BootsnAll Travel Network

Trip Costs & Objectives met

central-america-2008-349.jpgMy 6 month trip with the objectives of a) evaluating possible locations to retire in Central America, b) discover Cuba, c) a trial run for my RTW in Sept (now depending on the strength of the Loonie to real currency) can be called a success after 4 months & a bit.

As any one who has been following my blog can see the value of a loose itinerary, a set start date plus a general outline of where & when but nothing set in stone. This let me visit Caye Caulker which wasn’t on list but turned out to be one of the high-lites of the trip. Also Antigua wasn’t on at the start either but is where I am posting from while I test full time living here.

Costa Rica which was big on my list at the start is now at the bottom after spending only 2 days there instead of the planned 3 weeks, while Panama also high on the list remains a close second, technically should be first but Antigua Guatemala has a certain mystic that draws me here & the longer I stay the more I like it.

Actually all of Mexico & Central America are extremely interesting & one could make a home most any where outside of the capitol cities which are not nice places with the exception of Panama City which is great except for a small rough section while the others have a small good section & the rest NOT nice. In fact Panama City is the only city I have been in (Canada & US included) that I would even remotely consider living in. From reports from other travellers I can’t wait to explore South America but that will have to wait until after my RTW.

Cuba turned out to be a disappointment mainly because of  the Yuma ATM syndrome prevalent in any populated area, the poor customer service at Viasul the absolute worst bus-line outside Canada & the US which are the worst examples of public transportation. The feeding time at the zoo syndrome with the jinteros every time the Viasul pulls in is absolutely ridiculous, would be nice to leave the terminal without having to force your way through a bunch of idiots touting CP’s & taxi’s, absolutely disgusting. Add the hassle to the high cost of independent travel due to gov’t taxes on CP’s + the CUC being married to the inflated US$. Unless anyone is going AI where you get a weeks lodging with all the food & booze you can pig out on for less than the price of airfare I wouldn’t recommend going.

Rant over where was I? OK a) place to live, Antigua b) explore Cuba, done c) trial run, planning was right, leave lots of flexibility, packing list; was pretty much right on thanks to the posters on bootsnall basicall only 2 things I would change (actually have) 1) Bubba mug took up too much room & being plastic held odors from different drinks, forgot it at a casa some where, no loss 2) should have started off with note book computer as WIFI every where (exception Cuba of course) but then again maybe a good thing as had a chance to observe what other travelers were using & purchase what best suited my needs. Now all set for RTW.

Trip: traveled 6500+ km on buses in Mexico & CA

        Oct-Dec  72 days   Budgeted US $60.00/day   Spent $48.00  all expenses excluding air fare

New years at Hotel Nacional 3 days including food, drinks & airfare from Panama City US$ 1050   splurged for the special occasion & don’t regret it.

Cuba:  23 hrs on Viasul buses +8 hrs on Transtur Vinales-Trinidad

          51 days   budgeted  $50.00 Canadian/day   cost 57 CUC/day     note $100 Cad gave 73 CUC at start    70 at end  or 80 CUC/$100 us

       Cuba    US$68+/day approx   compared to US$48/day in CA

                                 Save Your Money stay in the Americas

2 months in Antigua looks like around US$35/day + $10/day Spanish lessons


11 responses to “Trip Costs & Objectives met”

  1. Oncearound says:

    As intriguing to me as the whole cp opportunities sound, I think I’ll stick to the AIs in Cuba. You’ve really put a different spin on it than what I’ve been reading on the forums. I guess it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a vacation – beach, sun and no work or hassles sounds good to me.
    Happy trails

  2. bellagio says:


    Dave is actually saying it as it is, and as I said on my post on his last blog I am agreeing with him more and more about Cuba.

    I don’t blame anyone for sticking to the all inclusive route. If I had an English wife, there’s no way would I be staying in casa particulars for a variety of reasons, the food, lack of comfort, etc. Particularly now that the CUC is so strong against Sterling and the Cdn dollar the CP route is expensive. Not only that but Cuba is not a cheap destination as prices of food in the shops is very high.

  3. Dave says:

    Cuba is fine going AI where you get a week to pig out & drink all you want for LESS than an independent traveller pays for air fare. Manfredz has the right idea the way he goes & you can stand the BS for a few days.

    On the bus rides we stopped at a few out of the way resorts (not beach) that seemed really nice but to stay at them would cost a fortune as you would need a rental car or some sort of excursion deal & as they are not AI you are looking at the full airfare.

    Also I didn.t go for a holiday I went as a traveller to discover the “real Cuba” & I did & it came up short!

  4. bellagio says:

    I used to dream it would be nice to retire in Cuba but 29 visits and 15 of them staying in a casa particular have taught me a lesson that you would be crazy to consider living there, particularly in a town like Banes.

