Cuba - Hints and Tips

Discussion in 'OT (OFF Topic) Forums' started by Bryan Allman, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. Bryan Allman

    Bryan Allman Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I'm off to Cuba for a week in June, 3 days in Havana and 5 days in Varadero. It's a photography gig and whilst I will be working most of the time, I will have some evenings and days free.

    I will be taking a load of gear with me, so apart from the obvious issues around security of the kit, are there any other hints and tips about trips to Cuba that would be good for me to know. :)

    Many thanks
     
  2. Sp!ke

    Sp!ke Administrator Staff Member

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    I'll give you one.

    In Havana you will undoubtedly stumble across people trying to sell you something or make a buck or two. If you come across a likeable character, instead of batting them off, suggest you take him/her for a beer or Mohito and have a good chat about politics or whatever and get to know them a bit. Then, make the suggestion that if you both go and do a food shop together (with you paying), will he/she take you back to their family home and show you real Cuban food.

    If they agree, it wont cost you much to buy food for their family for a whole month and you will be treated to a wonderful display of gratitude and will likely have a great meal and an experience of real Cuba that you wont forget in a lifetime.
     
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  3. LTD

    LTD MB Club Veteran

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    <waits for Druk to find thread>

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  4. flango

    flango MB Club Veteran

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    +1 :d
     
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  5. Beno

    Beno Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I've just come back from cuba the people are very friendly. Even in the hotels and more expensive bars (hemingway bar really not that good) arent expensive when compared to London. There are a few scams, girl may ask you to buy babies milk, she will return what you buy for the money. Some one will tell you is a festival special day and try and sell you cheap cigars. Be polite but say no thanks they won't be offended. I done the same 2 Centre stay as you. Remember your sun block as it's hot.
     
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  6. Druk

    Druk Administrator Staff Member

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    :D

    Make sure your Visa application is correctly filled in. They will send it back repeatedly on the slightest provocation.

    Don't expect a rapid transit of the entrance formalities. Your baggage could take an hour or more to appear and immigration is as tough as the US.. :wallbash:

    Immediately put aside $25 CUC to pay the exit charge. Easy to forget this and be stuck at last minute.

    Don't allow agencies (all Gov owned) to talk you into arranging internal travel. Cheaper to DIY and haggle.

    Haggle with taxi and rickshaw drivers BEFORE you get in. If where you're going is not for long the rickshaws will wait so ask about return fare.

    Older cabs and for-hire 'oldies' with blue marked numberplates are Gov owned. Usually in a worse state than private so avoid if poss.

    Restaurants in the Old Quarter in Havana are good but not necessarily cheap.

    Take handfuls of small change when you go out. Some of the poverty is heartbreaking and genuine and a few Cuc goes a long long way.

    Havana is a hoot. Varadero not so much...lots of inflated Russian pornstars and their minders evident.

    There is an ATM down the street on the left side facing the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel in Havana. It only accepts Visa (not Mastercard) as do most money exchanges and is a lot less busy than the central money exchange but has a limit of approx £200 per day per transaction. If you have £sterling the money desk inside above hotel offers good X rates and I think to non-residents.

    edit. Good advice in above post #5 about the 'milk' and 'cigars'.


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  7. Giantvanman

    Giantvanman Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    If you are into 'sightseeing' I would recommend the Capital (or is it Capitol) building which a direct copy of the one in the US. Although this will sound strange, there is a large cemetery with the most amazing monuments in Havanna.

    Other than that, the street markets are a hoot, we never felt threatened so wandered around the backstreets and alleys and met lots of wonderful people by staying away from tourist places.

    MOST did NOT want anything other than to chat and pass the time.

    And if you want to make a gesture, save your change and at the end of the trip in Varedero, give it to the maid along with your part used shampoo, body wash, soap, toothpaste etc. These are very much luxury items to them……..check out the prices in a supermarket if you don't believe me (or in case things have changed radically since we went).

    Lastly, if you want a treat, take a tour of and have dinner at the Dupont mansion, (Xanadu?).

    PS Although I prefer Cohiba, I really don't mind some Bolivar!
     
