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The way to do Cuba - pre book hotel ?

I'm wondering if I need to book my hotel from the uk before I land, will it be cheaper than being forced to book at immigration ? Thanks
12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 21 Msg: #38377  
B Posts: 18
Santa Clara was taken by Che Guevara on the 31st; Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on the 1st, leaving power to the revolutionary forces. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 22 Msg: #38399  
B Posts: 18
Che took Santa Clara on December 31st, and Batista fled to the Dominican Republic on January 1st, effectively giving power to the revolutionary forces. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 23 Msg: #38406  
B Posts: 25
and was it the 26 jullio which was the start, the famous assault on the moncada barracs in santiago de cuba ? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 24 Msg: #38412  

let me ask you guys something: is cuba worth the hassle getting to (for someone living in the US)?

As far as I know you wont be able to fly directly to Cuba from the US or directly back. You will have to get out of the US to another country and then fly to Cuba from there. This may make Cuba not worth it if you are only planning to travel for a short time.
Also if you get into any trouble in Cuba then you get no help from the US because you are not supposed to be there, according to them.
Well, this was how it was 10 years ago. Check if it has changed.

based on what i've read in this forum, its my understanding that its better to take euros or pounds to cuba instead of US dollars because the US dollar is penalized or something so the exchange rate isn't very favorable.

If you take US dollars then take cash. You wont be able to use any other form of US currency like credit card or travellers cheques in Cuba.
As far as I noticed the exchange rate for cash US dollars was OK.

Google Hostels/Havana(or whichever place in Cuba you want to go) and a list will come up. A lot of them are expensive but there are some not too badly priced ones there too. I dont know if you can prebook them on the internet. Probably not, because the transaction for paying the deposit will likely be blocked by the US.
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12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 25 Msg: #38413  

Regarding money: do NOT take US dollars. They are penalized 20%!,(MISSING) which some people interpret as just a crappy exchange rate, but it's not tied to the global economy and is really just the government's way of removing US currency from circulation. Take Euros or pounds, they'll happily exchange both there.

Ugh!!! I didnt know that. 😞

Another thing for those travelling to Cuba. This is a destination where having medical insurance is advisable. Medical care is free for Cubans but it is largely financed by foreigners who get sick there, as far as I have read. I dont know if insurance from an American insurance company would be valid or not in Cuba??
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12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 26 Msg: #38414  
B Posts: 25
It would be worth noting that an American girl lost all her docs in one package while in Trinidad. I don't know what happened to her, it would be useful to get the phone number of that "body" which helps US citizens in dire cases such as this. I advised she went to the canadian or British embassy and they would at least give her accurate info. If you do go, look after your stuff like you really can't afford to loose it, as in reality you may not be able to afford to loose it. I hope she doesn't get fined. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 13th 2008 No: 27 Msg: #38511  
B Posts: 18
Regarding losing your passport (if you're American):

The US does not have an embassy or a consulate in Cuba. What is has is a "US Interest Section," or a pretend embassy/consulate. You can't miss it--it's right on the Malecon, directly behind dozens of flag poles that fly flags to hide the building from public view. If you stand directly across the street from it (say, to look at the anti-imperialism billboard that's positioned within view of its windows) you will be approached by a cop and asked to leave. You might also notice the US Marines guarding the building.

It's best to call first. You probably won't be able to get too close to the building without being on their invited visitors list. Tell them you lost your passport. I had the pleasure of meeting the Marines and the diplomats that work there during my stay in Cuba--they're all really nice people and are kind of lonely (Cuba is a non-fraternization post) and will definitely help you out if you lose your passport. I was at a party at the Marine compound (another story entirely) in Havana where I met a guy from the office there who said "I'm the guy to talk to if you lose your passport or money or whatever while you're here." We asked them about the situation of people in Cuba illegally--they said they actually could care less whether or not you're there legally.

I think that's mostly because the people who do care are the U.S. Treasury. The guys at the interest section have other things to worry about. That's what they said, anyways. You might double-check. There was alcohol; he might not have remembered their policies correctly. But, regardless, they will be there to help you in whatever emergency situation may arrise...whether you're there legally or not.

Hope this helps! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 28 Msg: #38617  
Hi Emily, how did you get to Cuba? Like what route did you take? Is November a bad time to go (hurricane season)? Thanks for your and everybody's tips and advice.

