If you want to experience the physicality of rugby firsthand then I suggest you arrive in Trinidad, Cuba, by bus. The cackle, scrum and maul of casa owners waiting for the bus was extraordinary and possibly the most amusing incident of backpacking in Cuba. It was a hectic start to what was a peaceful part of the country.
I travelled to Trinidad from Cienfuegos on my tour of Cuba.
CENTRAL TRINIDAD: WHAT TO SEE
But the word I most associate with Trinidad is quaint. The majority of the buildings date back to the sugar plantation days of the 19th Century and have been preserved to a tee. The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightfully so. The cobblestone streets add to the charm. They also reduce the noise levels as motorised vehicles, with the exception of mopeds, are unable to access the centre of the town.
Aggressive taxi jinteros, the bane of my visit to Cuba, were thankfully absent although they waited like vultures on nearby tarmac streets.
The town’s bars and restaurants were excellent, and bus station staff were friendly and efficient. In fact, the bus station was the only one in Cuba I could pre-book a ticket from. The town has a large number of art galleries and craft outlets. None of the sellers were pushy, making the shopping experience a pleasant one.
The only downside of Trinidad was the trip to and from Playa Ancon. The shuttle bus from the Cubatur office was broken down (because it probably doesn’t exist in the first place) but there were plenty of taxis waiting outside (how convenient).
Refusing to go along with this rip-off mentality I got a taxi from outside the Iberostar Grand Hotel. The driver didn’t stick to the original price agreed and, from what I could understand, threatened me if I didn’t pay. I threw the original sum agreed on the seat and got out of the car as quick as I could.
This and other instances I experienced/witnessed convinced me that the safety of solo female travellers backpacking in Cuba is a concern. Other solo female travellers I met felt the same.
Was Playa Ancon worth the hassle? It’s a nice beach but it isn’t paradise. It has good facilities and a choice of water-sports on offer, along with the trappings of beachside hotels. Rancho Luna near Cienfuegos was equally good.
IS TRINIDAD WORTH VISITING?
In short, yes. Trinidad was not on my initial Cuba travel itinerary. In her book, The Island that Dared, Dervla Murphy considered it too touristy.
But the feedback from so many travellers I met couldn’t be ignored and thankfully convinced me to change course. So yes, if you are considering backpacking in Cuba at all then Trinidad has to be on your itinerary.
So my first piece of advice? Give yourself at least two nights there. And my final bit of advice? Prepare to play a contact sport upon arrival!