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SXMWendell
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Joined: 11/27/02
Posts: 6989
CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28
      #1724671 - 02/28/17 05:36 PM (12.31.71.58)

It is not the prettiest report but here it is ( especially with notepad formatting.




Check in with AA. Had to give the address of the place we were staying in Havana.I bypassed the 10% government charge for dollars by using some Euros. Also there is a 3% exchange fee. So the American $ will take a 13% hit at money exchanges here.
Money exchange at the MIA airport was charging $1.24 per Euro. Bank at home was charging $1.09 per Euro.
So it is better to get the Euros at a home bank.

Getting ready for the MIA to Havana leg of the trip. The Cuba Ready's mobile booth was not at our gate when we arrived. So I seen it at another gate and went over

there to check in early and beat the crowd. We were the only ones so showing our boarding pass, passports and Cuba travel card/visa got
an immediate stamp on our boarding pass making us ready to board.

ARRIVAL

Had to fill out several forms on the plane. A customs card, health card, tourist card/visa and card for embarkation. There were about 20 immigration booths all

manned. Took about 10 minutes to go through all the immigration process. Even if you are traveling with your spouse you have to go through the immigration check solo.

I seen a cordoned off area in the immigration hall where there was a nurse at a table , and there were 2 video cameras on tripods. Don't know what this was for as I

didn't see anything happening there, maybe where you buy health insurance. Then there was another line, a table on each side with 2 nurses each collecting the health

cards. One looked at me and waved me and the wife through without collecting the health card. On to collect the luggage. there were 2 turnstiles. One for another

flight the other for ours. It took aan electrician about 10 minutes to get ours started. Luggage came out at a trickel. After 30 minutes my wife went to the other

turnstile to see if our luggage was there. No not yet , but after 15 minutes it did arrive at the turnstile the wife was at. On to customs. The line was short, manned

by 1 person that collected the customs form ( 1 per family).

Out side was our taxi driver with a sign with my name. Walked to his taxi that had most of it's parts. 1 window crank shared for all windows. The money exchange

outside the arrival area had a long line. So the taxi driver took us to the national airport where there was no line at the money exchange. The taxi ride was $25 CUC

and 30 minutes from the airport to our apartment in the Old Havana area.

PLUG

I booked the apartment through Airbnb. In Cuba thay have what the call "casas particulares" which I take to mean private houses. There were about 350 to choose from

in Havana. So after the wife picking what ever she liked and I narrowed the choices down to the area I wanted we ended up with this one. And this ended up a very

good choice.

Our apartment was at Muralla 66e, Apt #3. between oficios and Mercadres, Havana Vieja, Cuba. Owned and operated by Joel and Ailen, phone +53-78012920, +53-52544706,

+53-52940403, Airbnb listing # 17302030 under Claudia Placeres ( as she handles the weblistings for many)

During our stay a girl from California came to stay in the other bedroom. Two older ladies showed up to ask if they had room for them to stay for 3 days ( no

reservations). A couple came for the back apartment, he from England, she from Peru (honeymoon). Several people came to view the apartments and ask about

reservations during our stay.


The taxi pulled up to where there was verticle old cannons that blocked the street and parked. We exited the taxi and both our jaws dropped. This was a very low

maintence area. The taxidriver then took us on a 3 block walk to where we are staying. It was quite a bit better but we were still giving each other looks as the

maintence on the front of the building was minimal. The front and hallway seem to be a common area so if money is spent on the building it is on the owners

appartments first. Apparently a first floor apartment is on the first floor above street level businesses. So up the stairs we went ( taxi driver had the luggage).

Our room was as pictured on Airbnb, very clean, recently remodeled. Our hosts are very nice and live in this apartment too. We have a seperat lockable entry door to

out part. I guess the entrance area is a common ground area so the people that live here don't spend much repairing that part.

OUT and ABOUT

A half a block from our apartment is Plaza Viejo. WOW The archetecture of the surrounding buildings is remarkable. Even the ones in disrepair. Many bars and

restaurants in this area. Most have live music and singers. Some have seating inside, some have seating outside on the plaza, some are theme bars ( ie Coca Cola,

Harley Davidson). A super evening listening to music, drinking and eating appetizers. Rhum drinks are $3 to $4 each. The best Pina colida I ever had was at the bar

next to the Museo de Ron. Did look at some of the hotels close too, very upscale. Seen some nice stores to do some shopping. There are many new cars here, Mercedes,

Kia and Hundai to go along with the "old" cars. Groups of tourists everywhere.


