Category Archives: Cuba

How to Spend 3 Days in Havana- Our Itinerary

Havana is a lively capital city, full of charisma and, often times, crumbling charm. Friendly, colourful, and exuberant, Havana is worth a visit on any trip to Cuba. Days in Havana can be spent riding around in a 1950’s classic American car, admiring colonial architecture, visiting museums and wandering through the many historic plazas. Nights…

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  • Francesca - Note to self: start planning trip to Cuba NOW! :DDecember 15, 2014 – 5:39 pmReplyCancel

  • Sand In My Suitcase - It would be a pity to visit Cuba and not take in the cultural attractions of Havana – looks like you had a good time ☺. We hope to visit Cuba soon…December 16, 2014 – 9:06 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I agree! Havana is a great city, overwhelming at times, but still very friendly and a lot of fun! I’m glad we decided to go to Havana instead of spend our entire week long vacation on the beach.December 16, 2014 – 5:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Polly - Hi Rhonda,

    Love the itinerary but I agree that you should see the Hotel Nacional and the Museo de la Revolucion if you get the chance to go back! I stayed at the Hotel Nacional and, though it was a little worse for wear, it was brilliant to stay in such a historical place. They also did a really interesting hotel tour covering the guests that had stayed there (the Mafia, Sinatra, etc.).

    The Museo de la Revolucion was fascinating because of the political climate – it was basically a giant propaganda exercise! Definitely worth a visit, though you had to take what you saw with a pinch of salt.

    I also enjoyed your post about the street hassles and harassment in Havana – I had a bit of that, but my main issue was getting robbed on the Malecon in broad daylight (police were useless). I was relieved to see you guys didn’t have a similar experience to mine, and that the Malecon was a safe place!February 22, 2015 – 3:40 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Polly,

      I’m glad you had a chance to experience Hotel Nacional and the Museo de la Revolucion. They sound very interesting and I for sure will make a visit if I am ever back in Havana.

      That’s crazy that you were robbed like that, in broad daylight nonetheless! I hope you were okay though and nothing more serious happened. I was actually worried that we were going to get robbed on the Malecon, our first night there. It was dark out, but we wanted to take a very quick walk before bed. As we were looking out towards the ocean a car came out of nowhere and out jumped 3 or 4 guys. I thought for sure we were going to get held up. Instead, they played us some music and told us stories about what life was like in Cuba! It turned out to be pretty harmless, but it sure got my heart racing!February 24, 2015 – 8:48 pmReplyCancel

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña- Havana’s Mighty Fortress

As we walked around Old Havana, I couldn’t help but look across the channel and wonder- “What is that giant stone wall?” It seemed like it went on forever, spanning almost the entire hill. The stone structure that had piqued my curiosity was actually a colossal colonial fortress, the largest in the Americas. Fortaleza de…

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  • Sand In My Suitcase - Those stone walls look pretty impressive! These fortified walls end up being great tourist attractions, don’t they? We’re particularly thinking of the medieval wall around the historic heart of Dubrovnik, which you can walk atop (and peer down at shopkeepers and schoolboys kicking soccer balls and grannies hanging laundry). Cub would be interesting to visit – one day!December 13, 2014 – 10:26 amReplyCancel

Colours of Cuba- Photo Series

One of the things I loved most about Cuba was its vibrancy. It’s a bright and colourful country, a nice change from our dreary winters and beige houses here in Canada. Colours of Cuba In Havana, pops of colour breathe life into the worn, sometimes crumbling buildings. Classic cars, many with immaculate, glossy paint jobs,…

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  • Frank - Fantastic photos Rhonda. We’ve compared notes before on Cuba – but this compilation is really good and covers a few places that we haven’t been.
    Frank (bbqboy)October 8, 2014 – 7:32 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks Frank! I had so many photos to sift through, it was hard to pick the ones to include!October 8, 2014 – 9:02 amReplyCancel

