This is a post by guest writer Amo Tango.
Sand, beach, heat…sounds like the main ingredients of a well-deserved vacation. Most would think that a vacation in ‘paradise’ would cost an arm and leg, but nowadays, flying is second nature in our society. With globalization and international business affairs everywhere in the world, flying is just another means to get from one destination to the next. Because there is more and more demand for flights, there are more and more companies that are being opened; many of these companies are privately-owned, which offer low-cost maintenance and thus low prices for clients.
Vacationing in Cuba
I have recently had the chance to take a week off from work to go on a frugal all- inclusive vacation to Cayo Coco, Cuba with Sunwing vacations. This vacation was well deserved; after nearly a year of being cooped up in an office with barely any sun exposure, this was exactly what I needed. What is so great about these types of vacation is that everything is organized for you; all you have to do is register online for the resort that you want, and then show up at the check-in with your passport on departure day. No need to search for a hotel, nor food, nor entertainment, nor transportation. An all-inclusive vacation in Cuba is wonderful if you are looking to just relax on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and to get a nice tan.
I am not saying that every vacation should be like this though; I am the type of person who would prefer to see/visit new places, try new foods and move around a foreign place to explore. Sometimes, though, you just want to do nothing but lie on the beach that is located only 2 minutes away from your hotel room and to have everything right in your surroundings without having to travel far. The best part is being able to have a drink at any time, since Cuba, since there is a bar at every corner of the resort, serving Mojitos, Daiquiris, Pina Coladas…or simply water. The buffet is scheduled, so there are moments in the day where you will not be able to eat all that you can, however, there is a 24/7 snack bar open near the pool with hot dogs, fries, sandwiches made upon request.
Tipping is optional, but much appreciated. Cubans are very happy to receive some sort of compensation for their services, whether it is at the bar, the restaurants, the reception, the garden, your room or at the pool. Personally, I will not tip every single time a Cuban does something for me, but I will exchange a decent amount of money at the end of the trip and tip those that gave me an exceptional service; this encourages them to work harder and to not just expect something extra just by doing their job. Another way to encourage them is to bring small items from back home, which are hard to get in Cuba; such as everyday products, school supplies, items of clothing, or anything else that you might find interesting. I had brought crayons, make-up, toys and other small products from home. I made little packets to leave for the maid everyday, and I gave packets to the gardener that spoke no English at all, but that had made me a hat out of palm tree leaves decorated with a leaf origami bird. It was amazing, such talent, making something so useful out of nothing.
A lot of people think that Cubans are so poor and are always looking for a way out; but from what I saw (albeit I only met Cubans working at the resort; apparently the richest among the rest of the Cubans) they seemed very happy and content that they even had a job. Also, since they’d never been out of the country, they have nothing to compare their lives to. Even if they live in a society where everyone is equal in material possessions, they also have the opportunity to get education and medical care practically for free, which is not so bad. They have all their basic needs and can live life very well. Of course, I don’t know enough to confirm this, but from the Cubans I met, this is the feeling I got.
A frugal vacation in paradise
I got back after a week of sun with a very nice tan and in a very relaxed state. My satisfaction level of the vacation was very high and I will probably go back eventually. Now you must be wondering how much all this really cost, well, it wasn’t a $100 holiday, but with taxes, everything cost about 725$ Canadian (with a whole day Catamaran trip for snorkeling at 2 amazing coral reefs). Since I have taken several vacations in my life, I know that this is a very good deal for the flight, 7 night’s accommodation at a 4 star hotel (maybe a 3 star in our terms), food and entertainment. Of course, I couldn’t help but buy some Cuban cigars at the duty free, and some small souvenirs which did increase the amount I paid, but this was because I am someone who gets sucked into buying souvenirs.
Overall, the flight was short (about 3.5 hours), well serviced with a welcome glass of champagne, a meal (that was not very good, but edible), snacks/drinks and a chocolate mint at the end. A shuttle bus was waiting for us once our flight landed. The hotel room I stayed in (at the Blue Bay Resort) was very clean and spacious. We were two in the room, each with a large twin size bed. We also had a living room type area and a balcony with patio furniture. Upon our arrival, we were given a large bottle of water, a large bottle of rum, 2 cans of pop and beach towels (which had to be returned at the end to avoid a fee of 20 CUC).
For what we paid, both my friend and I were extremely pleased and the beach was to die for. Even if everything else was horrible (which it was not; it was great!), the beach would have made it all worth it.
So if you are looking to take a vacation that does not require any planning or a hefty load on your wallet, take a week or two off and head to Cuba; there are many resorts both on the mainland and on the islets surrounding them, such as Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo or Cayo Guillermo. You just need to read up on the reviews and see if it is suitable to your needs, but I would say to consider something that is 4 stars and up to be comfortable.
Even though the time I went (beginning of September) was part of the wet season (low season for travelers), we did not hit any horrible weather. It only rained a couple of times the whole week we were there, and it did not really affect any of our beach time, so unless there is a category 5 hurricane hitting Cuba, pack up and go! The prices are even lower later on in the month and in November, however, in December, high season starts and the prices will easily double for the same thing.
So, what is your idea of a frugal vacation in paradise? I look forward to reading about it in the comments!