The Ultimate Visiting Cuba Thread.


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Keep in mind, you are comparing 2 completely different trips. To say someone got ripped off is a little harsh. Take into consideration that he was there for the festival. Pricing is generally more during this time. You paid $740 and your going to get a $740 worth of trip.

I'm just saying... don't complain about a $900 ticket price when you can have an entire vacation package for just over $700. If someone CHOOSE a $900 ticket instead of the $400 one, then says how expensive it is (leading readers to believe transport from Canada to Cuba is outrageously expensive), ... you get my drift. For instance, last year I was going to visit a friend in Bermuda. I could get air fair from anywhere from $600 to over $2000. Now, I wouldn't get the $2K tickets and say it costs $2K to fly to Bermuda.

I was just replying saying that $900 just for air fair from Toronto to Cuba is WAAAY more than what most people pay. I just didn't want readers to think that services are super-high priced up here in Canada. They're not. :lol:

A flight with AC is going to run you $600 plus (taxes in) from Toronto to Havana, return. That doesn't even include the flight from the US destination to Toronto. 5 nights in a nice hotel (NH Parc/Nacional) is $650.00. Food, booze, cigars and you are easily at $3k for your trip.

Just so the above quote doesn't scare anyone off from seeing this country... Our flight (return) from Toronto to Varadero came to about $450. If you want to spend extra for an Air Canada flight, go nuts. If the flight isn't a huge concern and is just transportation to you (as it is me... it's only 3.5hrs), check out Sunwing. $400-450. And for CANADIANS out there... tark's addition wouldn't do you any good anyway: $650 for hotel + $600 for flight = $1250. $3000 minus $1250 = $1750 in expenses. We're only allowed to claim $750 worth of goods before paying massive duties/taxes.

But of course, like tarks said.. you CAN pay a lot to go there. If you want to travel first class on Air Canada, you might pay $900 for a Toronto->Cuba return flight (although you can go Toronto->Spain for that much on AC). and if you want a hotel where you've got all the luxuries, sure. But my flight is just transportation to me, and my hotel isn't a place I plan on spending much time inside. Showers and sleeping. I hope to soak up as much of the local culture in towns and cities as possible. So if you want a luxurious vacation starting off with a first class flight and 5 star hotels, sure you can probably rack up $3K in a week. If you want to save cash, like I said.. both me and the mrs. paid just over $700 each for our flight there/back, and 7 week stay at a cheaper all-inclusive resort (she has a family member that's been to that resort a dozen times already so it can't be exactly a horror story).

But to each their own. If you want to spend $3K for a week in Cuba, YOU CAN. But you can also spend $750 base + stogie money. But with a $750 claim limit before duties/taxes are imposed (and I'm not rich enough to start paying 400% tobacco taxes), $1500 total would provide me with a GREAT trip. But some people wouldn't have a good time on a 'less frills' trip like that, and I completely understand that. To each their own. But please people (who haven't been), don't think $3000 is a requirement. If you want to spend half that I'm sure you can still have a great time (personality-dependent of course!) :D

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Here's a recent list of rollers that was put together. See credits below. Roller || Address || Notes Alejandro Gonzalez Arias || Hotel Comodoro Cigar Shop at 3ra Ave. & Calle 84, Playa || Repl

Here is a post from TA I did in response to a guy that had the same question. I talked to him after and the big key is to take a duffle or backpack so you can bypass the baggage wait and you will only

If you are staying at a casa, call them and ask them if there is anything in particular they need. Also you can't go wrong with basic necessities like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, clothes

WHERE TO TAKE OUT CUCs :

Ok, up until now I thought that debit and credit cards issued by a non-US bank were ok, but I'm told by two people who go down about 2-3x a year that cards can NOT be used at our hotel (Tuxpan) and they take down Canadian currency each time. There's over 600,000 Canadians that visit Cuba each year from what I've read, and it sounds odd that they all take down wads of cash with them.

