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Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:14 PM

My recent visit to Cuba

I'll bet most folks don't know that it's possible for Americans to travel to Cuba without sneaking in through another country. There are several 'loopholes' in Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations which allow this, and without going into much detail two of the most commonly used criteria fall under the category of educational visits. Several cruise lines are taking advantage of this and offering cruises with a stop in Cuba while tailoring shore excursions to meet OFAC requirements, this is how I did it.

Going to Cuba on a cruise has both advantages and disadvantages. It's very easy, and all the paperwork is taken care of for you, but on the down side you only have one day in Cuba. It's also possible to book multi-day tours which meet OFAC requirements, or even plan out your own itinerary which could include staying at a B&B.

My 'educational' activities in Cuba included a walking tour of Old Havana (Old Havana is a 'must-see' with it's gorgeous old architecture, street performers, and tons of history), watching a ballet performance by a local ballet company in Old Havana, having lunch at a local restaurant (the Cuban version of Cola was VERY good because it's made with real cane sugar and not HFCS like we get here), taking a ride in a 1955 Pontiac, and shopping at a small local store (I brought back 12 liters of rum - more on that later, several Cuban cigars for gifts, and a Cuban National baseball cap for my son).

In the evening I went on an optional trip to the Tropicana night club which was fabulous. The show included over 100 singers and dancers, I was absolutely amazed at the quality of the production.

I was somewhat surprised that our tour guides were willing to openly discuss ANYTHING with us. They naturally told us about all the good points of Cuba, but didn't sugarcoat their problems either. Cuba has free education (all the way to a PhD - you just have to pass entrance exams to qualify) with the stipulation that you work for two years at a job where the government places you (for instance there may be a shortage of nurses in a rural area so a newly minted nurse might be asked to work in a rural town for the two year commitment). Cuba also has a well regarded medical system which is also free.

The streets were all very clean, I saw virtually no litter anywhere. I later found out that recycling is mandatory.

Nobody we spoke to tried to sugarcoat the fact that wages are low for many professionals, and sadly some are leaving their field and instead working in the tourism industry where they can make a better living. (One of our guides had a veterinary degree). Also, many buildings in Havana have seen their better days - a result of a combination of things including salt spray, tropical storms, and economic conditions.

One common misconception about Cuba is that they only have old, broken down American cars which are horribly difficult to keep running because of a lack of parts. True, there are many old American cars, but that seems to be a niche for enthusiasts. Most of the cars on the road are compact imports.

The US government allows citizens to bring back up to $800 in merchandise, including 1 liter of liquor and 100 cigars, duty free. Anything beyond that and you have to pay an import duty (which is only 4%). Coming through Customs when I got home I had my 12 liters of Cuban rum in a wheeled cart, in plain sight, and fully prepared to pay the import duty. The Customs officer just looked at my passport and sent me and my Cuban rum on our merry way.






















































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Arrow 45 replies Author Time Post
Reply My recent visit to Cuba (Original post)
groundloop Apr 8 OP
malaise Apr 8 #1
brooklynite Apr 8 #10
malaise Apr 8 #11
brooklynite Apr 8 #14
The Mouth Apr 8 #18
malaise Apr 8 #24
brooklynite Apr 8 #29
LanternWaste Apr 8 #34
LanternWaste Apr 8 #32
AncientGeezer Apr 8 #26
malaise Apr 8 #27
AncientGeezer Apr 8 #30
Bonx Apr 8 #42
lunatica Apr 8 #2
ProudMNDemocrat Apr 8 #3
groundloop Apr 8 #33
zipplewrath Apr 8 #4
livetohike Apr 8 #5
elleng Apr 8 #6
FM123 Apr 8 #7
Greybnk48 Apr 8 #8
whopis01 Apr 8 #9
dhill926 Apr 8 #21
whopis01 Apr 8 #28
dhill926 Apr 8 #37
Brother Buzz Apr 8 #12
hunter Apr 8 #13
zentrum Apr 8 #15
sinkingfeeling Apr 8 #16
HelenWheels Apr 8 #17
secondwind Apr 8 #19
DFW Apr 8 #20
lpbk2713 Apr 8 #31
DFW Apr 8 #35
panader0 Apr 8 #38
DFW Apr 8 #39
panader0 Apr 8 #43
DFW Apr 8 #45
Karadeniz Apr 8 #22
Paladin Apr 8 #23
SunSeeker Apr 8 #25
onenote Apr 8 #36
groundloop Apr 8 #40
onenote Apr 8 #41
onenote Apr 8 #44

Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:18 PM

1. We can all learn from Cuba

They put education and healthcare (including dental care) first.
Rec

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Response to malaise (Reply #1)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:06 PM

10. ...with Democracy bringing up the rear.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #10)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:26 PM

11. Never saw babies in cages there

or illegal invasions and occupations but whatever.
They don't want democracy for the few if you know what I mean.

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Response to malaise (Reply #11)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:33 PM

14. Do you really want to claim that political elites in Cuba don't have a better life?

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #14)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:49 PM

18. Is there, or has there ever been anyplace

where the political elites DIDN'T have a better life?

Not defending Cuba, but seems to be a universal of all governments, regardless of how much anyone values equality.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #14)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:14 PM

24. Bro -all I'm saying is physician heal thyself

The US is in no position to criticize anyone with this monster in office

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Response to malaise (Reply #24)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:48 PM

29. Amazing, that's what Trump said about criticizing Putin.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #29)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:02 PM

34. Trump also breathes air. Just like you.

Amazing, indeed.

Or possibly, we merely pretend amazement having nothing of any substance to offer other than petulance.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #14)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:01 PM

32. No more than you want to claim babies in America are put in cages.

Six of one,l half a dozen of the other... it's the absurdism we allow when we pretend to know what others want to claim.

No Special Lunches, today? How disappointing...

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Response to malaise (Reply #11)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:38 PM

26. How about the '18 Human Rights Watch reports about oppression in Cuba?

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #26)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:43 PM

27. Read your chapter

Not biting

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Response to malaise (Reply #27)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:57 PM

30. Didn't think you would....just pointing out the report of..

..a Widely respected human rights org.

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Response to AncientGeezer (Reply #26)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:52 PM

42. That's pretty bad. Cubans are very repressed by their government.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:20 PM

2. Thanks!

Cubans are the warmest and most welcoming people in the world!

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:20 PM

3. I have friends who have been to Cuba...

Change is happening very slowly there. They found the people very friendly and open. Their experience was positive.

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Response to ProudMNDemocrat (Reply #3)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:02 PM

33. Speaking of change.... I forgot to mention that the Cuban President is no longer a Castro

Miguel Díaz-Canel (who has a degree in electronics engineering) became President in 2018. The Cuban constitution now limits a President to serving two five year terms.

ALSO, when the new constitution was being voted on it included a provision recognizing gay marriage and other rights for the LGBT community. This provision was being pushed by Raul Castro's daughter. I attended several talks on Cuba while on the cruise by someone very knowledgeable about Cuban politics and she said that even though this didn't make it into the constitution that it will likely be passed into law in the near future.

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/05/16/castros-daughter-leads-cubas-biggest-ever-pride-parade-amid-calls-for-lgbt-reforms/

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:20 PM

4. Get out of Havana

My understanding is that people in and around Havana have a more favorable opinion of conditions than people much further east.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:20 PM

5. So interesting! Thanks for the trip report and the pics.

I would love to go there one day

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:22 PM

6. Thanks!

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 12:24 PM

7. Wonderful pictures! My son went there last summer on a cruise - loved the classic cars so much!

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:02 PM

8. All these pics look so familiar! We went in 2017

via Pearl Seas Cruises. We left from Ft. Lauderdale and were scheduled for visits in 5 cities and areas, but the Cuban govt. canceled our visit to the Island of Pines, now renamed the Island of Children I believe. We ate at the restaurant with the chicken bones and the yellow hotel as well.

