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Mario2017-05-19T02:23:23+00:00

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  • Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211
    in reply to: guitar lessons #26771

    If you are staying in a casa particular, just ask your landlord. Cubans know everybody and it’s almost a sure thing that the landlord will know a guitar player who can give you some lesson for a few bucks. Usually these guys can also take you to local bars and venues to check out professional bands and help you to meet other locals. It should be fun. Good luck.

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, congratulations on going g to Cuba.

    All payments to local tour providers must be made in the Cuban currency, CUC. You can convert your USD to CUC at any exchange office or bank in Havana.

    99% of tours are organized while you are in Cuba. You can just walk off the cruise ship and you will see hundreds of taxi drivers and people offering you walking tours of the cities. In most cases you do not even need a tour, as the cities are very walkable and it’s easy to just wander around and see things.

    Havana is large and many people like to get out of the main tourist areas or to explore the rich history with an expert guide. We offer taxi and walking tours of Havana for a reasonable price.

    If you are interested in these services, you can check out the following links and contact us.

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, to my knowledge, it will not be possible to do this on the bus. The only way to do it would be to find a taxi driver who is already going from Havana to Santiago and to pay him to take the bike with him. The chances of you finding an honest driver to do this for you are very small.

    Bikes are very precious in Cuba. One bike is transportation for a whole family. Theft is very high. I would never let the bike out of my sight. Even people at the bus company would likely try to steal it if you tried to send it without you.

    Your best option is to bring the bike with you at all times and to bring it yourself from Havana to Santiago. Also, is the bike a good bike? Like a racing bike or a special mountain bike? If the bike is good, be extra careful. If the bike is just a cheap bike to use as transportation, then consider simply renting a bike while in Santiago. It might cost you 10 to 20 cuc per day to rent a bike, but it is easier than dragging your own bike all around Cuba.

    Take care,

    Mario

     

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hey John,

    Eastern Cuba is great and far removed from the large tourist centers. You will have a great time meeting locals, that is for sure.

    I have been to most of the places you mention. Santiago is hot but nice and there are not many tourists. The night time action is fun and you will see many locals in the street, dancing and playing music, especially around the plazas. A lot of the young people are now obsessed with the internet and they tend to be fixated on their phones, around the wifi spots at night, but there is still good action and fun to be had.

    Baracoa is a lot slower and relaxed too. The town was hit by a major hurricane last year and has suffered but things are getting back to normal. The night life is calm but fun, in the town squares at night.

    Both Cayo Coco and Cayo Santa Maria have beautiful beaches and rated among the best. There are no casas on the keys, only resorts. You would have to book a casa in the nearest town. For Cayo Santa Maria, it would be Remedios and for Cayo Coco, it would be Moron. Both are small towns. You would have to take a taxi to the beach on the keys. Honestly, these areas are made for resort vacations. Staying in a casa would be inconvenient and probably more expensive, once you factor in the taxi rides to the beach. I do not think there is a bus. The taxi rides are at least 1 hour, depending on which end of the beach you want to see.

    I am not certain about the hotel Minerva in Cayo Largo. I have never heard of that hotel. Cayo Largo is on the other side of the island and would likely require an internal flight. The beach is beautiful, but I have only been once due to the expense and time of getting there. Again, there are only large hotels.

    For the ballerinas, you will not be allowed into the schools or back stage at the performances. These areas are off limits. Your best bet would be to wait around near the school and try speaking to a ballerina when she leaves. You would probably have to pay her, but I’m sure she would be down for a photo shoot. Or else, there are often ballet performances in old havana, and dancers in the plazas in any town or city. You can approach some dancers and explain your idea. This would be the easiest way to get some dancers involved.

    I do not think there are any schools for bongos or percussion. I have not heard of any courses for this. If you see somebody with bongos in Havana, probably along the Malecon, you can simply ask them to teach you, and pay them a few dollars.

    In Havana, the musicians need money and the best ones all go to the tourist locations to earn their living. In other cities and towns, where there are fewer tourists, the musicians have to earn their living by playing for local Cubans. You will have the best success of filming local musicians in smaller cities and towns.

