Backpacking in Cuba is a fantastic way to see the country, get to know the culture and to save a little money on your next Caribbean holiday. You’ll have to be reasonably fit and not mind a more rustic experience, but it can still be a fantastic vacation.
While you’re backpacking in Cuba, you can choose to stay in any hotels you want. Most people who take this kind of trip prefer the cheaper hostels or guest houses for their accommodation, rather than the ritzy resorts. Expect some pretty rustic conditions at times (hot water may be a luxury).
You don’t literally have to walk in order to backpack around Cuba. There are many great public transportation options. Buses and trains take people from city to city at a very low cost, and you can also get around within the larger cities by public bus or taxi.
Crime is actually quite low because the island is so dependent on tourist income that police are very harsh when it comes to any crime that would scare away visitors. That doesn’t mean you should go walking around strange areas alone in the dark, but don’t fear Cuba any more than any other destination. It’s really very safe for a backpacker. Your biggest threat is more about people ripping you off by asking for higher than necessary rates for taxis or food.
What to See
Well, I can’t specify any particular places or sites that are of specific interest to the backpacker. Any of the towns and cities are worth a walk-through and visit, and taking some time along the coast will provide you with lots of wonderful ocean views. You can also find lots of wilderness inland if you are hoping for a more natural excursion. The Sierra Maestra mountains are a must-hike.
A backpacker in Cuba needs to know what the weather is like because they are out walking so much during their trip. Our page on Cuba weather will give you a breakdown of the temperatures you can expect at various points on the island. Frankly, it’s always hot. Trying to plan for a “cool” season for more comfortable walking is going to be a little futile. The winter months are coolest but you’re still looking at temperatures in the high 70s to 80s. The heat peaks in July, August and September.
Here is one area that backpackers in Cuba should be aware of: the dual currency. Tourists convert their foreign currency into convertible pesos (CUC) which is fine for the fancy restaurants, beach resorts and other tourist-heavy areas. The regular shops and services will want the “non-tourist” currency which are known as simply pesos (CUP). You should be able to get roughly 25 pesos for every convertible peso, so take care when you do exchanges. You will want a good supply of CUP on hand as you backpack because smaller stores and restaurants will want them, not the CUC.
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