Can I bring my own bike instead of renting?
Because traveling with a bike can be cumbersome and expensive (most airlines charge anywhere from $150-$200 for a bike), we find that most riders prefer to rent one of ours. However, we completely understand the desire to ride your own bike so if you decide to do that, let us know in the booking notes and we’ll deduct $200 from the total price.
How often do we make stops while riding?
We usually make group stops every 12-15 miles depending on the terrain. Entering and leaving busy towns/cities, we ride together as a group before letting everyone go at their own speed.
What should I bring?
You’ll receive a detailed packing list for your trip but generally speaking, here’s what you need:
- Tops x 3-4: These can be cycling jerseys or just lightweight (preferably synthetic) shirts. Regardless, something you’re comfortable sweating in.
- Cycling Shorts x 2-3: Let there be lycra! A nice pair of spandex with a padded chamois goes a long way in terms of comfort but you can also opt for more casual shorts that have a built-in padding liner as well.
- Gloves: These are more of an optional piece but recommended in order to keep a good grip on the handlebars. They also help protect your hands in case you fall. Fingerless gloves are better unless you’re doing a trip with cold weather.
- Helmet: Because there are so many sizes/styles, it’s impossible for us to accommodate everyone so please know that you are expected to bring your own. Check beforehand for any damage/small cracks and replace if needed.
- Water Bottles x 2: Standard 12-16oz bottles work best. Alternatively, hydration packs such as a Camelbak work really well too.
- Personal Toiletries/Meds: Since it can be difficult to find the same brands/types of personal care products in Latin America, we recommend bringing your own. This includes over the counter medications as well as prescription drugs.
- [Optional] Cycling Shoes: If you ride shoes with a clip-in system, please remember to bring your pedals as well. Otherwise, breathable tennis shoes work just fine. Some brands also make sandals that are compatible with clip-in systems which can be good for the heat. Note: we recommend SPD cleats (as opposed to traditional road cleats) since most days include quite a bit of walking in between rides.
- [Optional] Saddle: If you have a bike saddle you prefer using, feel free to bring it along.
- [Optional] Chamois Cream: It can be a good idea to bring some chamois cream which you can get at most cycling stores or online. It helps to reduce friction in your bike shorts and prevent saddle sores.
- [Optional] Removable Sleeves: We’ve found that having some removable sleeves can be a great way to protect yourself from the sun without constantly having to cover your arms with sunscreen.
Do I need to train? What level of fitness are we talking here?
You definitely don’t need to be a professional athlete to do one of our trips, but you do need to be comfortable cycling 2-4 hours per riding day. So if you can manage 4-8 hours of cycling per week for a month leading up to your trip you should be fine. Your sit muscles (yep, there are muscles under there) tend to dictate how much you enjoy the trip, so we emphasize time in the saddle rather than distance. Spin classes most definitely count.
Although they still have a good time, we find that people who come with no prior conditioning tend to regret not having done anything prior to their trip.
What types of people do these trips?
Revolución trips tend to attract active travelers who want to experience a country in a unique and more intimate way. Most of our riders are either retired/semi-retired (45-60 years old) or younger working professionals (28-38 years old). Regardless of age, they’re curious about the places they travel to and embrace the adventure. We get everything from families to solo riders as well as couples and friend groups.
The mimimim suggested age is 18.
What if I’m slower than everyone else? What if I’m faster?
With years of experience guiding cycling trips, we manage to accommodate a wide range of speeds. Typically we have one guide at the front, one at the back, and the support vehicle floats in between.
So if you want to go out and ride hard, great. We’ll hop in a pace line with you. Otherwise, feel free to take pictures and ride at your own speed. We always try to create a supportive, team atmosphere; so if you get to the top of a climb before others, why not cheer everyone else on?
We make regular group stops roughly every 12-15 miles to hydrate, grab some snacks, and offer fresh fruit. It is tropical Latin America, after all.