Does the airport in Varadero have a method to get CUCs with a Canadian debit or credit card? (Debit preferred as cash advance on credit cards are like 40% on top of what you're pulling out after you add on the cash advance credit card fee + the exchange rate fee).

Are there any places *IN* Varadero that one can get CUCs and use a debit/credit card? (I'm leaving next Tuesday so this is kinda important :P ) THanks in advance!! (note: I'm not looking for places in Havana as we won't be going there until after a few days of being in Cuba already. 'Really need places in and around Varadero)

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WHERE TO TAKE OUT CUCs :

Ok, up until now I thought that debit and credit cards issued by a non-US bank were ok, but I'm told by two people who go down about 2-3x a year that cards can NOT be used at our hotel (Tuxpan) and they take down Canadian currency each time. There's over 600,000 Canadians that visit Cuba each year from what I've read, and it sounds odd that they all take down wads of cash with them.

Does the airport in Varadero have a method to get CUCs with a Canadian debit or credit card? (Debit preferred as cash advance on credit cards are like 40% on top of what you're pulling out after you add on the cash advance credit card fee + the exchange rate fee).

Are there any places *IN* Varadero that one can get CUCs and use a debit/credit card? (I'm leaving next Tuesday so this is kinda important :P ) THanks in advance!! (note: I'm not looking for places in Havana as we won't be going there until after a few days of being in Cuba already. 'Really need places in and around Varadero)

Honestly, I haven't looked or tried with either option at the airport. Generally, I've always used the Cadeca at the Arenas Blancas (across from the Palma Real, and just east from the LCDH at Calle 63). IF I remember right, the trip that we did in 2006, we did use our Visa card for some withdrawl/conversion. But, I can't remember if debit was available, nor do I recollect anything of the like at the Juan Gualberto Gomez airport.

Now, if you major concern is bringing down wads of cash, no worries. Firstly, Cuba (and especially Varadero) is quite safe, especially with the good will generated to Canadians. But, for a common sense approach, bring down some cash mixed in with traveller's cheques.

What my wife and I have always done previously, is say if we bring $1000 or so, then we'll bring down $200 cash for each of us on our person. Then, we'll bring down the balance in traveller's cheques. Just remember that American Express traveller's cheques are a no-can-do item. But, if you go to just about any travel agency (CAA, etc.), then you can instead by the "international" version, some Thomas Cook traveller's cheques, and those are decently easy enough to cash in at any Cadeca. Just ensure that pending the worst happening (theft, lost wallet, misplaced bag, etc.), that just like having photocopies of your passports (and each spouse holding their original, and a photocopy/backup held by the opposite), that it's a good idea to keep your original traveller's cheques separated from the carbon-copy receipts/duplicates.

Hope this helps some.

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Honestly, I haven't looked or tried with either option at the airport. Generally, I've always used the Cadeca at the Arenas Blancas (across from the Palma Real, and just east from the LCDH at Calle 63). IF I remember right, the trip that we did in 2006, we did use our Visa card for some withdrawl/conversion. But, I can't remember if debit was available, nor do I recollect anything of the like at the Juan Gualberto Gomez airport.

Now, if you major concern is bringing down wads of cash, no worries. Firstly, Cuba (and especially Varadero) is quite safe, especially with the good will generated to Canadians. But, for a common sense approach, bring down some cash mixed in with traveller's cheques.

What my wife and I have always done previously, is say if we bring $1000 or so, then we'll bring down $200 cash for each of us on our person. Then, we'll bring down the balance in traveller's cheques. Just remember that American Express traveller's cheques are a no-can-do item. But, if you go to just about any travel agency (CAA, etc.), then you can instead by the "international" version, some Thomas Cook traveller's cheques, and those are decently easy enough to cash in at any Cadeca. Just ensure that pending the worst happening (theft, lost wallet, misplaced bag, etc.), that just like having photocopies of your passports (and each spouse holding their original, and a photocopy/backup held by the opposite), that it's a good idea to keep your original traveller's cheques separated from the carbon-copy receipts/duplicates.

