Turtle, Ecuador

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed November 2017
    Trevor Hamilton

    Disappointed in Experience

    Did not live up to my expectations unfortunately compared to a previous trip I went on.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Extra trip to Vinales

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was reasonably informative but we felt he did not do as much for the group as we expected.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you take your own snacks as the quality and quantity provided by the tour leader was much poorer than those provided my my leader in India.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It is with a lot of disappointment that I compose this email to you but as a returning customer of your company I am left feeling rather deflated after my trip with you to Cuba. I travelled last year to Kerala with you and had a fantastic time so I decided to book Cuba this year and persuaded some of my family to attend as a birthday treat for my brother who celebrated his 60th birthday whilst there. Firstly his birthday coincided with the second day of our trip ending at a beach resort. Only problem was you could hardly access the beach due to the debris on it and a collapsed beach hut. We made the best of it anyway but then the following night we were due to spend 2 nights in paladares. Allocation of these was a total shambles. Our guide knew we were travelling as a group but insisted that there were no paladares with 2 doubles and a single in one so we reluctantly split up. However, the one which my sister was allocated was totally unsuitable and she was relocated into one which had 2 doubles and a single! Slightly annoyed to say the least plus with the paladares in general, there is a huge variation in the offers in each location but we are all paying the same money so should expect the same I would have thought! The next day we all planned to go on the catamaran trip. When we arrived at the dock, the catamaran was broken and we were offered a boat which had no seats and standing room only for us all. This was supposed to be our transport for 3 hours-a total joke so we refused and got our money back but then meant we had to spend a day at the beach when we had all hoped to see the reef, snorkel etc. A wasted day! We then had a good cycle on the next day but ended up a hotel from the 1970's in the middle of nowhere. This meant that the following day we spent most of it transferring to Havana and having no time in Havana. If we had altered our cycle ride slightly to closer to the motorway we could have had an extra half day in Havana. To cap it all, on our last night we were relocated to our original hotel and told by you that we would be transferred to and from central Havana at night. When we asked about this the local rep was totally unaware of this and agreed reluctantly to do this despite him saying that his local company had not agreed this. During our cycling days, snacks were supposed to be provided but these were few and far between in contrast to my time in India when they were frequent and of good quality. Next fiasco. I had booked an extension with yourselves to Vinales and Cayo Leviso. I arrived in Vinales as planned and I had paid for an evening meal out of town starting restaurant with transfers. Turns out, the local company knew nothing of the transfers and wanted me to pay for a taxi to and from the restaurant-more than the cost of the meal. When I complained, they then suggested their own restaurant in town so I opted for this as second best and not what I had paid for! The next morning, I was due to be taken in a 13 km hike through the local area with a pack lunch. A hike was indeed provided but this was only for 5 km and finished at 11.30 am with pack lunch being a cheese and ham sandwich and a few bits if fruit. Not exactly my full day excursion I was laid to expect and certainly not a guide for the day as you stated. My transfer to Cayo Leviso went as planned but was informed on arrival that I would have to pay for lunch that day as I was not due to check in until 3 but lunch on Monday was included when I was not there to get it! The location is lovely but the cabins are basic and poorly maintained and food is canteen like with the same choice for lunch and dinner! Not exactly the picture of luxury you portrayed in your pre amble and I certainly don't think the extension cost of £699 for a half delivered promise is good value for money. All-in all, a total shambles from our point of view! I was looking at booking with you for your Vietnam trip and maybe Morocco but on the evidence of this one, I will be looking at other companies which offer similar trips to see if they deliver as promised.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Trevor for his feedback, although we are sorry that he was disappointed with certain aspects of his trip. We regret that there was debris on the beach at Playa Yaguanabo; unfortunately the area was, at the time, affected by Hurricane Irma.

    All of the casas used by our groups are regularly inspected by our local team, and only casas which have been approved are allocated to our clients, so we are sorry that Trevor found there to be such variation in the standard of accommodation. Whilst we understand that Trevor was also underwhelmed with the location of the hotel on day 6; we cannot recall receiving feedback of this nature previously.

    We regret the issues Trevor experienced with the optional catamaran excursion from Trinidad; following the feedback we have received, we no longer offer this excursion.

    Snack food isn’t always readily available in Cuba, so we mention in our trip notes that clients may wish to bring their own energy snacks.

    We are sorry that Trevor experienced issues on his extension and that was disappointed with the resort at Cayo Leviso. Exodus has been recommending beach stays here for some time as we feel it offers a better experience than the highly built-up beach resort areas in Cuba. Our customer services and Tailormade teams have written to Trevor in more detail regarding all of the issues he has mentioned.

