The day I arrived in Havana was perhaps the most cursed day in my whole trip. The handling agent gave away my tickets accidentally to another passenger at Copenhagen and I had to run to Madrid centre on a Easter sunday (thanks to a Internet centre thats open 24 hours) and get a print-put of my tickets and come back to MAdrid airport to give the prints to Iberia to issue me new tickets paying them 50 EUR. And in Havana, that great airline Iberia forgot my backpack to load in the plane!
After this exhausting experience, all I wanted to do was to sleep. But after complaining to Maerskair I got the money back and a gift voucher in addition, enough to make another trip to a European destination. So, finally it was ok!
Favorite thing: But the 'lady' at Casa Oralia has really been helpful. When I showed him my plugs with a bit of gesture is there any way out. She asked her husband to bring an adapting plug from another room and thats how I was rescued!
Favorite thing: In the departure lounge, I found flags hanging down from many nations. But I got stuck seeing the Iranian flag in a larger size comparable to that of Cuba itself. Does having common enemy make good friends? Remembered in Argentina an elderly Italian decent were saying '.. the same reason we don like USA, the same reason we love Cuba...'
I thought I would use trolley for free as I do in European airports but here there is a machine asking for money!
That was not the case but when I didn have enough coins, two locals helped me out voluntarily to change my bank notes. And I could use the machine and contribute to the Cuban economy. After all, travelers are a rich species here.
Fondest memory: Late year 2004, as per new exchange rules, USD is not a valid currency inside Cuba. You have to change USD through official money changer who will take away 10% of USD as a surcharge. Considering that Euro is a better option to go for. Whatever the official reason for it, the economic reason is big. 10% surcharge are imposed on the money transmitted by the big Cuban communities in US to their families back home.
Favorite thing: Cuban visa is not stamped or stuck on your passport, neither you are give any entry or exit stamps apparently to save much needed western travellers from possible harassment. But when you depart you are given a stamp stuck on your ticket as an official proof of paying deaparture tax part of which is left to you!
Favorite thing: Convertible Peso is the Cuban currency pegged to USD as 1 CP = 1 USD. Due to its overvalued status, you have no way changing this currency once you left Cuba. Better spend all your monies in your last min. shopping.
Favorite thing: It's a nice place very famous in Habana which sells purified water! To be honest it tastes a bit strange...but try it anyway! And then the people inside are so funny! A nice old lady with her husband! As soon as they knew we were from Rome they shaked our hands and talked us about the Pope's visit in Cuba...
This is the end of a bad tourist here in Cuba........Just kidding sorry!
This is one of the most ancient chemistry in Habana......really awesome......all built in dark wood! It's worth a visit inside!
Visiting Habana.....especially if you are not with a big group of people, you'll meet for sure, lots of guys asking you to let you visit the town for few dollars....generally they're all gentle and kind people.....sometimes it's the best way to know the cubans, to know how they really live, their thoughts.....it's up to you, alwas be aware! If you want them to leave you alone always be kind with them answer them in a polite way.....
We met these funny guys they used to teach salsa in a school dance in Habana......
Favorite thing: In front of the Capitolio's stairs you'll find all kind of means of transport parked in the square...you can choose to hire whatever you want......I suggest the little egg yellow cab....they're cheap! But be aware! Do not take the big pink/grey buses....they called them "cammello"...they're for cubans only....not so safe for tourists! They're too crowded...with no air conditioning....it will be probable you get off the bus completely......NAKED!
About gifts to Cuba
Many people ask in the forums about what gifts could be good to bring to Cuba. Is easy...all the things that we take for granted like soap, cream, toothpaste, tylenol, deoderants, used clothing and anything else will be really preciated in Cuba. Rather than spending on stuff to take, fill your bags with clothing you don't use anymore. In Cuba usual people have limited styles and it is extremely expensive for them to purchase good quality clothes or shoes. It'll clean out your closet without spending a dime and they will be really greatfull. If you have childrens clothes it is also needed. U could also bring lot of pens, pencils, and erasers to give to a school, they will be very appreciated too.
One advice, try not to give stuff to people who work in tourism as they have access to hard currency and do not have the same problems getting stuff as others who rarely come into contact with tourists.
I´ve postes several anwers the cuban forum, about this issue so I think is amust to dedicate a tip to this question.
Remember always that not all the girls U'll met are prostitutes. The word "jinetera" is just a word that substitutes "prostitute" but is the same thing. Some people will tell U that they aren´t but my opinion is that yes, they are prostitutes, but special prostitutes. Due to economical problems in cuba U´ll find beatifull young fresh girls maybe university students, with a wide culture and speaking 2 languages or more willing to have some money to buy a ventilator or just a jean. That´s why I´m warning U to be care with personal feelings, not every girl is a hooker. When they are, don´t worry, they will make the first step, U´ll not need to do anything, they will aproach and start a chat with U with something like "Have light?" or "What time is it?" or even something more aggresive like telling U a "piropo", a phrase telling U something funny. They will meet U not U them. Gifts? Well, U´re a man, U for sure know what women like, perfums, shoes, clothes, body beauty, necklaces, rings, anything including medicines or of course, just money.
Fondest memory: Yes, there are many that will hang around with U and even have sex for some bucks or a jean. Yes, there are many economic problems in cuba and because of that many tourist take advantage of that and go to cuba only looking for sex and some even get married with girls half their ages... sometimes with girls or boys that can be their daughter or son. But that is not the majority, even not the 10% of the women. U don´t have to hang around with the high class or anything like that. In cuba I was not from high class, not even mid class. When I left cuba only 4 months ago I left behind lot of friends and my girlfriend and I can give U my word that almost all the girls I met or are just my friends will not hang around with somebody because of his money. Only if they are attracted by him or her and because they will have good time with them. And even will reject your money. I know many girls, the type of girl U talking about, and many of them when the tourist went away they turn back and said terrible things about tourists and cuban goverment that makes them to do that sad things. Only because at their homes her dad, mother, and boyfriend wages together is less than maybe 40 dollars and one day with a tourist can be the same or even more...
In cuba, due to the economic system, the ancient phrase "The client always has the reason" in Cuba it doesn´t work. As no matter how much U work, U´ll receive the same wage, people don´t try to do the best efford. Only few places has good and quick services. Is usual to get to one place and find that the recepcionist / waitress / waiter / clerk is talking to somebody trough the phone or just chatting with some friend and U´ll be standing there half an hour waiting for her/him to finish...and don´t dare to protest! They could even get angry and U´ll have to expect a really bad service. So better when going to cuba, relax, take a deep breath and be ready to spend half a day in something that maybe un your home country is only half an hour.
In many hotels usually servants are definitly unfriendly. They can be really a shame sometime. But hey!... all hotels in Cuba are from the state ! So better go to casa particular!!
Favorite thing: Cuban people living on their houses. Many have a special permission to rent their houses or just a room. Other do it without permission. Better rent the ones with permission, less problems. The advantage on this places is first of all, the prices. For less than half the price in hotels, U'll get something very close to them. And second and very important also, U'll be in touch with real cuban life. U'll get to know better our customs, traditions and joys.... So, 100% sure, I recomend to rent a casa particular
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