  • Michael Dadourian - Thank you for painting a nice picture, I think you definitely sold this destination spot. Glad you shared such nice imagery along with your words.October 9, 2014 – 9:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Michael Dadourian - My pleasure Rhonda.October 10, 2014 – 5:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie Reinwald - Your photos are beautiful! My soon-to-be son-in-law was born and raised in Cuba, and my daughter has been there twice. I am hoping to be able to visit the country in the next few years to spend time with his family who all still live there!October 11, 2014 – 2:51 amReplyCancel

  • Melissa - The Mellyboo Project - These photos are BRILLIANT! :) Definitely makes me want to go to CubaJanuary 24, 2016 – 6:41 pmReplyCancel

Parque Marti- The Historic Heart of Cienfuegos, Cuba

Cienfuegos was just a quick stop on our excursion to Trinidad, but as soon as I stepped off the bus, I was wishing we could stay at least a few hours. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cienfuegos was lovingly nicknamed in colonial times the “Pearl of the South”. The seaside city still retains much of…

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What to Expect on Your First Trip to Cuba- A First Time Visitor’s Guide

Cuba is a fascinating and unique country, with enough diversity to please all types of travellers. History buffs will feel as though time has stood still in Cuba’s charming colonial towns, rich with colour and culture. Nature lovers and adventure seekers will enjoy hiking among the jungle covered mountains and lush valleys. Those looking for…

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  • Jenn - Great tips, guys! There doesn’t seem to be a ton of travel info out there yet about Cuba so I’m sure a lot of people will really appreciate this. Interesting about the health insurance requirements and of course the scam info is always good.July 2, 2014 – 10:39 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thank you! Yes, the health insurance is an important one to be aware of. We had to make some calls to make sure our insurance wasn’t provided by an American company, but luckily it wasn’t. The reason we know about those scams is because they all happened to us! At least now we can give other people a heads up!July 2, 2014 – 4:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Carmen - What a wonderful post about Cuba. As a Cuban-American it’s so unfortunate that Americans are not allowed to visit Cuba, unless they are traveling with an organization/group from the U.S. Americans can use their credit cards in Cuba either, which can be challenging. You have to carry cash everywhere you go. In my recent visit we ran out of toilet paper and had to travel to three towns until we finally found some. It’s very sad how some of the people live, and how the little things we leave behind go a long way.July 2, 2014 – 12:17 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Travelling to Cuba was definitely humbling for us. It was very sad to see people going without certain freedoms and things we consider basic necessities. They were very much appreciative of the small items we left for them.July 2, 2014 – 4:38 pmReplyCancel

  • shabrina - wow! this is very interesting. thanks for the awesome info! guess its time to save up to go to CubaJuly 2, 2014 – 9:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Tam Gamble - We loved Cuba – It was our honeymoon destination! Whilst we were there they tried the ‘Milk Scam’ on us as well but they were not threatening when we declined to join in.

    We also filled our cases with things like pencils etc for the children and soap. These were small items but were so well received by locals.

    As with every holiday we go on I tend to leave behind cheap t-shirts that we have picked up for a couple of pound before travelling. on this particular trip, the housekeepers asked if we would be offended if they took the articles which of course we weren’t but we have to let the hotel know – if it had appeared that they had just taken them they would have lost their jobs.

    I recommend Cuba to everyone I speak to.November 14, 2014 – 9:30 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We also love Cuba and recommend it to others. More specifically, I tell people to venture away from Varadero- Cuba is so much more than just beautiful beaches!

      That’s a good idea to bring some t-shirts. We did have a lady working in a museum ask us for some clothes, but all we brought with us were small hygiene items, like toothpaste. Constantly being asked for things in Havana, and the milk scam, got tiresome after a while, but not once did we ever feel unsafe in Cuba.November 14, 2014 – 5:14 pmReplyCancel

