Author Topic: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?  (Read 3070 times)

Unique User

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Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« on: February 19, 2017, 07:00:27 PM »
We are thinking of going to Cuba before it is no longer legal.  We are huge architecture buffs and have wanted to go there for years.  I'm trying to dig into the Educational and People-to-People restrictions.  We've been looking at flights and Airbnb for an apartment to rent.  Anyone have first hand experience? 

bmiles62

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 08:12:43 PM »
We are going on April 7th. I have rented an Air BnB and have been reading up but have never been before so am mainly posting to follow.

Moustachienne

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2017, 08:57:45 PM »
DH and I did a fabulous but pricey all inclusive educational tour last year. It was wonderful.  8 Canadians , 8 Americans on the tour.

I know several Canadians who have arranged their own trips, including renting rooms in the casas particulates, renting a car and guide, etc.

General but a bit alarmist info here - https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/cuba. Cuba felt very safe to us compared to other 3rd world countries (and first world big cities) and the people are very friendly.  But they are very poor so opportunistic crimes, as everywhere, are always a possibility.

The best guidebook we found was the Moon Guide to Cuba.  http://moon.com/books/moon

Such a great country!  Energetic, educated people held back by the combined policies of the US and their own government.  So hope they get the chance to hang on to their strengths AND more freedom.

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2017, 10:11:09 AM »
I was just there in November!

I wrote some articles about it at my blog:

https://thehotflashpacker.com/cuba/

I went with a friend and individually spent about $850 in 14 days (excluding airfare) and did my accommodation on Airbnb.

Airbnb makes it easier to experience people to people.  We ate some of our meals at the casas and took as much opportunity as we could to talk to the families.  At one house, I watched a soap opera with the lady as she told me all kinds of city gossip in Spanish (not sure how much I really understood!)
« Last Edit: February 20, 2017, 10:19:14 AM by JoJo »

greengardens

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2017, 10:12:30 AM »
I went in 2014 for a class. Everything was arranged through a travel agency. It was a fantastic experience, would definitely recommend.

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2017, 09:14:30 AM »
Another thing to mention... if flying from the US you might consider buying the insurance on your ticket in case the regulations change.  With Trump undoing all of Obama's work (like deregulation of Cuba travel) I could see it becoming much more restricted again.  If something happens that brings Cuba back to his mind (like Fidel's death did in November) you don't know what Trump will do.

Cuba is super easy to travel on your own.  We booked all of our tours and transportation from our casa owners.  There's lots of educational stuff to do concerning art, music, religion, language, history, nature, dance.  However for architecture you might want to find someone that specializes before you go. 

TigreFeliz

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2017, 01:31:19 PM »
I went over Thanksgiving.  It was a blast and very easy.  When we checked into our flight (COPA), we were asked for documentation showing that we met one of the 12 categories for travel.  I had prepared a basic letter stating that we were going for "humanitarian purposes," which they made a copy and returned to us.  No fuss at all, and they didn't ask any questions or try to get proof.  I think you could easily whip one up and that would suffice.

When there, we stayed at an AirBnB, which was awesome.  I highly recommend checking out the Castillo across the river and Old Havana.  But don't spend all of the time in Old Havana.  Check out the Revolution Museum, and John Lennon plaza was good for a laugh.  If you want a daytrip out of the city, Playa Este was nice.  The best meal that we had our whole time there was this tiny restaurant in someone's house called Porto Habana restaurant. 

The architecture was amazing.  I'm from New Orleans and the style was similar but with NO upkeep in most of the city.  You can easily just wander around and see the crumbling sights for hours.  It is both depressing (due to the complete disrepair) and amazing (due to the sense of how spectacular it used to be).  Overall, I would say definitely go ASAP.  I had a great trip.

Gimesalot

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2017, 01:55:03 PM »
I went for about 10 days at the end of January.  It wasn't the easiest trip ever but it wasn't too bad either.  Some Spanish will get you a long way.

We flew into Havana and stayed for a few days.  Then we went to Vinales, stopping at Soroa on the way.  After two days there, we went back to Havana for about 4 more days. 

In Havana accommodations were booked through Airbnb.  In Vinales we booked straight with the casa owner.

For us the restrictions were easy.  We just had to check the educational box about one million times.  While we were there, we wrote down all of the educational and people to people activities in which we participated.  We will hold on to our journal for the required 7 years.

Unique User

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 06:51:38 AM »
Thank you for all the info!!!  For those who went to other places, did you just take a taxi?  We plan to buy insurance since we not planning on going until June or July and a lot could change.  JoJo - Thanks for the blog link, I'll check it out.  Gimesalot - Great idea on writing down all the educational activities, we'll do that. 

