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People, rich history, architecture
Big brother, repression
In a nutshell
Hoping for a better future
Ernest Hemingway was a wonderful writer and he loved Cuba. He went there so many times for inspiration the local population are proud to have had him as a frequent visitor.
La cuna de Daiquiri is a bar in the center of Havana where you can get the best Daiquiri in the world. It has wonderful decoration and reminds you of a theatrical setting. There is always a band playing there and they can play at your request. Trio Taicuba are three wonderful musicians who are probably tired of playing Guajiro Guantanamera, but I'm sure they would play it if you were to ask them.
The Daiquiri is served icecold and I loved it.
Although it's quite a pricy bar, it's definitely worth a visit at the end of the day.
Written Sep 8, 2003
Americans still can't just go to Cuba as tourists, but there are legal ways to get there. The State Dept. issues licenses to groups for special purposes. A few commercial tour groups are managing to offer "Spiritual tours" and similar programs. I went with a small humanitarian group delivering non-prescription medical supplies to a clinic. We each had to purchase 15 lb. of supplies (at our own expense) and fit them into our luggage.
The plane to Cuba is a charter from Miami. We get a special stamp on our boarding pass indicating we have permission to go.
The airport has multiple buildings—all U.S. flights come into one terminal; planes from Europe go to a different one. When we landed, Cuban passport control examined our documents and took our pictures. Our hand luggage was then x-rayed, and they questioned me about my Nook because they thought it was an iPad. I don’t know if that would have been a problem.
Once in Cuba, we toured several cities as a group, but we also had free time in Havana and Trinidad to look around on our own.
Written Dec 19, 2011
There is a rationing system for staple food. Everybody gets the same amount, and the cost is subsidized by the government. Wages are very low, and the subsidized food is needed.
Our guide showed us her ration book, listing the number of people in the family and what she was entitled to buy. She gets the food in a peso store, and the clerk stamps her book on that line. It covers things like rice, beans, sugar, etc. Each child gets a liter of milk per day.
Toothpaste and soap used to be on the ration cards, but now they have to be purchased at the regular price. Sometimes when you come out of the hotel, people will come up to you and make motions like they are washing their arms—they are asking for soap.
Written Dec 20, 2011
Cuba has two currencies--One for Cubans and one for foreigners. Visitors have to change their currency to convertible pesos (CUC) and there is a 13% fee for changing it. (I don't know if the 13% fee applies to other currencies or just U.S. dollars.) There is supposed to be a small fee to change the CUC back into dollars, but I don't know the details--I didn't have any to change back. Nobody takes dollars, and Credit cards issued by U.S. banks can't be used in Cuba. Most hotels will exchange your money into CUC.
One CUC is worth about 25 of the regular pesos that most Cubans are paid with. They can also use CUCs if they can get them. Some stores take only pesos; others, only CUC. The CUC stores have nicer stuff.
NOTE: You may see someone holding up a U.S. dollar bill. They are hoping you will exchange it for a CUC because they can’t use the dollar. (And when you tip people, tip in CUCs so they can spend it!)
Written Dec 20, 2011
The usual U.S. customs rules and allowances don't apply to travel in Cuba. The embargo forbids bringing back Cuban goods such as cigars and rum. There are exceptions for art and educational materials, so paintings, music CDs and handicrafts are OK.
When you get back to the states, Customs may inspect your bags . If you say "Nothing to declare" and they find cigars, you could be in big trouble. To me, it isn't worth the risk.
Written Dec 20, 2011
On your departure, you're allowed to take as many bottles of Rhum and as many Cigars as you want, as long as they're official ones and not from the black market. But don't forget ! Your country might not accept unlimited importing.
Written Jul 11, 2003
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Take any non-prescription items you need with you--if you run out of them, you may or may not find any to buy. There are shortages.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Take sunscreen, of course. And If you are going to be out in the country at all, take insect repellant. I didn't really have a problem with mosquitos when I was there, but tiny insects we call "no-see-ems" almost ate me alive in Las Terrazas. I had welts for a week.
Written Dec 19, 2011
Favorite thing: Cuba is a very large island, more than 1000 km in length or i would imagine that you would spend your four days, especially if they include day of arrival and departure, in La Habana.
stay at a hotel, such as Inglaterra which is in Old Havana or at a casa particular which is a room in the private homes of Cubans.
One US dollar is 88 cents Cuban Tourist Currency, and all transactions are in the Cuban tourist currency. No american bank issued credit cards are accepted including American express from other countries. Euro is the best currency to bring.
whether you are staying at the hotel or the private home, breakfast can be arranged. there are many many restaurants to choose from and each day new ones are opening. the cuisine is basic cuban fare, nothing exceptional.
nice city to walk around. old habana, and then take a taxi to vedado and walk around there.. that would take a day...
if you want you can take an organized tour to Vinales in the west.
Cuba is not a cheap destination. Prices are pegged to the western tastes and expect to pay as much as you do in richer countries.
The best thing about Cuba are the Cubans and if you are proficient in Spanish, it is altogether another game otherwise you would just be tourist and gain what tourists gain.
There are restaurants in Vedado where you can have a meal for about 4.50 cuban tourist dollars which is good.
Read the various reports here on VT.
Written Nov 20, 2011