Locals told us that Cuban men and women look for people to marry to get out of the country. We saw one example of an elderly white man and a young cuban girl being very friendly at our resort. It doesn't matter if they are attracted to the person or not, they are just looking for a way out.
At the time of our visit to Cuba in November 2011, all passengers leaving the country were faced with a 25 CUC (15 GBP) departure tax.
This is payable at the airport after checking in for your flight, before proceeding through airport security, and must be paid in local currency (Cuban Convertible Pesos).
We knew about this in advance and ensured that we put the necessary currency in our passports in order that we didn't spend it. There are exchange desks at Holguin airport (and presumably all other international airports in Cuba) where you can obtain pesos if you require them.
Upon paying the tax, your boarding pass will be stamped with a sticker (as per the attached photographs) and you can make your way through security.
It is legal for Americans to go to Cuba. However, it is illegal for American to have transactions (spend money) in Cuba under most circumstances. What this means is that visitors to Cuba cannot use a credit card that was issued by a US bank or a US travelers check while visiting. Also, Americans cannot secure a room at a hotel before arriving with a US issued credit card. Americans can spend US currency in Cuba- but only if they are authorized to do so with a specific license issued by the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).
According to OFAC, “Applying for a specific license: Persons wishing to travel to Cuba under a specific license should send a letter specifying the details of the proposed travel, including any accompanying documentation, to Chief of Licensing, OFAC Miami
U.S. Department of the Treasury
909 S.E. 1st Avenue, Room 736
Miami, FL 33131"
OFAC is reportedly cracking down on people traveling illegally (without license) to Cuba. They have been going after recreational (i.e. scuba diving) tours.
While renting a car is by far the only way to see a lot of Cuba in a short time, be sure to understand that it has its dangers. Just drive slowly and carefully. Understand that if you are involved in an accident involving injury or death, you can be detained in the country until the matter is settled in court (i.e. a long time), and you will be footing the bill for your accomodations while you wait.
Be aware of rules....i.e. seat belts are the law. It is also the law to slow down at a police control point, even slower than the speed limit. "It is a matter of respect", I have been told. Note too, that you can get a ticket for a "dobla passa", that is passing two vehicles at the same time - EVEN IF ONE IS A HORSE. I know all this from experience. The tickets for such offences range in price, and are simply added to your rental contract, so you can't leave the country without paying.
Most importantly, avoid driving at night as it is so dangerous. Horse buggies, pedestrians and the like do not carry lights or reflectors.
I've never been bitten during our trip there, but it doesn't mean they are not there. On the contrary, mosquitoes are everywhere in Cuba, and they seem to be active lately. There is actually a dengue fever outbreak, but it seems that the problem has been under control through massive educational campaigns and increased fumigation measures. Make sure you avoid stagnating water anywhere and make sure to bring an insect repellent while you're there.
Note: Tip based on my Cuba travel forum response on October 13th 2009.
The economic sanction on Cuba that disallows American citizens from traveling and simultaneously spending their dollars there has not been lifted as of yet, so it remains illegal to do so at this time. Although the recently-passed bill of 2009 has allowed Cuban Americans the freedom to travel there, the travel restrictions remain applicable to the rest of the American population. Though don't despair, there are now congressional bills (in the works) that will hopefully make travel to Cuba a reality for all Americans in the near future. For now, these warnings are applicable, and they are based on a forum entry that I responded to in April of 2008:
1.) Regarding the issue of US citizens traveling to Cuba:
It remains illegal and it is sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury. This travel sanction is based on the premise of the economic blockade that forbids travel to Cuba due to the dollar ($) revenue it generates. Travel to Cuba remains a risk that you may not want to take. You will need to carefully weigh all the advantages & disadvantages before going.
2.) Regarding the stamping of US passports in Cuba:
The tourist card stamps for US visitors in Cuba is now common practice because they don't want Americans to be in trouble when they come home; however, if you're legally-licensed to travel to Cuba, your passport can still be automatically stamped and you would need to request them not to do so like I did. From my understanding, this tourist card stamping practice is not a law, but done out of courtesy to "illegal" US travelers in Cuba.
3.) Regarding the bribery of immigration officials:
Be careful about the bribery of officials. Some are more corrupt than others and are more inclined to accept such bribes, but others are reputable & dignified officials who are doing their duties in a legitimate way. You may compound the problems: a.) the illegal entry into Cuba, and b.) the bribery of an uncorrupt immigration official in a foreign country (i.e., Mexico, the Bahamas). Both these offenses can lead to severe fines or (worse) an imprisonment.
Note: This tip is based on my responses to the travel forum entitled "US citizen to CUBA" on April 11th, April 14th, and April 15th of 2008.