    Malcolm Parkinson – Product Manager

  • Reviewed April 2017
    Mairi Millar

    Dreaful Trip - Do not visit Cuba

    Cuba was dreadful. I did know what to expect, I know it’s all falling down, nothing works, it’s a huge rip off for the tourists, I did know all that. What I didn’t expect was to become really ill for more than half the “holiday”, spend a fortune on simply surviving because of the blatant fleecing of the tourists, having to fend off aggressive beggars, musicians, restaurant owners, taxi drivers, the list goes on. Cuba is one big rip off from the moment you step off the plane. Although this isn't the fault of Exodus, I felt I really had to post my experience of the appalling animal cruelty I witnessed. I am still so angry and heartbroken about what I have seen. Most of this is going on in the rural areas, but I saw a lot in Havana too. Starving stray cats and dogs wondering about is bad enough, we all expect this in developing countries but the most shocking thing of all is the treatment of their horses. At least cats and dogs can scavenge for food and beg from the tourists, but the horses are utterly dependant on the people who own them. In rural Cuba horses are still used for transport, both riding and pulling carts. Did you know that in Cuba, there are no laws concerning the treatment and welfare of animals? That’s right, NO LAWS, you can do what you like to any animals in Cuba, both domestic and wild and no one will touch you because you’re not breaking any law. Almost without exception, every single horse I saw was little more than a skeleton, barely able to stand because they were so weak, covered in sores from ill fitting tack, ribs, hips and backbones jutting like razors under a covering of skin. I saw them being beaten with ropes and chains because they were unable to pull overloaded carts up hills. I saw a young Cuban man forcing his emaciated horse to gallop up and down a tarmac road just so he could show off to his friends. I saw a horse clearly chronically lame in its near fore, being forced to trot pulling a cart which was too heavy even for a sound animal. I cycled past a cart with around a dozen young Cuban girls in it, each one clearly weighing 20 stones or more, all laughing and joking while the driver lashed his skeletal horse who was struggling, panting and in distress at trying to heave this colossal weight up a hill. I saw a man beating his horse with a knotted rope, I heard the animal groaning in pain (bear in mind horses are pretty much non vocal creatures and will only make a noise when in severe distress), a sound I had never heard before and I hope never to hear again, as the rope thudded in between its sunken fleshless ribs. I saw horses tethered in the blazing sun with no shade, food or water. These are just a couple of examples of what I saw, I could write pages and pages about each example. If this was happening in the UK every single one of those individuals would be arrested and sent to prison, their horses would be euthanized on the spot as they were beyond being rescued and nursed back to health. These people clearly have more than enough to eat given the number of grotesquely obese Cubans I saw waddling about. They’re not interested in sharing it with their horses though. What sort of society behaves like this? I did speak to several of these people and asked them why their horses were starving and why they were not given water. I was treated as if I was mad, one man earnestly explained to me that horses must not be fed or watered while they are “working” as it’s not good for them. Seriously? This man's horse hadn’t been fed or watered properly for months given the state it was in. I asked another one to explain to me the economic sense behind not feeding or giving even the most rudimentary care to your horse, surely, I said, a horse is a relatively expensive commodity, why would you starve it to death? The reply? “Horses are cheap here, I’ll just buy another one”. So it’s cheaper to buy a horse, starve and beat it to death, then buy another than it is to simply just take care of the one you have? How sick is that? There are a couple of horse charities in Cuba, I’m still doing research to try and decide who to donate to, so in the meantime, the only thing I can do is tell as many people as I can about what I saw and beg everyone, please do not go to Cuba, don’t give them your money, and tell people why you won’t go. The only way anything will change is if tourists don’t spend money there and tell them that we won’t support or tolerate this evil behaviour. These people really are wicked and cruel, it is NOT OK to abuse horses. You don’t have to be from a developed nation to understand that starving and abusing animals is wrong. The most sickening thing is that there IS food available in Cuba, these people are not abusing their animals because they have no choice or because they don’t know any better, they’re doing it because they can, and no one will stop them. Please, please don't go there.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There wasn't one

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was good, very knowledgeable about the history of Cuba (given, of course, from the point of view of the Cuban dictatorship, but I suppose he's obliged to tow the "party line"). It was interesting to hear history from the point of view of the Cubans, although make sure you google and research most of it to hear what might be a slightly more balanced account.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Advice, just don't go to Cuba, take your money elsewhere.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus, please take Cuba off your list of holidays offered and tell the authorities why you are doing so.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Mairi for her review, although we were very sorry to learn of her concern for the way in which horses and animals are treated in Cuba. Whilst our local manager has explained that Cuban’s have a different relationship to animals than we do in the UK, we appreciate that this must have been very distressing to have witnessed. We have made our responsible tourism manager aware of Mairi’s concerns and she will be looking into the positive influence we can have on animal care in Cuba, such as working with The Diana Project charity, based in Trinidad.

