Travel to Cuba in 2023. Is Cuba still an interesting destination? Is Cuba an interesting destination again?
The last three years have been rather complicated for Cuba, due to a series of happenings, some exogenous in nature and others endogenous in nature, that have put it under great strain.
Let us review, very briefly, what has happened:
- The pandemic, which caused travel restrictions and a planet-wide slowdown in tourist flows.
- Monetary unification, with the elimination of the Cuban convertible peso – CUC – the tourists’ currency pegged to the U.S. dollar, and the switch to the Cuban Peso. In fact, despite the declared currency unification, the current currency system in Cuba is complicated by the presence of an additional, digital-only means of payment, namely the Moneda Libremente Convertible -MLC. For more in-depth discussion, on how currency and payments work in Cuba, we recommend you read this post.
- Geopolitical conflicts and in particular Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- An energy crisis that has exacerbated previous and already serious difficulties in terms of oil supply, and electricity production and distribution.
Such serious events have obviously not been without consequences for Cuba’s already fragile economy and the daily lives of the Cuban people. Let us look at some of them:
- Due to the near-total absence of tourists in Cuba for a prolonged period, many casas particulares and businesses were closed, some hospitality operators returned their licenses to the Cuban government to limit fixed expenses made unsustainable by the absence of revenue.
- Monetary reunification produced out-of-control inflationary effects in Cuba, which were later compounded by soaring prices of raw materials and energy resources induced by international tensions.
- Many necessities became scarce, hard to find, or unavailable except on the black market and at prices unaffordable to the Cuban population.
- The energy crisis has hit Cuba hard, causing prolonged and frequent power outages in several areas of the island, especially outside the capital and away from the areas with the highest tourist activity.
- Despite the end of the pandemic, Cuba remains cut off for now from the sharp upswing in tourist flows that major international tourist destinations are experiencing. Among the possible causes are the high cost of air transportation: from Europe, but also from the U.S. and Canada, there are fewer flights to fly to Cuba and at higher prices than in the past.
- The difficult living conditions have contributed to generating a massive exodus from Cuba, especially affecting the younger segments of the population. Many bright young women and men, among them several of our friends and collaborators, have left the island going in search of a less bitter life prospect, with the aim of being able to contribute at a distance to the livelihood needs of their families remaining on the island.
IS TRAVELLING TO CUBA IN 2023 STILL ATTRACTIVE?
But let’s cut to the chase: considering the current situation, is traveling to Cuba in 2023 still attractive?
In this regard, opinions are mixed, and on the question of whether it is currently worthwhile to travel to Cuba, it is not uncommon for controversy and even heated opposition to be triggered in social groups dedicated to Cuba.
Let us therefore try to set the record straight and make our own contribution.
First, some basic differences should be considered:
1. Between those who plan to travel to Cuba for the first time and those who already know the island.
2. Between those who are looking for a vacation exclusively-or almost exclusively-of sea and relaxation in an all-inclusive resort and those who want to get to know at least some of the naturalistic, cultural, and historical-artistic beauty that Cuba offers its visitors.
3. Between those who intend to experience Cuba as tourists (well-meaning without the negative connotation that is too often given to this term) and those who are rather in the mood of the adventurous traveler, perhaps intending to stay several weeks or months in Cuba and traverse it far and wide.
4. Between those who, even on vacation, seek certain levels of comfort and quality, regardless of expense, and those who show a higher spirit of adaptation, partly because sticking to a budget is a priority.
So let us try to list what the pros and cons of a trip to Cuba in 2023 might be, considering the current post-covid situation.
PROS OF A TRIP TO CUBA IN 2023
- The wonderful nature, the charm of the past, and the great artistic and cultural creation capacity of Cubans remain unchanged.
- The tourist offer has increased, especially for the middle-upper target group: despite the crisis and the decline in demand, investment in tourist accommodation does not stop. Large luxury hotels have been built both in La Habana and in popular beach destinations such as the Cayos. New boutique hotels have sprung up through the renovation of buildings in the historic center. The quality of independent apartments for Airbnb-type rentals is growing. The restaurant industry also has some interesting new entries, in terms of location, interior design, and variety of menu offerings.
- The strong devaluation of the Cuban peso has meant that, for the tourist arriving on the island with valuable currency, the prices of some services (restaurants, local transportation, some shows) are affordable, provided they can be paid in local currency.
- The emotions that Cuba can arouse in those who visit are always very intense, unpredictable, and completely surprising.
CONS OF A TRIP TO CUBA IN 2023
- The average quality of services is declining, particularly about food preparation, due to the general difficulty of supply. The state-run resorts and low-medium level restaurants suffer the most. A few high-end restaurants manage to save themselves, jumping through hoops to source quality raw materials and maintain a level of cuisine commensurate with reputation and market positioning.
- Depending on the time of year and with some randomness, it is now possible to run into several setbacks in Cuba, such as even prolonged electricity rationing (apagones); the difficulty of finding mineral water and toilet paper in stores; and the endless lines to refuel a rented car.
- Until very few years ago, a trip to Cuba was above all a social experience that touched deep inside. It was often said, with good reason, that “Cubans don’t receive tourists, they make friends.” Compared to the past, although the Cuban people remain one of the friendliest in the world, it must be acknowledged that precisely because of the serious difficulties they encounter in their daily lives, people interact with foreigners in a less cheerful and carefree manner.
- A certain desolation of the external environments: there are squares and even central streets that in previous years were full of life and crowded with tourists, which now appear completely empty or almost empty. You see fewer people around, during the day and in the evening. People no longer go out in the evenings to the calle and clubs because they do not have the means to do so, but also because the young population is decreasing significantly due to the migration exodus
✓ If you are looking to repeat emotions you have already experienced in Cuba in the past, especially if you experienced the turmoil of post-Obama and pre-Covid 19 Cuba, traveling to Cuba in 2023 would certainly meet with some disappointment, so perhaps it is best to wait. How long will it take for Cuba to return to approaching its best moments? No one can predict; stay tuned and we will continue to provide you with up-to-date news.
✓ If it’s your first time in Cuba, if you have curiosity, patience and a spirit of adaptation, go without hesitation, because you definitely won’t regret it. You will love the beautiful nature of Cuba and every day there will always be some detail capable of surprising you.
✓ If your goal is to take a break in total relaxation in front of a dreamy sea, in Cuba you can always find some resorts that can meet your expectations, taking care, however, to select the highest-end and proven quality facilities.
How do you plan your trip to Cuba to make the most of your vacation and try to limit unpleasant surprises?
✓ Do it yourself: you can look for information on the Web, where you can find, for free, opinions , stories, advice of all kinds, sometimes interested and sometimes not, sometimes encouraging and sometimes not. Keep in mind, however, that even when in good faith, those who share a travel experience do so based on partial knowledge and a subjective point of view. If you have a passion for planning trips and have no difficulty in designing your own itinerary in Cuba, then we suggest you supplement the information you have gathered on the web with our mini HH LIST guide in which you will find a selection of our favorite places in Havana.
✓ Travel design: if you prefer to entrust the planning of your trip to Cuba to the expertise of professionals and connoisseurs of the Island. For those who prefer to save time and the confusion induced by too much information, we provide an advisory service, based on our direct knowledge and network of collaborators on the ground. Take a look here.