I Want To Explore All of Cuba – What’s the Best Cuba Guidebook For Me?

I see this question asked all the time on message boards, forums and even directly to me. It usually comes from people who are anxious to explore, but don’t know where to start. Maybe they have traveled around their own country and done a few foreign trips, but they are so caught up in the aura of visiting Cuba, that they don’t trust their own instincts. They panic a bit at the thought of venturing into a “communist country” and so they want to be well prepared with a guidebook that has all the information.

This is the wrong way to look at things. For example, if you wanted to learn about about people, would you use a telephone directory? If you wanted to learn how to cook, would you look up “cooking ” in the encyclopedia? Of course not.

The easiest way to actually get to understand a country is to explore it. You can’t do it the other way around. You need a Cuba guidebook which gives you a basic framework of understanding, but you don’t need a 600 page reference guide which lists every single attraction and tourist destination.

Once people understand this simple fact, they often see that the Real Havana guidebook is the best guide for them. The Real Havana guide does not get into a contest with other guidebooks of listing the most tourist sights and museum. It doesn’t have 600 pages of dense content with a 50 page index at the back for you to look up some benign, and likely outdated, fact about a destination. The Real Havana guidebook gives you information you need so that you can actively and safely explore and experience Cuba on your own. It actually guides you on your travels, rather than overburdening you with too much information.


Is The Real Havana Guide Only About Havana? What About if I Want to Explore Other Cities in Cuba?

With the basics of the Real Havana guide, you will be able to navigate any area of Cuba with relative ease. You might not know about the exact, cheap, fun things to do in each province or city, but in the overall scheme of things, the main aspects of Havana apply to the rest of the country. Honestly, I don’t think you would need any other Cuba guidebook for exploring the rest of the island. You will have more fun without one. Just make your own adventure.

For example, I have many people who like to go from Havana to Trinidad for a few days. On my forum (http://bestcubaguide.com/cuba-and-havana-forum/) I posted some info on a friend of mine who offers taxi rides in Havana and to the countryside. He has brought many people to Trinidad. You could just as easily take the Viazul bus, but if you are in a taxi, you can stop wherever you want and set your own schedule, so it is more convenient, despite being more expensive. Once you are in Trinidad, you can explore the whole city in day, and it’s beautiful. So, you wouldn’t require a guidebook at all. And, the fun is not even really in Trinidad. It’s the trip which is exciting. Rambling through the countryside in a 1952 Ford. The windows down, cruising past the tobacco fields. Stopping at a tiny street side stand for a sandwich and some freshly pressed sugar cane juice…

Wouldn’t I Need Another Cuba Guidebook to Know How to Explore The Countryside?

No. Once you know the basics of getting around Cuba, you don’t need another supplemental guidebook for each area. For places like Trinidad or Cienfuegos or further east, if you go to Holguin or Baracoa, there are very few tourists. A few hang around in the main squares or near clubs, but outside of Havana, tourism is almost zero. So everything is cheap and the quality of service is generally higher. I would strongly suggest that you visit these places. They will give you a different perspective of Cuba. And as for booking casas particulares or things like that, you don’t really have to make plans, like in Havana. The casas in these small towns are plentiful, and generally good quality, and since tourism is so low, the locals will approach you, often with very good deals on casas. I advise that you travel in these areas without making too many plans ahead of time.


Havana and Cuba Guidebook Summary

I could easily just suggest that you pick up a copy of Lonely Planet or Moon and explore the rest of Cuba, but if you are genuinely interested in seeing Cuba from a local perspective, I don’t think those guides would help you too much. I can honestly say that all of the most interesting places I have found while traveling though the country were places that I stumbled upon by chance or by asking a local. And the search was always more fun than the discovery.

And, in all the small towns I walked though or beautiful lookouts I’ve sat on, I never once met somebody who was a foreigner (at least not one that I could identity). Which leads me to believe that most of those places are not listed in any guidebook at all, because if they were, they would be overrun with tourists.

The Real Havana guidebook is not designed to be a reference guide which lists hundreds of places for you to visit on the island. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The Real Havana guide focuses on teaching the culture of Cuba and showing you, the reader, how to best explore the island on your own and discover interesting places, off the beaten track. If this is the goal of your Cuban trip, then this guide is for you.



Want to learn about Havana and how to explore Cuba like a local?

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By |2017-05-19T02:23:26+00:00May 14th, 2015|Havana and Vedado, Stories of Havana|2 Comments


  1. Avatar
    dav April 12, 2017 at 5:28 am - Reply

    regarding money exchange, what are your thoughts about converting U.S. dollars in the United States to Mexican pesos and then in Cuba exchanging for Cuban currency? Are Mexican pesos easily exchanged for CUC? What are the downsides of this approach and the benefits?



    • Avatar
      Mario April 12, 2017 at 12:58 pm - Reply

      I assume the main goal of this strategy would be to avoid the 10% surcharge on exchanging USD to CUC directly. There is no 10% surcharge on converting MXN to CUC. You would just pay the international rate minus a 3 to 4% exchange fee (standard for all currency transactions). With converting USD to CUC, you also have to pay the 3% exchange fee, so after the 3% and the 10%, it would mean that 100 USD = 87 CUC.

      By bringing Mexican pesos, you only pay the 3 to 4% exchange fee charged by the exchange house in Cuba (CADECA), so you would seemingly save 10%. But the largest issue in the transaction is, what rate can you get Mexican pesos while you are in the USA? If your bank in the USA gives a crappy exchange rate (if the bank charges 5% or 6% -which is very common) then it dramatically reduces your savings. If you can get MXN at a good rate (close to the international rate) then for sure, doing this strategy is a good idea. If you can get Euros or CAD or GBP at a good rate, then you can exchange your USD to any one of those currencies and save a lot of money. If you can’t get a good rate from your American bank, then it negates most of the savings.

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