    Despite a population of 50,000 the water supply is only turned on twice a month so if your well runs dry you have to pay 60 CUP to have a tanker come and fill it. Internet connections, apart from doctors and the like, are actually forbidden in Banes. Even with money in my pocket many things are just not available to buy in the shops. Even the two convertible peso restaurants in the town rarely have everything available that’s on the menu, frequently being without eggs or french fries.

    Strickly speaking, as a tourist, you are not permitted to ride in a Bi-Ci taxi or a Coche as they are not licenced to carry tourists. There is a always a heavy police presence in the town and trust me your every move is watched.

    Last but one visit I was given an official written warning by the Immigration Officer for taking photographs of houses without roofs in the town. All he would say was ‘It isn’t permittted’. Heck I had taken 7 photos that day in the main road leading into the town. Woulkd you want to live somewhere where your every move was being watched?

  5. Dave says:

    I had considered retireing in Cuba also but no more, things are not perfect in Guatemala (or Canada) but it doesn’t snow in Antigua & rure has Cuba beat by a country mile

  6. Oncearound says:

    yep, bellagio, I believe Dave is a straight shooter and is telling it like it is. I like Cuban vacations, but also Aruba, Barbados, DR, Hawaii… This different and unique side of Cuban travel (cp) had peaked my interest up until now. I must say my recent trip to Varadero/Havana has uncovered an aspect of tourism in Cuba that I hadn’t seen until then, and Dave’s observations have confirmed. Think I’ll stick to AIs in the cayos or areas that haven’t been ravaged by hurricanes. Call me selfish, but it’s my cash and my vacation.
    Happy trails,

  7. Dave says:

    Spot on (as the Brits say) Once & rightly so because there would be one super crowded location if everyone was looking for the same thing.

  8. bellagio says:


    I think that’s a wise decision. Also with the currency exchange so awful a cp stay is quite expensive. Food and drink in Cuba is certainly not cheap as I know only too well.

  9. Radster says:

    I haven’t posted any comments on here yet, but I guess it is about time. Busman, I have been following your blog for months and I quite enjoyed it, so big props for telling us how it really is down there and for keeping up with your posts. This was a nice short escape from work duties here at the office.

    I have been to Cuba 9 times now, always AI, but I have stayed one night in a CP in Havana (which was a great experience btw), I have ventured outside of the resorts many times to visit the towns on my own and via excursions, I have visited homes of Cubans who work at the resorts, I have had many conversations with Cuban off resort (I am quite fluent in Spanish) and I must say that I agree with many of your comments, even though some seem to contradict my experiences (ie. the asking for money all the time, but I chalk that up under “its because I speak Spanish” category), Overall busman, you saw and experienced a hell of a lot more than I ever did in Cuba (as I was always dependant on the organized AI thing), so I take your word for what you have stated in here.

    I am happy too, because I always wanted to do what you did, and discover Cuba on my own, and now I think this might change, as I have a bunch of other places in the world that I would rather see. Thanks to you Cuba is now lower on my “to-see” list. But I will continue going there for AI vacations whenever I have a free week and some $ to spare. I am presently in my “Asia” phase, I just love Asia, and I am going there again in 2010 for a 6 weeks so I can’t wait. I remember reading in one of your blog entries that some backpackers you met recommended Thailand to you. Well, I would like to second that advice. I have been there and from what I read about Central America in your entries, the Thailand experience would definitely suit your needs and likes as there are many similarities to Central America. South America is interesting too, but IMO more rough than Asia, and yuo have to beware of the big cities (like in Central America) and don’t be surprised to see similar experiences to Cuba (loads of ppl asking for $, I with my fluent Spanish even had a hard time at times).

    You have motivated me to go to Central America, I am intrigued with Antigua after reading your entries, so I might plan an escapade there shortly.

    So thanks again busman, and good luck with your next steps.

    Lastly, I want to comment on bellagio’s statement:

    “Strickly speaking, as a tourist, you are not permitted to ride in a Bi-Ci taxi or a Coche as they are not licenced to carry tourists. There is a always a heavy police presence in the town and trust me your every move is watched.”

    AFAIK, last April when in Havana, we were informed that riding a BI-CI taxi or Coche is now permitted for tourists. We were even given a ride in a vintage 60s conertible coche around Havana, legally. I even read an online news article a few months ago which confirmed this change in law. So this aspect has improved.
    As for police presence, I don`t mind it at all. But maybe because I am used to seeing this in many other countries I visitied as well where it was much more sketchy than in Cuba.

  10. Dave says:

    Radster thanks for the kind words on my blog, I agree that had I been able to converse in Spanish with more than 3 word sentences I might have met more Cubans in the small towns like the ones in Baracoa who took the time to have a limited conversation with me & didn’t ask for money but it seems that the ones that know some English want to be compensated for learning it.
    Thanks for confirming about Thailand.
    Yes Central America is worth investigating as we in North America haven’t been given all the facts by the media & Antigua is really a special town.

  11. bellagio says:


    You may well be right about the BiCi taxis. It was just that voyhavana told me that Manfredz had to get permission to ride on one in Havana a year or so back as they were not licensed to carry tourists.