    I was in Holguin about a year ago and I love that small city. The main plaza has musicians almost every night and it is well lit and the people in the plaza are 90% locals. I have seen the same thing in Santiago and most small towns in eastern Cuba. Filming a local musician with locals all around will be easy in eastern Cuba.

    Finding a rental in Havana for under 20cuc per night will be hard. How many nights do you plan on being there? A cheap house that I have used many times is Casa Silvia (https://bestcubaguide.com/portfolio-items/casa-silvia-independent-apartment/) Even my brother went there last week. It’s not luxury, but it is independent and pretty large. It’s 25cuc per night but I can try to negotiate a bit if you stay a week.

    take care man and if you need anything just tell me,

    Mario

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 2 months ago by Mario.
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 2 months ago by Mario.
    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi Ana,

    Actually, the booking of the casas and organizing of the trip is very easy for us to do. We communicate with the landlords directly and book your trips with the taxi drivers. I will also give you the contact info of my assistant in Cuba so that if there are any issues, you can reach her directly. She speaks perfect English and lives in Havana. This way you also have a trusted contact in Cuba in case you need anything.

    Despite our best laid plans, sometimes there are minor problems which happen, for example a taxi comes late or if there is a storm you might have some delays. These are normal and I am just telling you ahead of time. But there are never any serious issues.

    The first step in the process is to find the casa that you would like in Havana. Since you are 2 adults and 1 child, I would suggest a casa with 2 beds in the same room. In my opinion, Vedado is the best neighborhood for a casa because the homes are in better condition than in the rest of Havana and the area is quiet and safe. You can easily travel by taxi or walk to Old Havana or any place else in the city. So, here are some suggestions for casas in Vedado. I am suggesting rooms where there are 2 beds in 1 room, so that you can be near your young son.

    1. https://bestcubaguide.com/portfolio-items/casa-particular-abraham-independent-vedado-apartment/
    2. https://bestcubaguide.com/portfolio-items/casa-particular-anmar-independent-apartment/
    3. https://bestcubaguide.com/portfolio-items/casa-particular-ernesto-independent-apartment-vedado/
    4. https://bestcubaguide.com/portfolio-items/casa-particular-lisett-5-bedrooms-vedado/

    Once we have the Havana casa, we can get the other casas in the other cities.

    For the taxis, we can organize everything. The taxi prices are here: https://bestcubaguide.com/city-city-taxi-transfers-cuba/

    The airport pickup would cost 25cuc. 

    The taxi from Havana to Vinales is 90cuc

    The taxi from Vinales to Trinidad is 250cuc

    The taxi from Trinidad to Varadero is 150cuc

    The taxi from Varadero to Havana is 95cuc

    The taxi transfer back to the airport at the end of your trip would be 25cuc

    The total taxi cost would be 635cuc which works out to about 490 GBP

    For alternative transport, you have 2 options.

    1. You can book taxi rides while you are in Cuba. So you can approach drivers on the street and ask them the price to take you to these different towns. You can usually get a deal. The cars in Cuba fit 7 passengers and the driver might charge 30 to 40cuc per passenger. You will be riding with other people in the car, but the overall price will be cheaper. For the trip from Vinales to Trinidad, you would likely save 100$. For the other trips, you would not save much, since you are 3 people. I cannot organize these group travels. You would have to do it while in Cuba.
    2. The other option is to take the Viazul bus, which is the Cuban national bus service. You would have to book your tickets as soon as possible, since this bus fills up fast. The bus trips will cost about half as much as the taxi. But the trips also take longer because the bus makes many stops. You can check out this link for more info http://www.viazul.com/

    For the casas and the taxis, you would pay the drivers and landlords in cash when you arrive. We take no money for our services. Everything goes directly to the service providers.

    If you want to start the process, please send me an email at my personal email address  rizzi@videotron.ca . It is better if we communicate about the details privately, rather than on this forum. And my assistant can take care of all the details for you and we will answer any other questions you might have.

    take care,

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi Ana,

    For flights, you should check Google Flights for deals. It is very easy to browse. Click on the following links to see flights from London to Havana for March 29 to April 12, 2018.

    https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=LHR,LGW,STN,LCY,LTN,SEN,QQS;t=HAV;d=2018-03-29;r=2018-04-12

    You will have no trouble traveling with an 8 year old. My daughter is 6 years old and I have traveled to Cuba with her many times. It should be pretty easy for you.