We spent a good amount of time in Havana doing the walking tours as well as tours of surrounding towns and, of course, Hemingway's gorgeous home. We sailed to Cienfuegos for the day, then bussed to Trinidad for another day's outing. Our final port of call was Santiago de Cuba, which we both loved!

It was, and is, a wonderful trip and we really enjoyed everyone we met there! One of the most fun things we saw, both of us being political, was in a restaurant where we ate as a group. They had a combo playing live for us as we ate, and one of the band members was wearing a black baseball cap with OBAMA in large white letters!

The entire trip was awesome! By the way, their educations system is outstanding, with a national literacy rate of over 90%. There are many poor people, but they can read and write.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:03 PM

9. It's very easy to travel to Cuba

We rented an apartment on Airbnb and had a direct flight into Havana. Both of which were very inexpensive. I don't remember the airfare, but a 2 bedroom apartment (which was very comfortable) was $45 per night.

Other than getting a visa (which you did at the airline counter) and filling out the one sheet checkbox explaining the purpose of the trip, it was no different than going anywhere else.

At least till we got to Cuba, that was. Things were pretty different there.

Our experience was very different than yours. Though I would say that the section of Old Havana around the cruise ship area was night and day different than most of the other areas we saw. We were in the Vedado / La Rampa area of Havana. Our hosts warned us about walking on the sidewalks in areas because things had a tendency to fall off the crumbling buildings. The debris littering the sidewalks made it fairly obvious without the warning.

The people were absolutely wonderful. Very friendly, and most wanted to hear about things in the US. Even the people trying to sell you things on the street were the friendliest I have ever encountered. I had one guy come up to me and first try to sell me cigars, then offered to sell pot, then when he figured I wasn't going to buy anything from him, just started up a normal conversation.

It was a bit shocking what people asked for when they knew we were leaving. I knew it was common for people to ask for things that they had a hard time getting there - but just how basic their requests were amazed me. Things like shampoo, soap, aspirin, etc.

I won't bother going on about things - I am sure everyone who goes has a different experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone - and it is well worth spending a few days to a week in Havana.

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Response to whopis01 (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:56 PM

21. was this a recent trip...

and was the flight out of the US? Really want to visit someday....thanks...

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Response to dhill926 (Reply #21)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:45 PM

28. It was in January of 2017.

On the day Trump was inaugurated to be exact. That was semi-intentional as a bit of a joke, but mostly just because that date aligned well with out plans.

We flew JetBlue out of Orlando. American, Delta, Southwest all have flights.

I think most of them end up going through Orlando, Tampa, or Miami.

The only odd requirement is that you can not just go to Cuba for tourism. Technically it is that you can't spend money in Cuba for tourism. However, there are a list of 12 approved activities that you can go there for. As I understand this changed after we went. At that time "Educational Activities" was a category - I think that has been changed to "Educational Activities by persons at academic institutions". However, you can still go under the "Support for the Cuban People" category.

So here is where it just gets silly really. Supporting the Cuban people can include anything from talking to Cuban people, to staying at Casa Particulars (privately owned rental properties), to going to art shows and buying from independent merchants. Technically what you can not do is stay at a government-owned hotel, or spend money on any government owned/controlled activity. (Most hotels are owned by the government - but there is plenty of private lodging. And the private lodging is much better and a fraction of the price).

It was suggested to use that we keep receipts or records of things in case we have to justify our travel when we came back. The reality was that when I came through customs and immigration, we had several bottles of liquor above the duty-free limit, as well as some cigars and other touristy keepsakes (all of which we declared), and the guy looked at our passports and said "welcome home" and handed them back.

Have a look at Cuban travel guides - this was the best one in my opinion:
https://www.amazon.com/CubaConga-2018-underground-travel-guide-ebook/dp/B01F9KLVB2

https://www.bestcubatravelguide.com/

(It is a bit weird - and the guy is maybe a bit overly dramatic about some things - but it was pretty darn accurate and very helpful).

