Cuba-Havanna

Arriving in Cuba is like walking out of a time machine and being catapulted backwards to the 1950’s.  Somewhat less than half the lights in the baggage hall work and the female staff look more like prostitutes than officials. Miniskirts and fishnets clearly the go here! Once through the queues of immigration, the first thing you have to do is change money, as it is a closed currency, which means it cannot be bought in or taken out of the country. Cuba is mainly a cash economy, so you need to estimate what you are going to need and take a currency that they will  change, Euro’s, Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos.  US dollars have an added 10% charge so best avoid US dollars. ATM’s difficult to come by, any bank affiliated with the US means your won’t work, so take enough cash to cover your whole trip.

Once out the airport it is not the amount of taxis that await you but the type of old, once fashionable cars!!  We jumped into an pre-arranged car.  Our cabbie was very proud to share with us his car was 38 years old and running beautifully.

We arrived in Havana to be greeted by our host Yandy.  Staying with a local family in a casa particular provides the most comfortable and authentic experience.  We stayed in Centro Havana, amongst the locals.  Although from the outside our building looked like it was falling down, the actual apartment was basic but stylish.

We enjoyed a few days in Havana,  wandering the streets, taking in the sites by horse and carriage, eating in local restaurants, sipping rum and trying to get to grips with the whole post Revolutionary situation that Fidel has left his country in.  It’s hard to see how this country is going to survive, with buildings falling down, shops devoid of produce, food difficult to come by and  professionals turning their back on their once respected careers  to sell souvenirs to tourists because they cannot survive on their meagre income.

Our horse and carriage tour guide, was a nurse but had to give it up because he couldn’t survive on the $32 a month he earned.  He now earns $25 per guided tour which he shares with the driver. They do on average 3 tours a day.

Found a bloke upstairs one evening cutting hair, so asked him to fit me in. Maybe an error in the Spanish, or maybe just no gold necklace to tell him where to stop clipping!

Traveling through Cuba is not for the faint hearted and has its unique set of challenges.  The main one being little to NO internet.  With hot spots in various squares round the city, you see hundreds of people desperately trying to connect to the internet. At best it’s painfully slow, most of the time non-existent.

We had read that scuba diving in Cuba was one of the best in the world.  With the warm, crystal blue colored waters we just couldn’t resist.  In Cuba you have to buy your bus ticket one day before you travel.  This has to be done by person at the station that you leave from. This is very frustrating as the cost of a cab to the bus station costs more that the actual bus ticket!!!!

Next day our bus was 4 hours late, not explanation given! Eventually it turned up and Bears seat was broken.  We took it upon ourselves to move once the bus started but were soon shouted at by the driver!!

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