I wanted to like you. But you did this to yourself!
Okkkkaayyyy. So….everyone keeps writing me and commenting on how they like my honesty of the blog but I figured there really isn’t any valuable info vs me being witty with my own personal travels. So here we go. I’m not being mean, just “frank” as Elana says.
Fucking Cuba…(so far)
It’s exactly that. It has so many restrictions and confusions. So I like to stay as backpacker which means wheelin and dealin discounts or cheap housing so I can travel longer. If you plan on doing this. This is my advice from what I’ve learned.
For everyone that says, you’ll have sooo much fun!!!! That comes from a tourist who lives for a private taxi to resort and English translators taking care of everything who really don’t even speak great English. The only way to know how to have an ok trip around this is PLANNING! Winging it here for super cheap is very hard.
I befriended two girls in isla mujeres who have almost the exact same wants and travel plans and we have struggled. This is what we’ve learned and what we’ve heard.
Being a girl
In general, it sucks. Men here have no courtesy. Not even the older generations. The only time I’ve had courtesy are by men at bank who are at an establishment which requires them to. Otherwise, expect govt officials and cab drivers and anyone else that wears a uniform including the already horrendous locals to kiss in your ear, scream profanity, and follow you in the streets. It’s as bad as watching your waiter look up your shorts as you go to the table and then thinks you’re dumb enough to not look at the bill and double tip cause they added tip already on a scratch piece of paper. You are a muse for their penis. Men with babies even slyly look while wives or baby mamas or fiddling with their phone. Speaking of which…
WHO THE FUCK HAS SERVICE IN THIS TOWN?
Pre planning and booking
Book as much as you can before arriving. Once you arrive in Cuba, expect to pay about $25 for a taxi to your place in Havana, wherever it is. When you get through customs, the exchange is outside to your right where there are also security guards eyeing your tits. Find a driver and don’t let anyone try to help you cause they expect commission which may only be a 20ft walk to a cab driver already waiting. We are staying in a hostel for $8us a night each for bunk beds outside of town by the Latino Americano stadium. A 2 mile walk to old Havana and “town.” Our woman doesn’t even speak a lick of English and she walks into our apartment thru the balcony when she pleases I including in the middle of the night cause she had us sleeping on mattresses with dog hair on them from forgetting our sheets and pillow cases.
Also internet only comes with possible resorts and sketchy at that and expensive. $5us for an hour. Supposedly there are unicorn cyber cafes. HAAAAAA!!!! You can find it along with the Lochness monster.
This is where it gets funny. You can take a hand drawn map from another traveler showing you where to exchange money…possibly not Mexican pesos depending on bank and possibly a bank that doesn’t except girls in shorts unless you’re a local as we saw today or both or none of the above. And the one block drawing may be a mile away! Blocks per people’s directions are never correct. Hope that makes things clear. Ps. There is cuc vs cup? Which is new currency vs old currency that is non existent except for every place you purchase stuff at. OY. Hope THAT helps. Rich money vs. poor money as we say, as locals have even confirmed as a description. Oh, and American dollar is expensive to change so take euros or Mexican pesos or you get charged commission apparently for US dollars. They love and hate us. Probably love to hate. I just kept nodding when the girls said they were Aussie.
Oh right. I’m talking about mapping. I have not found a very good paper map but haven’t looked for one cause who uses that anymore. What I did do that was a godsend was download an app that has been completely useless (says Cuba and its green) but the only good feature about it is the map that tracks where you are without data or wifi. We would possibly be dead without this since we got stuck broke with no money and no taxis caring to take us where we had to go during a thunderstorm and night…when the real dirty ones start to come out…outside the perfect resort city.
The last day in Havana may be the first time we met anyone who spoke English besides our guy thru an agency that booked our trip which is still to be continued tomorrow to Vinales. My biggest advice which makes no sense why I didn’t list this first is…learn fucking Spanish. One of my Aussies had a translator guide from lonely planet that helped. I crammed Spanish before leaving but saying you’re tired and I need to eat doesn’t help you finding a bus station or understanding how to say street or there is an error in the bill cause you bloody fucked it up (it’s my aussie coming out from 2 degrees of separation). Either bring a Spanish friend or stay in a resort if you get frustrated easily. I didn’t know I did until I was feeling violated by people who spoke fast who just wanted to ask if I needed pork or chicken. Carnitas and Carne Asada do not apply here.