    Malcolm Parkinson – Product Manager

  • Reviewed March 2017
    Lindsey Kemp

    Cycling Cuba - Fantastic!

    What an amazing way to see Cuba! I loved every second & Freddy, our guide, was so knowledgeable & clearly passionate about Cuba, that it really added to the experience. The group was great fun too. All in all a brilliant holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Reaching the lake at the top after a gruelling 7km uphill on the final day 40km cycle - such an achievement

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Fantastic - highly knowledgeable & alwys ready to help

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I loved the cycling so much i'm already looking into my next trip
  • Reviewed March 2017
    Karen Gill

    Cuban Highlights Tour

    Fantastic trip with great cycling, cultural and historical aspects. The entire trip exceeded my expectations for the quality of bikes to accommodation and food. The cycling was relaxed and, although mostly on main roads, traffic was not heavy (unlike the headwinds!) and there was always full back up with the support bus. The food was simple but tasty and the casa's were comfortable and far more interesting than staying in a hotel. Cuba was fantastic and everything we needed was available, just be prepared for some unreliability such as lack of hot water, toilet paper etc

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The entire trip!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Freddy was excellent. Very knowledgeable about Cuba and it's history and patiently dealing with all our questions and ability to miss the (almost) unmissable cycling stops

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Extend your trip, one week just isn't enough

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The most sought after items by the group were toilet paper, bug spray, wet wipes, sanitiser and 25c for toilet stops.
  • Reviewed February 2017
    Hok Shuen Wong

    Cuban Highlights

    Very enjoyable and well organised. Lovely rides through varied countryside and interesting towns which transported us back in time and gave fascinating insights into the country's history. Routes were good and the bikes ideal for the various challenges - hills, road surface etc. Pleasant helpful supportive staff always ready with water, snacks and repairs if needed.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Happy Cubans! Despite its troubled history and obvious deprivation it is a land full of fun and welcome. Whether cycling through rural villages or in towns we were always greeted with cheerful "Holas!" and waves from smiling adults and children.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Lenay was an excellent group leader and tour guide. She speaks very good English, has an extensive knowledge of her country's history and culture and is thoughtful, witty and helpful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just go and embrace their vibrant world of sun and salsa and have plenty of Cuban currency. Although it is not the land of plenty and the food is bland the facilities are very clean!
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Moira Hookham

    Cuban Highlights Trip

    Wonderful holiday!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Completing the cycle without using the bus! Learning about Cuban history and feeling sad that the West has misunderstood Cuba all these years. They have done a great job of surviving and thriving despite all the difficulties. Our guide, Alex, who was full of surprises, knowledge, variety and went out of his way to organise every detail for individuals in the group ensuring we all had the best holiday.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Alex was great. He easily interacted with all members of the group. He was our interpreter for language and events. He worked hard behind the scenes, cultivating good relationships with Casa owners etc, organising travel details for group members coming and leaving at different times, dealing with all the tipping, giving clear instructions and direction and just generally making sure everything was hassle free for us. He worked patriotically and with sincerity - very catching! There was never any pressure. A great holiday because of him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A universal plug ( for sinks, baths etc) would be useful.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Tariq Arafa

    Historical, Hot and Colourful Cuba - on Christmas Day!

    Take what you imagine to find in Cuba - this is most likely what you will get. I did anyway. Marinade yourself in Cuban culture with salsa, cigars and mojitos. Get lost in the myriad of cobbled streets in Trinidad. Combine some great sightseeing with some challenging but not impossible cycling. From Ernest Hemingway's bar to a tour of the city in a Cadillac, Havana is rich and diverse in both its history and landscapes and even how the country is in a little bit of a technological time warp adds to its charm.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Learning about the history of Castro and Che Guevara before seeing the sights in Revolution Square was fascinating. The most thrilling moments were in the American cars tour of Havana - one hour of exhilaration, a must-do!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Alex was informative and humorous while always putting our needs first.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take toilet paper for the casas. Not always available - the standard of the casas within our group was variable. I was very lucky with Alfonso and his lovely family. Also take plenty of money - its not cheap.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotel in Havana is a little far from the centre but there is a nice breakfast and pool here. Wifi is scarce in Cuba so be prepared to be cut off from the world while you're there - hardly a hardship though is it?
  • Reviewed December 2016
    Nancy Reed

    Cuban Highlights Ride

    What a lovely trip - we had lots of laughs, learned a great deal about Cuban history and enjoyed a wonderful Cuban crew.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Inspiration took many forms - our group discussions about Cuba, world politics and kindness to others inspired me each day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Have to say that both our guide and mechanic took significant efforts to ensure we were keen to ride and well supported - from cold drinks and sweet snacks to gentle nudges up big hills to an unwavering love of their country that was shared each day. Our guide (Alex) was incredibly well informed, engaged in all he did and had a great sense of humour - as he might say, quite 'cheeky'!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take lots of time to engage with the communities you travel through - the people are very fun, kind and interesting. Tried to leave toiletries behind as tips in each place we stayed - these are crazy expensive in Cuba and so easy for travelers to share. Take the time before or after this trip to spend an additional day or two in Havana - really great city. We also spent time on our own in Mantanzas and found many wonderful surprises including a great art studio, fab little bar and paper making gallery.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thanks ... truly a great journey.
  • Reviewed December 2016
    Tamara Common

    Wonderful country, beautiful and vibrant.

