Free tour of Havana
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
By Cesar Suarez
Updated on November 3rd 2018
Reading Time: 5 minutes
What's a free tour?
Lately, there as been a growing trend for adding the word free next to the name of some services. This is, obviously, a marketing trick to attract costumers. For good or bad, tourism hasn’t been an exception to this strategy and , nowadays, you can always find several ‘agencies’ offering ‘free tours’ in any area you will be visiting.
How can I find them?
Just run a quick google search for ‘free tour of Havana’ and you’ll bump into a few people claiming that they will ‘happily’ show you their city ‘without the need of money exchanging hands’. You will find that some of them even have very compelling and sparky websites. You can also find them promoting their services on third party websites, like Trip Advisor.
Is it really free?
The short answer: Nope! Ask yourself, does it makes any sense that someone will give away their time for nothing? Of course not! You are a smart person, you have seen it before, they always want something. You can see it when a website requires a piece of your personal information in return for something ‘free’.
People don’t usually like to work for free, tour guides are not an exception. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to get a service for free. I’m saying that no one builds an agency to offer their services for free.
How does it works then?
That’s a tricky question, and the answer depends on who are we talking about. Most of these ‘agencies’ have their own way to handle things. Sometimes, you actually have a pleasant experience, but that’s, by far, the most unlikely scenario. So let’s just see some of the different shapes this illusion takes:
Best case scenario: You find the needle in the hay sac and end up with someone with good intentions that offers you a good service. They, of course, are human beings and need money to survive in a material world. They don’t ask you for it, but you know it and they say it on their website, tips are always welcome, and they need tips to keep it running. What do you do? You never know how much to tip, is it too much or not enough? Either way, you will probably end up overpaying or filling a bitter taste in your mouth. On top of all that, as you might have guess, you won’t have a guide for yourself. This kind of offer brings a lot people looking to save some money, so you’ll probably spend your day with a big group of loud strangers that won’t give you enough time to ask your own questions. In the other hand, you could be smart and go with the pros and ensure to have a pleasant, safe and nurturing experience, why risk it?
You discover this small agency that offers a ‘free tour of Havana’. Everything looks great until the day of your tour. Then it happens that you have the most boring day of your life with an unprofessional guide that doesn’t even speaks a basic level of English. To be honest, that can also happen with paid tours, and it does. On top of all this, the guide will ask you ,explicitly, for tips at the end of the tour, and he/she will desperately try to create sympathy to make you feel bad for not tipping. Again, you won’t feel comfortable and you will waste a day, is it really worth it?
Whether you do it online or in the streets of Havana, you run into these people that offer you a ‘free tour of Havana’. They usually look a bit suspicious, there is always something that tells them out. Sometimes they just seem to have no idea of what they are doing. If you bite the hook, they will do anything and everything in their power to get money from you. Only that, this time, they won’t just ask you for tips, they will take you to all these places where they can get commissions. So prepare to overpay at restaurants, taxis, souvenir shops, bars and any other place they’ll take you. At the end, you will end up paying way more than if you had a great non-free tour.
What should I do then?
Only you know the answer to that question. Maybe you wish to take your chances and try to find a good ‘free tour of Havana’. But, if I were you, I would definitively look around for other options, there are many great ones out there. I would, obviously, recommend our tours and experiences, but it will look like that’s the whole point of this blog. I’m just trying to offer you some good advice for your holiday in Cuba. What I’m saying is: Whether it is Cuba 360 or any other serious agency, you will be better of than with a ‘free tour of Havana’. Because, as we say in Cuba “Good is never free”.