I recommend cat Spanish which is my fave app which is ironic since I hate el gatos!
Throw the Hail Mary down or get a tour. If you have plans to go from one place to the other and it’s not a tour, usually the people you board with take care of it. Apparently some get butt hurt if you outsource but we are figuring it may be the loss of possible commission. But no speak English make no commission. Otherwise hotels are great with helping you find places or buses. Thru research I learned there are buses that some people find great but others which most say is horrible. Broken seats, overly air conditioned (there is such a thing) and your reservations mean nothing. Cause you’re gonna have to prove and beg to get on the bus anyway. It’s the viazul bus that has a horrible reputation. We did not take it.
Speaking of public transportation…lets talk about taxis. Have you ever had a problem with being denied? If you’re an actor in LA, maybe you’re ok with this as it’s just a normal Wednesday, but for all those who are not, welcome to trying to catch a taxi and have some solid walking shoes. If you don’t pick up a taxi from your resort to go 2 blocks which may be 10 blocks away, you take a “collective taxi.” It’s like uber pool without the app and more of a ,”maybe they’ll stop if I throw my body in Front of this American Classic!”
And their routes depend on when and where they want to go and what travelers already in the car.
Traveling in packs vs solo.
My favorite Bitch point so far. Have you ever been walking to the bar with your girls and the boys think, they are on the prowl? Well this is what it’s like in Cuba. They think you’re on the prowl. And they are hunting you. I learned walking like a butch gal and with the advice my mother used to say, “walk with purpose,” while solo helped deter the hungry wolves. They looked at me and then we’re like, nah, no thanks. Huge self esteem builder. If you look innocent or have any skin showing which is necessary in the heat, you are a target. I also kept my camera tied extremely tight around my arm, my pepper spray in my left pocket (my free arm), and earphones in on ear so I could drown out the hissing and kissing within inches of my face. But it won’t help the men tugging on you, trying to grab articles out of your hand like water bottles I get your attention so they can sexually harass you. I had a guy basically punch the bottom of my backpack so I would whip around and he could start hissing at me. I cannot believe I am not in jail. He punched my cameras. All in all, walk with a male or just don’t go outside if you don’t want to experience this. Oh, and pepper spray does not make a good beer bottle opener. Note to self…
*however, I did manage to open my wine bottle with my gopro! (Take a bow)
So I am in the cab in the way back to Havana airport, thankfully not the city. My Aussies (aka one aussie, one kiwi. Remember it’s easy to just agree with aussie?) are going with to try and leave a day early to the Bahamas where they are excited that it’s the point of the trip where they have a resort. But one is moving on to Peru to hike the inca trail. We had a tour guide pick us up to take us to Vinales to stay two days with a stop to the cigar factory on the way…WRONG. We paid $100 to get a car ride which was explained to us wrong by the only English speaking man on our trip. We were put on a tour which we did not ask for by a man that did not speak English. Except knowing how to say thank you and coffee in English.
We were taken to botanical gardens which we refused to go in, and a 2 foot waterfall which the highlight was a GoPro and jumping with the kiwi. All .05 seconds of free fall.
We had a cat with a white eye tug on our clothes while we ate and the servers just watched. We could barely eat. We then learned we were not going to cigar factory by the guy that I think was suppose to be our original guide. But he offered to take us to the beach and relax all day. When all we had was 1 1/2 days in Vinales which we weren’t even staying in. I’ve never felt so captive. We all were at our breaking point. We had to reiterate several times we were promised the cigar plantation.
