This is a trip report from krico who did a quick trip to Cuba and was kind enough to share the report. Hope this helps some of you thinking of making a run to Cuba. – Spanky
Although I had Cuba on my radar for awhile, this trip was somewhat last minute. Basically I had two weeks of work on the East Coast and decided to spend the weekend in Cuba instead of returning to California.
Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba now, but not for tourism. You are required to declare one of 13 permissible reasons for your travel. In practice though, this is just a ploy to collect a ‘visa fee’.
I booked passage from FLL to HAV on Southwest for under 100 bucks. The actual flight time is under an hour.
At the airport, first I had to go to the visa line. Even though I had prepaid the visa, it wasn’t preprinted or anything (so why did I have to pre-order???). Visa in hand I proceeded to the special check-in counter for Cuba passengers.
Visa and boarding pass in hand I proceeded to the security checkpoint. Even though I was traveling for two weeks, I only travel with carry on luggage.
Where to Stay
With less than two weeks to plan the trip, I reached out to my network to find a place to stay. Since wi-fi / internet isn’t widely available in Cuba there is typically a delay in response when booking a place to stay.
I was advised to avoid hotels as they are not open to the hobby. It is important to look for a private apartment with a private entrance. If you share space with others, you may find it difficult or impossible to pursue your agenda.
The Cuban people are very helpful. One gentlemen that I was referred to did not have space, but checked with everyone in his building for availability. Ultimately I found a place through Airbnb. At $100 a night it was a little more expensive that I wanted, but since I was splitting with a wingman, it was manageable.
Our place had two bedrooms, two bathrooms a kitchen, dining room, living room and balcony. From our balcony we could see hotel habana libre and the malecon.
The rooms and furniture were pretty basic but serviceable.
The apartment had a washing machine and the balcony was for hanging clothes to dry (I missed the small laundry shops widely available in Asia)
What to Do
It turns out that our apartment was in an ideal location. It was between the university and the malecon and near 23rd which is a main hangout for money motivated ladies.
Near the university there was a park & hotel where wi-fi was available. There were obvious working ladies in the vicinity also.
We took a city tour on a double decker bus with open top. It was great for taking photos & videos…but watch out for wires & branches!
The city is relatively flat and easy to walk. We walked the malecon, the castillo, barrio china, capitolio and avenida de los presidentes.
We visited the cigar store behind the capitolio, and a (un)helpful jinetero (The term derives from the Spanish jinete (“horse rider”). A jinetera is Cuban slang for a female sex worker. The United States Department of State defines jinetero as: “ street “jockeys,” who specialize in swindling tourists.) told us it was closed but he could take us to another store around the corner. I told him that I could see people inside and the open sign on the door, he said it was only for locals. I said get the fuck out of the way and pushed by him. He asked for a tip! Can you believe the nerve of some people??? I picked out two cigars for less than $10 each, not exactly cheap, but less than I’ve paid for the same cigars in other venues (read Costa Rica).
We visited a downstairs club called La Gruta on 23rd. $5 entry fee. It was a little slow at first, but picked up later. Beers were $2 or less and a bottle of Havana Club was only $10. There was a mix of locals and working ladies, but the club wasn’t overloaded with tourists or mongers.