2016 Cuba: On the Cusp of Change
The popular question to ask about Cuba this year is, "Why go now?"
Most travelers implicitly know the answer. There is an urgency; people want to go to Cuba before it is "changed" due to the ease of American travel restrictions. How long can Cuba retain that "time capsule" feel, given the arrival of cruise ships, the Rolling Stones and President Obama? While it may feel like change is a tidal wave, it will be slow. Havana didn't fall into disrepair in a day, and likewise it will not be rebuilt overnight. But it will change, and it does feel urgent.
According to reuters.com, American tourism rose 77% last year. Many hotels are booked months in advance. But most Americans still aren't sure how to navigate a trip to Cuba. There is an ambiguous travel visa form to fill out (just check a box), and direct flights are still rare (fly out of Canada or through Mexico).
Still, the majority of travel is booked in the form of a guided tour or a package. Planning a trip DIY can seem overwhelming, given the lack of information regarding independent travel. But, things are quickly changing: casa particulars, or private homes, are now listed in detail on sites like Airbnb. Savvy travelers to Cuba can plan their own trips, book their own rooms and find their own restaurants. And the prices are too good to last.
We wanted to ride the front of the wave, and we planned an independent trip. Cuba is on the cusp of change, and during our 16 day stay, it felt like we were witnessing it happen in front of our very eyes.
We spent time in Havana, Vinales, Trinidad and Santiago, traveling the entire length of the island. Our stay coincided with the filming of an action-adventure Hollywood flick, Fashion Week on the runway, the first American-originated Cruise Ship and two major International Music Festivals. Indeed, it felt like THE moment to be in Cuba, while the eyes of the entire world watched.
I took three mirrorless cameras, eight lenses, ten 16 gig cards and left with nearly 5000 photos; here are about 400 of them... Check out the galleries below.
Jayme Wiseman, 2016