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DIY Cuba - US Citizens - Havana + Viñales or Trinidad?

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Aug 5th, 2016, 06:56 AM
  #41
 
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annhig, The airlines are definitely providing the tourist cards, as are the charters. There has a lot published about that.>>

that's good, crosscheck.

on the subject of transport I would take what Jeff says seriously. the roads are bad enough at the best of times, with a lot of people on the road it could be chaos.

no talk of pika while we were there, i've no idea what the situation is now. given that it's now reached Florida, it would not be a surprise if it had got to Cuba.
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Aug 5th, 2016, 06:56 AM
  #42
 
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Zika - that was autocorrect, though why it prefers "pika" is mystery.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 01:19 PM
  #43
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Paging Jeff - I just put some LAX-Varadero AA tickets on hold because the fares are quite reasonable and the MIA-HAV flights are still a big question mark. This will also give us a chance to spend our last day doing people to people activities on the beach

This plan would mean driving from VRA (Varadero airport) to Havana on Dec. 24th and then driving from Viñales to Varadero on Dec. 30th. Do you think traffic will be crazy? We're thinking the VRA airport might be mellower than HAV on our dates.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 03:11 PM
  #44
 
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crosscheck - we were shocked by the state of the road between Havana and Vinales. it is supposed to be a motorway but there were animals wondering around, large holes in the road, and in places the whole carriageway disappeared so you had to cross over to the other side. It was probably the wort main road that we came across in Cuba and we were very glad that we were in a taxi, not trying to drive ourselves in a hire car.

If you decide to do this, leave plenty of time.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 05:07 PM
  #45
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Thanks - We won't be worried about the time because we'll be going to Varadero for a day/night before leaving the following day. I just read that there are three choices and your driver might have taken you on the 'scenic' route...there is in fact a less edgy boring highway. Greatly appreciate the heads up!

Mr. Crosscheck is getting nervous about our DIY trip because we'll have to take wads of cash in order to pay the hotels. We still haven't heard of any Americans who have gone on their own unless it was for work. So at this point I either have to rebook through airbnb or hire a tour company that will take care of payment for us.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 05:08 PM
  #46
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We also decided to take a last-minute trip to Italy in September, so I'm planning two trips and once and it's getting tedious. I wish those Havana flights would materialize.
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 05:09 PM
  #47
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I know I shouldn't be complaining...these are good problems
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Aug 22nd, 2016, 11:35 PM
  #48
 
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I just read that there are three choices and your driver might have taken you on the 'scenic' route...there is in fact a less edgy boring highway. Greatly appreciate the heads up! >>

crosscheck - lol, that WAS the boring highway. I know that for certain as it was the route that the bus took on the way back towards Havana as we transferred to Cienfuegos. Roads got quite a lot better after that - it was one of the worst, surprising really as it must get a lot of tourist and bus traffic.

<>

IME that is one thing that you don't have to stress about. we kept our cash in money belts but really it was unnecessary - Cuba is really safe for tourists. Even late at night in the middle of Havana we felt completely secure. And if you are taking Canadian $ there is no way that the average cuban could change them, as they would have to explain where they got them, so they would be useless to them. just make sure that the notes you take are perfect [no tears or snags in the edges, not even tiny ones] and that they don't get crumpled while you are there, which was one of the problems we had. Also don't take too high denominations - I was sure that in one bank where they refused to change our £50 notes because the "computer was down" the real reason was because they didn't recognise them. [they had spend about 10 mins staring at a computer screen before they said they couldn't help]. Fortunately the Cadeca round the corner had no such problems but we had the option of getting money out of an ATM which you won't have.

planning two trips simultaneously? that is a nice problem to have! I've got enough things to think about with just one, which is coming up very soon, thank goodness. [10 days in Sicily, since you asked!]
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 07:07 AM
  #49
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We're going to Italy very soon for 10 days as well! To Milan, Camogli and Lucca.

