Firstly, I do need to apologise for this first blog. I have chosen to share a country that gave me, what is probably the worse travel experience I’ve had after 6 years of travelling.
So, It can only go up from here!!
Why Cuba? The Music, The mystery, The Culture, The food, the Dancing, The Rum, The Cigar, The people and more…
I spent as many as 7 nights in Cuba, November 2017. 5 nights in the middle of it all (the old Havana). The 2 remaining nights I had made the decision to nestle myself at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero, 3 hours bus ride from Havana for some relaxing, cocktail on a beach to end the trip.
let me start by explaining the transit process into the country. My flight Path was from Miami International airport direct to Havana, now if you haven’t travelled to or from America before, let me enlighten you on fun facts, “if they say be at the airport 3 hours before departure time, You be there 4 hours before departure times“ and make sure you mentally prepare yourself for the long security line at the screening. The security system is no joke.
travelling to Cuba via US can be a little stressful if you haven’t done your research, make sure you read on Entry requirements for travelling to Cuba from United State, Going to Cuba, you will most likely need a Tourist Travel card no matter what country You are from. The Travel card can be purchase once you have checked-in for your flight, price is set a $100US, if you’re looking to spend a little less, I have been told you can purchase this same travel card from the nearest Cuban embassy for a cheaper price of $50US.
Once at Havana airport! getting through custom was easy enough but after that, it went down hill, keeping in mind the plane landed at 9pm, at this point all I had in mind was collect my luggage, check-in to the accommodation and set myself ready for what the night in Havana might have to offer, sound easy right?!. Much to my dismay, 2-3 baggage came out of the carousel every 5-10mins. To make the long story short, by the time I had collected my baggage it was almost midnight.
I have mentioned this waiting period to a number of previous traveller to Cuba and believe it or not, this is actually expected.
Now! to make all matters worse, while waiting for the baggage, there is no seating area provided. So as you can imagine, I was standing up the entire time until I collected my bag.
Right!! rough start isn’t it? but wait… it gets better…
Once I had collected my bag and somewhat excitement I had left, I proceeded to the arrivals area. And here comes the money situation, after some research before going to the country, I had discovered that Cuba do not exchange US dollars, Only Euro, Canadian Dollars etc… however Visa and MasterCard can still be access through ATM. (what I should have also researched was, which ATM and how frequently can this be found?).
Havana airport has 2 terminals located 15min drive from each other, international and domestic. Why? it’s a million dollar question I’m yet to get to the bottom of because both terminals has flights departing and arriving internationally. And of course with luck on my side, I happened to arrive at the terminal where the ATM machine did not accept my Australian bank cards. You could only imagine how disappointed I was. After agreeing with the taxi driver to take me to the “other” terminal so I could withdraw cash and also dropping me off to my accommodation the price set at $35US, at that point I would’ve paid $100 if it got me to where I needed to go.
Always make sure you and the driver have an agreement on pricing before getting in the car!!
Moving forward, checking into my Airbnb accommodation was thankfully smooth and easy. My host Linda was actually waiting for me and she was not at all surprise at my late arrival.
I have come to the conclusion that, I was the only one surprised by my own late arrival.
To end the night of my arrival, by the time I had settled into my accommodation and made my way onto the street, hoping to find myself a mood lifting meal, before giving myself some rest and starting it over the next day. I found out that unfortunately for me and my big appetite, NOTHING was available that late into the night and when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING.
Thankful to Linda, she had offered a bottle of HAVANA CLUB on arrival, so as to say, saved my life that night.
I would recommend anyone looking at or is travelling to Cuba to take Cash. Even with my ATM card working, only a few ATM machine will except my bank card and only Visa card. Master Card is not excepted, this was another problem I ran into as I had to transfer funds between different bank during my stay with very limited internet access and by limited, I do mean internet card, finding a spot at a 5 star hotel reception or a park to log-in, even with that, there is no guarantee you will get reception.
With internet being a problem, we can all dismiss my inner girly vent about having no connection to the outside world, no work, no GPS, no bank balance or transfer, no trip-advisor.
To be honest I knew Cuba was going to be an adventure but nowhere in my research did it mention No Internet access.
If You are looking for a place to escape or disappear, this place is for You!!
Now don’t get me wrong, the country itself, I am sure has many beautiful aspect but to my disappointment, I did not come across that aspect on the first couple of hours into the journey, also I had to remind myself, I was not at all prepared enough for what this destination had in-store.
After all, what’s an adventure without taking a little risk?
Part 1/3 may have started badly and unexpected, I will continue part 2/3 with some great location, pictures of the building structure in old Havana, the people, the music and of course the cigar.