How was the food in Cuba? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 29 Msg: #38625  
Is there actually a law in the US saying that Americans are not allowed to go to Cuba or is going there just discouraged by the US government? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 30 Msg: #38714  
B Posts: 18
PatrickSwayzesTwin: I went to Cuba with a license from the US Department of the Treasury. There were, however, lots of people on my flights and in Cuba who had traveled without a license. I went through Cancun, which is a really common route. There are two Mexicana flights from Cancun to Havana most days. Be warned: There is a 40 pound (I think? Maybe 45?) weight limit for Mexico-Havana flights. Check with the carrier.

There is one flight out of Miami every day but it's only for licensed travelers.

About November: It really depends what you're looking to do in Cuba while you're there. If you want to go to the beach and get tan, there are definitely better times to do that than November. If you want to spend all your time outside without dying of heat stroke or dehydration, the cooler months are a great time to be there. In November it rained quite a bit, and in Cuba when it rains it RAINS. People don't leave their homes. I certainly prefer the "winter" months to the summer in the Caribbean--December through Mid March were great for me, then it started getting a little unbearable. August and most of September were hell.

The food question is a little harder to answer. It really depends on what you like to eat and how resourceful you are, what kind of traveling you'll be doing.

If you are eating like the average tourist who goes to Cuba, you will likely be eating in lots of tourist traps. Lots of these like to pass themselves off as classy joints. As far as I can tell, the classy, elegant restaurants in Cuba did not serve what the average traveling American would consider classy, elegant food. There are some expensive paladares (you can check out my blog and e-mail me for some options in that department), which certainly offer way better food than the state-run restuarants (the ones in the hotels, generally). They aren't, however, comparable to American restaurants that would receive the same star ratings in Guidebooks by the same publisher (me entiendes?). At least in my opinion.

If you're willing to go a little more off the beaten path: if you you like rice and beans you are in luck. If you like chicken you are golden. If you like lots of ham you are set. You might even find yourself some breaded steak, perfect avocado, the best bananas you've ever had, or mango (depending on the season). Places that will serve these dishes are paladares, mostly. Some are legal; some are not. You can get the same food in both places, generally speaking, you'll just pay more in the legal ones. It will be pretty tasty wherever you end up.

If you're a vegetarian get ready for lots of rice, beans, eggs, cucumbers, and cabbage. Yum.

One more thing (I cannot be held liable for whatever you decide to do with this information): I ate the street food in Cuba every day for four months and never got sick.

Hope this helps. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 31 Msg: #38715  
B Posts: 18
The US law that prevents US citizens from going to Cuba is not actually a travel ban.

Well, effectively, it is.

But technically, it doesn't restrict travel to Cuba, but rather economic activity that benefits Cuba (i.e. US citizens are not allowed to spend money in Cuba and on anything Cuban; you can't sell/buy Havana Club rum or Romeo y Julieta cigars in the U.S., etc).

So...how do you travel in Cuba without monetarily aiding communism and the evil monsters that live in it? If you travel on Cubana airlines, they've got you there. If you take a taxi or rent a car from the airport, you're screwed there, too. Hotel room? Food? Entrance fees? You see where I'm/they're going with this? Is it possible to travel in a country without aiding its economy?

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12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 32 Msg: #38716  
Emily, I think you should be Cuba travel guide and help smuggle American tourists into Cuba. I think you'd be very successful haha. When I mention I might be going to Cuba, people's eyes get big and they all say they would love to go there....except my grandparents think I'm a traitor.

Read your blog and the private-run paladares and street vendors sound like what I'm looking for. I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to food so I'll eat almost anything. I will be golden.

I just wish there were hostels in Cuba. Not a fan of traditional hotels. I actually like the bunkbeds, the 5 other people crammed into the room, and competing for the bathroom. Oh well. What areas of Havana should I NOT stay in and avoid late at night (or maybe during the day)? Thanks again for all your help. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 33 Msg: #38722  
Thanks Emily 😊
You sure know a lot about Cuba.

So basically Americans cant admit to the immigration and customs in the US that they have just been to Cuba or they will be questioned about how they survived there without spending any money? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 19th 2008 No: 34 Msg: #39300  
B Posts: 18

There are some areas of Centro Habana you should stay away from at night. These places are easy to spot--they have no lights. That's generally a good indication you don't want to be there at night, at least with anything of value on you.

I never had a problem with crime in Cuba. There are cops practically everywhere in La Habana, especially in the touristy areas. People are more likely to run by and tear your backpack/purse/camera off your body or pickpocket you than they are to jump you (this can happen during the day, too, if there aren't cops around). So, keep valuable things out of sight (read:cameras and other electronics, like iPods) and don't walk alone at night with anything of value on you and you should be good. And always walk with a sense of purpose, even if you have none.

