Half Of My Heart Is In Trinidad: A Guide to Solo Travelling in Trinidad, Cuba
Trinidad has been the highlight of my trip in Cuba. It is hands down one of the best experiences I have had during my travels, this is credited to a combination of things. In trinidad, I learnt and fell in love with the essence of Cuba- a country which is much speculated about in the Capitalist Media. Through the years, I learnt about an exoticised and criticised version of Cuba, one that was studded with images of pseudo dictatorship, lax human rights, Cigars, salsa dancing and Rum. This is the picture that was fed to me and due to lack of diverse media, I ingested and internalised some of it. When I got to Havana, some of these images submerged in the form of dirty alleyways and poverty struck street corners in Centro Habana. But, Trinidad managed to quash all of these images and repaint a portrait of Cuba in vivid Cuban colours. I suggest at least 4 days in Trinidad if not more and below is a guide to Solo Travelling in Trinidad, Cuba so you can also hopefully fall in love with it just as much as I fell in love with it.
1. Transport: If you are planning to coming to Trinidad from Havana, I suggest you look into Viazul busses, they are much cheaper than collectivos (shared taxis). The bus ride takes 6 hours (longer than a collectivo but certainly much more comfortable and much cheaper). You can book the busses online, in fact you should book them online (preferably before you go to Cuba because internet in Cuba is a joke), they cost 25 usd each way and the online payment is very easy, this is on average 15 Usd cheaper than a collectivo if you are going alone.
2. Accommodation: Look for a Casa Particular (homestay) near or at walking distance from Plaza Mayor, which is at the centre of the city. I stayed with a lovely couple called Cira and Felix, they actually have a wifi hotspot which is more than luxury in Cuba. Their place was a 9 minute walk from the Bus station and the city centre both, which is more than ideal. I paid 14 usd/CUC per night for my private ensuite room which could sleep 3 people actually, you pay an extra 4 usd/CUC for a large breakfast.
3. Navigation: As a solo traveller, I think the most important thing to focus on is Navigation. There are many things I love to do alone but getting lost in the middle of the night in a new city where you do not speak the language is not one of them. My saviour in these situations, especially in Cuba where you cannot buy a sim card and such, has been maps.me. Download this app on your smartphone, download the map of Cuba and voila, you’re set! Trinidad is not a place you can get lost in, its tiny and easy to navigate but maps.me has saved me more than once, especially in Havana 🙂 where taxis are more expensive than anything!
4. Internet: Like everywhere in Cuba, you can buy the cards that allow you to access internet. The steps at the centre of town in Plaza Mayor have access to internet as do the other parks, the price of the card is more expensive here, 2 CUCs for 1 hour, I suggest to buy 5 hour cards for 5 CUCs from Hotel Plaza in the city centre of Havana instead and use that.
5. Free Walking Tour: On your first day, try and attend the free walking tour of the city. The free walking tour is available in Spanish, English and Portuguese and starts at 5:30 pm everyday at the park opposite to the Museum of the Bandits (the yellow bell tower which is the first thing you see when you google trinidad, Cuba!). This walking tour is not only comprehensive in it’s historical overview of Trinidad, it is also a great way to know where to go for the best drinks, food, dancing etc. Please note: This is a free walking tour but I really suggest you tip the guides who work to provide you with amazing knowledge of this city.
6. Food: Trinidad is studded with plenty of restaurants and bars, but I honestly have to admit I really did not like the food in Cuba. Its plain and lacks flavour, especially after coming from Mexico, its such a big disappointment. You can however find something for every price range, from super cheap street side burgers and pizzas to elaborate meals. Many restaurants in the city centre offer a big meal of bread, salad, a main dish of meat/fish/veggie and a side of rice and veggies for 5 CUC. You have to make sure you look at the menu before you go into the place, there are of course many restaurants that charge more, but you are guaranteed at least bread and butter/sauce for free with every meal.
7. Drinks: I don’t really drink alcohol for several reasons but if you do, Cuba has the world’s best Rum and of course Mojitos and Daquiris. Trinidad is no exception to this, you can find bars serving mojitos for as little as 1.50 CUC and they are always fresh and delicious. I over indulged in refreshing and delicious virgin mojitos, which, because of the heat was amazing.
8. Music: There are plenty of places that have amazing music in Trinidad, some of the best spots in my opinion are: a) the Casa de La musica, right at the Plaza Mayor. This amazing spot used to be the house of the Priest from the church next door to it, it was later converted into a house of music by the government. You will find amazing Salsa Music every night for a nominal fee of 1 CUC per person, sit on the amphitheatre style stairs under the starry sky, with a mojito in your hand let the music take over you :). b) Palenque de Los Congos Reales: This is the place for Afrocuban music and dance. The entrance to this place is also 1CUC and you will find amazing music, drinks, vibes and decent food.
9. Dance: Cuba is famous for many things, but Salsa has to be one of it’s most melodious exports. The music, the sway, the beats all ooze art! The most amazing place to go dancing in Trinidad is latin america’s second cave club- Disco Ayala. It is set on hill overlooking Trinidad, the walk is relatively easy in slippers, don’t wear your heels though, you wont be able to walk in them! The entrance is 5 CUC, this includes a free drink and it is one of the coolest clubs i have been to in my life. The music is an incredible mix of Salsa, latin, Afro Cuban genres and you are certain to find you a lovely Cuban person to dance/teach salsa if you are keen. Salsa is an art form on it’s own!
10. Beach & Nature: If you are keen on going to the beach, there are busses take tourists from the city at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm from in front of the Cubatur (look for it in maps.me) to Playa Ancon, the ride is about half an hour and costs 5 CUC return. This is ideal for a solo traveller like myself but if you are in a group, taxis cost 16 CUC return for a whole taxi and the timings are flexible. The last bus back from the beach is at 6 pm, so try not to miss it! There are incredible waterfalls around trinidad, there are people who will approach you at the city centre with offers if you are interested in this. I did not have enough time to do this, but if you do, its amazing! I heard great things about it, you can actually swim in the waterfalls!
Note: There are 2 currencies in Cuba, the Cuban Peso which is for the locals, 1 USD = 20 Cuban Peso (CUP) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for the tourists, 1 CUC = 1 USD. But due to the current state of politics between the US and Cuba, the Cuban exchange offices charge an extra 14% when you exchange usd. I would suggest you to bring EURO instead of USD as the exchange rates are better. Plus, if you have an American bank account like I do, make sure you bring only cash because you cannot use your card here.
I hope this post has been useful and informative for you! If you can think of any topics you want me to write about please be sure to email me on : firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you like this article, please show a sister some love, head over to instagram and follow my page: @maliharoundtheworld:D
Maliha Fairooz is a 28-year-old Bangladeshi solo traveller, who has travelled to 83 countries, on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.maliharoundtheworld.com, she shares her experience of travelling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youth.
Maliha Fairooz is a 30-year-old Bangladeshi solo traveler, who has travelled to 89 countries, on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.maliharoundtheworld.com she shares her experience of traveling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youth.