Wednesday


SHOPPING

Many forums said there was not much shopping. We have found lots of places to shop. High end stores to a huge warehouse that has literally hundreds of individual

booths that sell everything. Also some that will exchange dollars for CUC's at a pretty good exchange rate. I got .95 to $1 at one shop.

EXPLORING

There are many ways to see Havana. By foot, by negociated taxi, horse drawn buggy, tour bus 3 wheeled bycycle, Coco taxi etc. There are huge old beautiful Churches.

We did a tour of a mock up 1930's Havana Ron distillery calles Museo de Ron ($7 pp, different tour time are spoken in different languages). English is spoken in

most places as is other languages. Many people that offer the bed and breakfast rooms are taking English classes at night. I have seen tourists from France, Norway,

India, basically from all over the world.


Thursday

Shopping at Avineda Obispo. Mojitos at the bar Hemmingway drank mojitos, Bodegita del Medio AND Daquaries at El Floridita where daquaries were born and also where

Hemmingway drank daquaries. Negociated a city tour in an old car, $40. Many were parked acrossed the street from Hotel Plaza. The tour got extended so the taxi

driver wanted $20 more. We went inside the Paza Hotel where there were a tour information center. We tried to get a hotel for 1 night at Vedadero beach. the hotels

there are all inclusive. And was told no availability, I think there is a 3 day minimum. But there is a day tour available for $75 per person from Hotel Plaza. That

means 4+ hours for transportation which would make a long day. So after some discussion with the owner of the apartment we are staying at. We are hiring an old car

driver to drive us there ($110 1 way) and will try to rent a room on arrival. Then come back the next day. Supposidly there is alot of things to do there in the

night.

FRIDAY.

Off at 8 AM the the Verdado beach area in a deisel 1959 Rambler. 2 1/2 hour ride. We must have see at least 100 new tour busses between the cruiseship pier here in

Havana and Verdado. First hotel we didn't get past the entrance security who said that the hotel was booked up( was told there is 53 all inclusive hotels in this

area). Went to a second hotel, Tuxpan, all inclusive, $244 for 1 night. Got checked in in time to catch the breakfast buffet before it closed. Lunch and dinner was

about the same. They had some chefs at the grill prepairing , a fish fillet, marinated beef, and found out later some turkey ( all gone at the first lunch). Liked the

beach area, drinks were good, and the nights entertainment was excelent. That is where the good stopped. Only 1 elevator worked. It didn't go to the 4th floor ( our

floor)4 th floor buttons were gone. The rest of the food was terrible. I made some bread and butter for the first breakfast and when ate had a horrible taste in my

mouth. It was the butter from individual packet servings. I tried again for the dinner as this butter was served from a large bowl so I thought it would be

different. No, the same. The best I could figure out it was made from sour milk, if that is possible. Found out later that renting a house short term is available.

SATURDAY


Anyhow, the blankets in the room smelled as if they haven't been washed in a while. The hotel had an odor too the wife said. I wasn't so sure. But she made the

comment at the front desk and they told her the smell was only in the hallways which wasn't true. She wouldn't go back to the room to get the suitcases because the

smell had her stomach upset. So we ordered a cab early to leave. The man at the cab station said it was the smell from the refinery. All I know is the air was

fresher outside than inside. Rode in a new Yellow Cab (a Greely brand made in China)back to Old Havana, $80. One note, most of the guests were from Europe. We did

talk to one couple from Costa Rica. At the grill where the hot food was prepaired I saw tip money laying next to the grill. It was all in dollars.
Seen three cruiseships coming into port on the way back and passing the port there was one in dock.

Cleaned up went back to the Vitrola for a good lunch and listen to some live music.

SUNDAY

Low keyed day. Took a bicycle taxi back to Avineda de Obispo for $3 to exchange a shirt. Obispo was very busy today with tourisa. Maybe for the cruiseship in. Took

a Cocotaxi ( $10 but I think he gouged us) back to the warehouse where there was all the booths for the vendors. Seen the best prices here for cigars ( for my

friends) the shop had the best prices I seen for the Havana ron. Wife bought souvineres for her friends. ie $30 for a large leather purse. As for leather items,

there is sheep leather and there is cow leather, so be an informed shopper. Anyhow ended up again to the Havana Rom bar next to the Havana Ron museum. This place

has the best pina colodias I ever had. Also always live music. Now back to the apartment whre my wife prepaired food from Colombia for all to eat.