  • Uptourist - I am loving all your first time guides. I think this is a must for all of us travelers who need guidance when we visit a new place. Cuba is definitely on my list for its colorful surroundings.March 25, 2015 – 11:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin - We are visiting Cuba in January for 6 nights. I’m wondering where we should stay? What’s the best place if we want some beach and some culture?August 23, 2015 – 10:54 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - If you stay in Varadero you’ll have great beaches and the resorts will offer day trips to Havana. We also did an overnight trip to Trinidad and Guanayara National Park (offered by the resort) which was excellent! With the side trips we got to experience the best of both worlds- beaches and culture!August 25, 2015 – 9:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Laurie F. - Thank you for all the tips for First Timers! We’ve barely been out of Canada, and are looking forward to our first trip abroad in Sep. 2016. We had thought about Europe, but with the Canadian dollar declining so much, we thought perhaps a trip to a Central American country might be wiser. More bang for our buck!! Can’t wait to learn more about CUBA. Si!!August 24, 2015 – 8:39 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Glad you found this post helpful. Cuba is a very interesting country and definitely cheaper than Europe. But no matter what you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great time!August 25, 2015 – 9:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Frank - Very accurate and informative – we’ve been to Cuba quite a fe times and had encounters with almost everything mentioned: scams (often of the foreign currency variety), bad internet (yikes), food (you’re right, not that bad, just in resorts), and giving people clothes and toiletries. But so many great things about Cuba as well that I’m not even going to start listing.
    Frank (bbqboy)November 10, 2015 – 1:19 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Yes, even though there are all these challenges to visiting Cuba, we still very much enjoyed our visit and would return again!November 14, 2015 – 10:28 amReplyCancel

  • Brygida Gołębiewska - Good guide guys :) But there are 2 things that I wouldn’t agree with.
    There is not much trouble in receiving change in CUP. When you have it, you can buy things cheaper, therefore save money :) you could also spent it in a shop where in dual curency price.
    Exit tax doesn’t exist anymore. Tax is included in you flight ticket now.April 10, 2016 – 8:25 pmReplyCancel

Hiking Guanayara National Park, Cuba

During our stay in Varadero, we booked an excursion that took us to Trinidad and the Escambray Mountains, where we spent the night in Topes de Collantes nature reserve park. The next morning, our tour took us through the jungle covered mountains and down into Guanayara National Park, where we enjoyed an easy hike past…

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  • The Wandering Wanderluster - Lovely photos. I have wanted to go to Cuba for ages but not made it there yet. Maybe we will some day and if we do I’d like to go see that National Park and jump in that lake!June 28, 2014 – 11:55 amReplyCancel

Exploring the Plazas of Old Havana

La Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, is the historic heart of Cuba’s capital city and the largest colonial centre in Latin America. Full of colour and personality, it’s a mix of historic buildings, museums, galleries, churches and lively plazas. Old Havana is where most of the tourists to Havana spend their time. It’s full of…

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  • Frank - Great photos and good guide to the different sites. We thought Old Havana was actually too restored for our liking, almost like it was a show for the tourists. Preferred Central Havana with all those crumbling buildings, just felt more like the ‘real’ Havana for us.
    But love the photos!
    Frank (bbqboy)May 15, 2014 – 8:59 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I loved both the restored and the the crumbling buildings, but I did feel like Old Havana was definitely geared towards tourists. Central Havana had a whole different vibe. I thought it was interesting though how in Old Havana you only had to venture away a block or two from the main squares to see how the locals really live.May 15, 2014 – 5:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Pratibha - Wow, stunning photos and love the way you take us through the different parts of Old Havana. Bet putting this one together took some amount of time – thank you!May 16, 2014 – 9:31 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re right, this post did take a lot of time. I worked it for almost a week! But I had fun putting it together. I like to take my readers on a nice “walk” around town. Thanks for reading :)May 16, 2014 – 10:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Alison Abbott - Nice overview. You certainly put a lot of time into this post and it shows! I hope to be traveling there next year, and this was a great visual tour to get me excited! May 19, 2014 – 4:36 pmReplyCancel

Trinidad- Colonial Charm in Cuba

Trinidad is the place I was most looking forward to visiting in Cuba. I had heard so many great things about this delightful, small town, and lucky for me, it easily lived up to my high expectations. Walking around Trinidad, I couldn’t help but smile. The colourful, colonial architecture gives the town a bright, cheerful…

