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We (me, my wife, and son) and my buddy and his wife and two adult children are booked to fly to Havana out of Columbus OH and I booked what appears to be a great place to stay in Havana-a privately owned three bedroom condo. We leave in early October. We did this on our own and not through a travel agent. When I tried to use a local travel agent I was presented with expensive all-inclusive packages and was told that although there are other ways to do the trip, this is the only way they will assist (all-inclusive package involving daily tours) because the Cuban government insists that each visitor tour and interact with the local citizens on a daily basis. I understand and don't question that this is true. 

My question is whether any of you can help me with information or advice regarding where to go to arrange daily tours on our own. Any other advice as to how to enjoy our trip without getting into trouble with the Cuban officials would be most appreciated. In fact, any tips of any nature that a rookie on traveling to Cuba ought to know would be most appreciated. 
 

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  • Fsonicsmith changed the title to Need trip advice

I should add-we are well aware that all bets are off as to how things will be in October as to Covid and that with the change of our President and administration there is no way to know what the rules and regs will be in seven months. My question can only be presented based on what is known now. And yes, we did purchase travel insurance and our accommodations can be canceled within 72 hours of departure with a refund of all but $100. 

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Bring snacks for the trip. Nuts, pretzels, granola bars etc, you will most likely not find this anywhere. Bring a basic 1st aid kit. You will have trouble finding this as well. Mosquito spray for the house and your skin. Many swear by those inexpensive bracelets for your arms and legs as a repellent. Don't wear black clothing as mosquitos are attracted to that. Sunscreen. Hats. A flashlight or two if the power goes out, you will still be in hurricane season. Maybe some tea light candles. Don't drink the water, buy lots of bottled water. There are 5 of you, it will be tight every time you need a taxi. The older cars don't have seat belts, so you can just pile on top of each other. There is a double decker bus (AC on the bottom, open air on the top) that goes from Marina Hemingway to Playas del Este that you can ride all day for one price. Last time I checked it was $10 but it may have gone up. It stops at every point of interest in Havana. Don't depend on the last bus, time you trip on the second to last. If you go to Playas del Este (Havanas best beaches) go to Santa Maria where there are Fronton courts. There is a very inexpensive two level restaurant across the street (wish I knew the name) with ample bar space and access to the beach. White sand, turquoise waters. Oh, and they have bathrooms. The view on the second level bar is cool and breezy and you can get out of the sun if you want to. Go to the Canonazo at 9pm (you will need a taxi), but head there way before 7-ish. This is a nightly ritual of blasting the Canons in traditional Spanish uniforms from the 1600's. There is a museum there, LCDH and many tourist trinkets. You will be overlooking the city from El Morro, the fort from back in the day when they did this. If you are not done with the night head on over to the 90 foot Jesus (another taxi ride). There is not much there but a great and higher view of the city at night. There are small kiosks selling snacks and drinks there and there are bathrooms. These are the MUST inexpensive trips that will give you plenty of pic ops. Go to any large hotel, Havana Libre, Nacional etc and they will have representatives that sell daily tours. Some pricey, some not. Some might include meals. Cigar factories may or may not be giving tours at that time. Hope this helps, John

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7 hours ago, Fsonicsmith said:

Johnny O, gracias, mucho gracias! As a new member here I was beginning to think I was being shunned. I know from being a long-term participant on other fora-audio and wine related, that new members tend to be looked at with a healthy dose of suspicion. 

You'll find this to be a very engaging and welcoming online forum. Enjoy!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey mate, nobody is snubbing you, many don't look at this part of the forum. Infact, this forum is very welcoming. Here's a few things I copied from here for a trip I did in the Christmas of 2019/20, on the eve of COVID. Some things would of most likely changed by now. My advice would be go with the flow. Get a tacky open car from the 50's and let them drive you around first up. It's all cool. I think on this section of the forum there is recommended drivers that can take you to other parts of Havana outside of the tourist zone. Don't be fooled by the touts that come up to you in the tourist area when you've had a couple of drinks and they make friends and ask, 'where you from'? Just be friendly. They'll try to take you to a bar where they have a kick back on drinks and expect you to buy them overpriced drinks too. Usually a male accompanied by a female who is pretending to be his wife and she complains she has no baby formula so you give them money. If you're happy to go with it and spend a little then you usually have a good time but just be aware of it so it doesn't sour your trip. Not sure if he is still there but make sure you buy some custom cigars. I like Reynaldo. His customs were great. I think the lanceros smoke best in the humidity. The big ring guage cigars he is famous for need a bit of dry boxing but are really nice IMHO. Below is a list of random stuff I copied from here before my trip. As I said, some may not be relevant.  image.thumb.png.10f2fdd21e021363e95899d45ac93281.png

 

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