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Leslie Nov 14th, 2002 08:25 PM

American to Cuba
I've been researching an unlicensed trip to Cuba and am looking for a reputable tour agency to make my trip reservations. Since I'm on the East Coast, I'd prefer to go through the Bahamas (warm) rather than Canada (cold), but the main issue is that the company be reputable and reasonable. Anyone with recommendations that they'd like to pass on? Also, I understand that bottled water is the order of the day but I'd really like to try a mojito. Any problems drinking daiquiris, mojitos while in Cuba? Thanks!

John Nov 15th, 2002 12:36 AM

Stick to the bottled water, but you will be fine drinking Mojito. If you are worried only buy them in upmarket places i.e. hotels frequented by westerners, plush bars and restaurants etc.<BR><BR>I can't help you on your tour agency question, other than to say you should probably pay cash if possible and then when you return make sure you have nothing on your person (or luggage) that shows you have been to Cuba. If you have some souvenirs you could post them from Canada to a friend on your way back, or post (or probably better to) DHL them from Mexico.

Jed Nov 15th, 2002 06:16 AM

We went to Cuba through Bahamas (legally.) Did you try your friendly local travel agency? I would think that if the reservations were made separately, the US immigration in Bahamas on your return wouldn't know.

xxx Nov 15th, 2002 07:32 AM

Or you can go through Mexico. Cuban Customs will not stamp your visa.

xxx Nov 15th, 2002 07:33 AM

BTW, it isn't hard to get permission from our gov't. Most people just don't try.

Steve Nov 15th, 2002 07:48 AM

There is absolutely no problem with the bottled water available in Cuba. There is both carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water available. Cost is always $1.00 USD per bottle. (500ml) Larger 2 litre sizes are available at most grocery stores.<BR><BR>Like most people you should watch out for ice cubes in your drinks. Seems how we always forget those for some reason.<BR><BR>If you are in Havana and want a great Mojita at the legendary bar made famous by Ernest hemmingway, then you have to have a drink at The Bodeguita Del Medio, Empedrado 207, Habana Veija (Old Havana). Comida Criolla y Mojitos (Native food and Mojitos), what a great place to eat and drink. Located just around the corner from Cathedral Square. The walls are covered with signatures of its patrons from the day it opened. Famous signatures such as Hemmingway's and Salvadore Allende's are protected under glass. No visit to Havana is complete without a Mojito at the Bodeguita. A short 10 minute walk away on Calle Obispo is the Floridita Bar where you can get a super frozen Daquiri. This bar was also a favourite haunt of Hemmingway's.<BR><BR>Mind you, with the Hemmingway mystique, you can expect to pay $4.00 for the Mojita at the Bodeguita and an astounding $6.00 for the daquiri at the Floridita. More reasonable prices at other locales, but not so famous.<BR><BR>Enjoy yourself.<BR><BR>Steve

Kath Nov 15th, 2002 07:56 AM

xxx - how does one get permission from the govt to go there?

xxx Nov 15th, 2002 08:59 AM

It is under the guise of education or research. Go to the state department's website.

xxx Nov 17th, 2002 09:52 AM

If you don't have gov't permission, I would go through Canada, Leslie. (and BTW you shouldn't use a real email address for this type of question). It is a Cuban aircraft that flies from the Bahamas and thus is better to go through a Canadian aircraft that can be trusted and has no transparency issues. Also flying through the Bahamas makes it known to Customs that you flew to Cuba and thus is hard to deny breaking the embargo law. Whereas flying from Mexico or Canada is easier to deny.

Stupid Nov 19th, 2002 03:40 AM

Just what is a Mojito?

Steve Nov 19th, 2002 05:03 AM

<BR>Mojito: pronounced Mo-hee-toe.<BR><BR>A drink made famous by Hemmingway (I hope you know who he was) in his years in Havana.<BR><BR>Highball Glass<BR> <BR>Ingredients<BR>1 shot light rum.<BR>For the authentic Cuban Mojito cocktail we recommend 3-year-old, or silver dry, Havana Club Rum.<BR>Half a teaspoon of sugar<BR>Juice of half a lime<BR>Sprigs of Mojito Mint - crush stalks (not leaves) to release essential oils<BR> <BR>Method<BR>Add all ingredients, fill glass with ice cubes, top up with soda or mineral water, and shake or stir well. Decorate with a sprig of Mojito Mint.<BR> <BR>Notes on the mint.<BR>Yerbabuena, is the name of the Cuban variety of mint that gives a Mojito cocktail its distinctive subtle flavour. Nothing can compare with the flavour Yerbabuena gives to the Mojito cocktail. Yerbabuena has a mild sweet flavour, and a light and heady fragrance.<BR><BR>Simply wonderful and refreshing on a hot day, of which there are many in Havana.<BR><BR>Enjoy<BR>Steve

kathy Nov 19th, 2002 06:09 AM

So, it's possible to have a Mojito in Cuba without the ice cubes? How does one get around the ice cube/local water/ issue, even in upmarket places? Surely they don't make the ice cube type drinks with bottled water??

