Ask Lonely Planet: Cuba has great beaches, exciting culture

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A dream itinerary in Cuba takes in both urban bustle and tropical relaxation. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user Vgenecr
A dream itinerary in Cuba takes in both urban bustle and tropical relaxation. Photo / Creative Commons image by Wikimedia user Vgenecr

My partner and I would like to take a trip to Cuba for two to three weeks. What would be the best time of the year to go? What is the best route to get there ... we wouldn't mind seeing some highlights of Mexico if we can fly from there. What would be some of the highlights you would recommend in Cuba?

- Geoffrey Sedon

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett and Lee Slater write:

Cuba's high season runs from November to March, and July to August, when the weather is generally dryer and cooler. During this time, prices can be around 30 per cent higher than the rest of the year, and accommodation busier, so you'll need to book hotels in advance. Good deals can be scored during the shoulder months of April and October, but it will pay to avoid the Easter holiday period.

While it is possible to travel direct to Cuba from the United States, the opportunity to do so is generally reserved for Cuban-Americans or US citizens.

There are no direct flights to Cuba from Asia or Australia/New Zealand, but travellers can easily connect through Europe, Canada, Mexico or South America with a number of airlines. Cubana, the national carrier, has regular flights to Bogota, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Cancun, London, Madrid, Paris, Toronto and Madrid, among others.

We recommend a stay of 10-14 days, allowing you to pursue the following itinerary. Start with a big dose of classic Cuba in the capital, Havana, with its museums, forts, theatres and rum. Head southeast next, via the Bay of Pigs, to French-flavoured Cienfuegos, an architectural monument to 19th-century neoclassicism. Then travel a couple of hours down the road to colonial Trinidad, with its cache of fine beaches and museums.

Santa Clara, to the north, is a rite of passage for Che Guevara pilgrims, but also great for accommodation and night life. Further east, Camaguey lures with its maze of Catholic churches and tinajones (clay pots). Save the best till last with a journey over the hills to Baracoa for coconuts, chocolate and other tropical treats.

For more inspiration, go to Lonely Planet's online forum at lonelyplanet.com/thorntree, or get a copy of our new Cuba guidebook.

Language no barrier

I am planning a trip to Germany in August to attend the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. From there I am keen to travel to Dresden and Meissen, on to Prague, then Vienna. [Can you] suggest the best way to travel around those cities? My other concern is that I may be travelling alone for a large part of this trip and I don't speak German.

- Malcolm Hammond

As you want to spend most of your time around Germany and Austria, you could easily fly into Frankfurt and out of Vienna, as they are both major air hubs.

Both Germany and Austria have excellent rail networks with good connections to other European cities, including Prague. Online timetables and ticket deals can be found at .bahn.de.

English is widely spoken in both Germany and Austria and you'll easily get by with just a smattering of Deutsch.

Lonely Planet publishes a phrase book that includes a two-way dictionary.

WIN A LONELY PLANET GUIDEBOOK

Email your questions to travel.info@lonelyplanet.com and they'll be answered by Lonely Planet's experts.

In addition, the best question each week will earn a Lonely Planet guidebook. Add your postal address and the guidebook you'd like (see lonelyplanet.com). Not all questions are answered and Lonely Planet cannot correspond directly with readers.

* Geoffrey Sedon will receive a copy of Lonely Planet's Mexico ($59.99) for his question.

- NZ Herald

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