Our June Expedition just returned from Cuba this week. It was a little more hectic than usual. Hotels in Old Havana are still mostly full. Prices continue to go up. There is a lot of construction and remodeling in the old town. Still, Old Havana offers a lot to first-time and repeat visitors. If you are traveling on your own, consider staying in a casa particular (BnB, vacation home, etc.). You will get a lot better accommodations for your money. You can check many of them out by searching “Havana” and “Old Havana” on AirBnB.com. There are many others available, but not listed.
One of the current problems is that there is so much focus on Havana. Most international flights land there, and most tours begin there. I would guess that about half of all tours longer than 7 days eventually take groups to other cities and out to the countryside. Casual travelers often do not realize just how big the main island of Cuba is. It is about 750 miles from tip to tip. Its coastline is longer than California’s.
It seems clear that Cuba should encourage many more visitors to travel outside Havana to the far west, to Central Cuba, and to Oriente—the far eastern part of the island. There is a lot to see, and visitors will find it is as friendly, safe, and beautiful in these areas as it is in Havana. As the number of travelers continues to skyrocket, Americans will find real bargains and warm welcomes in these areas.
The following is excerpted by an article written today in the Wall Street Journal by Susan Carey. It sounds like Southwest Airlines is being a little coy and acting like they couldn’t care less if they can obtain rights to fly to other Cuban Airports. Personally, I don’t think executives at Southwest are that stupid. (I highlighted some sentences.)
“Southwest recently won authority to fly to a couple of secondary Cuban airports and hopes to win approval to serve Havana, once the Transportation Department chooses among the many competing applications. Mr. Kelly said in an interview that Southwest tied its application for Havana authorization to the route rights to the small airports. If it doesn’t win any flights to Cuba’s capital, he said, the company will have to decide whether to proceed with the smaller destinations.
He noted that Southwest had no history on which to base its forecast for Cuban flights and “guessed” on its route application. There have been no scheduled flights between the U.S. in Cuba in more than 50 years and there will be many challenges as Cuba’s infrastructure develops. For now, U.S. citizens aren’t allowed to visit strictly for tourism and their trips must fall into categories allowed by Washington.”