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2008-11-23 12:05: Reasons not to go to Cuba
I just came back from a trip to Cuba with my parents. Everyone's asking "how was Cuba?" and so I'd better write something about it.

The main problem was that every Cuban (except hotel and restaurant staff, and sometimes even them) tried to trick us out of money. So we never really got to know anyone and eventually we had to stop speaking to them. Since my reason for going to Cuba was to find out about the country and its people and form opinions about it, this kind of ruined the trip.

In addition to this, the food was terrible everywhere, and there was no "great Cuban music" to be had anywhere. All the places we went recommended by the Lonely Planet had gone away, were closed, or had turned into tourist traps with yet more rip-offs and scams. Asking the Cubans only got you recommendations for more scams.

There is probably a good reason for all this. I have some theories. But it is not because the Cubans are so poor that they are lacking the basics. As far as I could tell they were well fed, healthy, and had reasonable homes and a good environment. What they don't have is luxuries, and imports can only be obtained using convertible currency which can only be obtained from foreigners. This means there's a lot of pressure to get convertibles.

I read and picked up as much as I could about Cuban history. Cuba's had a pretty bad time, what with Spanish exploitation, US exploitation, puppet fascists, and now somewhat oppressive socialism. But as far as I can tell, even if Castro is not wonderful, he's probably about the best they've had so far.

There are photos on Facebook: outside Habana and Habana.

I would not have minded lots of difficulties if I had been learning a lot about Cuba, but I feel that I learned very little. So it was on the whole an unpleasant experience and a fruitless one too.

I have four recommendations if you're going to Cuba:
  • Make a genuine Cuban friend before you go.
  • Go to an all-inclusive resort where you're protected from touts, and can enjoy the environment.
  • Backpack in poverty around lesser-known places and try to discover real Cuban life.
  • Don't go to hotels in well known places.
I haven't done any of these, but if I were going back I would try!


[User Picture]
Date:2008-11-24 10:51 (UTC)
So, I moused over my "Habana" photo link above, and the sponsored links were "Kites", "Circumcision", "Recycling", "Boy Scouts", "Bowling Ball", and "Speed of Light". Pretty interesting for a post about "what I did on my holidays".
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