During the 1950’s Cuba was the next big thing; splendid resorts lined the coast just east of Havana; brightly painted chalets filled the country hamlets and Chevrolets ruled the roads. Today, the resort Playas del Este is nothing more than modern ruins with the occasional working property; the beaches are reminiscent of a wealthy bygone era. The chalets, much like the inner city 19th Century Spanish mansions, are dilapidated while the Chevrolets are fighting with Ladas on the road.
White beaches and glorious crystal blue seas frame an island steeped in history clinging to itself for success. Its heroes in Fidel Castro and Che Guevara are emblazoned across every street, in every town in every region; the people, committed to a life of communism with an income stream from the capitalist tourists of the North.
The country opened its borders to travel in the early 1990’s as their Sugar Cane exports ran dry. The need for better technology encouraged them to trade directly with both Russia and China; the main cities certainly do not go without all the mod-cons of the developed modern age – do we include the iPhone? Well, yes they have them too.
1. Take Euros or Pounds, you will face high commission rates when withdrawing cash
2. Accommodation; stay with locals in Casa Particulares
3. Internet: Public internet access is restricted and means queuing for a few hours, and Cubans love to queue. Speed and reliability of the connection is incredibly painful – think early dial-up!
4. Cubans are prohibited from talking to tourists unless it is the tourist who engaged the Cuban or if a service is being provided. Police stroll cities and beaches to ensure the safety of tourists.
5. Stay away from food street vendors as this is likely to make your stomach churn – for several days!
Check out the rest of my experiences and advice through the other articles on this Honest Omissions