My mother and I traveled to Cuba two weeks ago. I had the country on my list of must-go’s for a couple of years and was desperate to go see it now before I leave the continent and before it changes too much with the newly established US relations. The amount of stories to tell is huge, and people in Cuba were both happy to be photographed and very eager to talk, so it was absolute bliss to walk around with the camera and just take in all the colours, contrasts, details and beautiful personalities.
I’ll give you a couple of photos at a time so that it doesn’t become too overwhelming, and I’ll try sharing some tips and information for those who want to make their way to Cuba as well. All of the Cuba related posts will be found in the Cuba 2015 category. :) And all of this falls under Travels with Mom, as usual, a category that I hope to continue expanding for years to come – my mom is a great travel partner and photography assistant. :)
We arrived in La Habana after a short flight from Cancun and very long bus ride from Belize City. The ADO bus from Belize City leaves at 7.30pm and is freezing cold (sweatpants, thick winter socks and blankets kind of cold) and you don’t really get to sleep as the border crossing takes forever and the bus stops several times (you even have to get out at one point in Mexico to pay the “rest of your busticket” in an ADO office in the middle of the night..). The bus arrives in Cancun airport at around 7am, a time when there’s not much to do other than freshen up and have breakfast. Flights to La Habana leave at 1pm if you fly with the convenient and cheap Interjet (we paid 450USD for two round trip tickets) and when we were there you could get your Cuban tourist visa card at the airport if you were flying with them. We didn’t know that and had our visa cards from Sweden which turned out a bit more expensive, but it was the safe way to go as you get turned back at the check-in counter without the tourist card.
Upon arriving, we exchanged money in the airport at one of the official CADECA windows, USD have a 10% penalty so bring Euros or even Mexican pesos or Yen. The money deal is a bit complicated in Cuba – you have the CUC (peso convertible) and CUP (moneda nacional), the CUC is about equivalent to the USD, while the CUP is at about 24 for one CUC. In hotels, restaurants, taxis and most things that are geared towards tourists, you pay with CUC. A bottle of water is 1CUC, a meal is about 10, a mojito is 3. The CUP is only used in local shops and as some Cubans say “to but things of lower quality” – so cheaper things. We only got CUP for the equivalent of 5USD and actually only used them once when we got my mother ice cream in a small village for 1 CUP, and when I got churros on the street for 5CUP. Things are sometimes “cheaper” in CUP, but if you’re not going for long it’s easier to just stick to the peso convertible (CUC) and keep an eye on the change you get so that it’s CUC and not CUP, the currencies look very much alike. In terms of credit cards, most places and ATMs only accept VISA cards, and no places accept any American Bank issued cards. In general, cash is king.
We took a cab from the airport (30min, 25CUC) and made our way to our hotel in Old Havana, and hung out for a while (completely exhausted from that overnight bus) before heading out for a walk in the old town and then a show by the Buena Vista Social Club. The real deal. The show was 30CUC with mojitos included, and with dinner included it was 50CUC but the food was an absolute joke. The entire thing was a tourist trap, obviously, but the artists, (Omara Peláez, 83, was there) their voices and the songs were authentic, so we really enjoyed the evening as an intro to our week on the Island of colours, music and what we didn’t know would be “Guantanamera” on repeat from every street musician and radio in sight.
Street dogs are marked with ID cards, the card states the dogs name, address and that it has been sterilized.
?Nora Flora Heredia Escul, puffing on a Cuban cigar.
There will be more!