MONDAY

Nothing special planned. We went to the meat market to buy some pork for the wife to prepair. We returned to the apartment where she called a woman in to do here

fingernails. It seemed like it was going to be a womans day in the apartment so the owner and I went restaurant/bar hopping
on Obispo and O'reilly Ave.


TUESDAY again.

Wrapping things up for the trip back home. The host is prepairing breakfast in the open air kitchen. I am sitting on the patio listening to the rooster down the

block crow and wondering what adventure today will bring.


BITS AND RAMBLINGS

Local money, the CUP, which is the money the local people use cannot be spent on beef. In the peoples market pork is tha mainstay and some chicken in the can. The

local people have ration cards given per month. A months allotment of potatoes is 5 pounds. I think as the tourism industry is growing there is going too be more

CUC's in the hands of the local people. So this will open up more options for them.

Don't drink the water. Bottled water is readily available.

Most the tourists have a Cuba travel guide from Lonely Planet.

Was told a tough time for Cuba was when the USSR in 1993 stopped sending support to Cuba and Venzuela. There was no food on the island then and many people died of

starvation.

Wife had fake nails put on and here toenails painted $11

The family that lives here, father , mother and 9 year old daughter and grandma that stops by to help with the cooking, shows sooo much love for each other. What a

nice enviroment.

Knowing Spanish is not necessary BUT knowing a little will help. Don't count on using a translation App on your cell phone as internet is spotty.

As for tipping. I really didn't see much but was told 10% was really appreciated. The muscians at the restaurants and bars had someone come arround at the last song

before break selling CD's and passing the tip box. Just for curosity I did tip a little to few waiters. There face looked suprised and very happy. Many of the

salaries are made by kick backs. So someone always has a friend for a tour , taxi etc. So expect this as it is "normal".



MORE SHOPPING

Went again to the large warehouse with the booths near the cruiseship pier. Lots of leather goods. $30 for a large tooled leather purse. $20 for bongo drums, 2 pair

maraccas, and 3 or 4 other souvineers. $20 for 4 small leather , name engraved leather pouches. Small girls dress with some hand embrodery for $13. 2 Cuban style

shirts $25 each. There were also 1000's of hand painted paintings for sale. Only had one booth that sold Cuban cigars, Romeo & Juliet small $20 for a box, 2 regular

size cigars called Belindas, $5 each. this booth also had a good price on Club Havana Rom.



LEAVING

Said goodbyes. A Mercedes mini van was the taxi to the airport ,30 minutes ride , $30 cost but was reduced to $25. Maybe because the driver and I talked about his

Operation Blessing international T-shirt he had on. You should get to the airport 2 1/2 hours before the flight. I seen an ATM in the airport. It dispensed CUP and

CUC in small denominations. AA had 4 main checkin lines 2 manned, tooked over an hour to checkin, and 2 priority boarding lines both manned never a line. Next to AA

was 6 Jet blue chekin lines all manned , never seen a line. there was 17 lines for immigration embarkaion, all manned, short lines. You will need your passport AND

your stamped travel card/visa. Security screening was quick, maybe 5 minutes in total. About half the travelers failed the first machine screening so they were

wanded down ( kinda). Off to our gate B-10. No plane was there. Looked up on the departure board it said B-15. B-14 and B-15 gates are in the lower level AND not

marked. The passangers were herded on to a bus. The bus took off drove about a block did a U turn and parked at the stairway to enter the plane. This was 50 feet

from the back door of the bus when leaving. I am still scratching my head on that one. It took 20 minutes to fill the bus and stow the carry on's. It would have

took 3 minutes to walk from the B-15 gate to the stairs for the airplane.


ARRIVED

Arrived at CLT a little early. Immigration was quick. We were the only international flight in at the time. We were all waved past the kiosks to immigration

officers, 10 minute wait on luggage, short customs line. Whole process took 20 minutes. At no time was I asked "What was the purpose of your visit".
Now the last leg of the trip and tomorrow to put out a weeks worth of fires at work.

THAT'S ALL FOLKS


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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724676 - 02/28/17 05:51 PM (205.197.242.174)

Thanks for the report! I definitely will want to re-read it in detail. I am very surprised at the prices for things, as they seem expensive..

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pat
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Joined: 04/18/01
Posts: 11135
Loc: Brookfield, CT.
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724716 - 02/28/17 11:42 PM (75.133.113.202)

Wendell,

Knowing you are a very experienced traveler I'm sure you made the most of your trip, complete with all the little ups and downs. Methinks Cuba will not be on my to-do list anytime soon as I don't think I could roll with it the way it sounds as you did. But kudos to you and TY for sharing.