What will I take with me while I’m riding?
The beauty of the support vehicle (in addition to giving you a ride if you had too many mojitos the night before) is that you can leave most of your belongings inside. With group stops roughly every 15 miles, you can grab anything you need during the day.
Most people prefer to ride with a small tube of sunscreen, a camera/phone, and their water bottles.
Can I bring my own bike saddle, pedals, etc.?
Absolutely. In fact, we encourage bringing your own accessories so that you can make the rental bike feel as much as possible like your own.
If you’re planning on bringing your own pedals and cycling shoes, we recommend shoes with a non-road cleat (e.g. SPD style) simply because there is a lot of walking around on most trips.
What if I get lost or miss a turn?
Before every ride your guide will take you through a briefing of the ride so you know what to expect. By having a team of guides and a support vehicle it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get lost or miss a turn since someone is almost always there there to signal and if not, it will be marked. Just in case, you’ll be provided with the trip leader’s local number.
Will my dietary restrictions/preferences be an issue?
We understand the importance of eating well while traveling, but especially during a cycling trip which is why we do everything we can to make sure that your dietary preferences are met. However, we find that it helps to come prepared with any of your own preferred supplements as well as being extra flexible. That being said, if we can reasonably get you what you need, we’ll happily do it.
What’s the food like?
Throughout most of Latin America, the local diet consists of rice, beans, plantains, tortillas, simple soups, and some form of meat. Fresh, tropical fruit is always available and we usually manage to find good, healthy produce as well. While we typically eat local food, we definitely take advantage of places with more international food options.
Delicious coffee is everywhere, as are tasty rum cocktails. But nothing ends the day better than an ice-cold beer, which are cheap and plentiful.
What can I expect for accommodations?
We love taking groups to smaller, locally-owned lodges and B&Bs whenever possible but you’ll always have a clean, comfortable bed to sleep in regardless of where we stay. Everything from classic colonial hotels to solar-powered lodges in the cloud forest.
All trips are booked as double occupancy, which means that there are two beds per room (unless otherwise specified for couples). As a solo travelers you will share a room with someone of the same sex. If you want your own individual room, you can opt for a single supplement which is an additional charge that varies depending on the trip.
What makes Revolución different?
We pride ourselves on crafting unique, dynamic travel experiences. While most big companies look at a map and simply connect the typical highlights, we literally load up our bikes and go on self-supported scouting tours as a way of designing itineraries. If we don’t have a strong personal connection to a trip, how could we expect you to?
As a result, we love introducing groups to our networks of local artists, musicians, and other interesting people along the way. Once you experience traveling by bike, we’re sure you’ll see why we love it so much.
So what’s the deal with this “People to People” thing?
As a part of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuban governments, the OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) created 12 different categories of travel that allow Americans to legally visit Cuba. The one we’ll be operating under is known as a People to People license, which no longer requires an application process – this was one of the biggest changes. So long as your trip features an itinerary clearly dedicated to promoting cultural interaction with locals (not just hanging around the beach drinking mojitos), and you travel with government-approved operators (which we do exclusively), you’re good to go. In our case, we introduce you to locals in our network who share their stories as photographers, musicians, artists, etc. Travel for the sole purpose of touristic activities remains prohibited.
For more detailed information, feel free to look at the U.S. Department of the Treasury document that outlines OFAC guidelines.
While it has indeed made things a bit more challenging logistically, we’re totally on board with this concept as a tour operator and have incorporated some really interesting and dynamic activities to meet these requirements.
Do I need a special visa? What about insurance?
Included in the price of your flight is a 30-day visa, which doesn’t require any kind of additional application. Most airlines include this is a part of the flight cost but be sure to double check. They usually handle this as a part of their booking process (it’s not something we manage).
