I was arriving in Havana 3 days prior to the start of my group tour in the country and started to freak out a little about what exactly I was going to do with myself for 3 days in Havana alone. I wanted to see everything and had no idea how I would do that. I would also be solo and I was growing concerned.
I thought I could catch a tour, but nothing I found was interesting to me. I wanted to learn about the Cuban Revolution, see Batista’s palace and check out the Hotel Nacional. All the Havana day tours I could find were for car tours and to look at Cuban artwork or do dancing lessons. All of those things sounded great too, but I would be beside myself if I didn’t get down with the revolution while I was in Havana.
Eventually, I found Strawberry Tours. Strawberry Tours does free tours daily in Havana, but since I would be there on Christmas Day I wasn’t sure they would be running and they certainly were not going to fill my whole itinerary.
This tour company was different because they offer private tours and have an a la carte menu so you can pick your own itinerary based on what you would like to see. Honestly, this wasn’t a part of my planned trip and it seemed like it would be expensive so I looked for other options before I contacted Strawberry Tours. However, I could not find any other existing tour company or itinerary that would have fully covered Havana the way I wanted. So I contacted Strawberry Tours and told them what I was looking for.
I had a very nice email correspondence with Christopher, who answered my questions and gave me the pricing. I thought that the pricing for the private guided tour was extremely reasonable considering I was going to have my own personal tour guide all to myself for two whole days. Even though it was outside of my budget and an unplanned expense, I went ahead and paid the deposit because I was apprehensive about trying to figure out Havana all alone on Christmas Day.
The day of the tour, my guide Judy was right on time and had my itinerary all lined up for me. She spoke wonderful English and her plan was perfectly organized! Since it was just the two of us, we could spend as much or as little time as I wanted in each place we visited and I could ask as many questions as I wanted. Judy was also able to customize the tour based on what she learned from me and make suggestions based on the itinerary stops I enjoyed. I saw so much with her that I would have never managed to see on my own.
The cemetery was on my itinerary and she was even able to pull some strings so the man who works in the cemetery showed us the tunnels where they keep bones stored once they’re re-claimed from the graves. I wasn’t that into the Buena Vista Social Club, so she took me to a different club that was more age appropriate. She also served as my photographer so I got a bunch of bomb photos of me in front of all the cool stuff I got to see in Havana!
Judy became a friend to me in those two days. That is exactly the experience I remember from that tour: It was like I rented a Cuban friend to show me around Havana for those days. Even if I had not stayed in touch with Judy, she was still the best tour guide ever. Had we not gotten along so well, the tour would have still been planned meticulously and been exactly what I had requested. The fact that I made a friend was a happy coincidence.
By the time I started my real group tour of Cuba I had already seen everything in Havana. Although Strawberry Tours was a last minute decision and a pretty big expense in my travel budget, I don’t think I had one other experience on my entire trip that compared to my days touring Havana with Judy. It’s the best tour I took while I was in Cuba and it was worth every penny I paid for it.
Without Judy I wouldn’t have seen everything I was able to see in Havana so I highly recommend Strawberry Tours if you’re traveling solo or even in a small group. Particularly if you are looking to see a lot of specific things in a short period of time. The expense is not much more than a regular group tour, but you will get so much more out of it.
Also, special thanks to Judy for spending Christmas with me this year.
There’s no bar in this airport terminal so I’m already enraged.
— Viva La Crap! (@vivalacrap) December 24, 2019