To clarify, we're not concerned about carrying around spending money. But because we've booked hotels ourselves, we will have to pay for our hotel (not cheap, 2 rooms) with cash as well. Those euros won't fit in a money belt. I'm looking into using a Canadian or European travel agency to help with that.
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 11:15 AM
  #50
 
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I'm looking into using a Canadian or European travel agency to help with that.>>

good idea. we took £2000 in cash, but mainly in large notes [£50s] in order to be able to carry them. it was ok changing them in Havana and Trinidad but smaller places had never seen such "large" denominations. but as i say we were able to use the ATMs so we didn't have to worry if we couldn't change our notes when we were running short of cash.

Camogli is a place I've never heard of let alone visited - i see it's a beach resort near Genoa, where I've never been either though I have been to Milan and Lucca a while ago. Have fun!
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Aug 23rd, 2016, 06:33 PM
  #51
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Too bad there is no personal messenging on fodors - I'm sure we're boring everyone else with my angsting.

If we can't find a tour operator or travel agent (most are not thrilled to help DIY travelers), we're thinking that we're going to have to bring more a lot more cash than you did just to cover the cost of the hotel...and that is troubling.

--

Camogli is a fishing village on the Italian riviera north of Portofino. From there you can walk on paths to other villages...Cinque Terre style without the crowds. My friend became obsessed with a heavenly hotel there - Cenobio dei Dogi - after it was featured in A Trip to Italy, the British comedy about two foodies who eat their way through Italy (the sequel to The Trip about eating their way through the UK).

Mr. Crosscheck and I had planned to go to Israel/Jordan in September and when that fell through (don't ask), our friends begged us to join them in Italy. We re-watched the film and that was enough to entice us.
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Aug 24th, 2016, 03:21 AM
  #52
 
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who owns the hotel? many hotels are foreign owned. could you prepay by bank transfer or c/card [if necessary a relative's if you have done who lives in Canada?]

another idea might be to pay through a tourist office as soon as you get there. We used a tourist office in Trinidad to book a hotel in Santi Spiritu and they took the cash off us there and then.

Thanks for the info about Camogli. not being a Steve Coogan fan I haven't seen the series of which you speak I'm not aware of it, but I'll certainly have a look at it. The CT without the crowds would be good.
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Aug 24th, 2016, 05:34 AM
  #53
 
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Actually, all hotels in Cuba are state owned. The government allows a few foreign firms to manage some of the properties and carry the chain name. The Spanish chain Meliá is the biggest of these, with 27 properties. But the Cuban government still owns the places.
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Aug 24th, 2016, 05:56 AM
  #54
 
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thanks Jeff. That's not quite what I had understood so thanks for clearing it up.

Sounds as if pre-payment will not be an option, unless she can pay in something other than U$.
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Sep 2nd, 2016, 01:07 PM
  #55
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Update: We bit the bullet and booked our AA LAX-MIA-Varadero flights last week because the LAX-MIA fares were creeping up for the the holiday period. A few days after we committed, Delta announced that it would begin service to Havana in early December, so maybe we should have waited (it's 1.5 hours from VRA airport to Havana, but we decided to add a night at the beach at the end...with people-to-people activities, of course).

We've contacted a few local tour providers to see if someone can take over our itinerary and let us pay for hotels in advance, arrange transfers and also to set up some 'experiences' in Havana. I checked the prices of organized tours for our dates - the interesting ones for our time of year start at $6000 pp...will let you know if we're stumbled upon a travel bargain or travel hassle without the support of a tour company.
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Sep 2nd, 2016, 01:26 PM
  #56
 
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the interesting ones for our time of year start at $6000 pp...will let you know if we're stumbled upon a travel bargain or travel hassle without the support of a tour company.>>

that sounds a lot to me, considering you are paying for the flights yourselves. from memory our 3 week trip cost about £3500, for both of us, plus the flights. but I understand that it would be worth quite a lot to avoid the hassle!
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