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6 -7 Nights for an Independent Traveler, What are my Options?

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Looking to travel to Cuba next October for 6 nights (or 7 if we don't have to stay overnight in Miami). My wife and I are an independent travelers, late 50's/early 60's and value culture and sights over beaches. We have travelled extensively worldwide, so a guided tour might not be the best option for us. Any suggestions, based on the new rules?

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    Who knows what the situation might be by next October? Could have changed to open up completely.

    Right now, there are 12 (official US) reasons to travel.
    When you apply for your PINK Cuban visa, the same form has the reasons listed. Check one.
    When you board, the airline will check to see that you have a visa and enter your data, including the reason, into their computer.
    Airlines are including the health insurance the Cuban government requires, but up until now, the proof they provide, if you do need to actually use it at a clinic, seems inadequate. No Cuban official asked to see proof on entry.
    No US government authority has asked anyone for proof (supposed to keep proof of what you did in Cuba, to support your reason for travel, for 5 years) in quite some time, according to all reports on forums.
    When I returned to Miami, the immigration guy simple asked where I had been, I answered honestly, and he wished me welcome home. DONE.

    Insofar as culture and sights, that would be a reason for a tour. Or maybe finding a good guide ahead of time. (My interests are art and local music---found music for tourists, Guantanamera and ChanChan over and over at tourist bars and restaurants.)
    I found it difficult to make connections until I was there personally. It was a short trip, so I will use them next time to do what I had hoped to do on the first trip.

    Another thing to understand (especially for those who are not 20s/30s backpackers) is that hotels are expensive (and apparently in short supply in Havana anyway) but the casas particulares (at 25-30 CUC = about U$30) are NOT as comfortable as budget (U$38-85) posadas in Mexico or Brazilian pousadas for about R$200/U$65. Mattrasses were bad, and small (one double per room), water pressure was often not good, and there were biting insects (even in rooms where there was an air conditioner).

    If you still have questions, post.

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    Craig - being brits we were not restricted as US citizens are [in theory] but the thing to note is that the Cubans don't care where you come from - they just want your money. I don't mean that in a nasty way, but you don't need to worry about their reaction to you [we lost count of the number of people we saw wearing T shirts with the Stars and Stripes on them for example].

    In the main we stayed in casas like SambaChula; this is in fact one of the best ways of making connections with locals as we found them very keen to chat and share aspects of their lives with us. S/he is right that standards are variable; some were good, others were very basic and from one we just did a moonlight flit, albeit we did it in the middle of an afternoon! All have aircon of a sort and we found that the plug in anti-mosquito device we took with us worked very well, when we remembered to use it; ditto the sprays that you can get for personal use - you just have to remember to use them!

    if you are just looking at a week or just under, I would stay in Havana - there is plenty there to keep you occupied perhaps with a day trip or two, or you could spend the last 2 nights in Vinales if you want to go out into the country, though the road to get there is so bad, it's probably not worth the time and effort, not to mention the cost. Las Terrazes which is a lot closer might be a better bet but you could do that in a day trip. Another option would be to go straight from Havana to, say, Trinidad or Cienfuegos, stay there for a few nights and then finish your stay in Havana but I think that you might feel short-changed as there is a lot to see and do there,

    As for tours, IMO you don't need one at all, particularly if you are just going to be staying in Havana. it is very easy to get around with excellent transport options - a communal taxi costs 50c pp wherever you want to go. you just stand on the street on the route that you want to take, wave at them, and if they have space they will stop, and drop you off wherever you want to go on their route. This also proved to be a good way to meet locals and we got one of our best tips on where to stay from a Havana taxi driver. if there is a special place you want to go, a taxi would take you there and back for must less than a tour or if you want a proper guide for a day, the tourist office will organise it for you [or more probably your casa owner will know someone who knows someone].

    Hope that helps - here's something to give you a few more ideas:

    http://www.lahabana.com/content/monthly-guide/

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    BTW, I wasn't meaning to be at all disparaging of Cubans when said that they just want your money - what I meant was that they do not discriminate between tourists whether they are from the US, Canada, the UK - we are all the same to them!

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    "we are all the same to them!", an endless fountain of CUC. LOL Particularly in Havana. Particularly taxis.

    "the plug in anti-mosquito device we took with us worked very well,"
    May I ask where you got this device? I have one from Brazil(made by Johnson and Johnson, for the indoors, which plugs into an electrical socket and takes an chemically-impregnated wafer), which I forgot to pack, but I have never seen them sold in the US where all windows and doors commonly have fine mesh screens.
    Note: I got bitten on my face (the only flesh sticking out of the covers) while sleeping in AC and with a fan on me.
    The casa owners reaction was to spray with a product made for the outdoors that left me lightheaded and sick.

    http://www.lahabana.com/content/monthly-guide/
    Excellent link.

    Also:
    http://havana-cultura.com/

    There is a hop on/hop-off bus that goes around the city of Havana, a good introduction to the geography/neighborhoods/sights. Your casa owner certainly will be able to direct you to a nearby stop.

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    "the plug in anti-mosquito device we took with us worked very well,"
    May I ask where you got this device? I have one from Brazil (made by Johnson and Johnson, for the indoors, which plugs into an electrical socket and takes an chemically-impregnated wafer), which I forgot to pack, but I have never seen them sold in the US where all windows and doors commonly have fine mesh screens.>>

    SambaChula - we got ours from what in the UK used to be called Boots the Chemist. it's pretty old now [I suppose we bought it about 10 years ago at least] but it seems to do the job. if you are passing through the UK, you might look out for one. Next time i'm in Boots I'll see if they still do them.

    I had intended to mention the HOHO bus so thanks for reminding me; there are in fact two in Havana, one that goes west out to the Crematorium, the Aquarium and the beaches [as well as the hotels in Playa] and costs CUC10 and another which goes east across the river to the fort over th other side, and costs CUC20. Frankly I think that a taxi would be better value, and you could do what we did and get the boat over to Casablanca, [which costs almost literally nothing but does require one to put aside western ideas of health and safety for the duration of the voyage], walk up to the fort, and then get a taxi back [13CUC for up to 4 people].

    As SC says, your casa owner will tell you where you can catch them, but the main stop is from the square in front of the hotel Parque Centrale, near the stop for the exquisitely preserved american cars [min 30CUC for an hour if you're lucky]

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