Hope this helps some.

All good advice - thanks! I think I'll just risk taking the cash, exchange some at the airport upon arrival, and the rest in a bank in Varadero so I don't pay as high an exchange rate.

Credit cards usually charge about 3X their normal interest rate for cash advances, so that would just be silly. Maybe the Thomas Cook traveller's cheques would be an option, depending on how much it costs to buy them. Yah, maybe 200 in cash and 600 in cheques. I'm HOPING to keep my stogie purchasing under $200 per box of 25, although instead of 2x25 I'm hoping to get a wider selection and get 5 boxes of 10. Thinking about it now, I'd better take my TD Visa just in case... (but Canadians can only bring back $750 worth of goods duty/tax free. Then our crazy taxes kick in, so I wouldn't want to push that limit anyway). But if I see a nice authentic Cuban humidor with a name-brand logo on it, I wont' be able to pass it up :P )

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If you go to sites like trip advisor, you'd often see people complaining about casa particulares not honoring the reservation system (ex. telling you the casa is full, or directed you to another casa without notice). This is mainly due to the high tax they have to pay for running a CP and they want to keep a full occupancy throughout the month. Also do remember they don't have the best communication options in the world (took me 5 min to load gmail, and Cubans don't have internets all day), and the so called "reservation" system is usually just a verbal agreement. So let's say if your flight is delayed for an hour or two they would become super panic that they would begin considering another walk-in customer or start calling their friends to get referrals.

There are ways to secure your spot: Call/email to confirm your arrival a day before your flight. Another way I found effective is to offer CP owner "gifts", ask them if there are anythings that they would like you to bring from your country, usually nothing expensive, stuff like tynenols bandages and small tools would do the trick (I bought a 20" roll of protective tape once, that's the biggest thing i've brought). This way the CP owner will not only expect you as a customer, they are expecting the supply they need to arrive too and will think twice for accepting a walk-in. If all fails, do prepare a list of back ups, it's not fun to go door to door during midnight in Habana Central w/ all ur luggages, seriously. The CP provided in tour books ( I used Lonely Planet) are pretty good backups.

Hey Pres, do you want us to keep the contents on Habana only or the entire Cuba? I'm sure many of us have information to share on other parts of the country too

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NOTE FOR CANADIANS DOING CURRENCY EXCHANGE:

After going to 3 different places and talking to 2 more on the phone trying to find Thomas Cook traveller's cheques, the Thomas Cook office I was forwarded to (I called the one in Niagara Falls which had closed for good and was forwarded to their Scarborough office), I was told by the rep there that traveler's cheques are a thing of the past and due to losing money on buying and selling them, it's better to just take cash.

re: using credit cards

Also not a good idea because with my TD Emerald Visa card, I'd pay 7.9% interest (my rate) + 2.5% for using it outside of Canada, +$5 per transaction for cash withdrawl. So you add up 7.9% + 2.5% + $5CAD + the fee the Cuban establishment charges to convert, and you're losing a lot of money. Better to just take cash and pay only the conversion fee.

I'll probably take about $600CAD in cash and bring my TD Visa card for backup.

^^^ great to hear in a previous post in this thread that all places (airport/bank/etc) that do conversion charge the same rate. I can do it at the airport in Varadero upon arrival and not worry about their rate being more than somewhere else.

EDIT: not sure if hearing about the exchange rates being the same everywhere was posted here or in my email I read just prior to posting. This is the email I received on the subject:

There only one company in charge for exchange money, those are the banks and all belong to the Cuban government so it does not make a big diference if you change in one place or another. Since some weeks ago the rates for the Canadians went up an 8%, search for banco metropolitano and you will get the daily rate

Warm regards from Havana Cuba

Pototo

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The Partagas factory is mentioned a few times in this thread. Are there any other factories in Havana that are open to the public (H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, La Corona, etc.)? It seems like every time I research which factories to visit, I read something different about whether or not they offer public tours.