I have heard from others that there is some antagonism towards Americans in more rural parts of Cuba - but I did not see one bit of that in Havana. They were friendly people. Some are definitely trying to make money off of you - and there is no way of not standing out as a tourist, which means you have a lot more money than most everyone you will interact with - but it is done in a pretty above-board way. I didn't encounter many things I would even consider a rip-off. Partially because of the difference in economies, a few bucks here and there for me meant very little compared to what it meant to them.

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Response to whopis01 (Reply #28)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:43 PM

37. thanks so much for this....

a lot of helpful info.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:32 PM

12. I spotted what I thought was a Ural, but it wasn't

Did you see many sidecar motorcycles in Cuba?

My ninety-five-year-old mother went to Cuba three years ago; she's been working hard on her bucket list. She never she veered from the usual tourist stuff and had a grand time.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:32 PM

13. Cuba is not isolated by the U.S.A.

For the rest of the world it's been a Caribbean vacation destination for many years.

Many tourists do not wander further than the resorts. But I've seen the same in Mexico and Hawaii too.

Usually it's just a matter of time.

U.S. workers don't get much vacation, and few U.S. retired people have incomes adequate for extended travel.

I'd love to visit Cuba, but my wife is currently experiencing a "don't get much vacation" situation at work and when she does get time off we have an extensive backlog of relatives to visit.

Many thanks for sharing this!

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:38 PM

15. They also have something like

.....98% literacy and great health care.

Very sad that USA demonized them after the revolution that freed them from the thug-dictator Batista.

Who knows how Castro would have gone if we hadn't kept trying to assassinate him and/or overthrow him and reinstate corporate control. Talk about interfering in foreign governments.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:48 PM

16. I spent two weeks in Cuba last June. I was on land and got to see the

whole island. The people are super, but the humidity was worse than Miami.
Loved that trip.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:49 PM

17. RE: better Cola

You can buy the tastier Coke a Cola in stores that sell Hispanic foods. It is always in a bottle and is so much better than the almost sugar free Cola. It is made with real sugar. I had quit drinking Coke a Cola because it was so tasteless.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:51 PM

19. We spent a week there in 2011, what you saw are the same people we saw, it is all a sham...

They live horrible lives, we were told by our bus guide "welcome to the largest prison in the world"..

She said this because we were on a bus, not in the street. We were followed everywhere, even at the end... the man behind a newspaper in the airport lounge was a spy.

I feel for these people, the older folks are not given enough to survive, they rummage through garbage cans. We had woman cyclist give us a bike tour through a part of the city one morning, and she told us that her salary a month was "whatever Fidel wants to give me that month"... sometimes it was 45 pesos, sometimes it was 90 pesos, etc. She had two boys, and sometimes she had to send them to school without breakfast.

I brought costume jewelry by the bagful, gave everything away... My husband left an entire suitcase of clothing behind, these people have NOTHING.



I could go on but I won't, but you get the picture.... Every, EVERY photo op you get of a beautiful couple kissing in the street is STAGED. They are good at this... don't let anything fool you.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:52 PM

20. Things have definitely been cleaned up since I was there

When I was there, EVERYTHING was run down. The government people who "chaperoned" me around did take me to some cool places, including the bar where Hemingway used to hang out. No shows, but I really wasn't into that, anyhow. The only cars on the road aside from the old American cars were Soviet models. The government people who took me around always drove a Volga. I didn't merit a Žil. They said we MIGHT run into Fidel, but we never did (my biggest disappointment).

Since I was an invitee of the Cuban government, there was no question of my staying anywhere but where they had in mind for me. I was accompanied everywhere, even when I was "on my own." They didn't even try to hide it, but I didn't care. After all, I was there at THEIR invitation. It's not as if I had been sent down there to do them some harm.

In the meantime, my girls have traveled to and through Cuba. They had a good time, although my elder one broke into tears when she was told that her flight home didn't exist (thank you, American Airlines). Her sister, the lawyer, argued with the airline until they found a connection to get her back to New York so she wouldn't miss work.

