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The Rough Guide to Cuba Paperback – 1 Nov 2013
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While it isn't particularly bad, there are a few issues:
The maps of Havana are worse and smaller than in the previous (2005) edition of the guide, and there's no map of the area between Centro Habana and Vedado - you have to flick between two maps and there are no street names on the overlapping area. We ended up carrying the DK Eyewitness travel guide for Cuba just to have a half-decent map.
The writer(s) seemed to get bored of Cuba and there's a thread of cynicism and sarcasm that, while generating a smile at first, does become very tedious as it threads throughout the whole book.
Also, there are no bus timetables included.
This being said it is the most thorough guide book for Cuba, and is awash with listings.
As has been mentionned by another reviewer, the authors often have a slightly cynicical view of Cuban facilities and destinations, and upon reading it before we went it made me wonder if the place was going to be pretty awful, as usually Rungh Guides are so enthusiastic. Now I've visited the country, I would give the exact same advice as the authors - and I loved the place.
I think that rather than falling into the typical trap of being so enthusiastic about everything that the reader doesn't know which are the best places to visit and panics that they can't see it all, these authors are very genuine about which museums etc are a waste of time and which are worth seeing. I found that if the author said something was good we also found it was worth seeing. In regard of any of the other negatives they talk about, I think you need to be aware that Cuba is not some glossy holiday resort - it is a very poor country where people do not have the same attitudes as we do, so you will be very disappointed if you aren't aware of this before you go.
I think this is the reason for the lack of timetables for buses and trains - as everything runs on "Cuban time" I think it would be pointless to publish one, as we were told that buses could come "30 minutes either way of when they're meant to"... basically you have to go to a bus stop and one will turn up within an hour or so!
The part I found most informative (both before my trip and for consulting during our holiday) was the history section at the back. I didn't really understand the ins-and-outs of the revolution before I read this, but due to the information in this book I could understand why things were as they were around Havana and could have respectful conversations with the Cuban people we met.
I would really reccomend this book to anyone who plans to do any exploration of Cuba, even if you are on a package holiday - thankfully this book is not like many others who look down on you if you're not traveling round on the back of a horse and cart!
The most useful recommendation was a lovely woman who owned a Casa Particular in Centro Habana. She was full when we arrived so got her son in law to put us up. It was right in the middle of "real" Havana and I happily spent time just being part of life there. Her recommendations kept coming, with CP to stay in Trinidad and Santiago - both of which were the most beautiful colonial houses and owned by the loveliest people.
Places to eat were spot on, especially if you learn to love the ubiquitous "delicious black beans". Things change so fast in Cuba that sometimes we found some things had moved on or ceased to exist - like a salsa dance studio - but some chat with the local Cubans soon found an alternative place or experience. In short, the book was a great guide, starting point and crutch, the rest of Cuba soon unfolds through the people...
On my recent trip I found this book invaluable. When planning my trip it provided excellent overviews of each region to help me and my friends plan our 3 week stay, but when we arrived into Cuba the book came into its own and really helped us get the most out of this holiday. The restaurant recommendations were faultless and really helped us negotiate the best tasting and value places to eat. We also took the advice on staying in Cuban homes during our stay which enabled us to really get in touch with the Cuban culture and people, who all proved to be ultra friendly and helpful families - the best of which was in Havana at Casa de Miriam y Sinai.
There was so much to see that I could have missed out on some real gems if I had not read the book, especially the Havana section. There were also some nice touches, with snip bits of info on the history of Cuba which helped me to appreciate how interesting the country really is.
Brilliant book, well written, with exhaustive information to assist anyone making the trip over to Cuba.
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