I'm going next March for my honeymoon and I'd like to hit as many factories as possible.

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Another 2 reports -

my visits in Nov. 2011 to two renowned tobacco plantations where I spent some days.

First was a visit to El Pinar ( Vega Robaina ) and Don Alejandro's heir, Hirochi - see :

http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2011_12_cuba_visiting_hirochi_robaina.php


And the second visit, a highlight of my Cuba trip, was to Hector Luis Prieto and his tabaquero Miguel, see :

http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2011_12_cuba_visiting_hector_luis_prieto.php


Enjoy

Nino

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The second and last part of my report on "Paladares And Eating Out in Havana - Part Two".

See : http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2011_12_havana_paladares_and_eating_out_part_two.php

The entire text with all the places I tried and liked - in both reports you'll find about 75 pictures of eateries in Havana.

Buen provecho !

Nino

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Some more infos on HAV after my last trip :

I stayed in several new Casas Particulares in the Miramar/Playa area of Havana while on my last trip and there will be some pictures of them later on my reports along with information on my stay in Playa Larga/Bay of Pigs.

Here’s a Casa Particular in Old Havana that I visited as it was recommended by a friend.

I didn’t stay there so I cannot judge its quality or service but I liked the warm and tasteful atmosphere of old times, the rooftop bar and terrace and the very central location right in the heart of the city.

It has seven or eight rooms, each with bathroom. Breakfast and other meals are provided and tours, visits and excursions can be arranged for you.

The Plaza de Armas, the main pedestrian street Calle Obispo and the main attractions are just a stone’s throw away.

Beware : the Casa is located on the top floor of an old house and the staircase both to the Casa and to the roof-top terrace is quite steep, but, again, the climb to the roof top is sure worth it for a drink and a cigar above the old Havana streets.

If interested in making a reservation you may send me a message which I’d forward to the owner.

Nino

See also :

http://www.cubacasa.co.uk/en/all-casas/viewproperty/Casa%20Havana/61

http://fr.familyguest.com/homestay/cuba/havana/casa-emilio-y-carmen/

http://www.tripadvisor.de/ShowUserReviews-g147271-d2407081-r123451962-Casa_Emilio-Havana_Cuba.html


For more pictures :

http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2012_03_cuba_2012_casa_particular_emilio_in_old_havana.php

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Ok,

the cigar part on my last visit to Cuba is over and here's what I did on my last week in Cuba before returning to Havana, re-visiting El Laguito and flying home.

This is part one of a 4 part series of my stay in the Bay of Pigs, first and second part will be Playa Larga at the northern end of the Bay.

Part 3 will be Guama in the crocodile swamps and part 4 will be Caleta Buena south of the 60's invasion beachhead at Playa Giron and now a museum.

All the text is in part one, about staying with a Cuban family, touring the beaches, caves and swamps and enjoying a simple and very relaxing time with my hosts :

http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2012_04_cuba_quiet_days_in_playa_larga_bay_of_pigs_part_i.php

Enjoy

Nino

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Excellent Nino.

As the wind blows here, I am living life vicariously with you.

That shower is an electricians nightmare!

And you are correct, the Cubans are born with a natural sense of rhythm, us whiteys will never have...

Not so sure about the rat dinner though....

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Second Part of my Bay of Pigs tour days -

I found a Blue Monster that took me ( and many others waiting for lifts ) around the Bay and I found ... Australia, a place full of old and venerable railway engines and Fidel's HQ during the famed invasion...

Oh, and here's my rat (Jutia) dinner - delicious, much like rabbit, would have it anytime, maybe with a bottle of red next time.

http://www.flyingcigar.de/travel_cigars/2012_04_cuba_playa_larga_australia_part_ii.php


Nino

PS : Part Three will include a pic of the giant rats ... :-)

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