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Old 04-17-2007, 08:54 PM
 
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
4,486 posts, read 15,336,746 times
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I've always thought that it'd be quite interesting to visit there. A co-worker of mine went there last year and he said it was an amazing place. He said the atmosphere was like you went back to the 1950's. Tons of preserved American cars of the 50's plus he said some of the architecture in Havana was absolutely beautiful.

I plan on visiting there someday. He visited the Cohiba cigar factory there and picked me up a couples boxes . Anyone else been or hoping to visit Cuba?
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Old 04-17-2007, 11:12 PM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,408 posts, read 13,393,328 times
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I want to go and I think it is absolutely ridiculous that Americans are not allowed to go unless there are special circumstances (and they have been narrowing these circumstances with each passing year) considering the fact that we are allowed to go to China and many other countries with questionable human rights records and who have troubled histories with the U.S.

I've heard the same as you Speedy, that the island is almost in a time warp, with the old cars and buildings and older fashions as well.

Truthfully, I think one of the reasons I want to go so badly is the fact that I'm told that I can't. The forbidden nature of it makes it appealing to me.
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Old 04-18-2007, 04:41 AM
 
Location: on an island
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I have a friend who went and he said the poverty was very depressing (and this is a guy who frequents low-income, developing countries.)
I'd like to go, too, but it's not the number one place on my mental list.
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Old 04-18-2007, 06:03 AM
 
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
4,486 posts, read 15,336,746 times
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Quote:
I want to go and I think it is absolutely ridiculous that Americans are not allowed to go unless there are special circumstances
You can get there fairly easy by going to aa foreign country and then taking a plane to Havana. That's what he did at least.
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Old 04-18-2007, 07:37 AM
 
Location: Coachella Valley, California
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I would love to go! I would like to get into some of their dance halls and clubs! I've been to the Milongas (tango clubs) in Argentina and had a blast! Cuba would be fun and probably beautiful and unspoiled as there aren't that many American tourists there.
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Old 04-18-2007, 10:37 AM
 
Location: Wi for the summer--Vegas in the winter
653 posts, read 3,140,382 times
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I would love to see the country. I saw a documentary on Cuba and I found it to be very interesting. I understand that the country has one of the HIGHEST literacy rates in the world?? I wonder if it's true.
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Old 04-18-2007, 09:04 PM
 
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Default Cuba

Over the last 20 years Cuba has heavily developed its tourist industry in an effort to generate some foreign exchange. The country has become a favoured destination for Canadians, Britons, Germans, and other assorted Europeans.

In areas like Varadero, (just outside Havana), Hoguin, Cayo Coco, and Guardlavaca tourist resorts have sprouted from the sands with amazing rapidity. Prices tend to be roughly 25% cheaper than comparable destinations on islands like Jamaica or St. Maarten. Almost all the hotels in Cuba are available only as "All Inclusive" deals due to a lack of facilities off the resorts. This also discourages non-regulated economic activity between Cubans and foreigners.

The resorts are usually managed under contract by foreign chains such as Melia or Sol. The premises tend to be physically attractive and the staff mostly attentive. Their one downfall is that the quality is compromised somewhat by a limited availability for a wide variety of foodstuffs, so menus, while tasty, can be less wide ranging than what one would find in say the Bahamas.


Education is a very high priority and most people take pride in their abilities. People with degrees far outnumber the available jobs. This leads to unversity educated people being employed as groundskeepers at resorts. Cuba has a history of educating large numbers of medical practitioners. Like most things in this embargoed country, however, the downside is a lack of facilities and basic supplies.

Foreign tourists are not exactly encouraged to mingle with the native populace. Cuba currently has a dual currency scheme in place which see natives using the Cuban peso while tourist use the convertable peso. The tourist peso can only be purchased in Cuba with foreign currency and there is a surcharge for US dollars. Leaglly, natives not involved in the tourist trade are not allowed to use the convertable peso. The idea behind this scheme is to make sure foreign currency is funnelled into government hands and not hoarded in a domestic black market. Like all government schemes the world over, inventive Cubans have found ways around it, but things could get dodgy if one were to get caught.

There is certainly a low standard of living on the island, but the poverty I have seen there during several trips hasn't been any worse than what I've run across in places like the Dominican Republic, parts of Jamaica, and various destinations in Mexico.

The poverty doesn't simply take the form of a lack of money; it is also very evident in the scarcity of everyday consumer goods like Tylenol, toothpaste, running shoes, etc. Resort staff often prefer tips in the form of shampoo or toothpaste, etc., rather than money simply because those items are unobtainable.