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  • Carmen Edelson - I was just in Trinidad in March. It’s a wonderful little town to go see and visit. Lots of history and very colorful buildings. The Museum of Romance was my favorite. Great pictures. What was your favorite place?May 2, 2014 – 2:57 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I really loved Plaza Mayor. If we hadn’t been in a rush because of our tour, it would have been a great place to relax under the palm trees. Also, the view of the mountains from the tower at the municipal museum was breathtaking! Trinidad was definitely my favourite place we visited in Cuba.May 2, 2014 – 4:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Frank - Nice photos guys! We stayed here almost a week, really enjoyed Trinidad.
    Frank (bbqboy)May 4, 2014 – 11:18 amReplyCancel

  • Adam Evans - Some great pictures. Really gives a good feel of the place. I especially like the two with the cars in.May 5, 2014 – 1:34 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks, Adam! The abundance of classic cars was one of the things I enjoyed most about Cuba.May 5, 2014 – 1:37 pmReplyCancel

  • Hitch-Hikers Handbook - I’d love to go to Cuba one day. Time seems to have stopped there. Fascinating blog, guys. I’m glad I have found you on Google+ and now I’m also following you on Twitter. Good job! Keep it up & travel safe!May 5, 2014 – 2:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - Trinidad looks gorgeous. I love the colorful architecture and the classic cars you captured.May 25, 2014 – 10:59 amReplyCancel

  • Jenn T. - Trinidad looks awesome! After reading your post about all the hassles you experienced in Havana, glad to see you found some peace. Your pics really make me want to go, but I guess I’m a sucker for cobbled streets and colonial architecture. Cheers!June 15, 2014 – 11:40 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks, Jenn! Trinidad definitely was a nice break after visiting Havana! We really loved it and would go back for a second, longer visit if we ever go back to Cuba. I hope you get to visit Trinidad one day!June 16, 2014 – 2:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Lesley Peterson - Wonderful photos of a favorite part of Cuba! I especially like the one of the blue shell-like architectural detail. Almost anyplace in Cuba is more enjoyable than Havana. Way more. A favorite day trip near Trinidad is riding the old train through the valley of the sugarcane. Timeless scenes in a dramatic landscape.April 7, 2015 – 2:43 pmReplyCancel

A Night Out at the Tropicana Havana

Our cab heads down a broad, tree lined avenue into Miramar, Havana’s most elegant district. We zip past stately villas, housing embassies and institutions, on our way to Cuba’s, maybe even the world’s, most famous nightclub- the Tropicana Havana. Turning off the main road, our taxi slowly pulls into a lush tropical forest. The fluorescent…

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  • Marsha - Fantastic pictures! Looks like an amazing show….yes that gal is quite bendy. :)April 28, 2014 – 8:52 amReplyCancel

  • Lesh - Great photos. We missed this show and went to the show at the Hotel National. We were at the end of our trip and nearly out of money so we went for the budget one. Didn’t look as good as this show though. :)June 22, 2014 – 8:19 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We didn’t get a chance to visit Hotel National. We kept driving by it but never actually went in to explore.June 23, 2014 – 10:29 amReplyCancel

  • Paul - Good post, guys, and great pictures. It looks like a spectacular show, though like a lot of things in Cuba, it gives me mixed feelings. In a place where people are working two jobs to survive, it’s strange to see a Las Vegas-style dance show — maybe even strange that it’s allowed. As you say, its sole purpose is to earn money from the tourists.