    My recommendation is to not rent a vehicle. It will be cheaper for you to simply use taxis to get around Cuba. A vehicle will easily cost you about $120 per day. For that same price you can hire a taxi and driver to drive you hundreds of kilometers to a new city to explore.

    My recommendation for an itinerary would be this:

    Land in Havana March 29.

    1. Spend 4 nights in Havana (29, 30, 31, 1). Explore the city. There is a lot to do and you have lots of time to plan out the things you would like to visit. We have a good choice of casas to rent in Havana, just click here: https://bestcubaguide.com/casas-particulares-in-el-vedado-havana-cuba/
    2. Go to Vinales for 3 nights (April 2, 3, 4). You can take a horseback ride around the valley and enjoy the small town lifestyle. There is a beach you can visit nearby. It’s a beautiful place. Here are some casas https://bestcubaguide.com/casas-particulares-in-vinales-cuba/
    3. Go to Trinidad for 3 nights (April 5, 6, 7). Check out the Trinidad travel guide to see what a wonderful place it is (https://bestcubaguide.com/trinidad-cuba-free-online-guidebook/) For casa bookings, look here: https://bestcubaguide.com/casas-particulares-in-trinidad-cuba/
    4. The beach for your last 4 days: The best beach in Cuba is in Varadero. But it is filled with tourists and has many hotels with pools. You could rent a casa, which would be about 1 block from the beach. I can take care of this rental for you, or you can see places online. Varadero is the main tourist town in Cuba. But the beach is excellent. If you want a more private beach, you can go to a beach like Playa Larga. The beach is much smaller, but there are no resorts, only small rental casas along the beach. But this beach is far from everything. The town is tiny and there are very few restaurants or bars. You might get bored… But it is a nice place. While more tourists are starting to visit Playa Larga, it is still not very touristy. More info can be found here: http://www.cubacasas.net/cities/playa_giron/
    5. For your last night, you would return back to Havana and prepare for your departure.

    How does this sound? You would be visiting 4 different places and you would get a good sense of Cuba. This is a common route for people wanting to see a lot of Cuba and meet Cubans from all over the western part of the island.

    tell me what you think or just ask if you have more questions.

    Mario

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 2 months ago by Mario.
    • This reply was modified 5 years, 2 months ago by Mario.
    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, I would say that Cuba has not changed at all since the new President of the USA was elected. Everything visibly is exactly the same. The locals might have a bit more concern in the back of their mind as to things might change in the future, but for tourism, there has been no impact yet.

    If you are American, please note that in mid-september there will be new regulations outlined by the American administration concerning Americans visiting Cuba. It is not known what these new rules will be. In my opinion, the new rules will likely have a negative impact on tourism from the USA to Cuba. If you are American, it might be wise to wait until after the new rules are announced before planning your trip. If you are not American, then do not worry at all.

    Cuba is a relaxed place. You will be approached while walking in the streets and locals will try to start up a conversation with you, with the ultimate goal of asking you for money or small items. You can easily ignore it. It is a very minor inconvenience.

    I can help you in whatever way is needed, to help plan your trip. Have a great day!

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi Vesna,

    There are no beaches with sand directly in Havana. You have a to go a bit out of the city for the beaches. It would take about 20 minutes with a taxi to get to a beach from downtown Havana.

    Please check out this link for more info.

    Have a great trip and feel free to ask any other questions.

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211
    in reply to: Guidebook #26072

    Hi, the 2016 version should serve you fine. The updates for 2017 were not dramatic. Minor things like schedules. But there is the new Trinidad guide. I am not sure if that was in the 2016 book. Please give me your email address (you can contact me directly at my email rizzi@videotron.ca) and I will send you the 2017 version for free, in pdf format.

    thanks,

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, which towns/cities will you visit? Which city are you starting from? Do you want the driver full time? Most people just use drivers to get from one city to the other. This is the cheapest option. If you want a full time driver to be at your side for your whole trip, it will be much more expensive.

