Bike Tour Cuba???
Oh yeah, bike tour Cuba.
That is, if you’re the adventurous type, willing to forego some measure of luxury and comfort. Cuba is an awesome destination for a bicycle tour for a variety of reasons. There’s the obvious draw of getting to explore a lesser-traveled country with an intriguing history, vibrant culture and a unique relationship with the United States. But as well, Cuba has far more bicycles than cars, and far more horses than cars, so the roads are relatively free of automobile traffic. And Cuba’s well-established “casa particular” system of rooms for rent in private homes is an independent cycle tourist’s dream. The weather is good, the country is relatively flat, the people are open and friendly (particularly if you speak Spanish), it’s safe, it’s inexpensive, and it’s beautiful.
Cuba will probably blow your mind and steal a little piece of your heart. It did for us.
(For more info, see our FAQs page.)
QUICK INDEX OF TOPICS ON THIS PAGE:
- BIKE TOUR CUBA?
- OPTIONS FOR BIKE TOURING IN CUBA
- U.S. EMBARGO: A FAILED POLICY ABOUT TO END
- FOR BETTER OR WORSE: CUBA'S ECONOMIC REALITY
Options for Bike Touring in Cuba
There are commercially guided bicycle touring opportunities available in Cuba for those that are interested. Substantially more expensive and, in our eyes, a bit less of an adventure, this type of touring can be great for those wishing to have ALL of the details worked out ahead of time by someone else. With preset itineraries, guides, lodging reservations, road support (sag), meals and all trip logistics taken care of, this type of trip may work well for those who don’t mind being locked in to a fixed itinerary. No shame in that. However…
For the truly adventurous, there is the unsupported or self-guided method of bicycle touring. That’s what we’ve always done, and that’s what BikeTourCuba.com is about. When you go unsupported, you are truly in the adventure, moment to moment. Ample preparation, research and planning ahead of time are still invaluable, but with no one else there to take care of you -- you are entirely responsible for yourself along the way and the inherent adventure in that fact cannot be overstated.
This type of bicycle touring, for us, has proven to be the best way to meet people and truly experience the places we’ve ridden. It may not be as “relaxing” or “comfortable” as commercially guided bike touring, but for us the benefits of this type of travel experience far outweigh those concerns. There is something magical and often serendipitous about the way the world reveals itself to those willing to let go of the uber-planned itinerary. The excitement, moment to moment spontaneity, and on-the-fly decision making that independent cycle touring requires is what makes the adventure so memorable. This type of travel changes you. I have learned more about myself from my bicycle tours than just about any other personal or life experience I can think of.
The U.S. Embargo: A Failed Policy At Its End
Although communist Cuba is a travel destination for people from all over the world, and in fact sees more wintertime Canadian sun seekers than anywhere else, Americans have been legally prohibited by the US government from free recreational travel/tourism to Cuba as part of the US embargo since 1962. Although many Americans have safely traveled (illegally) to Cuba without consequence, travel restriction to Cuba has largely kept this nearby island nation off of most American travelers’ “places to go” list. This will be likely be changing within the next couple of years as on December 17th 2014 (while we were there!), the US and Cuba announced that after 53 years they would begin to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries. Travel restrictions are expected to soon be relaxed as well and Americans will likely be able to go to Cuba in the near future without fear or threat of prosecution.
For Better or Worse: Cuba’s Economic Reality
Cuba is indeed fascinating, in many ways untouched by the modern world. Most people there don’t have cars, cell phones or access to the internet. It’s not that they don’t exist in Cuba, it’s just that the majority of the population doesn’t earn enough to afford these luxury items. Cuba’s consumer base is weak, the flow of goods and services slow. It is nothing like we’re accustomed to here in the US. “Cuba no es paraso” (“Cuba isn’t paradise”) we were told by our cab driver on our way to Havana and I heard this phrase again several times along the way.
There is a romantic fascination with Cuba, a certain mystique, and it truly is an amazing place. But it is a tough place. The people there are very poor, earning an average of about $20/month from their state-paid jobs. And it is a broken place in many ways. Just about anywhere we went, things were worn out, broken or in disrepair. Very little of anything is new and shiny. Cars and trucks spew clouds of thick black exhaust. It’s just different in Cuba. When in Cuba you just get used to things not working quite as you’d expect. But that’s a huge part of the intrigue and one of the aspects that makes it so special.