    On the other hand, even poor countries like to put on a show, and shows like this give singers and dancers a job. And Cubans do love to sing and dance. Next time I’m in Havana I think I’ll see the Buena Vista Social Club, but I’m not sure I’ll spring for a ticket to the Tropicana.August 29, 2014 – 2:34 pmReplyCancel

Photo of the Week: Varadero Sunset

Varadero’s white sandy beach was the perfect place to enjoy a quiet sunset, the evening breeze shaping the blue water into small, curling waves. Varadero is Cuba’s top resort community and occupies the 19 km long Peninsula de Hicacos. If you would like to experience more than just Cuba’s beaches, the resorts at Varadero offer…

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Hustled and Hassled in Havana

After an eventful first night in Havana, I woke up the next day excited to begin exploring the city. I couldn’t wait to ride in a classic car, admire the architecture, and experience the local culture. After breakfast we hopped in a beautiful 1951 Chev and had the driver take us to Plaza de la…

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  • RUSS - Whenever I’m traveling, I love to explore places that are not on the reviews of travel sites. I have always believed that this is gives a greater chance to interact with locals and to see a city’s culture like the real thing. BUT I would have gotten deathly afraid if I had something like that scenario with the cigar guy.

    It’s nice that you had some items that you could give to the locals. That was very good of you.

    BTW, I love your photos :)April 20, 2014 – 9:44 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Oh, it was a completely stupid situation to have gotten into. I’m just glad nothing bad happened. While it was great to learn about life from a local, we should have been more cautious.
      Thanks for reading :)April 20, 2014 – 11:21 pmReplyCancel

  • Ryan Biddulph - Wow Rhonda! I can see how this would be agitating, the hounding, and the cigar episode could have went South. Crazy. I recall a guy in Kathmandu who asked if we wanted him to take us around town.

    No money at all he said, just as friends. We said nope, he insisted, no money. Fine, after hounding, we mistakently gave in.

    20 minutes later he asked for a few things for his family. Food items. I stressed only a few, he said OK, he’d ask us at the end.

    Then at the end, he brings us to a local shop, and he picks out $50 – USD – of groceries LOL! We laughed at him, and offered him $10, and he said he could take it. Then I talked about karma, and being honest, and simply being up front, and he wouldn’t be in that position, trying to take advantage of our kindness.

    I get why he’s desperate, but instead of ignoring it, or just getting angry, I gave him a few bucks – which he refused to accept – and simply explained how honesty is prospering.

    Thanks for the awesome share…great pics!April 21, 2014 – 3:44 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - That’s a great story, Ryan. I agree about the need to be honest, rather than posing as a friend. But I guess, that’s what makes it harder for people to say no.

      We would have been glad to help this man, but the sly way he went about things left me feeling used. It still doesn’t sit right with me, weeks after the fact. I’d rather have helped someone who was gracious and honest. Oh well, lesson learned.

      If my husband ever says yes to something like this again, I’m not going to worry about looking like a bi***, and stand up and say no! Like you said, things that cigar shop could have gone south!April 21, 2014 – 9:16 amReplyCancel

  • Frank - Your story an almost exact copy of our trip to Havana! We found it beautiful and interesting – but exhausting. Like you we were hounded for bathroom supplies and Spanky actually went back to the hotel, packed up our extras, and ended up giving them a lady who she had struck up a conversation with. Being asked for stuff was pretty constant. The only scam we were faced with however was with someone wanting to convert our dollars to pesos…we didn’t fall for that. Watch out for that, it’s a common scam – they try to get you all confused between CUCs and pesos and will try to give you moneda nacional at par with USD.

    But like you say: 1) Havana only place where it seems to happen. We loved Trinidad and didn’t get hassled at all. 2) Despite everything, we always felt safe in Cuba, including Havana.

    Our conclusion was exactly the same as well. We didn’t love Havana, and it WAS stressful – but it is such a unique place. Definitely worth a visit for at least a few days.April 21, 2014 – 1:51 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We did bust a cab driver who tried to give us our change in pesos rather than CUCs. We were always watching for that and he was not happy when we called him on it!

      Havana was the only place in Cuba we were asked for things (which was a relief). Like you, I never felt unsafe in Cuba at all, except for a brief moment when the man locked the door to the cigar “shop”. If he hadn’t have locked the door, I probably wouldn’t have been concerned.

