A Travellerspoint blog

Fun in the Cuban sun

Havana - Money problems, Wifi parks and deadly mojitos.

sunny

Our flight from Cancun to Havana was slightly tainted with the worry of possibly having zero money. You see, Australian bank cards are difficult if not impossible to use in Cuba, through the advise of a friend, we each got an Australian Post Office Pre-Paid Visa card.
However, in a haze of Red Wine, Thai food and packing for the next day, we overlooked the 'Important Info' part in order to finalise the card.
Realising this at Cancun Airport 40 minutes before our flight and out of order ATMS were not ideal.

Met by a relatively basic airport in Havana, the most interesting part was the female Customs Officers in their military uniforms paired with an array of fishnet stockings and hooker heels.

Stepping outside you are overcome by a feeling of having travelled back in time. Pre-Revolutionary cars sharing the road with horse and cart, the beautiful architecture all over the country and the refreshing lack of everybody glued to social media.

The lack of everyone of facebook is purely because of the Cuban internet setup. There is only wifi in the hotels and 'wifi parks'. You go to the park, buy from either a reputable store or a slightly seedy looking fellow; a pre-loaded internet card. You then scratch the back to get the passcode and you are good to go. The best part of this was just visiting the wifi park, sometimes 2 hundred people scattered throughout the parks, skyping family overseas, investigating the rest of the world and the occasional guy downloading dirty films. This made fixing our money problems that much harder but that much more interesting.

A word of advice, if travelling to Cuba, be prepared when it comes to money. Australian Visa, Mastercard and any other bank cards apparently do not work! Get an Australian Post Office Visa (please make sure to read the instructions properly) and lots of Euros. You will have to wait in a long line to exchange this but much less of a hassle than being penniless in this surprisingly expensive to travel country.

Once on Cuban soil, our top priority to burn off the stress, was finding a Mojito and at $1.50CUC you couldn’t got wrong. Needless to say, we spent some time at this bar. Especially after one of the bartenders took a shine to us and triple poured everything!

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 09:58 Archived in Cuba Tagged buildings people havana Comments (0)

Fun in the Cuban sun

Cuba - A beautiful poverty.

sunny

Before I start this off, I would like to clarify the title. Although not actually impoverished, it is the only way I can describe this incredible, amazing, friendly, crazy, heartbreaking, beautiful place.
Crumbling buildings shoulder restored masterpieces; Che and Fidel Castro murals and tributes at every turn; rubbish piling up in streets while around the corner a stunning park fountain bubbles away surrounded by tourists. It is impossible to paint an accurate picture for you all as it is such a contrast to anything myself and Cat have ever experienced.

Making on average $25CUC a month, which exchanges to around $35AUD (I was told that if you make $35CUC a month is amazing and $40 almost unheard of), the struggle is visible and the occasional person will try to exploit a tourist, but majority of local Cubans are happy to just sit, chat with you and make sure you are enjoying their country.
The people themselves were what made Cuba for us, always a smile on their face, always willing to help (with the fun of translation issues of course) and the guys are always trying their best to hook up with a tourist.
We heard it all walking down the streets and in the bars, so much so, that after awhile of attempting to dodge it all, we gave up and talked shit back to them. If they asked you to be their girlfriend, we said sure, this catches them off guard so much that once they have gathered themselves for a reply, you are already around the street corner being a smart arse to the next one.
For male tourists however, they have the tricky job of dodging boyfriends who will pimp our their girl for some quick cash, to opportunistic prostitutes (locals girls who have never sold themselves before, but decide to make the most of the situation and quote a price for the night).
All of this made for some interesting days in Cuba.

Going out in Cuba is a big difference to going out basically anywhere else in the world. Some Cubans will go out every single night to Salsa until closing time, get some sleep, go to work and then back to Salsa. After a week we realised it is quite acceptable to tell the bartender your drink is weak, he will then take out his bottle of rum and top you up until you are happy with the result. By week two we found that it is also totally fine to bring your own drinks to the bar, beer or bottle of rum is cool, everyone is doing it!
Keeping up with the locals, we danced until the lights came on, were taught to salsa by the naturally rhythmed Cubans and Cat even got to showcase her 'free dancing' (a lot of hands in the air). To Cubans, the fact that we don't have 'traditional dancing' like salsa, is unbelievable.

As a backpacker in Cuba, the bed of choice is what is called a Casa Particular, a bit like a B&B. Set up in a family home, there is between 1 and 4 bedrooms. Some were run by the whole family (literally you never saw the same person twice) and others by just one lady or husband and wife.
With a private room, en suite bathroom and sometimes our own balcony, we made the most of it before we hit dorm room territory in Mexico. Each Casa was different to the last, but all offered to cook your meals, book your tours and organise your next casa in the next city.

Needless to say, I would recommend Cuba to anyone even considering a visit. You will experience a culture that can be compared to that of Latin America, but is unique in its own right. Whether your into Rum, Cigars, Chocolate, Beaches, Classic Cars, Cities or small towns, this gem will have you wishing you booked for longer!

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To follow - Exploring Beautiful Cuba.

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 20:23 Archived in Cuba Tagged landscapes churches buildings people parties night Comments (0)

It begins

Our adventure to our adventure

The day before we started our big adventure was not one for 'good signs of things to come'.

The fish died, I lost my swimmers and we got lost on the way from Sydney Airport to Cats own house!

Refusing to let it put a damper on things, we laughed it off, drank a few to many wines and managed to mess up the set up our money card for Cuba! We will get to Cuba soon!

Our ride to the Airport in Cats Dads Holden Statesman was a stylish one to say the least with its leather interior but that’s about where our class stopped!
Cats dad crying made Cat cry, which made me feel bad for not crying, we got lost in the Airport and Cat broke the Self Check in with her monster backpack!
Trying to 'take as little as possible' clearly meant something different to each of us, I think Cat is still yet to figure out the puzzle of her backpacks and roller suitcase while I'm just trying to keep my shorts going as long as humanely possible before washing them!

On board the half empty Airbus, we had room to move, a Flight Attendant who seemed to be sucking on lemons and not enough time to watch the excellent selection of inflight entertainment on offer.
14 hours was just not long enough :p
As it turns out, our citrus loving flight attendant was just shy of a riot with her tales of that time Channing Tatum came on board and sneaking us extra booze to get us through.

Right before disembarking in L.A we decided to be good people and not take the blankets provided on the plane, 'it's LA, it will be warm right?'. Wrong!!! 10c outside and they crank up the Air Con in the airport.
If they ever show a boarder security program of LAX you might see all the strange looks we got from cabin crew and passengers alike while lying flat on the floor in the sun for heat in the various locations between Domestic Gate 20 to 42.
Should have taken the damn blanket.

Five hours in LAX, a quick hop down to Dallas on a plane that was in its prime in the 70s (the squeaking coming from somewhere inside the plane was most comforting) and nearly missing our next flight to Cancun save for the nice old guy on the info desk before landing in hot and humid Cancun at 11.30pm where we got forgotten at the airport by our accommodation.

Stay tuned for 'Cuba - A Beautiful Poverty'

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 13:38 Archived in Australia Tagged flying Comments (0)

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