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, thank you for your comment.

    As you probably know, there have been flights from the USA to Canada for many, many years. Most of the people flying from Miami to Florida used to be Cuban Americans who were visiting family in Cuba. Once the restrictions were eased by the Obama administration, the number of flights increased and regular American started to come to Cuba for various purposes. 

    Terminal 2 used to handle almost all of the flight from USA to Cuba. These flights used to be chartered. Since the regulations have relaxed, chartered flights are not needed as much. Many flights from the USA still landed in Terminal 2, but, it has been undergoing a lot of renovations over the last year and many flights are now being deviated to Terminal 3. Basically, both terminal are now being used (2 and 3)

    More info from http://havana.airportcuba.net/

    Terminal 2 – US Charters Terminal:
    It handles mainly scheduled Special Authority charter flights to/from the United States. It’s located on the north side of the airport in front of runway 24 threshold. This terminal had been undergoing extensive renovations and expansion in the last few years.

    Terminal 3 – International Terminal
    This is the largest terminal and the most modern. It was inaugurated in 1998 by Fidel Castro and Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chretien. It handles flights for more than 25 international airlines, serving approximately 60 destinations in more than 30 countries. It’s located halfway down the north side of the runway.

    Terminal 3 is much nicer than Terminal 2 and the Cuban government is trying to make it the first impression that tourists see when they arrive in Cuba. That being said, I have frequently been routed to Terminal 2. It really depends how congested the airport is and how much renovation is being done.

    Things change very frequently in Cuba. The 2017 edition of the book was finalized in December 2016. There have been changes in Cuba since, and I will clarify that both terminals are used for international flights.

    As for the immigration procedures, I will be including more info on that topic. I think for arrivals by air, the procedures are pretty straightforward as I do not notice much difference between arriving in Cuba vs most other destinations. As you say, the procedures have been greatly simplified. I will make this clear in the new edition.

    Also, as many Americans are now entering Cuba via cruises, I have already written a new section for Cruise ship arrivals with all that info.

    Thanks for your great comments and for taking the time to write me. I hope you enjoy all your travels to Cuba and that I was able to help.

    take care,

    Mario

     

     

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hey, if you give me your email I will send you a free PDF copy of the book. My email is rizzi@videotron.ca . contact me directly and I will send you the copy.

    Take care,

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hey, if you give me your email I will send you a free PDF copy of the book. My email is rizzi@videotron.ca . contact me directly and I will send you the copy.

    Take care,

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Hi, many hotels in Varadero offer day pass options. Prices vary from about $15 per day to over $100. The day is usually from about 9am until 7pm.

    You would not be able to reserve these day passes on the internet. You would have to show up at the hotel and ask for availability and prices. If you are in Havana, you can go to any large hotel (Habana Libre is good) and ask at the Cubanacan or Cubatur desk (beside the lobby) to see if they can book you a day pass reservation. Sometimes they have deals, especially if you are traveling during low season (summer).

    The hotels near the town of Varadero are cheaper, usually below $50 per day. Hotels between the Puntarena Hotel and the Tuxpan Hotel are usually the cheapest. These hotels are older and less quality, so the prices are low. Many Cubans go to these hotels just for the day. The hotels sometimes have cheaper rates for Cubans and higher rates for foreigners. Higher end resorts might not offer day passes.

    Here are some links with more info:

    https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g147275-i99-k8118350-Day_Pass_at_an_All_Inclusive_in_Varadero-Varadero_Matanzas_Province_Cuba.html

    https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g147275-i99-k9792242-All_inclusive_hotels_day_pass-Varadero_Matanzas_Province_Cuba.html

    https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/americas-cuba/cuba/need-to-find-a-resort-with-day-pass-in-varadero-help

    I hope this helps,

    Mario

    Mario
    Keymaster
    Post count: 211

    Thanks for the review Laura. I will forward it to Tomasa and also put a link to it from her Casa listing page so that others can see it easily. So happy you had a great time in Havana. Casa Tomasa is really a spacial place. thanks!

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