Cuba (number 2 on the New Times 52 places to visit in 2015) is not an easy place to go, and I think because of:

  • The US embargo on Cuba seems to have a major effect on the psyche of Cubans, they cant seem to get out of the 1950’s
  • With the USA being the biggest neighbor shipping anything in from anywhere else is too costly
  • Tourists love the old world charm, why change it just for the sake of it

With all that in mind, I had to use a Dutch company to book the flights and a Canadian company to book the accommodation, as, all the good sites are American and wont allow it. It did seem a bit of a gamble when I was getting reminder emails asking to ensure bookings were confirmed and to check 72 hours prior, but it has all worked out and I must say, I love the old world charm of Havana Viejo (Old Havana)

  • It is hot in Cuba, supposedly we are Winter but it is still hot
  • There are old 50’s cars everywhere, some in good condition and some not, but they all seem to be used as Taxi’s, unlicensed might I add
  • Old Cuba lived up to everything I hoped it would be, grand old buildings which just seem to tell a story, a bustling place where people are going somewhere but it doesn’t seem that urgent, Walking around reminded me walking around an old country town or a Spanish village
  • Construction is huge in Cuba at the moment, with so many building having gone into disrepair, I think from neglect, there is renovation and reconstruction work a plenty. On Every corner there is another major project being undertaken. It is great to see the Cubans wanting to restore their city to it’s former glory as well as use the derelict space for a purpose again
  • Public monuments are an epidemic in Cuba, Its fantastic; they have a monument to everybody, each grander than the last. Even people have them in their yards just randomly celebrating their personal hero. Personally I think it makes the whole town look like a museum, which is certainly more visually stimulating than without. The cemetery is a testament to this, is a huge monument to those who have ever lived in Havana, very ornate and yet still solemn. FYI Jose Marti looks a lot like Lenin, just saying
  • Everything seems to cost more in Cuba, I had an unrealistic view of stuff being cheap, but it’s just not the case. Having said that a bottle of Rum will cost you $8, can of beer is $2 and a packet of Cigarettes will cost you $4, aside from that basically everything else is the same as anywhere else. So stuff is cheaper in Cuba, lol
  • Customer service is NOT a thing in Cuba; it is very much a wait and see culture. You wait while they go and see a friend or go and see a movie, whatever they are doing; it is not serving people quickly. As an example, I was in the supermarket buying some bottled water, the lady at the check out was having a conversation with the guy bagging the groceries, mean while the line kept growing and growing. I heard a joke when I was at the airport changing money as I first arrived, “If you stand in the one place long enough in Cuba, people will fall in line behind you, they are used to it”
  • The night life outside of Havana is sparse to say the least, get into town and enjoy a Cubalibre and a dance
  • Cigars are a big deal here; I didn’t realize just how much they appreciate a fine cigar. Prices are reasonable, if you are willing to gamble with illegal cigars the prices are super reasonable, just don’t take them out of Cuba
  • Few tips regarding the airport and associated travel
    • Bring all the cash you want to exchange with you, ATM’s are non-existent and there is a huge service charge for using EFTPOS
    • The Exchange at the airport has the worst rates going around, head into a bank for good rates. Make sure any cash you are receiving is convertible currency (It will say it on it), I haven’t seen any non-convertible but I’m told it’s out there
    • Sim cards can be rented from a kiosk at the airport for $3 a day, otherwise sim cards are super expensive for non locals
    • Cuban Immigration seemed pretty easy going, same with customs
    • Taxi from the airport to town should be about $25 (Pesos)
    • Like Mexico, there is an exit tax, $25 (Pesos). I don’t understand why they don’t charge an entry tax, at least you wont have to save money to exit
    • Cuban airports are as much of a clusterfuck as Mexican Airports, no one knows what the hell is going ever
  • Cuba was well worth the visit, but I don’t think I’ll go back, unless it is to explore the rest of the country
  • Don’t drink the water, word to the wise, don’t drink the water
  • When the local girls ask you back to their place be careful, I didn’t go back, but I’m still not sure
  • 5 Pesos to catch the tourist bus, get on it, see everything
  • A little bit of Spanish goes a long way in Cuba, they respect the effort
  • Fiji is to Australia as Cuba is to Canada, I met so many Canadians

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