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Pre-purchase of tours

My husband and I are thinking of visiting Cuba again (for the second time) in July/August of this year.  This time to Varadero.  I notice that when I check pricing, some of the vacation carriers also offer tours to be purchased in advance of arriving in Cuba.  Are they cheaper to purchase in Canada, or in Cuba?  We are most interested in visiting Havana for a day and some other tours.  Please help.

I would suggest waiting until you to Cuba. You might save a bit and you might be able to customize your tour. Not to mention you can check the weather on the day you pick for your trip. I know there are several disgruntled customers who booked and paid in advance only to be disappointed to find out the tour they had booked was no longer offered; then trying to get their money back from the carrier when they got home was a nightmare. Do it when you get there and there will be no doubt; you might even run into fellow guests who would like to tag along and you can hire a driver and cab and get to see what you want for as long as you want without having to hurry back to the bus.

Thanks, sund0g! I was on that wavelength as well. Anyone else with information, please.

I usually buy tour on the day when I see that weather will be the way I like to walk in the city. The day that does not rain but at the same time is not too hot as I like to be able to walk and explore.

Maybe if you have prices that they you got offered by the vacation carriers other members of the forum can tell you if you would save or not by buying in advance. I personally would not purchase tour in advance for Cuba as once you are there you have more choices.

Fantastic idea! These are some we are interested in:

HAVANA SPECIAL
$160.00 per person
Discover Havana by day and by night. Everything starts with a drive to the Cuban capital of Havana for a tour of its famous landmarks. Founded by the Spanish in 1515, Havana is rich in history. Check out the harbour, guarded by the 16th Century El Morro Castle, see Revolution Square, dominated by monuments to National heroes of Cuba, Jose Marti and Che Guevara, and roam around the UNESCO-protected lanes of Old Havana. Here, candy-coloured colonial mansions, museums, and Baroque cathedrals hug cobbled streets and faded plazas. You will see some of the favourite haunts of writer Ernest Hemingway and have free time to bag a bargain or two at the street market. After dinner, sit down to the iconic show of Havana -the Tropicana- an extravagant outdoor cabaret since the 1930s. All sequins, salsa and feather head-dressed showgirls - it is quite a spectacle.

OR

HAVANA HISTORY AND RHYTHM
$120.00 per person

Discover Havana, the capital of Cuba and the Cabaret Tropicana. With its vintage American cars, wooden bars, and salsa music, Havana is one of the most intriguing cities in the world. Explore Old Havana - Habana Viega - with its narrow streets, Baroque churches, and cobbled plazas. This UNESCO-protected 500-year old quarter is a joy to explore. Your stroll around Old Havana will include visits to the Old Square, Arms Square, Cathedral Square, San Francisco de Asis Square, Ambos Mundos Hotel, and a visit to the famous restaurant La Bodeguita del Medio. Later, visit metropolitan and modern Havana to see interesting historical sites, such as the ancient presidential Palace, Central Square, a brief stop at Revolution Square, the University of Havana, the National Capitol, and the Floridita Bar - locally referred to as the Daiquiri cradle. Enjoy dinner at Rodney restaurant and enjoy the legendary Cabaret Tropicana Show. This salsa-fuelled cabaret provides an electrifying taste of the nightlife of Havana.

OR

HAVANA ONE DAY
$80.00 per person

If there is one must-see in Cuba, it is the capital of Havana, where old men chomp cigars in peeling doorways and where the honks of vintage Cadillacs mingle with salsa beats. On this trip, you will discover the best attractions in one day. After driving through scenic countryside, you will take a guided tour of the old and new districts of Havana. See the 16th Century El Morro Castle and harbour where gold-laden Spanish galleons docked on their way back from the New World. Next, wander the cobbled streets of Old Havana - Habana Vieja. This UNESCO World Heritage site is stacked with Baroque cathedrals, plazas, and museums. View the imposing buildings of the new district Revolution Square where the giant bronze face of Che Guevara looms over the square. You will also have time to explore on your own. Browse a market for souvenirs or head over to a selection of bars favoured by Ernest Hemingway to sip cocktails. An unforgettable day.

AND

JEEP SAFARI YUMURI
$90.00 per person

Enjoy a Jeep safari - an ideal way to get out, explore and see the real Cuba. Travelling where no car can go, your guide will take you deep into the province of Matanzas, rambling by sugar fields, sleepy villages, and over the hills of the breathtaking Yumuri Valley. Our first pit stop is Coral Beach, which has a beautiful bay. Wade into the waters to snorkel around the outlying reef and discover a mass of multicoloured corals, sponges, and fish. Then, a visit to the unique Saturno Cave. This hugh, flooded cavern is crowded with stalactites and stalagmites. Swim in the deep waters among the fish and rock formations - it is an amazing experience. Later, drive through the town of Matanzas, the provincial capital. With its pastel-coloured houses and colonial plazas, Mantanzas provides a sneek peek into the real Cuba. Next, you will travel off-road again through the Yumuri Valley and visit a ranch to be served a traditional Cuban lunch. Your day will be rounded off with a 30 minute boat trip through Canimar River, an ecological protected area which will delight you with its beauty and natural attractions.