As for travel insurance, please check with your provider to make sure that your current policy (or a separately purchased policy through companies like Allianz or Travelex) covers A) travel to Cuba and B) activities such as cycling. Regardless, we highly recommend purchasing cancellation insurance as a part of your domestic flight to protect yourself from any timing issues with connecting flights.
As of 1st May 2010 it is a legal requirement that all foreigners entering Cuba have valid travel insurance including full medical cover for the entire duration of your stay. You may be asked for this document upon arrival in Havana so make sure you have a printed copy to show at immigration in Havana. If you do not have full medical cover as part of your travel insurance you will be required to purchase this from Asistur S.A., a local government owned company that provides insurance that helps tourists in need of assistance, for about 3 – 4 CUC per person per day.
What do I need to know about money/budgeting? What about the dual currency system?
Some banks do allow American citizens to withdraw funds from Cuban ATMs, but not all. It’s definitely worth checking with your local bank about their policies before traveling but regardless, it’s always a good idea to let them know you’ll be abroad so they don’t restrict access to your account.
That being said, ATMs throughout Cuba are VERY limited and bringing sufficient cash will make paying for things much easier, especially since many places don’t take credit/debit cards anyway. On that note, U.S. dollars are not accepted in Cuba and subject to a steep 13% conversion tax which means that BEFORE you arrive you’ll want to exchange your USD for either Canadian dollars or Euros, which are subject to a 4-5% lower exchange rate to the local currency.
Although somewhat confusing at first, there are two currencies in Cuba. Locals rely primarily on the government-provided national peso while tourists exclusively use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), which typically hovers right around a 1:1 conversion rate with the U.S. dollar. We recommend that you bring roughly $75-90 of cash per day, which is almost always way more than enough. But having extra cash in Cuba is never a bad idea.
Here are some typical costs to consider:
Cocktails: 3-6 CUC
Meals at Paladares (restaurants) in Havana: 15-35 CUC
Wine (usually imported from Chile): 30-50 CUC/bottle
Taxis around town: 1.5 CUC per mile, usually around 5-12 CUC
Beer: 2-3 CUC
What is it like staying in the casas particulares (private homes)?
For years now, Cuban families have been opening their homes to travelers since national hotels can be limited in capacity and quality. Through our network of contacts, we’ve selected the best of the best in the areas we visit, offering you the unique opportunity to see what Cuban life is all about. Most families have two to three rooms, usually with private bathrooms, which are often significantly nicer than nearby hotels. Did we mention the home-cooked meals? Yeah, they’re delicious. Given how many people use this network to travel through Cuba, most houses are run very professionally: hosts will take you to your room, show you where the bathroom is, give you a key, and respect your privacy. If you want to engage, hosts are typically excited to interact but otherwise, you can expect that they’ll leave you alone. Most hosts speak at least a little bit of English but we’ll brief you on what to expect and how to feel comfortable so you can take advantage of the experience.
For this trip, we use a mix of hotels/lodges as well as private homes.
What’s the WI-FI situation like?
Simply put, there isn’t much of a wi-fi situation. A part of what makes traveling to Cuba so special is that it forces visitors to leave their phones, computers, and tablets tucked away and truly embrace the idea of being unplugged. If you accept this early on, you’ll fall in love with how it feels to immerse yourself in the experience without technology. That being said, tourists have full uncensored access to the internet, with facilities available in some hotel lobbies or business centers, available at high prices and often excruciatingly slow connection speeds.
You can buy internet cards from the hotels which are sold at around 10 CUC for around one hour’s usage. The cheapest facilities are available at around 5 CUC though you can safely expect price-related performance. Internet is also available through some of the ETECSA centers (the Cuban government owned communications company) at around the same price. You may be asked to show your passport at any of the hotels or ETECSA centres in order to use the facilities, unless you are a hotel guest.
Do NOT count on your cell phone working in Cuba and be aware that even if your provider does offer roaming services, they tend to be extremely expensive in Cuba. There are facilities to make calls back home from hotel business centers but expect high charges.