      I didn’t love Havana like I thought I would, but I didn’t hate it either. Even with all the hassles, it still was worth a visit.April 21, 2014 – 2:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Inspire Inc - From someone who lives in and loves Latin America I will say that’s just how it is. Once one realizes things are the way they are because of the poor financial situations you can understand and put yourselves in their shoes. It’s a dog eat dog world and at the end of the day they have little chicos at home which they have feed. With that said it’s important to keep your guard up all while not being scared stiff, it’s something you just learn with time and experience in these types of environments. Personally I love the hustle of Latin America, it makes me stronger and teaches me street smarts that you wont learn anywhere else! Thanks for the article and your experiences! April 21, 2014 – 3:26 pmReplyCancel

  • Shaun - Too bad about your sour experience. The pictures of a country stuck in in 50’s is really inviting and has had me wanting to visit Cuba. You will find being hassled a part of visiting many poor countries and unfourtanetly it is part of traveling in those places. Sounds odd but it helps to budget for scams and handouts. In the end is an extra few $$ really worth getting so upset?

    Great pictures though and glad you still enjoyed your time.

    ShaunApril 23, 2014 – 8:30 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Cuba is a great country and although it is very poor, Havana was the only place people asked us for things. We weren’t upset about the money at all. Like I said, it really was insignificant to us, but probably made the world of difference to this man. I was more bothered at the deception behind it. Maybe people who go to Havana and turn a blind eye, wouldn’t have been so exhausted by it all, but I really spent a lot of time trying to understand why things are the way they are in Havana.

      Either way, we don’t consider our experience to be a bad one. We still love Cuba and will probably return in the future!April 23, 2014 – 9:48 amReplyCancel

  • Tim OCallaghan - I think I am going to Havana!April 25, 2014 – 8:43 pmReplyCancel

  • Marsha - Wow I had no idea it was this bad in Cuba. It sounds like a great country but that is so sad they are poor and cannot even buy these items we take for granted. I wouldn’t be able to sleep much either. But it really gets to you when you are hassled relentlessly. I had that in Rome and I’d feel so bad saying no; I’d be so polite. By the 100th time, politeness was gone. Sounds like you had quite the experience especially buying the cigars: yikes!! :)April 28, 2014 – 8:49 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - The situation in Cuba is very sad. I understand getting asked for things on the street- that’s just the way it is in a lot of poorer countries. But getting hounded in a museum was not something I was prepared for, and that’s when I started to get frustrated. At least it was only really bad in Old Town Havana. We didn’t encounter this as much elsewhere in the city.April 28, 2014 – 4:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - I had no idea about the rations situation. It sounds like a horrible way to live and on one hand, you can’t blame the Cubans for pestering tourists the way that they did to you. I’m really glad the situation you got in didn’t turn out to be trouble or a scam. Sometimes you just never know and I wouldn’t be comfortable with going into a stranger’s house either. In a way I’m glad you had this experience so that you could tell the story and shed some light on what is going on there.May 20, 2014 – 6:21 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Yes, things are really difficult for the people of Cuba. I’m glad we had this experience as well because we got to see Havana through the eyes of a local, even though he did ask for things from us in the end. Our time in Havana opened our eyes and really got me to think, question and try to understand, which I believe is an important part of travelling. I definitely don’t have any answers to why things are the way they are- I just tried to shed light on the situation from a few differing view points.

      I am so glad nothing bad happened at that house. I would definitely not do that again!May 24, 2014 – 2:25 pmReplyCancel