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  8. Sp!ke

    Sp!ke Administrator Staff Member

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    On the subject of toiletries being a luxury over there..... careful of your sunscreen being left in your hotel room.

    I had a lucky escape in that I noticed the texture of the sunscreen in a squirty bottle seemed odd one day. I ascertained that the contents had been swapped for something else.. presumably by hotel staff.

    Luckily I noticed before I burnt myself to a crisp.

    Aside from just being a little careful of things like that, I didn't feel I had anything to fear in Havana. It was friendly and safe and I had a really great time - one of the favourite cities I've ever visited. :thumb:
     
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  9. johnsco

    johnsco Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    +1
    Great place.
    It's some years since I went but it was one of life's great experiences.
     
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  10. TDE1

    TDE1 Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Can't comment on Havana or Varadero, as went to the Cayos. As Giantvanman posted already, the locals were very grateful for small Western gifts. I came back minus a few T-shirts, swimmers, sunglasses, toiletries etc (all willingly given).

    Have a great time - a very interesting and lovely place, great people, fab weather. Can't wait to go back - however, Mrs TDE1 still won't go (I went with friends last time), so any tips on how to earn bonus brownie points would be equally appreciated :D
     
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  11. Druk

    Druk Administrator Staff Member

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    You're on completely the wrong forum for that Bud. Suggest you try mumsnet.

    Relationships | Mumsnet Discussion





    :D



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  12. IanMSpencer

    IanMSpencer Active Member

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    Havana is a photographer's dream as every building seems to be 100 years old and last received any maintenance 50 years ago. You should be careful walking near structurally unsound buildings.

    Eat in the private restaurants not the state owned ones, you'll get some treats and some horrors, there is truely dreadful food to be had. You will also find it is impossible to eat withoout a Salsa band playing, and tourists are expected to enthuse about salsa dancing - watch for the gigalos pulling the aging lady tourists (we saw some truly awful sights where some 70 year old granny was acting like a teenager with her 20 year old "dancing" partner).

    I think one of the highlights in Havana was the castle by the harbour. We got invited into the control office for the harbour which is just stuck on top of the ancient monument. However, I've got some truly atmospheric pictures from there, and there is a lovely ceremony of the 9 o'clock boom, wher at about 8 they beat the bounds of the castle, then they do a ceremony where they sing a couple of folk songs, all in fancy dress, then set off the cannon.

    Don't pay high prices for riding in an old American car. For a start, the chances are that it has a little Toyota diesel engine mounted on a couple of girders, and half the population still drive them, they are 10 a penny over there. They had their last import of shock absorbers back in 1968 though, so they are not a luxury ride!

    I know nothing of Valadaro, but I think it is just tacky beach resort for those who fly in for an all inclusive holiday, barely leaving their cell block before the return journey.

    As others have said, people are friendly, and we only had one couple try and con us out of money, but aside from wasting an hour of hour time, they were good natured enough about it. They do not want to be bought drinks at tourist prices when the same money could buy them their home for a month.

    It is worth doing the bus tour of Hanana, it is a large spawling city. The old quarter has to be explored on foot. The Museum of the Revolution is entertaining for its collection of bloodstained artifacts from the revolution.

    I would add that I came away rather sympathetic to their plight, modern Cuba came about as a reaction to the country being abused and plundered, its people effectively in slavery, by Americans and especially American Mafia. Cubans successfully kicked them out but then made some unwise choices in their dealings with Russia. However, for all the American propaganda about freedom, they chose to be free of American abuse and the American embargo is the main cause of Cuba's difficulties. All we can see is that the ordinary Cubans have a tough life, but in spite of that have a happy attitude.

    So watch out for the dogs on the street wearing name tags and t-shirts, cars galore, more architecturally fascinating buildings than you can shake a stick at, interesting grave yards and a lively musical scene. Pick your restaraunts with care, learn to enjoy the music, be frequent with small tips for services rendered and you'll have a great time.
     
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  13. TDE1

    TDE1 Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Now THAT‘S an eye-opener of a forum! Considered myself rather naive until today. Now I realise I know next to nothing :eek:
     
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  14. Druk

    Druk Administrator Staff Member

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    ^ The enemy within.
     
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