My funniest episode was when I was in the hard currency shop of my hotel, looking to buy some post cards. In front of me was a crew from Aeroflot, the Soviet airline. Acting like they owned the place (not entirely wrong at the time), they were badgering the woman cashier, who had no idea what they were saying. She spoke neither Russian nor English, and the Russians spoke no Spanish. Despairing of ever buying my postcards, I offered to translate, since I speak both Russian and Spanish. I cleared up all misunderstandings in a couple of minutes, and the Russians were on their way. Then it was my turn at the cashier, who asked for my passport (mandatory at hard currency shops). When she saw my American passport, her eyes grew wide, and practically spelled out "C-I-A." After all, I had just gone back and forth between Russian and Spanish, and I was a Yanqui in Cuba. But I didn't say anything, and neither did she.

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Response to DFW (Reply #20)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:57 PM

31. If you ever decide to write a book please let me know.



You have had a lot of interesting experiences. I never fail to read your posts.

And I envy you for having known Helen Thomas.

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Response to lpbk2713 (Reply #31)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:15 PM

35. Actually, I DID write a book.

I knew Helen because of her close friendship with my dad, who was also a print journalist. That went back many decades. I only wish I had brought along a recorder when she talked about her times with JFK. SO many stories, but we never thought she'd ever depart us, so we never got around to it. Suddenly, instead of calling her up for our usual dinner date, we were invited to her memorial service. That was hard one to swallow. She was a great friend.

My book has some of the very few recorded interviews with Thomas Jefferson. They are somewhat fictitious, but don't let a little detail like that stop ya!

By the way, thanks for the vote of confidence. Not all here share your sentiments!

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Response to DFW (Reply #35)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:28 PM

38. And I really enjoyed your book,

but I think the poster means a book about your travels.

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Response to panader0 (Reply #38)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:31 PM

39. Alright, alright, go spoil it for me!

I barely found the time to write the one that you read. I think I'll never find the time to write anything near autobiographical until my next incarnation, or maybe the one after that!

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Response to DFW (Reply #39)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:53 PM

43. Perhaps after you retire, if you ever will.

You have had an interesting life, but I would guess that you
couldn't talk about a lot of it..... lol

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Response to panader0 (Reply #43)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 11:14 PM

45. One problem might crop up

I don't think a lot of blackened out lines are conducive to making the best-seller list


Still, I guess I could always ask Valerie. After all she worked for the CIA (thank you, Dick Cheney), so she would know all the rules.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 01:56 PM

22. Thank you!❤ That was a lovely visit through your eyes!

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:00 PM

23. Love the shot of the lady adjusting another's head scarf......

….with a nice big Cohiba clinched in her mouth. (I'm a Romeo y Julieta man, myself.)

Looks and sounds like a terrific trip. Congrats, and thanks for sharing.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 02:30 PM

25. K & R

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 03:36 PM

36. I was in Cuba for a week this past July

I spent time in Havana as well as travelling elsewhere. On the positive side, the Cuban people, who have every reason to hate a lot of people (the Spaniards that colonized the country, the Americans that tried to run it and then embargoed it, the Russians who took over and then left the Cubans high and dry) -- are extremely warm and friendly. They also are very poor. Yes, they have free education and medical, but even professionals need government assistance just to be able to afford basic items like bread and milk. There is a two-tier currency in Cuba: the "convertible" peso (CUC), which is mostly used by tourists and the Cuban Peso (CUP), which is more commonly used by the locals. The value of a single CUC is 25 times the value of a single CUP. Those Cubans that work for the state (a lot) are typically paid in CUP. Our tour guide is an English teacher (being a tour guide is a good side job for those with strong English skills), her parents are teachers, her sister is a government lawyer. Yet she still needs government assistance to feed her children.

