Touring in Cuba
64-year-old New World Tourist owner Claudia Beausoleil recently traveled to Cuba via the usual workaround- Mexico. With a quick stop over in Cancun, Claudia made her way to Havana, bike-in-tow, for the beginning of her 3 week solo tour. She contacted us at Bike Friday to share what she discovered.
As the U.S. gets closer to normalizing relations with Cuba the prospect of bicycle touring on this formerly-off-limits island paradise is quickly becoming a reality. The cycling industry is abuzz with adventurers ready explore the beautiful white sand beaches, distinct cuisine, and legendary music scene of Cuba.Though, for some, the buzz is so strong that waiting on Washington isn’t an option: red tape be damned.
What Claudia found in Cuba was enough to make any travel cyclist barter for extended leave. To start, the temperature in December was a balmy 75-80 degrees. As an island, a huge portion of the country is stunning beach front, with charming thatched roof cabanas that come right up to the waters edge. The cities are full of gorgeous colonial architecture, fascinating museums, and Classic cars. Fresh seafood is everywhere and everything is totally affordable; grilled lobster goes for $6.00!
Though traveling in Cuba is not without its challenges, “you have to bring all your own energy bars and natural food for the road, all they have are those sugary granola bars” said Claudia. “There’s plenty of fresh food, 25 cent fruit smoothies, and even some great smoked meats, but you can’t find things like almonds anywhere.” Claudia said that another challenge was the mid-day heat, fine for younger riders, but tough for her: “there were days when I would just have to jump into the water even with all of my cycling gear on.” But getting in the water was actually Claudia’s favorite part of the whole trip “I always had my snorkeling gear with me, I would stop at least once a day to snorkel.”
Claudia’s touring style was mostly to do day trips in orbit around the cities she was staying in. “Getting out into the countryside was great,” and “people were very respectful of the bike on the road. Buses, motorbikes, horse taxis… they all gave me lots of room when passing.” And though she didn’t feel comfortable camping alone as an older woman she said “cycling, even at night, is very safe for a woman in Cuba.” Claudia rode comfortable, yet inexpensive, touring buses to go between Havana, Varadero and Trinidad during her stay. “The drivers all spoke English and they handled the bike beautifully, they packed it upright, and very snugly.” Another reason that her Bike Friday proved to be the perfect bike for the trip: “anyone who brought a full-sized frame had to pull it all apart, I just had to remove the front wheel.”
Claudia was thrilled to run into two other Bike Friday owners in Cuba. One called “Bike Friday!” to her from outside a hotel and the two immediately struck up a conversation; he was visiting from Spain and had just completed a 28-day-long tour of Cuba. As is common with most chance Bike Friday meetings, the two became fast friends; by the end of their conversation Claudia and her husband had an offer to stay in Spain!
It was a whirlwind of an adventure and Claudia is excited about going to visit Cuba with her Bike Friday again. Though before she makes it back to the Caribbean she’s off to Europe with her husband and their Bike Fridays in June. “We’ll start in Holland for the International Blues Festival, then off to Germany to try the new Bicycle Autobahn, then to Denmark to experience Copenhagen.”
Thanks for sharing your Cuban travel adventures with us Claudia, best of luck with your European tour!
P.S. Claudia is happy to answer questions about her trip to Cuba, you’re welcome to email her: email@example.com
Great adventure story and one that I hope to replicate with me wife one day. We have a triple bike Friday which, now with our kids going to high school next year, we plan to make into a tandem and do some trips. Thanks for the inspiration!
Merill and I are off to Japan in April thenTelAviv in February on ourBikeFridays
We live near Portland and would love to get together andcompare noted sometime.
We took our Bike Friday’s to Cuba 4 years ago and found the same positive experience. We, too, had been advised to take lots of energy bars and we’re glad we did. At that time, riding from Havana to Vinales, it was difficult to find ANY food to buy along the mostly deserted roads. We stayed in casa particulars the entire time and in these private homes, the food was plentiful and delicious. We hope to return soon and bike east from Havana the next time.
What model was Claudia’s bike.
It would be fun to organize a bike trip to Cuba.
A reasonably small group.
Claudia was riding a New World Tourist. Though after her Cuba trip she upgraded to the lightweight version, the New World Tourist Lite!
Hey, great story. I’m ready to go!
Great job Claudia… I am planning on doing that soon with my wife. Also a European tour with our Bike Fridays.
About 20 yrs ago my wife and I bought two relatively inexpensive bikes and toured the western part of Cuba. Beautiful! We gave the bikes to two deserving (we hoped!) teenagers at the end of the trip. Great place to travel by bike. Glad that our political attitude toward Cuba has changed.
I would love to bike around CUba. Send me any information on future trips.
Yes, I’d love to ride through Cuba too. I wonder when the US Govt will close Guantanamo Bay and turn it into a tourist attraction a la Alcatraz…?
Three of us returned 4 March 2016 from four weeks in Cuba. Eugene was well represented. My Co-Motion and Lynda’s Bike Friday. We met another cyclist from Vancouver, BC, also on a Bike Friday, in the Pinar del Rio province.
I loved Cuba since I first went more than 20 years ago. I can imagine how great it would be to go with my 15 year old son and bike around. I will appreciate any helpful insight. Best.
We’re excited that you’re thinking about going! What kind of insight are you looking for? Traveling advice for Cuba? Thoughts on the best bike to take? You’re welcome to email Claudia and ask her anything about her experience, her email is at the end of the post. And, of course, if there is anything that we can help you with feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How does one et to Cuba via Mexico? I have no idea about how to get there . I have a Surly LHT and would like to take it with me. As you can probably tell I have very little experience in touring.
Check in with Claudia, she can give you the full scoop! Her email is at the end of the post. Enjoy your travels!
From what I understand, you are required to be a part of an organized educational or cultural group on order to visit. Those of you that have gone, what was your organization?
People have been going for years, via Mexico. Now, you can go via the U.S. if you do travel with an educational/cultural group which provides you with documentation. I am going with ibike in March. They do people-to-people tours.
I’m also very interested in touring Cuba, but have been waiting until I could go directly from the US (without having to go with a sponsored group), but now I’m thinking of waiting no longer and accessing it from Colombia where I hope to travel this Fall. I don’t want to haul a bike, so I’m wondering if it’s possible to purchase a half decent “cross-type” bike in Cuba and use it?
With a conventional type bike, can you transport on their buses?
Awesome! Not sure about buying bikes there… My experiences of Latin America is that the bikes there are cheap Chinese models. Nothing that you’d want to tour on. But I’ve never been to Cuba, maybe its different there? Feel free to email Claudia, her address is at the end of the post. And yes, you can transport a standard frame on the buses, but you’ll have to disassemble them, take the wheels off etc.
We currently own a tandem Santana Arriva but will be upgrading to a Santana Spiriit, which will be easier to travel with. Also just bought a tandem Bike Friday. Cycling in Cuba sounds really great. Would love to do something like that. We’re considering a trip south next winter (2017). Would love to meet up with other cyclists.