Your ideal hostel situation sounds like the way lots of Cubans live today. Maybe you could get a bed in a room in a subdivided building in Centro or Vedado. No joke.

Let me know how it goes! Blog while you're there. The internet is expensive, though. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 19th 2008 No: 35 Msg: #39301  
B Posts: 18

Basicaly US citizens can't admit they've been to Cuba without a license or the customs officials will just assume they've broken the law. You can then be prosecuted and fined, though many people contest the charges on the grounds of violations of basic constitutional rights (and i think they win more often than you'd think; or at least get their fines reduced).

I traveled with a license from the US treasury and on my way back to the states I chose not to tell them I'd been to Cuba. Even though I was there legally I didn't want them going through my bags and making me late for my connecting flight. I told the agent I'd been in Mexico the whooooooooooole time. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 20th 2008 No: 36 Msg: #39347  

Let me know how it goes! Blog while you're there. The internet is expensive, though.

Around how much does the internet cost per hour in Cuba?
I remember the costs of making international phone calls was incredibly high. We had to make quite a few to the Netherlands while we were in Cuba. One call I remember was around 7 minutes long and cost 50 US dollars. The Dutch consulate said we could use their satalite phone if we come to the consulate but actually getting to the counsulate and back would also have cost us quite a bit.

Thanks for the info about US Citizens Emily. 😊 How much do US citizens actually get finded for going to Cuba anyway?
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12 years ago, June 20th 2008 No: 37 Msg: #39404  
B Posts: 18
When I was there it cost about 5 CUC per hour. I think that's about 7 USD. It might be different now, especially with Raul making all his changes to make technology more accessible to Cubans.

Shameless plug: I have a long blog entry about the Internet in Cuba. It's dates somewhere between September and December of 2007.

The biggest fine ever paid to the Department of the Treasury was about $180,000...Ouch!

So, who got caught?

Travelocity.com, the online travel company that illegally booked flights to Cuba from 1998 to 2004. Ha! Niiiiiiiiiiice.

US Citizens who get caught going to Cuba are sent a letter requiring information and threatening or imposing a fine. If they determine you spent money in Cuba they go ahead and impose it. Not much evidence is required to determine whether or not you spent money on your trip, especially now (the Bush administration has become much more aggressive that previous administrations, especially in the last few years of his term). I think the average fine for first-time offenders is 7500 USD (per person). I don't really know what the situation is now or how it will develop over the next six months (especially with Bush's lame duck period approaching), but it used to be that the number of fines that were actually imposed was significantly less than the number of threats the Treasury made. I don't know if there's enough time/money/energy to prosecute everyone who contests the charges, and I think some/most cases are stuck in files somewhere and forgotten.

BUT WAIT...There's a five year statute of limitations on Cuba travel cases. In not-lawyer/law-and-order-fan terms that means they have five years to get you, even if they drop your case for the time being. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 20th 2008 No: 38 Msg: #39407  
Thanks for all that cool info Emily 😊

Mel now forcing her hands away from keyboard before she launches her ''I hate Bush'' tirade. :D Reply to this

11 years ago, July 13th 2009 No: 39 Msg: #79286  
Here is a related thread.

Money in Cuba Reply to this

11 years ago, November 30th 2009 No: 40 Msg: #94893  
B Posts: 287
Hola. Just back from Cuba this week. I cannot say enough about my experience travelling throughout Cuba from Baracoa to Maria La Gorda.

Staying in Casa Particulars the entire time you are in Cuba is very wise. State run hotels and resorts suck so bad on so many levels. They can definately ruin your experience...believe me I experienced both and know the difference! And make sure you eat at Paladors not state run restaurants in each town you visit.

Back to the Casa Particulars - all their food was excellent and abundant, accomodations simple but clean, and you could get some really great information from the owners on where to go what to do. Not to mention meeting like minded people who want to see the real Cuba.

Lots of diving opportunities throughout. You could go to the black coral reef in Maria La Gorda or perhaps dive off of the thousands of cayos all over Cuba.

Cuba is expensive to travel, but well worth it. I had been told for years from people who only went to resorts in Veradaro or Holguin that Cuba wasn't worth going, but I am so glad I didn't listen. I saw the real Cuba and have so many fantastic memories! Viva Cuba.

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