Beating the crowd to Cuba

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Limewood

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Friend of mine who resides in Hong kong sent me this yesterday...

Made it to Cuba! we only went to Havana, didn't go to the beach resorts - although they are supposed to be very nice (not as nice as QLD I expect). Havana is pretty interesting with it's old buildings, cars and bars. It's also very poor, with the locals living a pretty basic lifestyle. They're hoping the American tourists will change that once they're allowed in. Stayed at a very nice colonial-style hotel called the Parque Central, looks across a park.
The cars are amazing. They're not all restored but they are everywhere (photos attached). And the bars are good fun, all with Cuban bands and cigars. Overall it was an interesting trip and I ticked the box but don't know if I'd recommend going out of your way to go there. There are probably a lot of nicer places to go to in the Caribbean.
 

kpc

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Friend of mine who resides in Hong kong sent me this yesterday...

Made it to Cuba! we only went to Havana, didn't go to the beach resorts - although they are supposed to be very nice (not as nice as QLD I expect). Havana is pretty interesting with it's old buildings, cars and bars. It's also very poor, with the locals living a pretty basic lifestyle. They're hoping the American tourists will change that once they're allowed in. Stayed at a very nice colonial-style hotel called the Parque Central, looks across a park.
The cars are amazing. They're not all restored but they are everywhere (photos attached). And the bars are good fun, all with Cuban bands and cigars. Overall it was an interesting trip and I ticked the box but don't know if I'd recommend going out of your way to go there. There are probably a lot of nicer places to go to in the Caribbean.

I also stayed at Parque Central...it is right in the heart of Habana and apparently the best hotel in Habana . I would rate it 4*...book early if you want to stay here as a lot of tour groups stay here...it has a great rooftop swimming pool.
 
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Mark3000

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That sums up our experience exactly. I'm glad we went but am in no hurry to go back

We were there in June this year so can help with any questions about Havana.
The most important tip is to bring cash. You just cannot rely on credit cards, even Australian ones. We met a number of Aussies who could not get any cash at all out of ATMs and were really stuck.
Westpac didn't work but CBA did for us but it seems it's variable.

Our Cubana flight to cancun got cancelled at the last minute and we were very lucky to get transferred to an Aeromexico flight but not everyone was so lucky.
 

Mark3000

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Oh and the other good tip about Cuba is if you like chocolate, bring it with you. We could not find any nice chocolate, all we ever saw were some M&Ms. The "supermarkets" in central Havana were all virtually empty with minimal things to choose from
 

kpc

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The most important tip is to bring cash. You just cannot rely on credit cards, even Australian ones. We met a number of Aussies who could not get any cash at all out of ATMs and were really stuck.
Westpac didn't work but CBA did for us but it seems it's variable.
This is very important. We brought Euro 2000 cash for 5 days (didn't use it up obviously) and hotel was prepaid! Don't bring USD as there is a 10% surcharge to change it to CUC. No surcharges for Euro, Cad etc
Oh and the other good tip about Cuba is if you like chocolate, bring it with you. We could not find any nice chocolate, all we ever saw were some M&Ms. The "supermarkets" in central Havana were all virtually empty with minimal things to choose from
You must have missed this shop in downtown Habana ;)

ry%3D400

ry%3D400

 

Mark3000

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Nice find, I wish I found that. What did it taste like? Somehow I suspect it wasn't as good as Cadbury or Lindt :)
 

kpc

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Nice find, I wish I found that. What did it taste like? Somehow I suspect it wasn't as good as Cadbury or Lindt :)
Qiute good actually..our guide brought us to this shop as he said it was popular with locals but priced out of reach of many locals:(
 

doctau

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I'm not liking this thawing of relations! Couldn't they have waited until after mrsdoctau and I go in about 12 months time? ;)

I'm still looking forward to it, even if it is a bit more touristy by then.
 

drron

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Fortunately we are going in September.Also fortunate that we are doing a cruise around Cuba visiting National Parks and places less visited.It is an expedition cruise.
With MSC basing a ship in Havana later this year and Carnival starting regular cruises early next year the changes will accelerate I am sure.
 

Milboo

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That chocolate shop was great - especially their chocolate milk.

I found it refreshing that there was a lack of processed and packaged foods and advertising elsewhere. Nestlé ice cream was common, as it comes from Mexico. I saw Coke once in 10 days. No rows of chocolate, chips, lollies etc

stepping into a supermarket in Trinidad was an eye opening experience as there were about 4 shelves of food products only - sauces etc

I really liked Havana (stayed at Hotel Nacional) - and the fact that one minute you'd be in a beautifully restored area and you'd then turn a corner and progress had not made it that far. The glimpses into those amazing old houses was interesting.

I found it an infinitely fascinating country (stayed in Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Vinales) and the people really lovely making the most in an economical climate that would challenge most.
 

pagingjoan

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We are heading in that direction next week, too, so I should be able to provide some additional first hand information down the track for those visiting a little later. :)
 

Ben170292

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I'm just curious, is Cuba easy to do alone and without a tour? I have been looking at tours but they seem fairly expensive,Thanks
 

kpc

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I'm just curious, is Cuba easy to do alone and without a tour? I have been looking at tours but they seem fairly expensive,Thanks
We did it ourselves although did hire a private guide for 2 days in Habana @$100 / day for his services :)...but you can do it independently!
 

Mark3000

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I'm just curious, is Cuba easy to do alone and without a tour? I have been looking at tours but they seem fairly expensive,Thanks

We did it ourselves too. It's more work but much cheaper and very easy to get local guides at the hotel
 

pagingjoan

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I'm just curious, is Cuba easy to do alone and without a tour? I have been looking at tours but they seem fairly expensive,Thanks

We are doing what I suppose you would call a "private tour". That is, drivers to get us around the country, and local guides on site, as appropriate. We have a combination of hotels and home stay, so that should be an interesting mix.

Will report back, but will be in SFO and Jamaica before hitting Cuba, so it will be a couple of weeks off, at least. :)
 

Milboo

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I'd say it depends on what your level of Spanish is.

It is not an easy country to navigate especially as a lot of business is all private and you need to know where to go/ who to ask etc. Also it pays to know where to find the good places to eat (paladars) etc.

Don't expect to walk down a street and see signs out like you're used to here.
 
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