Cuba is physically beautiful and its people are, by and large, friendly and hospitable, but the country faces the same economic challenges many of its Caribbean neighbours do, with the added hurdle of dealing with the US embargo.

All in all, Cuba is an interesting and relaxing place to spend a couple of winter weeks in the sun and surf.


To see the number of resorts available, their facilities , pictures, and real-life impression of actual users, try visiting www.tripadvisor.com and searching Varadero, Holguin or Cayo Coco.
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Old 04-18-2007, 10:55 PM
 
Location: Tucson AZ & Leipzig, Germany
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Cornerguy, thanks for posting some great info. I think you pointed out some of the good things (without sugar coating) and also some of the problems. I too would like to visit Cuba, it's the only Spanish speaking country in the world that I have never visited. I would like to take a bicycle trip across Cuba from Pinar del Rio in the west to Santiago de Cuba in the east. It would be 500 to 600 miles, depending on what detours and side trips I take. At present, motor vehicle traffic outside the cities is so sparse that a bicycle rider has the roads almost to themselves. Not many places around like that, some folks I met from Canada had a great time bicycle touring in Cuba, and it's something I've been thinking about now for a couple of years.

One roadblock is still the U S State Department restrictions on US citizens making visits to Cuba via other countries without an approved "license" of sorts from the State Department. This is a bogus deal that a bunch of Washington DC politicos still enforce thinking somehow it might bring them some south Florida votes. There are no such restrictions about visiting Vietnam, China or any of the dozens of nasty dictatorships spread across the middle east and Africa. Heck, even if I wanted to visit Iran it's no big deal as far as the State Dept is concerned. I'm no fan of the Castro brothers or their marxist ideals, and my visit has nothing to do with politics. I just happen to like the combination of music, food, culture, sports and people from Cuba. Hey, they are our neighbors, why can't I go for a visit and see for myself what's going on?

I know there are lots of ways to get flights into Cuba from places in the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada. Just depends on what works best from the gateway that is close to where you live in the US. The flights don't look cheap. Also found out that you can't use a US issued bank credit card to buy the round trip ticket from the non-US gateway city into Cuba and back. Also can't use a US issued credit card in Cuba to pay for anything. I need to figure out how to get some plastic issued from a bank in another country if I decide to defy the State Dept travel ban. I don't like to carry around wads of cash. I will probably drive down to Mexico and open a bank account there and then get a Mexican bank issued credit card. Then I'll use that account and credit card to fund my Cuba trip expenses. Think that will work?
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Old 04-18-2007, 11:30 PM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,408 posts, read 13,393,328 times
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Yes, I have heard that in recent years the U.S. has only strengthened the travel ban to Cuba and that it is increasingly difficult for Americans to travel there via a third nation, and that those who do and who are caught, face stiffer fines and punishment than they have in the past. As recycled said, it's ridiculous that we can visit countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia but Cuba is off-limits.

As for the literacy rate, in many communist countries, education is given top priority. Schooling is mandatory and the curriculum is rigid. Of course, textbooks are heavily biased and outdated and generally the conditions of the schools are very poor, however the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic are taken care of. In many former Communist countries in Eastern Europe and the ex-U.S.S.R., the literacy rate is actually higher than it is in the United States, something that you wouldn't expect given the countries' economic stats, but a holdover for communist rule. While not a supporter of communism by any means, there are some aspects of life under communist rule that are actual progressive goals in democratic societies like the U.S. such as the high level of gender equality, free health care, and minimal crime. Of course, the drawbacks of life in the Cuban dictatorship are so numerous and well-known that I don't even need to get into them.

On a sidenote, I read a fascinating piece in the Washington Post a few years ago about a program that the Cuban government has where they train a select few American students in Cuban medical schools for free, financed by the Cuban government. The students are generally from poorer backgrounds and it was a fascinating read, to see how these students adapted not only to the rigors of medical school, but of doing so in a foreign country in a foreign language with outdated equipment.

Last edited by dullnboring; 04-19-2007 at 12:08 AM..
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Old 04-18-2007, 11:37 PM
 
Location: A Valley in Oregon
610 posts, read 2,991,564 times
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I have always wanted to go for a few days and see the whole place. The Hemingway stories piqued my interest years ago and since then, various specials, reports, etc. have increased my interest. I've known several Cuban folks over the years - they all seem happy enough to be here - but I'm still interested.
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