We got it, but for the additional cost of $80us to be driven to the cigar plantation the next day. We were helpless and we had to, it was fucking Cuba. We hated our side trip. We had no idea where we were going and didn’t learn a single thing. The only thing we liked? The guy that did speak English that was NOT our guide “let us” stay in his house for $35/night but we got the best meal we had of all Cuba, lobster. However, if I have anymore rice and beans, I will again, possibly be in jail. I have 10 lbs. or carbs and useless fiber sitting in my colon cause my body is unsure how to process it. I’ve never been so swollen and so skinny from day to day.
So we were charged extra to get what we originally told was part of our drive and we were allowed to stay at his house for a cost.
Awesome:( I was gonna say it was best part of our trip staying at their house but you’ll find out later why I retract this statement.
The cigar plantation was brilliant. The photos I got of the older gentleman rolling was brilliant. He was so beautiful and happy. We smoked cigars and bought our tokens. It was the drive however after that almost killed me. Our driver/tour guide that we learned nothing from was sweet and kind and such a gentleman. Driver in the other hand???? I’m lucky to be alive. And after smoking a cigar and driving windy roads with oncoming traffic in the same lane, puke rested in the back of my throat for hours. We then were promised a boat tour through caves. Yep, we got it. After waiting 1 hour I. A cave with my anxiety which may have almost killed me after surviving the driving, we got on that boat…for 5 total minutes trough caves til they kicked you off and said have a good day…I think. They didn’t speak English.
We returned home, ate more rice and beans, and crashed out. Luckily not in a car but our beds.
Our house man said he was going back to Havana and we could catch a ride with him… For $50, no $60, no $50, wait, maybe he’ll charge us $60 cause we didn’t remember the first offer.
I am sitting in this car with ants crawling all over me as my bags are infested from my last night in Cuba. A perfect send off. But don’t worry, the ginormous tree frog I apparently showered with came to the reScue but a little too late to the party. I couldn’t get all the ants out so I’m importing wildlife back to Mexico cause I closed them up into my bag and they’re balling next to my cash.
Get me outta this place. 5 hours in the airport and finally taking off. I have never been so excited to return to a Mexican all girls dormitory in a hostel with Clepto maids in my life.
This is just my opinion and experience. I traveled with great girls, had great food (on occasion), and visited a rad plantation. Mixed with the couple hours I felt safe to bring my huge camera out to shoot the vintage cars and historic streets, it is the highlights of my trip but it was the silver lining of a land of frustration and sexual harassment.
Prove me wrong, I hope you do for YOUR sake!
Well oh shit. I ain’t done yet…
We just got double charged. Dropped off at the airport, we got a bill that was unexpected. He did do us a big favor by changing his price again from $35/night to $30. But thought he’d charge us for breakfast, dinner, water, etc. Shared rooms in Cuba have food included unless specified. He just asked what kind of food we ate. I don’t even think for the reality of allergies. The better the food the better the commission. But don’t worry, his wife did not speak Spanish to tell us this either. They just did it so they could charge. But their commission for water is also kind so we can also help pay for their bomb house on a dirt road surrounded by huts. Hence why I kept saying…why do you think they have such a nice house.
So we shorted him $30 and left the car after he couldn’t understand a tour is not a tour when with a man that can’t speak our language. Glorified driver at best that drove around to see his friends at our expense. Waiting at the airport, I’m literally dancing with ants in my pants, while the “Aussies,” seriously consider sleeping at the airport if no more flights.
They refuse to give anymore $ to the economy!
But it’s ok. I met some Texan bible pushers with pamphlets who said everything will be ok if I accept God…
…and I’m delayed. And no one knows anything… I bought the Aussies wine to pass the time as I sit here maybe sleeping In the airport on opposite sides of customs. Who knows.
And even the pilots walk around like it was back in the day and Panama was the divine airline where they were irresistible. They just walked a circle of the room while checking out each and every girl while licking their lips with one hand tucked inside their suit jackets and tried to see who was watching while they slowly unbuttoned and slipped off their attire. Fucking gross.
Taking off many hours late. Hope I can catch my ferry back to isla mujeres. This is the first flight i haven’t needed xanex in over 2 years. That should tell you something. Get me the fuck outta here.