News and Facts about Cuba

Cuba was the opposite of everything I imagined

‘Cuba was the opposite of everything I imagined’
JANUARY 7, 20175:35PM
Kirrily Schwarz
news.com.au

BARACK Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2015 was historic, marking the end
to decades of hostility between the two nations.
Just five months later, in August, the first commercial flight left
American soil for Havana, opening the island to mass .
It’s become one of the world’s hottest destinations, with many rushing
to visit before McDonald’s and Starbucks appear on every corner.
Most reviews are glowing — painting a picture of a time-capsule with
excellent , cheap drinks, beautiful beaches, lively culture and
friendly locals.
OK, infrastructure is lacking and there’s hardly any , but so what?
For Tahsir Ahsan, it became a very big deal.
The 24-year-old agent recently visited Havana, penning an article
called: “Cuba is actually a terrible place to go”.
He planned a spontaneous trip with two friends, and thought he’d check
out the city for a few days, but he ended up bailing almost immediately.
“We were there exactly 27 hours, we got there at 4pm from Miami, and
left at 7pm the next day,” he admitted to news.com.au.

“I knew there would be no internet, and to be honest I wasn’t even
looking for internet. The only reason I needed it was because so many of
our plans started failing.”

First, their bags never made it to Cuba, and not one of the people they
asked at the knew where the baggage office was.
When they were trying to find a representative from their , they
noticed a group of people were trapped in a glass lift, banging on the door.
“I quickly ran up to the desk and informed them that I thought people
were stuck in the elevator to which the lady just responded, ‘Yes.’ I
chose to fight my own battle,” he wrote.
Second, they booked a non-existent Airbnb.
When they told the taxi dispatcher the address, she said it didn’t
exist, and when they called the number attached to the booking, the
phone had been disconnected.
“Myself and my friends, we took about $US600 dollars (A$817) each for
two or three days. We weren’t able to use credit cards or ATMs, but
other people told us that should be enough,” he told news.com.au.
“When our Airbnb fell through, the was $600 a night. Eventually we
found a (a private home that rents rooms) for $45 a
night, but then we had baggage issues. The airline said we should just
buy what we needed and they’d reimburse us, but we were worried about
running out of money.
“That’s why we left so quickly, we needed to get somewhere we could use
our cards.”

Mr Ahsan first became interested in visiting Cuba when he heard it
described as a “time-warp”. However, the reality was more decrepit than
romantic.
“The roads are just terrible, they’re crumbling. The pollution is
terrible because the cars are so old, and it just smelled like a gas
station.
“I expected it to be lively, in that there’s a lot of culture.
Throughout the day, most of it seemed more like just another city.
Everyone was just going about their business.”
The hosts at the casa particular gave tips on what to eat and where to go.
“Everyone was really friendly, I wasn’t expecting that. We were told
Cuba is a country that kind of oppresses their people, but everyone was
extremely friendly and they didn’t hassle us or anything like that. They
were all willing to help.”
However, food was another tremendous disappointment.
The walk-up his hosts recommended was tiny, and the line was
so massive they couldn’t see what food was being served.
“It turns out it was hot dogs!” he laughed. He and his friends opted to
pass, and ended up wandering around until they stumbled on a hotel
restaurant.
“At 11 o’clock at night, not much was open, so we ate there. They had
burgers, spaghetti, pizza — they didn’t have any Cuban dishes, just
international cuisine,” he said.
His friend ordered spaghetti, but the sauce was so bad it was inedible.
Keen to avoid the same experience, Mr Ahsan ended up eating plain white
noodles.

The next morning, they were keen to have a totally different experience.
However, their accommodation was fully-booked, so they had to find a new
place to stay. A quick survey of nearby hotels and casas particulares
revealed every single room in the area was also sold out.
“It was a comedy of errors,” he told news.com.au.
“It kind of goes to show that Cuba itself has been blockaded by the US
for the past 50 or 60 years, but they’ve been open to everyone else for
years.”
He and his friends made an executive decision to bail, booking tickets
that afternoon for Cancun in Mexico. It’s a well-developed hot
spot, often considered to be an equivalent to Bali in terms of beaches,
cuisine and partying.
Mr Ahsan said he wouldn’t rule out a return trip to Cuba, but in lieu of
basic infrastructure such as internet, he’d be much more organised.
“Six of my friends were actually in Cuba at the same time, but I
couldn’t organise to meet up with them unless we were online at the same
time.
“Don’t try to go there and wing it, because it’s not that kind of
country. I’d probably go back later, with someone who’s gone a lot of
times so I could experience it differently.”

Source: Cuba travel: It was the opposite of everything I imagined –
www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/travellers-stories/cuba-was-the-opposite-of-everything-i-imagined/news-story/a5a7dd6fcc2513c04ab4d579375f5aef

2 Responses to Cuba was the opposite of everything I imagined

  • This account is a sad joke. The author is a “travel agent” he claims; a period of research on TripAdvisor would have demonstrated that almost all the problems he faced were well known in Cuba, so he should have made better plans. “Do not go there and wing it” this now a little wiser man states… very true! It seems that he did not want to use the CUC$30 B&B hotels in Havana that I have used several times (Colina, Vedado) … but ventured to a CUC600 per night establishment.

    • As I have heard from US travel agents: lots of people are disgruntled about their Cuban experience. Yes they knew that standards were below the US, but when you pay $250 – or $600 as you say -for a (US managed) hotel you don’t want bad food, dirty linen and life-threatening electrics. Lots of complaints. Lots of compensation demands. Some airlines are already reducing flights. Cuban reality has hit home for American tourists as it has for this guy.
      When the “ObamaCastroCare” started up we were asked what would change in Cuba. Our reply was: prices for hotels in Havana will rise (and did), more and more luxurious paladares will appear, the elite will create luxury casas “particulares” and for the Cuban people (especially outside Havana): nothing. The tourist boom even made food shortages for Cubans worse.
      The guy – like thousands of other US an non US tourists – was robbed by an Castro elite that goes for the “quick buck” for their immediate gratification killing of not only their own future prospects, but also those of the Cuban people (which they don’t even care about).
      As far as the “Colina” goes: did you know that it was once set up to house foreign students and professors visiting Havana’s university? It always was a bit better than other (price / quality). Still: it doesn’t meet the standards lots of tourists want. It is not the “blueprint” for Cuban hotels. Anyway: you would be better of staying in a real “casa particular” with better service, better food, …. Private initiative in Cuba always beats the state system.
      His other comments on “sterile culture”, …. are also valid by the way. After a week in Cuba I can kill the next idiot that starts singing “comandante che guevara” in a bar or restaurant.

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