This is actually a "no warning" tip! Generally speaking, Cuba is a safe destination, although I did find a way to run into trouble during my week-long stay in Havana a few years ago. Varadero, however, is a much smaller town than Havana, and I felt incredibly safe there. Every day I left my beach bag on a chair while I went for a swim and no one ever touched it. I also didn't hesitate to walk back to the resort by myself in the middle of the night, knowing that it was safe to do so. Of course, it doesn't mean that nothing could ever happen, but I'd say your chances of getting mugged or hassled in Varadero are as slim - if not slimmer - than back home.
On our walk to/from the Palma Real Hotel and the beach, we had to pass a street gang of rogue chickens. Take it from me, these chickens are NOT tourist-friendly!! One hen in particular took offense to me trying to take her picture and chased me down the street, trying to peck at me. I think if you were alone in the dark they would probably try to roll you!
Seriously, this is probably one of your biggest dangers in Varadero - go and have fun!! Varadero is very safe.
When we got to our resort we found out that the waiters had a popular scam going on. They would deposit boxes of cigars on the empty seats of your tables and get you to buy them. Lots of patrons were taking part in this great *deal* but we found out later that when bought in a store the boxes of cigars come with the appropriate paperwork for customs. They also have a holographic stamp on them that lets customs know that they are legit. The boxes being sold at the resort from waiters etc, are stolen and lack the paperwork so if you get searched at customs they will confiscate them. We heard many stories of people buying numerous boxes only to have them all taken away at customs.
A group went out for dinner and decided to take a horse drawn carriage back to the hotel.
When asking the driver how much and he said 10 pesos, imagine their shock when he asked for 70 pesos when they arrived. He said seven people times 10 is 70 pesos as his sign showed per person, which was not visible in the dark at 10pm.
He threatened to call the police and since the people didn't want trouble, settled at 50 pesos. I would have taken his license number and reported him at a later date.
I wanted to support a small local business and hopped into one of those little lemon shaped motor scooters. I told her I only wanted to go thirty blocks. After she finished chatting it up with her friend, she started up the machine and said it would be seven pesos. I said the horse carriage could be had for five for that short a distance. She didn't budge till i started to get out of her cart, and said five pesos. I ended up giving her six but was told three might have been fair.
The best deal was the double decker bus for 5 pesos all day.
We tend to feel for these people and yet a few are quite willing to gouge and intimidate when the opportunity arises.
they are actually somewhat privileged to have access to the tourists and can make a lot more than many of their countrymen.
The Cuban people are a great bunch people. Warm, friendly and a great sense of humour. But at the airport when changing your money for CUC and if you have any left at the end of your trip, converting CUC back into your own local currency, count the money out for the cashier / teller. If that means counting out £1000 in £10.00 notes, so be it. Do it.
Insist on getting a receipt. I tell you this because I was stung. Only by 10CUC but no matter how needy people are, robbery is a crime. As I was queuing in the airport to go back home, some new fresh British tourists were changing their sterling to CUCs and I advised them to count out their money to the cashier. They came over 5 minutes later to say thanks as the cashier had tried to short change them of about £30.00 / 50CUC / 50USD.
This was only a problem at the airport. Downtown and everywhere was great.
We had great fun and found it very interesting to walk along the coral cliff walk by our hotel. The sea was rough as we were in the middle of a storm and I was busy taking pics of the fossils and the sea crashing to the shore.
Next moment my Mum screamed and dodged backwards, but not before she was first soaked by the spray from a blow hole in the coral. Be very careful, if it was strong enough you could be knocked off your feet and washed away by a big wave.
We were told that the sea was mild during this particular storm, so I can only imagine what it would be like during a true hurricane.
I had been warned about the mozzies in Varadero, but I wasn't prepared for the enormity of the problem. While checking into my hotel on 27th Dec I got three enormous bites on my leg and one on my hip. As at 12th January the scars are still there. As the holiday progressed I got more bites on my arms and hands.
I had taken the advance precaution of taking anti-histamines for a week before I left Ireland, so the bites didn't get infected.
My advice would be to take ani-histamines in advance, as I did. Also bring plenty of spray on repellant and one of those electronic things that you plug in in your hotel room.
Some hotels are worse than others for the mozzies (i can vouch for that as I stayed in two different hotels).
Try to keep with the same waiter and bar tender and tip them a litlle at the beginning of your holidays then more at the end. If you keep changing your serving staff you will loose a fortune only on tips. If you keep with the same people they will give you an excelent service and make your day!
I was travelling alone and my family wanted me to stay in touch - A Phonecall cost me $2.00CUC/min to Canada; a phonecall from home to my hotel cost $4.00CDN/min; I wanted to use the internet, but it was not available.
Gues what ? Hurricane Time ! and im sure you wont like to spend it on the beach.
And what you see at this picture is when we started to feel it arriving ....when it was south to Cuba in Jamaica... But when a hurricane is around impossible to miss it.
However at this times, better listen to the Hotel's Instruction and keep safe.
Eventually it skipped Cuba, and im glad for the Cuban people although i admit that just once in a life time i wanted to see it in my eyes... but okay its not worth the damage and the lifes it can take....
In Cuba, they don't just censor you now - they throw you in jail.
Fidel Castro's police rounded up 26 independent journalists on 18 March, along with more than 50 political dissidents, all for the same reason. At the beginning of April, Cuban courts dispatched each of these journalists to prison for between 14 and 27 years after three days of sham trials. They were punished for allegedly working with the United States "against the independence and territorial integrity of the state," which is a crime under article 91 of the Cuban criminal code and under article 88 on "protecting national independence" (known as the "gag law").
Don't buy things made of tortoiseshell, black coral and some kind of shells. These species are under protection.
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