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Cuba Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your Cuba vacation

Havana, male travellers beware 1 stars
I backpacked to Havana in August of 2008 and, uncharacteristically, I stayed at a pretty nice hotel in Old Havana.

I wish to share, at length, one of the most negative aspects of my experience there. Besides con-artists constantly asking me for money, droves and droves of local women and pimps regarded me a possible 'John' or as their ticket to a better life outside of Cuba. I write this so that any male who travels to Havana on his own, can guard himself against the sex trade, which sometimes surfaces out of what may appear to be completely normal interactions. If good looking women in Havana are interested in you, they will likely get to a sales pitch.

It started happening as soon as I got to the Jose Marti Airport in Havana although I didn't clue in for a couple days. Women were unusually flirty with me, even professional ones like the customs agent and the bank teller. I'm not saying that it is unusual for 'a' (one) woman to flirt with me, but the AMOUNT of women that flirted with me, unprovoked, was off the charts. Also, most of them were stunning and that was unusual as I normally only attract.....well, pretty girls, not stunning ones.

I thought maybe I just had a look that was in some sort of style in Havana but I slowly started figuring out what was going on: they were either prostitutes or they were interested in getting me to act as their ticket to a better life in Canada. Mail order brides.

On the third night of my stay I was in my hotel, using their pay as you go internet services, when a gorgeous Cuban woman came in and sat right next to the terminal beside me. Unprovoked, she kept looking at me, flashing her eyebrows, and smiling at me when I looked at her.

Still not entirely tuned in, I was quite taken. Most men would like it if a good looking woman started hitting on him, right? So at first, nothing seemed odd to me.

We talked for a while and I asked her questions about living in Cuba, like if they all really wanted to go to the USA, and if they all really hated communism and I learned a lot in that conversation. When I got up to leave, she asked me if she could come up to my hotel room and give me a 'massage.'

I figured that to be a sort of euphemism or lead in for sex and I began to realize she was after money. Then she said she was a professional at massaging and I was completely turned off. I am not judgemental because I realize that the economic opportunities for me in my home city of Edmonton, are not available in Cuba so, instead of getting mad, I gave her a few CUCs (convertible cuban units) and said I wasn't interested but that it was nice talking to her.

Something like this happened numerous times during my stay in Havana. My tip to the male traveller is to go here with a woman and keep her close. Rarely did I walk more than ten minutes in Havana without some 'pimp' calling me "Amigo" or a woman zealously flirting with me as her way of sellling a 'massage.'

It ruined part of my trip to not be able to enjoy the community I was in without being regarded as sugar daddy.


Media control in Cuba 3 stars
Even though we spent most of our days outdoors when we went to Cuba, sometimes we were just too tired or we considered it was too hot outside to take a walk. So we stayed at the hotel, ordered room service and watched TV. Cuban television is very interesting and it reminds me a lot of the TV programs my parents used to talk about, the only ones they could see when Romania was still under the communist regime. There are many educational shows, all with a patriotic tendency. There are many Cuban soap operas, but you can tell they are very controlled by the government, as they all send subliminal messages for the youth of Cuba. It's interesting, but you can tell that a lot of information is censored or even modified.


Hine and trek in Cuba! 5 stars
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Among the things I enjoyed alot in Cuba (aised from trying their very famous tobbacco roll) are the physical activities that i and my companions have tried.

I have to tell that the country really offers terrific hiking and trekking possibilities. Imagine following in the footsteps of Fidel Castro and his rebels band in a three-day trek over the Sierra Maestra mountain range, crossing Pico Turquino, Cuba's highest mountain. I was able to experience this thrilling adventure.
Although maps, professional guides and walking trails are almost non-existent the locals are always happy to offer their services for a few dollars. I suggest you don't miss this opportunity when you happen to be in Cuba.


Old cars in Cuba 5 stars
Cuba is full of really old cars. I felt like I took not the bus but a time machine to Havanas past. Lot's of colorful American cars, "ancient" Ford convertibles - they all look quite good. I guess people take a very good care of them, as they still function and looking so shiny.
Not only American cars are there. Thousands of old Lada models are rushing through the streets. I've never seen so many Russian cars anywhere! I guess even in big Russian cities drivers do not support so much national producers.
In the country side we've also noticed old trucks and Soviet Army cars. In our hotel there was even the offer to drive one of these army trucks to some Cuban city for a tour.
For those who is interested in old car models Cuba is a real paradise.


ATMs and credit cards in Cuba 3 stars
ATM in Cuba is a really rare thing. It may take a while to find it. We were naive to assume that as far as Havana is a capital of Cuba, there shouldn't be a problem with money withdrawing or with credit card payments.
First of all credit cards are accepted almost nowhere and ATM machines are hard to find. We were checking some luxury hotels in the center of Havana but even they didn't have any ATMs.
Finally we found one bank, where there was a long line of people waiting for their turn to get the cash.
The advice is to get the cash at your hotel (if you stay in Varadero it shouldn't be a problem) or to ask for a nearest bank (there are not so many banks either).


Cuba - Not Exactly What You Think 4 stars
When my wife and I went on honeymoon to Cuba we imagined it would be the sort of paradise place you see on the television. It didn’t quite meet those expectations but was special in its own way.
Vardero is the main place with the tourist hotels which is like a special place away from the rest of the island. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the local workers in the hotels and the area are brought in by bus at the beginning of their shift and then taken home again when they’ve finished. The hotels themselves are more like miniature villages with shops, restaurants and swimming pools, all sitting along a spit of land beside the sea.
It’s wasn’t a beach filled with palm trees and golden sands but it was nice there, even if the sea was sometimes too rough to swim in.
As a country Cuba has a rich history which pays special homage to the heroes of the revolution. Walking around a museum, it was as though it was a permanent and sacred memorial. The guide gave us instructions not to talk while we were in there and it was a very solemn part of the trip.


For excitement in Havana, Go to El Viejo y El Mar 5 stars
El Viejo y El Mar

About 20 minutes away by cab towards the west from Havana beyond the barrio of Playa is a hotel in the outskirts of the city, El Viejo y El Mar, a tribute to Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and his passion for a sea-bound lifestyle during the years he spent in Cuba before and during the early years of the revolution. The hotel located in what is now popularly known as Marina Hemingway commands an excellent view of the skyline of the city of Havana from the balconies of its fairly comfortable rooms. Of course, as in other hotels, the major concern of the staff upon registration is warning the prospective client that it does not accept payments for accommodations and services through the use of American-based credit cards because of the refusal of these companies to remit sales done in Cuba.

El Viejo y El Mar is located within the sprawling Marina Heminway, a growing community of expatriate yacht owners with the encouragement of the Cuban government who support their initiatives of sponsoring sailing, water sports, and related activities. Many expatriates who have taken up residence in this marina have inspired, given its distance from Havana, the expansion of amenities like restaurants, shopping centers, malls, and supermarkets. These amenities are open to the guests of the hotel who have the advantage of access to the supply of a greater variety of consumer goods that cannot be found in Havana itself considering the lifestyle of simplicity and non-consumerism advocated by the revolutionary government.

For the familiar, the relaxing in Havana, go to El Viejo y El Mar!


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