Bikepacking Cuba

After flying into Havana,we spent three weeks bikepacking Cuba. We chose the eastern provinces for our adventure, taking the twelve hour Viazul night bus to Holguín. More than 850 kilometres were covered, across dirt tracks, thick sticky mud, fords, railway lines, broken roads. We drank rum and beer. It was easier to find than water.

What route did you cycle in Cuba?

Take a look at our map, which is fully interactive and downloadable as a gpx file over here.

Tell me a story about cycling in Cuba

Beer Rum and Cigarettes, is the first part of a story about bikepacking Cuba in December during an El Niño year.

At the end of our trip we took a ride in a vintage car to see Havana from the back of a Buick.

Temperatures were higher than normal for the time of year, regularly rising to 30C and higher with heavy rain and lightening storms. During our trip, we rode coast to coast from the Atlantic to the Caribbean via La Farola, a 30km /19 mile climb.

Cuban culture is unique. The people are sensual and sexy. Music is everywhere and it’s loud. There is no escape from the socialist sharing of the reggaeton beat. Booms and thumps blast from vibrating speakers on tractors, bici-taxis and ghetto blasters. Had you forgotten about those? I had.

Food market in Santiago a welcome find when bikepacking Cuba

Food market in Santiago a welcome find when bikepacking Cuba

Is food easy to find when cycling in Cuba?

Food is difficult to find outside cities and frequently overcooked or bland. Rice and beans are the staple. If you’re vegetarian like Dan, rice with vegetables is the alternative. Fifty five years of rationing has taken its toll on culinary excitement. Even the excitement of crunching fried plantains soon wore off. We cooked meals in family homes and shared ideas using whatever ingredients were available.

Coconut palms, banana trees and sugar cane for as far as the eye could see. Lush green valleys and fertile plains showed minimal agricultural development making me question why Cuba imports 60 percent of the food it consumes at a cost of around $2 billion annually. Imports consist mainly of rice, beans, corn, soy and powdered milk.

Is wifi available in Cuba?

Internet has become more accessible in the last year, with wifi available in public parks for 2 CUC an hour.  You buy a card from ETECSA and if there are none left, you can buy one for 3CUC from an enterprising Cuban. Several travellers including cycle tourers and bikebackers we met reported that public wifi was reasonaly fast. We took the decision to travel phone and internet free. Who cares if there’s wifi or not.

Transporting bicycles on a bus

We booked the Viazul from Havana to Holguin (12 hours overnight) and back to Havana from Bayamo (14 hours leaving Bayamo at 02:50). The driver made regular stops approximately every 2 hours. The bus was cold so bring something warm to wear to combat the ice cold air conditioning. There were two stops of about 20 mins, long enough to have a sit down drink.

Most stops are long enough to get out and stretch your legs and have a toilet break.

The journey cost $44 CUC each way per person plus 6CUC per bike.

Book several days in advance at Viazul stations anywhere or online before you go. There is no personal arrangement with the driver. You pay for the bike luggage when you check-in which is an hour before the bus is due to leave and pay. You get a luggage tag and a receipt for your bike and you get your bike back off the bus when you show your receipt to the driver when you get off. Very organised indeed. No manic grabbing of luggage by all and sundry.

You must remove your front wheel and seat before the bike gets packed on the bus.

I’ll be expanding this section over the coming weeks, so sign up for the newsletter (top of page) and stay posted.

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