  • osu - I am cuban, living in miami since three years ago and….i understamd its very difficult to understand because cuba is like carpentier said about haiti”lo real maravilloso” (the amazing real) but something to understand is..the economical administration imposed, i said, this confusing situation about peso cubano and cuc to buy elementally things to live has created in cuba the feeling of “no work” because working just provides you with few pedos cubanos and what you need really is cuc, so since long time ago, tourist in havana are an easy way to get money….in cuba, asking to tourist for things should be a good job.,,
    On the other hand, cubans are people who are more interested in their looks….i said….cubans prefer buy a nike pair of shoes that a toothpast….
    The last, cubans are islanders and we thing in an “absolute” way, i mean, if we like a restaurant….we say “this restaurant is the best im the world” even if we just visited two restaurants in our whole life. So, in cuba it is very commoun to thing that cuban and cuban things are the best in the world even the government blocks information so what cubans know about other things around the world is limited. With this, you understand that it is real cubansthings tourists are soft and so kind of stupid, and believe me they know you see them as”poor cubans, they not have anything” and they use this to ask you.
    Well, i just try to say that dont try to understand cuban because is the” illigical land” as we say ourself and if you visit havana again keep open eyes, and help that people who dont ask you and are walking in malecon with their children who are the honesy cubans workers trying to rise their children witj hard work and dignity, they are a lot and you can find also in havanaMay 24, 2014 – 12:42 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad you shed light on this situation from the perspective of a local. I really hope that the dual currency system changes one day because it is not fair to the hardworking Cuban people. I’m glad you explained how some Cubans choose to buy nice clothes over toothpaste, since that’s something we were confused by. The people asking us for things were nicely dressed, so we thought it was weird that they were asking us for basic items like deodorant. Life in Cuba is tough and we understand why people in Havana are pestering tourists, but like you said, at the same time we also felt like they were trying to manipulate us. After we left Havana, nobody asked us for things. During the rest of our trip we chose to give small items to the people who weren’t asking for them, but could probably use them.May 24, 2014 – 2:41 pmReplyCancel

  • A Globe Well Travelled - This was a really interesting post – I’ve visited a few places where we’ve been hassled as tourists (Bali and Paris stand out in my memory) and it’s always made my view of the place a little tainted. I’m planning on heading to Cuba sometime in the next 2 years so it’s great to hear your experience and know what to expect. Thanks for sharing Rhonda!November 21, 2014 – 10:25 pmReplyCancel

  • Louise Walker - An interesting read, thanks. I visited Cuba this year and I must admit I wont be going back. It felt to me that Havana is a place to wring every last cent out of the tourists. I wrote a blog too, you might like to read it, here is a link 25, 2014 – 11:31 amReplyCancel

  • Louise Walker - An interesting read, thanks. I visited Cuba this year and I must admit I wont be going back. It felt to me that Havana is a place to wring every last cent out of the tourists. I wrote a blog too, you might like to read it, here is a link 25, 2014 – 11:31 amReplyCancel

  • Will Castillo - My very first time in Cuba I spent a week in Havana and then did the one day tour on another trip to Varadero. Mylast experience was very similar to yours, hence why I don’t want to visit again.December 18, 2014 – 3:55 amReplyCancel

  • Julia - Thank you for sharing this very detailed account of the hustle and hassles to be aware of. Although it’s been a couple years since you wrote this, I feel like this will help us prepare for our visit next week.January 11, 2017 – 8:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Amira - Hi Rhonda,

    I’m going to Cuba soon and I was wondering which bus company you took to go to Varadero from Havana?

    ThanksMay 2, 2017 – 12:06 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Hi Amira,

      This trip was a packaged (but independent) vacation, where we got 3 nights in Havana and 4 in Varadero, including flights and transportation between locations. I honestly can’t remember who we booked through. Sorry, I can’t be of more help.May 7, 2017 – 11:55 amReplyCancel

  • Mary - This was super helpful! I’m glad you thought about the underlying complexities of your trip and how you could make genuine connectionsJanuary 16, 2019 – 1:59 pmReplyCancel

A Strange Introduction to Havana

“I hope we come away from Havana with some good stories,” I eagerly said to Mike as our bus pulled away from the airport. I was excited to be visiting Cuba for the first time, a country I was very curious about. I was especially enthusiastic about spending 3 days in Havana, the lively capital…

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  • Margaret - Wow this is great and I can’t wait to read the rest. I have always wanted to go to CubaApril 14, 2014 – 9:37 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks! Cuba is a great country and we could definitely see ourselves going back one day.April 14, 2014 – 9:43 amReplyCancel