    I throughly enjoyed the trip, a true holiday of a lifetime! I LOVED Cuba, it was so colourful, sunny and full of music and dance. A great tour group, everyone was lovely and happy to join in! Cycling was fine, I am active person but not a cyclist except for cycling tours in the Netherlands, but the cycling was steady and I was tired at the end of the day, but manageable. Cycling was on tarmac roads, and mostly fairly straight, but there was little traffic, just a 1950s car passing regularly to add to the atmosphere. There were regular breaks, and water was provided by the guides, and the bus was behind us all of the way. Was glad to have cycling shorts with padding and also a gel saddle cover. Ended up leaving my bag on the bus which was always with us, and just cycling. It was hot and found a bag too annoying to be carting around. Accommodation was clean and comfortable, though lacked soft furnishings, but personally for me clean is the important bit! Staying in the Casa's were my favourite, gave a more authentic feel, and while simple still had air con, and I think more comfortable beds than the hotels in my case (we broke into smaller groups for the nights in the Casa's). Food was simple, a yummy meat (grilled chicken, pork that fell apart), with rice and plantain chips. I thought it was tasty, even if less varied! Fizzy drinks and fruit juice with meals that you bought separately. Group tour leader, Alex was excellent. He organised on the tour excellently, looked after us, and also taught us so much about Cuba's history and way of life. He was full of tips and ideas. Non cycling time was just as fascinating, we learnt to salsa, drank mojitos, had walking tours around and went swimming in the sea. Really liked Trinidad and staying there two nights, and Havana town was charming. Think that doing a tour was a really good way to see Cuba, afterwards stayed on 4 days at the memories hotel in Jibacoa, but after the fun of the group and wandering around and being able to mingle it felt a bit fake at the resort - wish I had done it before the tour rather than after. Other people in the hotel who did organised trips out weren't that enamoured and felt alone it was a bit complicated doing a trip to a neighbouring town or Habana.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Loved the whole Cuban experience and the friendliness of the country. The tour itself was really well structured, and the cycling was very well organised - good bikes, safe cycling, and good resources with snacks and water. Cuba is a wonderful mix of carribean, spanish language, sun, fun and music.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Group tour leader, Alex was excellent. He organised on the tour excellently, looked after us, and also taught us so much about Cuba's history and way of life. He was full of tips and ideas. Was clear with instructions and to also give some free time, but also ideas with what to do in that free time. Perfect balance of information and helpfulness without being intrusive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a saddle cover - bikes are excellent quality but the saddles are narrow. I wish id taken a actual sports bottle rather than using a normal water bottle which i couldn't undo the screw top while cycling. Take little and cycle light! Stop and take photos etc if you want, its not a race and everyone has to wait at the end, however fast you cycle. Don't need to be a cyclist, but you do need a certain amount of fitness, and the sun can be intense, but be reassured that the bus is behind you if you need it.
  • Reviewed December 2016
    Mary Fenelon Bourke

    Fantastic Cuban Adventure

    We have just returned from Cuba having done the Cuban highlights cycle & a beach extension in Cayo Levisa. This is a fantastic trip with very pleasant cycling, trips to places of cultural & historical importance & some down time. The bikes were much better than we expected, the cycling was relaxed & not too demanding & the motorists very mannerly. The roads were quiet. Full backup with the bus is there at all times which is great. It was nice to be able to leave all our things on the bus while cycling.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Trinidad is a beautiful city & cycling out of the city towards Playa Ancon was lovely. Staying in Casas Particulares in Trinidad & Cienfuegos was a highlight. Cycling with a great group & an inspiring leader made this an unforgettable holiday.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Freddy was simply amazing. Kind, courteous, really interesting & generous with his time.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you want to really see Havana, spend an extra day or two there as time there on this trip is limited. Internet etc very limited so warn friends & family that you may not be in contact & then relax & enjoy the freedom from technology. If you have time, the beach extension to Cayo Levisa is very relaxing. Gel saddle pads are useful for the bikes & bring a water bottle.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Hotel in Havana was very disappointing especially breakfast which was cold. Hot water not always available.
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