There were few twists and turns that really kept me on the edge before visiting Cuba. At some point I thought that I might not go at all due to cancelled flights (thanks AirBerlin!) and the Hurricane Irma leaving a trail of devastation across the Caribbean. Except drafting a rough itinerary, asking few friends for recommendations I have not done much planning ahead of my trip. This time round I was not going to travel on my own, I could speak the local language so I trusted that everything will be fine in the end without spending much time on preparation.
Luckily my friend Zofia, my fantastic companion, took care of some essential logistics, downloaded the latest guidebook for Cuba and found a nice place on AirBnB for our first part of the holiday – rest and recuperation time in Varadero.
Located 140 kilometers east of Havana, on the Hicacos Peninsula, Varadero is one of the largest resorts in the Caribbean. Famous for its 20 kilometres of white sandy beach and clear turquoise water, it attracts crowds of tourists and offers little in a way of authentic Cuban experiences. That is why Zofia strategically looked for a place to stay in “downtown” part of Varadero, away from the hotel resorts.
In recent years Cuban government has been passing laws to make it even easier for locals to rent out private accommodation to tourists. Many families, like our hosts as well as the owners of restaurants and bars benefited from these changes and in many cases offering homestays or driving a taxi give people a chance to earn more money in a day than they would make working as engineers or doctors. Life in Cuba is a rather bittersweet story what I was able to observe and also confirm by talking to my hosts and other people I met there.
This type of private accommodation, known also as casas particulares offered an alternative to people wanting to escape the mega-resorts of Varadero. I absolutely loved our local area near a primary school and round the corner from the beach. There were no high-rise buildings, only houses with rocking chairs in front of them, few restaurants and kiosks selling drinks and ice creams. Main avenue with old cars or horse carriages passing by now and again was possibly the busiest part of my surroundings in Varadero. All in all it was a peaceful, almost sleepy area and that was exactly what I needed after my epic flight and to charge my batteries.