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Cuba Travel Info for US Citizens

My buddy (business associate) and I had some business commitments in
Cancun for 4 days. Since we both hate Cancun with a passion, and with
5 free days before we had to return to the states we began work on
getting out of there as soon as we could. We wanted to go somewhere
where we've never been, and of course, a place with beautiful women.

We had 3 prerequisites that needed to be filled: 1) Beautiful women,
2)  Good cigars, 3) Not a lot of time wasted in travel. Especially due
to work commitments we had to return back to Cancun before returning
to the states.

Because Columbian, and especially Venezuelan, women are drop dead
gorgeous that was our first choice. But, we have an equal love and
passion for cigars, so the Dominican Republic or Honduraas would have
been the more logical choices. OK...possible locations defined...lets
check the net for travel times. Fuck, fuck, fuck, and fuck...all
flights out of Cancun would kill at least 2 days just in travel, in
some cases, routing us through Miami.

Everyone in life experiences moments of greatness. This happened to be
my buddy's time, "Havana, Cuba". Great idea! *BUT*, does it fit our
prerequisites? 1) Women-if you have never been to Miami, or don't know
any Cuban women, you don't know what you are missing. Cuban women are
probably one of the hottest women walking the face of this planet, 2)
Cigars-Da' BEST!!!, now let's check the net again, 3) Travel-Flight
time 1 hour (actually, 50'30" wheel-to-wheel), with a 1 hour time
difference. A round trip flight (AeroCaribe) that leaves Cancun at
10:10am and a return flight that leaves Cuba at 9:00am (that would
give us time to finish up business in Cancun and catch our 12:30pm
return flight to the states) for $246.75.  ***FUCKIN BITCH'N!!!***

Now it's mid-morning and we are in my office (business dress code),
with the door closed (although the entire wall and door is glass and
everyone can see in), and we are scream'n and high-five'n. Then he
jumps on me and I catch him like we're a guy and a girl doing it in
the stand up position. Not a pretty sight...but who the fuck cares.

Now we know there are restriction for US Citizen to go to Cuba, but we
also knew that people have gone. Called our travel agent. Yes, she
confirmed the flight, but is restricted from booking or ticketing the
flight. She gave me the number in Mexico, where I can book the flight
myself, and pay for it when I got to Cancun.

Travel Considerations (from US citizens perspective): I am not really
going to discuss the controversy regarding US citizens that want
travel to Cuba. But, if the state department has not approved your
travel to Cuba, travel via Mexico or Canada. You will need to present
your US passport when you pass through customs in Cuba. Just tell them
*not* to stamp your passport. They will stamp a piece of paper and
stick it in your passport. Then when you leave Cuba they will stamp it
again. What you do with that paper is your own business...but I don't
suggest sticking it to your forehead when you clear customs in the US.

As a suggestion, I would bring a *certified* copy of your birth
certificate in case you do get your passport stamped. All that is
required for reentry into the US from Canada or Mexico is your b/c and
ID. Also, you should always make 2 copies of your passport and D/L
(one to leave at home and the other to take with you) in case you lose
the originals. We actually met a guy in Cuba that was from the US that
had his passport stamped at least 7 times, he said he didnt give a
f***. Cuba was the only reason why he got his passport.

Safety Issue: In sharp contrast to its appearance Havana is very safe.
There is police presence everywhere. It is almost like the police
treat Cubans like second class citizens. There was several times when
our "guide" was called over by the police and his papers checked. We
were never hassled. The police really protect foreign tourists...
dollar spending tourists.

Monetary Issue: Leave your US issued credit cards and travelers checks
in your wallet. They will not be accepted. However, you can purchase
Thomas Cooke traveler checks in the United States. These are backed by
a foreign financial institution. Call 800-223-7373 to find out where
is the nearest TC office, or to order checks directly.

The 3 forms of currency being used in Cuba are the US dollar, the
Cuban dollar, and the Cuban peso. Forget the peso. For a tourist it
will get you on a bus or to make a local phone call, that's about it.
A Cuban dollar is the same as a US dollar, just looks different.

Hotels: There are a lot of decent hotels in Havana from $30-$170 per
night. Problem is they will not allow you to bring women into the
hotel. Not even with the 'ol "mordida", except on rare occasions. Not
to worry all the women will know of a "casa particular", private home,
that you can rent ($10). Or, if you like, you can move out of the
hotel and rent a full apartment for yourself ($20-$35 per day). These
casas particulares will vary with amenities so check out a couple
before making your decision and pay it for a day at a time.  I hear
the goverment plans on making some changes regarding this practice.
Basically, they are trying to get them licensed so the government can
collect some some money.

Restaurants: Like casa particulares, the fall and reduced aid from
Communist Russia has forced many people to become more capitalistic to
survive.  "Paladars", which is a small restaurant (usually 4-5
tables), operate out of people's home.  Many paladars have become
quite famous and quite honestly they serve some of the best food that
I had while in Cuba.. Again, the government is trying to regulate this
practice.

Other Interesting Notes: Havana, despite the appearance of some of its
buildings and streets is very clean (much cleaner streets than in
Mexico). These people are very proud people. It looks like progress
just stopped, but time kept on marching on.  There are a lot of US
cars late 50's cruising the road. You would think that after more than
30 years of colaboration with Communist Russia you would see a
physical presence or influence of Russian culture in Cuba. But, except
for a few hard goods (tv's, cars, etc.) you notice very little of
Russia's presence. As a matter of fact, you see a lot of teenagers
walking around with clothes, sunglasses, shoes that indicate a strong
association with American culture.

These people may be poor, but they are definitely rich in happiness,
warmth, and friendliness.

Oh, I forgot to mention...you will need to get a Cuban tourist visa
(when you purchase your ticket) for $15. You will also need to pay a
Cuban airport tax of $15 when you leave Cuba.


Date: Sat, 9 Aug 1997 15:26:59 -0400 (EDT) Subject: RE:your comment on us citizens in cuba concerning your comment in the havana faq you said that u.s. citizens are not allowed to go to cuba, well the cuban authorites seem to have no problem with u.s. citizens going to cuba; they normally go from nassau, bahamas as there are no flights to cuba out of the u.s., but the downside to it is that u.s. customs really gets pissed off if you go there and they see the stamp. I however am a lucky one i am a dual citizen (canada and united states) so all i do is use my canadian passport when i visit havana. i do live in ft.lauderdale and i go to nassau and then to havana. but i have used my u.s. passport once and customs yelled at me for going there. so now i tend to go either from montreal or nassau depending on where I am.

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