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2017, 09:42:40 AM »
Thank you for all the info!!!  For those who went to other places, did you just take a taxi?  We plan to buy insurance since we not planning on going until June or July and a lot could change.  JoJo - Thanks for the blog link, I'll check it out.  Gimesalot - Great idea on writing down all the educational activities, we'll do that.

For going to other places, I recommend asking your casa owner to find a "taxi colectivo"  This is door to door service for just a couple more dollars than the bus.  For example, we paid $20 apiece for ride from Havana to Vinales, and then $20 for a ride from Playa Larga to Havana.  Usually it's in an old car, no AC but with windows open it's comfortable enough.    All of our casa owners were able to book these - every one seems to know everyone.

We did Transtur bus from Vinales to Trinidad.  I don't recommend this.  In some cases you waste part of your day going to the bus tickets, only to find out they're sold out for the next 3 days.  In our transtur bus, we left town on time (yay!)  but then turned back 45 minutes later when they realized they left 2 people behind - so we lost almost 2 hours.  Then they have extended stops at roadside restaurants where they serve overpriced drinks & ham sandwiches.  We easily would have had an extra 1/2 day in Trinidad had we taken a colectivo, which was only $3 more than the bus!!!
There are also plenty of private taxis but you'll definitely pay more.  But, if you have a specific time you need to travel that might be your only route.  Colectivos tend to leave in the mornings - like around 7 to 8 am.

I highly recommend Vinales - easily my favorite place, but I like countrysides.  Vinales isn't an architectural place.   I'm hoping to put more stuff on my blog about the Destinations with lots of pictures this weekend.  I'll report back here when they're up.

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2017, 10:19:47 AM »
Was thinking about your desire to see architecture more - Trinidad had the colonial stuff, Cienfuegos was early 1900's (you might want to check this out, way less tourists here), and of course Havana - I enjoyed walking around central havana more than the restored old town - love the street life.

I finally got my diary & pictures uploaded last night, so here's the link again with the new destination guides:
https://thehotflashpacker.com/cuba/


goatmom

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2017, 02:38:15 PM »
I just got back.  It was awesome.  I felt totally safe and comfortable walking around by myself.  The music was incredible.  People very warm and friendly.  The biggest issue for me was that you cannot use American credit cards so you have to bring cash with you.  But go to the bank and get crisp 100 dollar bills.  They rejected any of my money that was worn.  Or you could change to euros or canadian dollars before you get there.  My favorite part was sitting out on the hotel veranda with a mojito.  It was something from a a different time - so slow and layed back.  I am already planning my return visit.

Unique User

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2017, 08:55:57 AM »
We're flying to Cuba on June 13th so just thought I'd bump this as we have a few more questions.  If you went how much cash did you bring?  There is three of us - we're in Havana for a couple days, then Vinales for a couple days, then back to Havana for a couple days.  I've already paid for our lodging on Airbnb.  We also want to leave tips for our hosts, the one in Havana will be the same - is $100 each too much?  Do we need to have a letter ready to show customs?  Thanks!

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2017, 07:30:09 AM »
$100 is plenty assuming you're not going to do loads of drinking, shopping for expensive cigars, or see the expensive shows like Tropicana. 

I only spent around $900 for 14 days and that included lodging.

Keep in mind that it's better to take too much because you can't get more cash when you're there.

bmiles62

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2017, 04:30:35 PM »
We went two months ago and stayed in an Air BnB in Havana so our room was paid for by credit card already. We were there for 5 and half days. I took 700 in cash and converted only $500 at the beginning of the trip. Never needed the other $200 cashed. In fact I think I only spent about $450 total not counting the room. Most short cab trips around town where between 5 and 7 dollars. Meals were cheap over all and drinks where cheap as well. I am from the US and took $500 Canadian dollars and $200 us dollars. I did this to avoid the 10% additional fee on US dollars. As a side note we worried about getting sick on the water or more importantly the ice in our drinks. Our house guest said that the ice was filtered at the bars so we went for it and just did not worry about it and nobody got sick in our group. We loved our trip and are going back for Christmas. Have fun! We never needed a note for customs and I think we left $80 tip total for 4 of us.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2017, 04:33:04 PM by bmiles62 »

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2017, 09:15:18 AM »
Secondhand info:

I was at a party this weekend and someone knows another person who has been regularly taking photo tours to Cuba for many years.  Said tour guide says travel in Cuba now for totally independent travelers from the US is not advised, even by taking a back way into Cuba (such as flying through Mexico, Canada, etc).  He said they are being harassed by Cuban police. 

I don't know the truth behind this.  I had a very lovely time in November 2016, but that was in the window where individual people to people traveling was allowed.

Just putting the info out there if anyone is considering individual travel they need to check the situation.

JoJo

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Re: Anyone gone to Cuba recently?
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2017, 04:33:37 PM »