Cuba: Entrance and Beta?


Original Post
Craig L · Jan 20, 2017 · Bozeman, MT · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0
Hello,
My friend and I are taking an impromptu trip to Cuba. We are flying round trip from Mexico, is it possible to get a tourist visa card upon arrival? We will only be there for a week seems Vinales is the main place to climb? What is the situation with accommodation/homestays? Thanks for any information.

Cheers,
Craig

Sketty · Feb 3, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
Depends who you're flying with, but most airlines sell them at the gate. This was certainly the case in Miami, but not sure about Mexico. Otherwise you can purchase a tourist travel card ahead of time via the internet. Call your airline either way.

Vinales is definitely the place to go. From Havana, it's a 3.5 hour bus ride or 2.5 hour collective taxi ride (ask your host family to book one for you, they leave daily). Absolutely incredible climbing, super cute (but increasingly touristy) little town. Cueva Larga is where people go in the morning (because it's shaded) and then people move over to Cueva Cabeza de la Vaca in the afternoon (when that section gets shade). There are tons of other incredible areas (Cuba Libre Wall, etc...) - the guidebook published in 2009 is very helpful.

The best option is to stay at a Casa Particular (Arrendador Divisa). You can book one online ahead of time via AirBnB or if you just walk into one (they will have an upside-down anchor sign posted outside their house) then they will be happy to host you on the spot (or call around to find a place for you if they don't have space). Since internet and cell-phone access is rare, most of Cuba operates via word-of-mouth. This is scary to a foreigner, especially if you like planning, but if you show up with plenty of cash (since your ATM card won't work) then you will quickly be able to figure things out on the fly, especially if you speak some Spanish.

Craig L · Feb 6, 2017 · Bozeman, MT · Joined May 2012 · Points: 0
Great info, thanks!

ElGringo · Feb 28, 2017 · denver · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 10
Sketty wrote:Depends who you're flying with, but most airlines sell them at the gate. This was certainly the case in Miami, but not sure about Mexico. Otherwise you can purchase a tourist travel card ahead of time via the internet. Call your airline either way. Vinales is definitely the place to go. From Havana, it's a 3.5 hour bus ride or 2.5 hour collective taxi ride (ask your host family to book one for you, they leave daily). Absolutely incredible climbing, super cute (but increasingly touristy) little town. Cueva Larga is where people go in the morning (because it's shaded) and then people move over to Cueva Cabeza de la Vaca in the afternoon (when that section gets shade). There are tons of other incredible areas (Cuba Libre Wall, etc...) - the guidebook published in 2009 is very helpful. The best option is to stay at a Casa Particular (Arrendador Divisa). You can book one online ahead of time via AirBnB or if you just walk into one (they will have an upside-down anchor sign posted outside their house) then they will be happy to host you on the spot (or call around to find a place for you if they don't have space). Since internet and cell-phone access is rare, most of Cuba operates via word-of-mouth. This is scary to a foreigner, especially if you like planning, but if you show up with plenty of cash (since your ATM card won't work) then you will quickly be able to figure things out on the fly, especially if you speak some Spanish.
What do you consider as plenty of cash? What does an average day cost assuming one utilizes the Casas and Paladeras? Also, whats the approximate cost of a bus ride one way?

Luna · Feb 28, 2017 · New Haven, CT · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 0
casas differ in price a bit from one province to the next, however they are regulated by the gov't. in vinales most are approximately 30 CUC a day. it is possible to bring down dry food, pb, etc which will cut costs (and allow you to control your fuel/pack lunch.

if your not drinking alcohol, $20/day beyond that will be more than enough

there are a handful of popup stands in the town of vinales that sell sandwiches for $2CUC, meals at casas range from $5 to $10 each

the "crux" of the trip when i went in january 2017 was water... there is a bar downtown across from the plaza that sells 3L bottles of water for $3 CUC

a bus ticket 1 way is $12 cuc from vinales to havana

it is also possible to haggle taxi prices in the plaza

Sketty · Feb 28, 2017 · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
My girlfriend and I brought down $1,500 and spent about $1,200 together over 10 days. This is on the high end of what would even be possible to spend over a 10-day time period and included a number of luxuries that I would never have even considered if travelling solo: for instance we hired a private taxi to take us to an out-of-town paladar outside of Havana because my GF saw it on Anthony Bourdain, brought back over 50 cigars, cocktails and booze every night, bought art, rum, trinkets to take back as gifts, etc... and while none of these things were particularly expensive (ex: $15/ea for the fancy Anthony Bourdain meal + $20/ea for the private taxi to get there and back) they seemed utterly extravagant at the time compared to the $2.00/ea feast we got in Havana Centro the first night. At home in the USA I can't get a mixed drink for under $12 but I remember scoffing at the $6 daiquiris at El Floridita as "absurdly overpriced". In that sense, it's easy to have a lot of small "cheap luxuries" add up very quickly.

For a couple of two, I cannot imagine spending more than $100/day for the both of you (including gifts, food, lodging, etc...) - this is likely the "travelling with your wife who likes nice things" per diem. If you're living frugally, it could be much less. However bring more than you think, as a good chunk of how much you spend will depend on how much you're willing to speak Spanish / haggle / figure out what the locals do. It's also obviously easier to get a discount on many things if you're travelling in a two-some or four-some vs. solo.

To give you an idea of what you'd run into solo going as a dedicated climber, the casas typically run $10-12/night, but you are expected to eat breakfast ($5) and dinner ($8-$10) at the casa - it is considered rude to stay at one casa and eat at another. We always ate breakfast at the casa but often went out for dinner and it didn't seem to be a big deal.

A collective taxi to Vinales from Havana will run $25 one way, however you can also take the local bus ($8, don't do it), or the "nice" bus for expats ($12, worth it).

As mentioned above, a "local meal" will run you $2-5/ea for dinner. We had an absurd 16-course meal for $10/each at Agroecologica El Paraiso in Vinales(which included an entire bottle of rum). You basically have to decide whether you want to live like a Cuban or like a tourist. And be prepared to haggle hard for everything (especially taxis).

The 3L jugs of water at the Plaza is crucial, as you can easily end up paying $2 for a small bottle of water at tourist spots or $3 for a 3L jug. This is just a good example of little things that can add up quickly.

If you're spending any amount of time in Havana, it's worth figuring out how the local busses and collective taxis work. A local bus ride will cost you $.10 for the same distance that a taxi will charge you $10-20 for. Likewise, you should never pay more than $1 for a collective taxi within the city, however deciphering the routes and protocol can be intimidating at first.

ElGringo · Feb 28, 2017 · denver · Joined Jan 2008 · Points: 10
Thanks for the input guys! My trip is going to be solo so I realize I will be paying the same price for a Casa that could sleep two people. Also, climbing is somewhat low on the totem pole for my first time. I do want to make it to Vinales for the park and also the tobacco and its history and relevance in the valley.

I'm also wanting to explore at least one, if not more, low key towns and villages on the coast while I'm there. Any recommendations regarding areas that aren't teeming with tourists but also within a reasonable amount of time from either Vinales or Havana?

And I fully intend on supporting the Cuban Rum industry while I'm there, so I figure that should be factored in to my daily budget as well, same goes or cigars. It'd be like going to France and just drinking Budweiser, I am fully wanting the complete cultural experience, including carcinogens and ethanol, as it seems to work so well for the entire country.

Thanks again for the insight!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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