The Cuban people are fairly open about what they like about their government (free education/free medical/low crime) and what they don't (poverty/suspicion of corruption/buses that don't run on time and are falling apart). They want foreign investment, but they want to maintain control rather than have foreigners control things as they so often have in the past. They feel like they can speak more openly than they have in the past. And one of the more surprising things is the relative small level of police presence -- one doesn't feel like one is in a police state.

For a country that actually has a relatively good tourist economy (more from Europe than the US obviously), there is little for a tourist to buy outside of rum, cigars, hand made trinkets, and some t-shirts (more often with Che or Fidel on them). Getting to visit the US is a dream for many of them -- one made difficult by the strained relations between the two countries and by the sheer expense).

Buildings in Cuba range from old colonial buildings -- some restored and turned into restaurants by the families that still live in them but more often falling apart from neglect to apartment buildings that seem to have all of the charm one would associate with 1970s Soviet architecture -- soulless high rises with window air conditioners that often are barely hanging onto the side of the buildings. Most of the cars one sees are more newly painted than a lot of the buildings.

You see American style clothing -- jeans, t-shirts, sneakers etc. But one thing you almost never see is a piece of clothing with a corporate logo. The exception: Havana Club Rum, which is government owned.

Speaking of cars: most of the privately owned cars one sees are either old American cars from the 1940s through 1959 or Russian made cars from the 60s through the 80s. This isn't surprising since for many years foreign car imports were essentially banned or restricted. You see a lot of old motorcycles, trucks and the government buses are rusty hulks. As you get farther away from Havana you see more horse or mule drawn wagons, often travelling on the shoulder of modern highways. (The infrastructure, at least the main thoroughfares, is surprisingly good). There are nice shiny new tourist buses, however. And a fair number of Korean and Chinese sedans, almost all of which are government owned vehicles, taxis, or rental cars. Again, not surprising since the cost of buying a newer car is largely outside the financial wherewithal of most Cubans.

Finally, a word to the wise for anyone travelling to Cuba. It's easy to get there direct from the US (we flew JetBlue from Ft. Lauderdale). But be sure to have a sufficient supply of cash on hand to pay for luggage fees when leaving the country. As far as I know, US-issued credit cards are not accepted anywhere and there are no bank teller "cash" machines, not even in the airport. I know a few people that had to find friends to scrape together the necessary cash to pay for their luggage fees when departing.

All in all, its a terrific place to visit. Another friend was there on an "artists" trip a few months ago and he also had a terrific experience. The art and music is a big part of Cuban life and even the street musicians and artists are worth patronizing. Interestingly, because artists are able to sell their work outside the country, they are some of the more affluent members of Cuban society.

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Response to onenote (Reply #36)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:38 PM

40. OH, another thing I liked in Cuba - NO McDONALDS !!!!!!

No Burger King, no Wendy's, no Waffle House..... I certainly hope that as Cuba slowly opens up to foreign investment that they can do so without selling their soul to American fast food chains.

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Response to groundloop (Reply #40)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:51 PM

41. It will be interesting to see how it plays out

One Cuban I spoke to noted that while the old American cars (and even some of the old Russian cars, albeit not so much) give the place a certain quirky charm, an affordable, used 2010 Toyota with air conditioning and decent gas mileage wouldn't be such a bad thing in a country where it is damn hot.

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Response to groundloop (Original post)

Mon Apr 8, 2019, 04:56 PM

44. If folks want to read an interesting book about Cuba, check out Havana Nocturne by TJ English

The full title is Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It.

It is the well documented story of how the US Mob (both the Jewish mob and the Italian mob) moved into Cuba in the late 40s, propped up Bautista and then had it all fall apart when the revolution came.

I particularly liked it because many of the books about Cuba come with a built in bias -- those written by ex-pats who left Cuba (or their descendants) when the revolution occurred tend to take to portray pre-revolution Cuba in more positive terms than the facts warrant while those written by Cubans who stayed there often portray post-revolution life more positively than is deserved.

This one is most straight facts, in my opinion. And if you read it, you'll understand why many Cubans want international hotels to come back but don't want the casinos to return.

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