Men will lurk by the bureau de change at La Habana airport and chat to you in a friendly manner while you queue. They will then offer you help to find a taxi. Don't accept it - they know you have just changed a holidays worth of cash! There is a man with a walkie-talkie that stands just outside the main door shepherding people into taxis - these are the official taxis, don't take any other taxi!
If you are walking on el Prado (Paseo de Marti), the road that links the Parque Central (where the Hotel Inglaterra and the Capitolio is) to the Malecon, be careful with your bags, especially if you are a lady.
I have witnessed a girl getting her camera bag snatched from her by 2 dudes that came beside and ripped it off her. So if you walk with the camera, make sure it is in front of you.
The same applies to all Old Havana and Santiago.
Cuba is for me the safest country that I have been in, but there are always rotten apples in every tree.
Although Cuba is a safe country ... where locals are poor you have to be carefull with your stuff and money.
An old friend of mine used to say: "Never give a Cuban the opportunity to disappoint you"
Besides this, read the crime page I wrote at Cuba-Junky ... theres alot of usefull warnings about crime in Cuba.
Check out the link below
For those who may not know, there are two Cuban legal tenders: Moneda Nacional, or Cuban Peso which trades at 24 to 1 CUC or chavito for short. then almost everything a tourist would need has to be paid for by this artificial currency called CUC. they charge 11 percent to change the major currencies into cuc. so if today 1 euro is 1.56 usd, they will give you 1.49 cuc for each euro, since usd is not legal and is punished, when you change one us dollar you might end up getting 79 cents of the CUC.. only about 50 % of the Euro. Euro is the best currency for Cuba.. as it is in many parts of the world right now, but in toher countries because of the weak dollar..
Money is changed in cambio kiosks called CADECAs or at major banks. Banks keep bankers hours but CADECA may be open until late, also there are CADECA offices at major hotels, like Nacional, Libre, Presidente etc
After i been to cuba now 5 times i thought i know it all.But somehow i got lured into a house with 3 guys and raped.This wasnt the first time this guys done it..it was all planned..lights went off and the women and man who lived in the house just disapeared upstairs.My experience was bad..but lucky i'm alive.This guys are now in prison for a very very long time.Please, dont ever go alone with some guys[even if you know them] to a house!!!!
As public transportation is just about non-existant outside of Havana,(or perhaps too expensive or not dependable), people have to HITCH-HIKE to get anywhere. On our way to Havana, you could see just how much of a problem it is. On the highway, under every bridge, there were crowds of people looking for rides. Some even tried to wave down our tour bus. I've never seen anything like it. Women with small children and older folks, probably waiting for hours just to get a ride home.
You could also see folks walking along the sides of the narrow roads or some riding bicycles or horses and all sorts of horses pulling carts - unbelievable and so dangerous.
Exercise caution at all times, especially in tourist areas. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Avoid wearing jewellery or showing signs of affluence. Incidents should be reported to local police and victims should insist on receiving a copy of the report as police often only provide a slip of paper indicating that they took a statement on a certain date. In cases where a Canadian has been robbed of all identification and money, it is advisable to contact the Embassy of Canada before contacting the police in order to avoid being held in jail until your identity is confirmed and your solvency restored.
Tourists may be approached and offered black-market goods ( e.g. cigars ) or asked to change dollars for Cuban convertible pesos (CUC). Engaging in black-market transactions is illegal and can lead to difficulties with the Cuban authoritie. Never transport packages for strangers.
Driving in Cuba is dangerous. Traffic accidents are one of the most frequent causes of the detention and trial of Canadians in Cuba, whether you are responsible for the accident or not. Accidents that result in death or injury are treated like crimes and the onus is on the driver to prove innocence. Prison sentences can range from one to 10 years. Regardless of the nature of the crime or accident, it can take five months to a year for the case to go to trial. In most cases you will not be allowed to leave Cuba until the trial has taken place.
Canadians should avoid driving. Road travel can be hazardous. Signs are scarce( I did not see one speed limit sign on our way to Havana). Bicycles, pedestrians ( especially hitchhikers), and horse-drawn carts use the middle of the road and do not readily give way to oncoming vehicles. Many vehicles are old and poorly maintained. Inoperable vehicles are often left on the road until repaired. Few roads are lit and and vehicles rarely have lights or reflectors. The National Highway which runs the length of the island is generally in good condition but other roads are generally poor.
So my advice to you, is to take a tour - don't drive yourself.
if you take the train to go anywhere make sure you keep an eye to your laggage at all time. Mine were stolen in the middle of the night by a guy that jump off the train while going slow in santa clara...the police aboard are useless and they will not help you.
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