4 Scams to Avoid in Havana

 

On average Cubans make around $20 a month and don’t even come close to making ends meet. Many of them see tourists as an opportunity to them help them survive. This does not go for all Cuban people, once you get outside of Havana the attitude and motives starts to change. However, here are 4 scams that I have personally fallen victim to in Havana. Hopefully this will help you avoid them before visiting Cuba!

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Cuba on a Shoestring Budget

 

For the 30 days I was in Cuba, I had budgeted to spend about $2,000 CUC. I ended up spending only $1,300 CUC. I was able to cut costs by sharing a room, cooking meals in my casa and I also took advantage of traveling like a local whenever possible.

I did however, buy meals or drinks for my Cuban friends so, that did add a little extra to my trip expenses. I was happy to do it though being so under budget.

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This isn’t Goodbye but See You Later

 

During the 7 days I was in Santiago de Cuba, I can honestly say I didn’t do much – there also isn’t that much to do. My days consisted of sleeping in late, taking a few cold showers, going out to eat and taking naps. I got into a routine of getting a daily cappuccino at my favorite coffee place, Wen (for only .45 cents), then trying to do at least one thing with my day.

I’ve now learned that once you’ve been traveling for awhile many of the things that use to be important to you stop being important. I just don’t have the energy to care about things that don’t directly impact my trip. As I’m writing this, I’m on day 43 of my trip – I don’t wear makeup anymore or really put that much effort into my appearance. Just thinking about how I wanted to bring my eyebrow dye on my trip makes me laugh – even though they really need it.

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I Just Came Here to Dance

 

Santiago de Cuba may be Cuba’s second largest city but it has a small town feel. You run into people you know all the time. In the day and a half Lucas and I had been there we had already made friends and had a chance to run into them several times.

Lucas is now pretty much glued to the hip with Mariano, we call him Lucas’s dad. I’ve gotten into the routine of spending my days with Pepe (it went from a one time thing to an everyday thing). We occasionally combine the two groups for meals with Lianne or as we like to call her, Momma Chicken. We always eat at San Fransisco, the food is amazing and it’s pretty cheap. I’ve been eating there at least once a day. I’m also terrified of getting food poisoning again so, I haven’t been that adventurous with my eating.

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Late Buses and One Night Stands

 

Lucas and I arrived at the bus terminal at 1:15am. There were two other women from Holland waiting for the same bus. We were all really looking forward to sleeping on the bus.

We started chatting while we anxiously waited for the bus. Every time we heard a noise that sounded like it could be a bus we jumped up in anticipation. By the time the bus was an hour late we knew something was up. Of course the bus station didn’t have any information so we just kept waiting. Finally at 3:30am we were told the bus had broken down so it wouldn’t be arriving until 4:30am or later. So much for taking the over night bus.

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Losing It in the Streets of Santa Clara

 

Lucas and I took a the morning bus North from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara. It was only for $6 CUC for the hour and a half bus ride. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing and would then take an overnight bus to Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba is located 16 hours (by bus) East from La Habana. I was still feeling very sick and tired so, I spent most of the day sleeping instead of sightseeing like we had planned.

We met a woman at the bus terminal who, let us stay at her home for the day for $10 CUC. Dinora was an older woman in her 70s who, lived with her husband as well as her daughter and her daughter’s family.

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Food Poisoning and Single Cuban Ladies

 

I can’t stress enough how nice the people are once you get outside of Havana. It’s not that Cubans living in Havana are terrible people, they’re just living a different pace of life, in a different culture. You can see a real switch in the genuine kindness once you get outside the city.

The casa particular Lucas and I stayed in in Trinidad was owned by one of the nicest families I have ever met. The husband, Emilio was Swiss and his wife, Marcia Cuban. They had met here two years prior while he was on vacation. Marcia showed me how to prepare food the Cuban way using a pressure cooker for everything but rice which you use a rice cooker for. Their cleaning lady, Belkes even taught me how make Cuban blacks beans. Most people use a pressure cooker to cook everything and a rice cooker for rice. It’s rare here that a kitchen will even have an oven.

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Pretend Cowboys and The World’s Best Mojito

 

The next day Lucas and I decided to head to the beach with our two new best friends. Lucas kept claiming we were on a couple’s trip which, I didn’t exactly agree with but, I let him have his fun. We were all so exhausted from the journey the day before we ended up sleeping in until noon and then heading to the beach. We had our new favorite cab driver, Jarnis take us.

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Morro Castle and Grandma’s Ashes

 

I was over joyed to spend the day with two English speakers after primarily spending my days with people who only spoke Spanish. Lucas is 19 years, from Denmark and is traveling solo as well. We decided to travel together to Trinidad the following day by bus.

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Learning to Twerk from a Three Year Old

By Sunday I was ready to get out of La Habana. I had been there for two weeks and the city was starting to get to me. I hadn’t found anyone else to travel with so I decided to just head to Trinidad solo the following day.

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Beach Days and Hurricanes

 

My German friend Tim and I decided to finally go to the beach! It only took me two weeks to finally leave La Habana. Tim is traveling around the world and on a tight budget like myself so we decided to take the bus. We both had been to scared to ride it alone, him because he speaks no Spanish and me because they pack people on there like sardines.

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