--------------------
Respectfully,

pat



"Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat
them."


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SXMWendell
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Joined: 11/27/02
Posts: 6989
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1724721 - 03/01/17 04:58 AM (24.107.33.227)

Actually I thought prices were very reasonable. Flights and a nice place to stay for 2 people was $1200. A can of Cristal, Boldero or Heienken was $2. Cuba Libre $3 to $4. A regular hamburger w/plantain chips at a med. to up scale restaurant is $3, or for the deluxe, added a slice of ham and cheese $5.50. A huge whole fish with 2 sides $10.50. and don't forget the live entertainment.( Madonna rented this place for a birthday party for here son in law last month, the place closed at 7 PM, she was seen dancing on the table around 11.) A whole bag full of souvenir stuff $20. A breakfast in house $5 pp, included a large plate of fruit and then eggs, meat juice and toast.

I think I can get the Verdado beach thing down to $50 each way for the travel ( or less) and a place to stay $50 to $60 a night for 2 people.

Next trip will include the Santiago beach area. I was told the beaches there were not as good as in Verdado, sand brown, water grey color and hot. But it is on the Caribbean side and I want to see.

W.


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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724734 - 03/01/17 08:08 AM (205.197.242.174)

OK, will re-read the report. I fear I am like Pat though, and at the moment, the trip is a bit too adventurous for me..

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LBI2SXM
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Joined: 06/02/08
Posts: 1988
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: Carol_Hill]
      #1724809 - 03/01/17 02:56 PM (69.141.55.60)

Thanks for the report. What an exciting trip. More brave than I would have been.

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ruralcarrier
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Joined: 03/31/01
Posts: 12213
Loc: Ohio
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724818 - 03/01/17 03:40 PM (201.220.15.82)

Thanks for the trip report, very interesting.

Miss your smiling face here at Regatta! Rumor has it there is a Heineken surplus since you are not coming!

--------------------
J.D.


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RICKnGRACE_LI_NY
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Joined: 04/21/01
Posts: 1342
Loc: Long Island, NY
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724844 - 03/01/17 07:05 PM (67.86.221.25)

Great report Wendel. As for Grace and I, don't think that one is on The Bucket List

--------------------
Rick and Grace


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SXMWendell
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Joined: 11/27/02
Posts: 6989
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: RICKnGRACE_LI_NY]
      #1724846 - 03/01/17 07:10 PM (24.107.33.227)

Speaking of bucket

photobucket photos

W.


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CJIMI
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Joined: 01/13/08
Posts: 82
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1724963 - 03/02/17 03:40 PM (73.233.89.190)

Great report. Did the casa particular in Havana have A/C ? Was the electricity and running water reliable ? I remember seeing travel agencies in Montreal, 10 years ago, or so, offering all inclusive packages to Varadero for $700 CDN. I guess prices have gone way up, since then.

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SXMWendell
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Joined: 11/27/02
Posts: 6989
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: CJIMI]
      #1724971 - 03/02/17 04:29 PM (24.107.33.227)

Yes, there was AC ( as described in the Airbnb page), 110 Volt "American style" plug, Yes running water was reliable, the pressure was a little low but doable.

We dropped in out of the blue for 1 night so I expected to pay a premium.

W.


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SXMWendell
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Posts: 6989
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1739422 - 07/23/17 08:04 PM (24.217.246.71)

Trip # 2 this week. Have lots of plans but also have several people coming with sooooo will see what actually happens. Trying to do an intra continental flight to Santiago de Cuba for an overnight.

Wendell


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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1739427 - 07/23/17 08:26 PM (107.77.253.2)

Wow, ok, looking forward to hearing about it!!!!

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Todd
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Joined: 03/05/04
Posts: 3659
Loc: Vancouver, WA
Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: SXMWendell]
      #1739813 - 07/27/17 06:18 PM (50.76.111.101)

We are off to Havana in 15 days, looking forward to it. Three couples, staying at Cohiba Melia, will wander and looking forward to a sample of Cuba.

Good luck getting to Santiago de Cuba, I would like to do that as well.

Cheers,
Todd


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Carol_HillAdministrator
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Re: CUBA trip Feb.21 to Feb 28 [Re: Todd]
      #1739820 - 07/27/17 08:25 PM (107.77.169.5)

Very much looking forward to hearing about your trip! Please post about your trip upon your return..

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