  • Will Castillo - Hi Rhonda, glad to see you made it out of there alive :) j/k
    Cuba is beautiful but after being there 4 times I think I’m going to lay off of it for a while. I think it’s because every time I go I meet some of the warmest people but with such sad stories, and they break my heart, and there’s not much I can do to help them. I feel content every time I hear about a Cuban that gets to leave to a better place. Looking fwd to reading what happened the next day.April 14, 2014 – 5:19 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - I understand what you mean, Will. The people were absolutely wonderful and seemed to be making the best of a difficult situation, but we could definitely sense a sadness, a longing for more. We wanted to help (and helped as much as we could), but there was only so much we could do.April 14, 2014 – 5:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Lesley Peterson - Wow–what an introduction to Cuba! Havana really does assault on all senses, crowded and historically the most Americanized part of Cuba. Life is a lot harder for Cubans who live in apartment buildings and on housing estates. Life in rural areas is much different. I’ve been to many parts of Cuba, lately most often to the musical mecca of Santiago de Cuba, at the opposite end of the island from Havana. Much different vibe from Havana. Transportation is one of the island’s (and people’s) biggest challenges. Ttravelers interested in the vintage cars should check out the car museums. There’s an eyepopping open-air car museum outside Santiago de Cuba and I’ve heard there’s another one in Havana. April 14, 2014 – 9:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Dennis Kopp - Rhonda, thank you for the little introduction to Havana! The photos look beautiful and it seems as if you had already quite an eventful first evening. Cuba is a place that has long been on my travel list, but having worked in the US on a visa for many years, I never dared to go. Hopefully I will be able to go soon and experience some of the time travel back into the 50s for myself… :)April 16, 2014 – 5:21 amReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - We did meet a group of Americans while we were in Havana. They flew in from Mexico City, I believe, and just asked the officials not to have their passport stamped. It’s a way around the system I guess, but I’m not sure if it’s a risk I would personally be comfortable taking. However, there was one guy in the group whose passport got stamped. I hope he didn’t encounter any trouble going back to the U.S.!April 16, 2014 – 10:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Will Castillo - If he got his passport stamped 100% sure he got a $10,000 fine + possibly jail time. Is it worth it? Def Not!April 16, 2014 – 10:36 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Wow! That is a huge fine. You’re right- definitely not worth it.April 16, 2014 – 10:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Shikha (whywasteannualleave) - I also really want to see havana and varadero one day and this is a fascinating story about how you were introduced to cuba – I’ve had friends who have had similar experiences in Havana so am intrigued to go!April 21, 2014 – 3:21 amReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - We’d really like to visit Cuba, especially before all the tourists really start to arrive and things change. I’m already hearing about more and more people going to Cuba. It’s the old cars, the way of life, and time sort of standing still there that interest me so much.May 9, 2014 – 2:14 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Canadians have always loved visiting Cuba, since it’s not too long of a flight and things are pretty affordable. It is becoming more and more popular, but from what we saw, most of the people stick to the resorts at Varadero and do day trips to Havana. Tourism is already leaving it’s mark on Havana. It was kind of a shame to see the road along the coast lined with endless tour buses. And then of course, with tourism comes the touts. This was an issue in the Old Town, but not really anywhere else in Havana. I loved the classic cars everywhere and it does feel like you have stepped back in time. I know so many people who after they visit Cuba once, keep returning again and again!May 9, 2014 – 4:33 pmReplyCancel

  • Carmen Edelson - Havana is a great town, especially old Havana. Locals are always very friendly and will approach you in hope for some money in exchange. They are very appreciated when do you give them money. I disagree with the statement the guy told you that “Havana” is the real Cuba. Havana has become very flooded with tourist. In order to see the real Cuba you need to go to towns like Placetas, where people get around only on old cars, tractors, and horse drawn carriages. The town is 1/2 hour from Santa Clara. Great post!!May 15, 2014 – 12:01 pmReplyCancel

    • Rhonda Krause - Thanks, Carmen! I also thought that tourism had made its mark on Havana, but it still is more authentic than Varadero (which I assume is what he was comparing it to). On our way to Trinidad we passed through many towns like you just described…now that was “real” Cuba!May 15, 2014 – 4:54 pmReplyCancel


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