Bing Nov 19th, 2002 06:23 AM

Actually, real Mojitos should be made with slices of lime served over crushed ice.

Steve Nov 19th, 2002 07:14 AM

<BR>Two points.<BR><BR>1) A Mojito (at least at The Bodeguita Del Medio in Havana has BOTH lime juice in the drink, and a wedge of lime floating in the drink.<BR><BR>2) When I am in Havana, I do in fact have ice IN my drinks at both the Bodeguita and at the Florida bar (crushed ice in the daquiri).<BR><BR>I put the warning about ice in my message because it is a personal choice whether to risk consuming local water when you travel. Better safe than sorry is the default position of safety.<BR><BR>That said however, I should also point out that on my many trips to Havana, I have never been sick or had gimp tummy from the local water. However the ONLY local water (in the city of Havana only) that I consume is in ice or perhaps from washed vegetables in salad. The rest of the time I drink bottled water. And I NEVER drink local water outside of Havana nor eat washed but uncooked vegetables. Although I often scrub tomatoes in bottled water with a dash of iodine.<BR><BR>I might also say that all my shots are always up to date. Typhoid, Gamma Gobulin for Hep, Malaria (pills), tetnus, etc. That is also my personal choice before travelling. I carry an International Vacination Certificate, International Drivers Permit, and Passport at all times.<BR><BR>Hope this helps you make your own personal health decisions with regards to ice or water.<BR><BR>Steve

Steve Nov 19th, 2002 07:17 AM

<BR>There is one other thing regards water and health. I also carry a .5 micron ceramic/charcoal water filter with me. Although pricey ($200.+) at good outdoor stores, it is also a handy item when questionable water supplies are your only choice. Also water purification tablets.<BR><BR>Steve

kathy Nov 19th, 2002 08:47 AM

Back to one of Leslie's original questions--a mojito with ice cubes or crushed ice is still a local water risk to some degree--right? But less a risk if you have the necessary Hep A, Tetanus, and other shots? And less a risk if you choose a good restaurant in Havanna? Seems a shame to be in Cuba and not try one of these famous drinks. Therefore, one should go for it, take the chance--personal choice-- and hope for the best.<BR>Right?

Steve Nov 19th, 2002 09:23 AM

<BR>Yes kathy.... right on all counts.<BR><BR>I know it sounds somewhat risky, but in today's world, even getting out of bed can be a risk. Come to think of it, staying IN bed (HIV etc) is also a risk.<BR><BR>So each person must at some point make a personal decision. Use smart guidelines and caution.<BR><BR>Look at it from this perspective.<BR><BR>I live in Toronto and we have many hot-dog carts and vendors on the streets. Imagine you are a foreign visitor who has absolutely no idea what we are eating off the street vendor. Do you take the chance? Same scenario, different location.<BR><BR>I also eat off street vendors in Havana. But here is the guideline I use. If there is nobody in line, then neither am I. If there is a line-up of locals to get whatever the vendor is selling, then in all probability it is good. Why else would locals line up?<BR><BR>It may not work for everybody, but I have developed my own sixth-sense and common sense approach to travelling. I venture forth and explore the world. If not what is the option..... stay at home and eat McDonalds???? NOT!!!!<BR><BR>Steve

kathy Nov 19th, 2002 09:43 AM

So, that's settled--a mojito (or two) from a good restaurant in Havana, and lots of Crystal beer for all the other times of thirst. Don't want to overdo the risk factor!

Steve Nov 19th, 2002 09:46 AM

<BR>ONE FINAL THING......<BR><BR>As the song goes.....<BR><BR>&quot;Don't Worry, Be Happy&quot;<BR><BR>Enjoy the trip and have a Mojito for me, unless I see you there.<BR><BR>Steve

carolred Nov 20th, 2002 01:10 PM

Steve, I hate to break it to you, but I used to design pure water systems for the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry... lots of bacteria and most viruses are smaller than .5 micron. You have more risk of illness from a contaminated carbon filter than most potable water in most countries. The bottled water craze is more marketing hype than safety.<BR><BR>If you are worried about water, get a Hep A shot. Better yet, get the 3-shot Hep A&amp;B series. My doc charged me $55 for the shot and $25 for her services (Canada). It does you 15 years and lots of countries besides Cuba.<BR><BR>If you are worried about food, stay home. I have had minor food safety reactions in pretty much every country I have visited. I carry a couple of Immodiums in my wallet now. I still try to look for places that appear clean, but life is too short to miss great street food!

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