t try to use it for anything), then the A5 to the bus terminal. It was 1 peso each on each bus.
After getting in line at booth #2 (the booths list the names of destinations sold at that window) and waiting for 45 minutes, maybe an hour, we found out that you cannot buy tickets for these buses with cash. You can only buy them with your rations card, which tourists obviously won’t have. We then got a bunch of conflicting information on how to get from this bus station to the Azul bus station, which is the tourist bus that costs $25 for a ticket to Trinidad—what we were trying to avoid. We finally took a taxi to get there for $7 (total), since it was on the complete opposite side of the city.
As soon as we got there, of course there were private cars/taxis offering us rides to various places, so we asked what the amount of time/cost for the bus was then haggled with this information in our pockets. For the same price as the bus, we got a private car that wouldn’t be stopping at multiple cities along the way and would arrive in 2/3 of the time—4 hours, instead of 6. The deal was this: we got it for a lower price than the other 2 people going in our car (2 young British girls), and we had to promise to not let them know our price. Deal!
We did stop for lunch at some roadside café, and we got hassled for the fact that this car was not an official taxi (he just had “taxi” written on a piece of paper and put on the dashboard). I should mention that the car we were riding in was a giant 1960s-era US classic car, though not in great shape. What style!
Upon arrival in Trinidad, there were hawks EVERYWHERE trying to offer us taxis, home stays, restaurants—you name it. We just started walking to get away from there and then figured out the directions after a few blocks of clear space. We had the address of where our German/Polish friends were staying, so we went there to ask if other rooms were available. If not, we’d find something nearby. The house was full, and the first recommendation we got for something nearby was even more expensive ($30/night for a room), so we found something on the next block for $25. I still can’t believe that lodging costs this much in such a poor country. Divided by 2, it’s not bad, but it’s more than what I thought things would cost in Cuba.
After dropping our stuff and letting the lady know where we were staying/please let our friends know, we decided to walk to the Boca beach, because we were told it was only 4km/2.5mi away. Let me tell you that this is not correct. After walking about ¾ of this distance, we asked someone for directions and were told that it was still more than 4km away. We turned around and walked back. As we were walking through the middle of the city, we ran into our friends + their 2 friends they came to meet up with and hung out in the Plaza Mayor for a while, just people watching and chatting.
After a while, we decided to seek out dinner and walked in the direction of a restaurant our hosts had recommend as a cheaper option. After walking for a few blocks away from the touristy areas, the boyfriend/girlfriend we had just met said they weren’t comfortable with this area and wanted to leave. Of course, the friends we wanted to hang out with left with them (after giving us “I’m sorry” expressions), and we wandered for a while before finding something, because we kept getting vague or conflicting directions. At this point, we were glad that no one was following us for dinner, because it took forever to finally find something, and anyone but us would’ve been complaining.
Upon separating for dinner, we had made plans to meet up back at the plaza afterward, but after waiting for a bit, I wasn’t sure if we had taken too long (and they gave up), or if they were running super late. Either way, there was no meet up, and I slept in quite late the next morning. It felt amazing.
At this point, I was starting to worry about how much money I had left, since I couldn’t withdraw anymore. I set aside what I needed for getting back to the airport in Havana, and I basically had $4/day to last me. Luckily, I wasn’t buying water, since the Aussie had a small purification system, but I was down to a small dinner and a small snack per day. We also stopped at the bus station to inquire about taxis/cars/buses back to the airport on the day I was leaving, since I’d need to hit the road pretty early to make the 4 hour drive + arrive early for check-in for a 1:30pm flight. With tentative options & a guy’s phone number, we walked around sightseeing for the rest of the day and randomly ran into our friends again (the city isn’t that big). Their friends were leaving that afternoon, so they asked us to meet up for dinner afterward, which we did.
We also saw some amazing street festivals, bands, dancing & lots of fun for the May 1/Labor Day celebrations. The dancing was amazing, the music was amazing, and everyone was having a blast. I loved watching everyone celebrate and let go of their cares for a while. After watching the celebrations, meeting up with our friends, and walking around for a while, we went for dinner. This was…an experience. Everyone was out to eat for the holiday, and we not only got practically ignored by the servers (in favor of the locals), they were also out of numerous things on the menu. The list of what they had was much shorter than what they didn’t have. After finally getting food ordered (attempt #3 or 4 probably), we waited forrrrrevvveerrrr. It took over an hour for our food. We only got served after all of the locals had left. However, the food was $1 and filling, so how much can you really complain?
We walked around until close to midnight and then slept in again the next morning. The Aussie ordered breakfast from the family we were staying with, but this wasn’t in my tight budget, so I laid in bed reading, until she came to tell me that she couldn’t finish all of it, and there was bread, fruit & juice for me on the table. What a pal! However, she wasn’t feeling well and decided to go back to bed while I met up with the German + Pole. They were leaving that afternoon and dropped off their stuff at our place while waiting for the afternoon bus to Cienfuegos. We saw an amazing street band during this time and sat watching them for a good 20 minutes. One of the highlights of the trip. It was your stereotypical Cuban band of elderly gentlemen. Awesome. I also ran into the guy I wanted to ride with on the next day and confirmed with him that I would call later.
After the girls got their stuff to leave & said goodbye, the 4 of us walked to the bus terminal then went our separate ways. The Aussie and I went back to our house and took naps in the rocking chairs in the sun room, which was amazing. For dinner that night, we went back to the slow place from the night before, after failing at other options we’d tried to locate. It was nearly empty and much faster than the day before, but they were still out of some things. However, it was still dirt cheap, so…
That evening, we killed time in the room listening to music, reading, calling the guy to confirm the car for the morning, and the Aussie decided to take the car, also, because she would go to Viñales, which required going past Havana, so my car to Havana would help her make that happen. It also closed out the car with a 4th person.
Surprisingly, the car was waiting for us outside the next morning at 7am, which I still cant’ believe. However, when we went to pick up the other people, they were sitting around being lazy, because they’d been told that we would leave at 8. That wouldn’t work for me, since I had a flight to catch, so we hurried them up and even carried their stuff out to the car. Once we started driving, it turned out that the other passengers were going to Viñales, also, so that worked out great for the Aussie. The car would drop me at the airport and keep going for all 3 of them.
The driver drove SO FAST to try to get me to the airport in time, and it was both scary and appreciated. I had used up the last of my money for dinner the night before and had only what I’d set aside for the ride, but I still had a great time and loved my experiences in Cuba. The positive side is that I didn’t have to exchange any money when leaving, and the flight to Panama went off without a hitch. No delays, no issues at check-in, no real questions at passport control—just smooth in all areas.
Cuba, it was real. Thanks for the memories, and thanks for letting me see everything before McDonald’s and Starbucks invade. Also, thanks for still having so many great propaganda posters for me to giggle at and take pictures of like the gringo tourist I am.
Next post: Panama City.