Cuba

Feb 15, 2003

This report is provided by Paco

Cuba is great!! If it had backpacker-prices I would have stayed there at least three months. Anyway, here is my update on "Lonely Planet Cuba - 2nd edition, July 2000". Don't know if you can use it...

Facts about Cuba(General info)
 

Music
* The "Orishas" make great Cuban Hip-Hop and are quite popular with exile Cubans in Europe. They live in exile (France) themselves but their music and lyrics have a very Cuban feel.

Prostitution
* One should not forget that there is also female sex-tourism in Cuba. Of course, the number of male Westeners coming to Cuba for sex is much higher but there are also Western women that come to Cuba for sexual adventures. The rastafari-style looking black Cubans are most wanted, especially in Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and around Obispo in Havana. I am not justifiying male sex-tourism in Cuba but it is definetly not only "the fat old German with a beautiful young Cuban girl" who is responsible for Cubas dubious image concerning sex-tourism. I think the behaviour of the "truly harassing" Cuban men described by a reader on page 100 is partly caused by the obivious intentions of some women coming to Cuba. My asessment is based on talks with Cuban women and men and a group of four Canadian ladies who were quite frank about their intentions.

Travelers Checks & Credit Cards
* Changing American Express Travelers Checks is no problem anymore. There are a few ATMs that except VISA cards around but they only dispense pesos convertibles.

Telephones
* Many numbers mentioned in this edition are incorrect. I think some numbers in Cuba have changed. Call 113 (national telephone information) for correct numbers.

Alcoholic drinks
* The best Cuban rum is "Matusalem a ?(Bjo". Unfortunately it is not produced under that name anymore because the patent ran out. It will be produced in Puerto Rico by Bacardi soon but of course it will be a completely different rum. Bottles with the label "Santiago de Cuba" now contain what used to be called "Matusalem a $B F (Bjo" - same stuff, different label. If you find a bottle of "Matusalem a ? (Bjo" in Cuba or your country buy it! It will be worth a lot of money soon. But make sure they don't sell you fake bottles on the streets in Cuba. Even the bottles sold at the "Museo de ron" for $ 25 in Santiago looked very fake. I was told by Cuban rum aficionados that there are no bottles for sale anymore. You can buy original "Matusalem 3 a $B P (Bs" at the "Barrita Ron Havana Club" in Santiago for $ 5.10 but it is not as good as the a $B F (Bjo. Another first-class rum that is readliy available is "Havana Club 15 a $B P (Bs" ($85). If that is too much, just buy "Havana Club 7 a $B P (Bs" ($10.70) or "Havana Club reserva" ($6.60) which tastes a bit softer.

* Getting around
www.viazul.cu lists
all bus connections and prices.


City of Havana
 

E-Mail and Internet Access
* Internet is also available at the Etecsa office on Obispo.

Places to Stay - Budget
* www.webhavana.com has a great service. You can reserve "casa particulares" (all around $20-25) online which is really handy if you arrive late at night and don't want to wander around the streets of Havana.

Private rooms - Centro Havana
* "Casona colonial"
is a wonderful place with courtyard full of plants and flowers. The owner Jorge speaks good English and German and is very helpful. Rooms are between $20-25. Address: Gervasio 209 between Concordia and Virtues, Phone: 8700489.
* Amada P $BqS: (Bez Guelmes - new phone: 8623924
* Martha Obreg: (B - new phone: 8708095, e-1-mail: marthaobregon@yahoo.com

Places to eat
* "Paladar La Guarida"
deserves a better rating!!!! The food they serve is hard to find in most European cities and their prices are a joke! For $30 you get a meal that would easily set you back ten times more in a trendy restaurant in Berlin, Paris or London. They are open 12-4 pm and 7pm-midnight.
* There are lots of good Chinese restaurants in a little pedestrian street at the crossing of Zanja and Rayo. "Sabor y Magica" and "Guang Zhou" are popular with locals.


Outer Havana - Playa and Mariano
 

Places to stay
* Hotel Kohly
- new phone: 2040240, 2041474
* Hotel El Bosque - new phone: 2049232
Both are totally useless but they have taxis that you can call if you want to get back to downtown from "Paladar Los Cactus de 33".

Places to eat
* I found "Paladar Los Cactus de 33" (new phone: 2015139) rather mediocre. Opposite "Paladar Elegante" is better!

Entertainment
* Tropicana Nightclub (new phone: 2670110) has raised its prices to $75, 85 and 95. The $75 tickets are best because you are in the first row that is elevated and you are neither too close nor too far away from the stage. The price inclueds 1/4 bottle of rum, a small bottel of champane and some snacks per person. Shows are not canceled anymore if it rains. In case of rain the show will be staged in a indoor theatre next door.


Varadero
 

Money
* There is a VISA-ATM at the Plaza Am (Bica that gives you pesos convertibles.

Places to stay
* If you should feel the urge to visit this sad sad place there is a casa particular (Lourdes Pandales, Calle 21 # 303, between 3rd and 4th, $25). I didn't stay there but it was recomended.
* Most big hotels are "cheapest" if booked throuhg www.cuba.tc

Entertainment
Disco "La comparcita"
has a surprisingly Cuban athmosphere. Lots of Cubans, few tourists and very little jiniteras. The only "good" place in Varadero,



Cienfuegos
 

Places to stay
* "Hotel Union" is open now. You can use their pool for $5 a day.


Castillo de Jagua
 

Places to eat
* There is a great little paladar in the fishing village. It is called "Paladar Juanita" and located directly on the shore. Huge lobsters are $10. Ask around to find the place.

Sancti Spiritus
 

Money
* You can get cash with your VISA and MASTERCARD at Banco Financiero Internacional.

Places to stay - Private rooms
*Casa particular "La pantera"
hase huge rooms for $20 in an old colonial building and is very centrally located. They also serve excellent food. Address: Independencia # 50f, between Fagaro and Labori, phone: 24535
* Martha Rodriguez Martinez - new phone: 23556

Places to eat
* "Restaurant Quinta Elena"
on the right side of "Puente Yayabo" has a nice setting.

Getting there and away
A nice way to travel between Sancti Spiritus and Cienfuegos is by renting an old American car and stop at "Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara" in Santa Clara for a cuple of hours. A car should cost no more than $35 and can be found behind the bus station. Be discreet though as this is ilegal for Cubans. Our driver asked us to say we were students in Havana should we get stopped by the police.





Trinidad
 

Information
* There is an Internet Cafe on Bolivar near Marti ($6 per hour).



Santiago de Cuba
 

Information
* Every Wednesdy a cruise ship docks in Santiago. The town is full of oh-so-happy tourists in shorts and bermuda-shirts and cops who make sure they don't get in contact with the Cubans. Don't go on that day or stay in bed until it leaves around 5pm.

Money
* Banco Internacional de Comercio does not change travelers checks anymore.

Places to stay - private rooms
* The private rooms at Aguilera # 602 are definetly not recomendable. They kick you out of your room as soon as someone shows up who will be staying longer than you.

Places to eat - Paladares
* There are no official paladares in Santiago when I was there (January 2003). "Paladar Do $B B (B Nelly" only rents rooms but serves no food and "Paladar Las Gallegas" is now "Restaurant Las Gallegas". Food there is OK. Go to "Restaurant Las Gallegas" and you will be approached by someone who will gladly lead you to an unofficial paladar. "La Caribe $B B (B" has great food but I forgot where it is because I drank too much rum there. :-)


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