AND

TRINIDAD CITY TOUR
$90.00 per person

Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Trinidad on one of the most eye-opening tours the Island has to offer. Trinidad, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, will give you an indelible taste of Cuban reality on this thought-provoking tour. Trinidad was founded in 1514 by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar under the name Villa De la Santisima Trinidad. It is one of the best preserved cities in the Caribbean from the time when the sugar trade was the main industry in the region. From Sugar Mills Valley to colonial squares and the impressive Towns church, Trinidad seems to be trapped in time with its cobbled streets and colourful architecture. Imagine what life was like for rich landowners 200 years ago.

I’m assuming that the excursions to Havana are not overnight. I hope that there is some time in there before dinner for you to go somewhere and shower as it will be pretty hot in Havana in July/August. After a day of walking around you might want to change your clothing.

I would definitely wait until you are in your hotel to pick the excursion that you want. Usually the rep at the hotel will go over all the tours with the incoming group the day after you arrive. At the orientation meeting you can ask questions about the logistics of the excursion and see if it is what you want to do.

Trinidad is a beautiful town, but I believe it’s quite a long drive from Varadero.

Well noted sssnakesalive! Thank you for your input.

I believe you are right that these excursions are not overnight!

First excursion HAVANA SPECIAL includes Tropicana night show so I assume it would be late at night. @sssnakesalive has a point if you walk all day than go at night to the show you should definitely feel better if you shower, rest and change your clothes as during the day it will be nice and hot and humind in the city. I believe that Tropicana show cost around $80 to $90 without tour so if you are for HAVANA SPECIAL package you know that price of $160 include ticket to the Tropicana show so I want to say that price of the tour is more likely around $80.

HAVANA HISTORY AND RHYTHM
$120.00 per person
Tour sounds like good price if ticket to the Tropicana show is included as ticket by itself is around $80 anyway which means you getting Havana tour for $40 which is good price in my opinion. (doesn’t include lunch but in Havana you can eat in many good places for less money than what they sell in the first tour)

we had our first trip to Havana this year. We were staying in Varadero and we were looking at staying two nights (for 30 cuc/night it is a good deal). We did book before we went (transfer and Casa) but the casa we wanted was only available for the one night, so just did an overnight. We did a self guided tour using the lonely planet guide, and http://www.7daysinparadise.com/smf/index.php?topic=6052.0
we left Varadero at 8 am and we were back in Varadero at 4 pm the next day. We booked the transfer and casa through http://www.cubaccommodation.com we could look at the casas and pick what we wanted, and also we could choose our drive times; the 2 way transfer totaled 170 cuc. It was a great trip and we were glad that we didn’t go on a tour. We got along very well with no Spanish.

Ditto hfxjohn. If you have some experience travelling independently (or you’re adventurous) and you do some research then it’s not difficult to do the trip on your own.

If that’s a little intimidating then there are some excellent guides who will handle everything and in my opinion that option is indescribably better than being part of the herd on a tour bus.

Cheers,
Terry

Pretty sure the Havana tour that includes the Tropicana is about a 20hr day. You leave the resort around 8am, and would get back somewhere around 3 or 4 am. The Tropicana show runs till about midnite or shortly thereafter, then the ride back to the resort.

At least that was the case the last time I looked into it.

Wow! A lot to think about!!! Thank you everyone. I think we will book when we get there, considering the weather and other guests at the resort, who may be interested in sharing the ride to Havana, etc. Also, may consider staying a night or two in Havana, so that we will have a base camp to stay, in case we need to shower, etc.

If you do leave the Varadero resort for a day or two to stay in Havana, tell the resort front desk so that you aren’t reported missing.

There were two Havana/Tropicana tours available when I did it, one that left at 8 am and one that left at 11 am. We opted for the 11 am departure. Do either bring a lunch or be prepared to buy one at the pee/pina colada stop along the way, as you don’t really get a chance to eat until the nightclub! We were supposed to have a “room” to change in between the tour and Tropicana, but we were basically stuck with the ladies’ room at Rodney’s (restaurant at Tropicana). It worked, but wasn’t great.

I’d love one of the GOOD seats at Tropicana, where you actually face the stage. The ones included with the tour are along the side, so your head is turned for the whole time, and if you’re not right by the railing, you have people in the way.

given what you have described in #15, I’m glad we didn’t go for the organized tour; we got to decide what we wanted to do and when we wanted to do it. Worked best for us.

^^Eh, it wasn’t that bad. It was a good “first” trip to Havana. I now know I have no need to visit the flea market or memorial again! I enjoyed Tropicana, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, good seats or bad. I also liked the Hotel Nacional–I’d love to stay there for a night or two someday.

My first time to Havana was with an organized tour from the Breezes Jibacoa hotel. Immediately upon arrival I knew that I had to return and see it my own way, at my own pace.

I returned about six months later and stayed Santa Maria del Mar and went into Havana every day with the free shuttle. It was so nice just to be able to stop and linger any where I wanted.

I rather enjoyed watching the tour buses arrive while sitting having a beer somewhere and seeing them be mobbed by all kinds of hustlers.

Yeah, its a one and done thing for me for Havana…been there, done that.

I would go back at some point if travelling with others who hadn’t been there, but i enjoyed my first visit and was happy with what I did and saw. So many others places and parts of Cuba to visit.

But yes, I would not book any excurions untill at the resort. Between weather, plans, people travelling with or meet at the resort, would be best to book once actually there I think.