American travel writer visits apartheid Cuba, quickly finds out it sucks and not that ‘cool’

Cuba is blessed with overwhelmingly natural beauty that no one can deny. Nevertheless, the island has been under the jackboot of a corrupt and viciously repressive apartheid dictatorship for nearly six decades that has turned the country into a veritable hellhole. This once thriving island-nation is not only a horrible place for its enslaved inhabitants, but as some foreign visitors quickly find out, for tourists as well.

You can’t help but laugh as you read this horror story of a millennial American tourist and travel writer who chose apartheid Cuba as his vacation destination. He and his friends went there expecting to find paradise and likely because they thought it would be cool, but instead they found out firsthand what happens to a country when it is run by a despicable and despotic dictatorship.

Tahsir Ahsan (AKA Bengali Miles Guru) in Travel Codex:

Cuba Is Actually a Terrible Place to Go

cuba-sucks

I’ve been told so much about Cuba the past couple months. Between the “go now because it’s literally like a time-warp” or “you need to go before everything becomes commercialized,” I was sort of hyped into going to Havana. I’ll have to admit, I despise anticipation and can’t necessarily handle waiting for things. Call it a millennial thing or the “Uber” effect but I planned my trip to Cuba about 48 hours before my arrival. With a carry-on and a couple friends in tow, I boarded a flight to what seemed like the forbidden city. What I experienced as soon as I landed was the opposite of everything I imagined. 

Disclaimer: I had a not so great experience in Cuba. The country itself probably isn’t a terrible place to go to if you’re into adventure, mediocre food, lack of internet, overpriced hotels and horrible currency exchange rates. 

Planning & Travel

In the past month or so, the capacity of US-Cuba flights has increased dramatically. With almost every major carrier flying to some city in Cuba, fares have become very competitive. For example, our flight from Los Angeles to Havana via Miami cost around $140 one-way. We booked the flight about 12 hours before departure and started packing. Little did we know that even though airfare is cheap, you should really do more research as to which airline charges the least amount of money to get a Cuban visa. As it stands, if you don’t have a visa, you will have to buy one at time of boarding. These fees can vary wildly as I experienced when we got to the gate in Miami. Currently, American Airlines charges $100 to obtain a visa at the gate, whereas Jetblue charges only $50. That can be a huge cost savings if you’re flying a family of 4 to Cuba and it can also be somewhat of a shock if you’re not aware of the fees. Regardless, we paid the fees and boarded our short 40 minute flight to Havana.

Arrival

I cannot begin to explain how excited we were to disembark and step foot onto Cuban soil. Everyone was taking pictures and snapchatting their new journey into the unknown. We said our final goodbyes to our friends over text message in Miami as we were aware of the non-existent internet situation in Cuba. Little did we know that what was originally planned as a 3 day phone escape would turn into a measly 24 hours of hell.

Almost immediately after landing, we were ushered to what is literally a clusterf*** of an arrivals hall. Although immigration moved rather quickly, our bags took more time to come out than the flight from Miami did. Actually, our bags never made it to Havana. We waited for 2 hours at the baggage carousel after repeatedly asking anyone who looked like an airline agent to help us. Everyone just responded that baggage is slow to arrive in Havana. Another 30 minutes passed and it was only the three of us and the human version of the elderly couple from the movie Up waiting for bags. At this point, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that my friends bag wasn’t going to arrive.

[…]

Our Non-Existent AirBNB

Upon finding the taxi dispatcher, we gave her the address of our AirBNB. She took a couple minutes and came back to tell us that the address doesn’t exist. In fact, it seemed the address Cuba Apto. 6 Playa La Habana didn’t really exist anywhere in the world. I had a feeling we might run into this issue so I took a screenshot of the AirBNB address, phone number and confirmation. However, when the dispatcher called the phone number, it turned out that the person conveniently disconnected their phone. We all now faced the grim realization that we were in Cuba with no place to stay and a lost bag that had 99% of my friend’s clothes/essentials in it.

[…]

Accommodation

As our hour of internet started dwindling, we decided to buy another hour only to be told that the hotel had just sold us the last code. I quickly logged back on and looked up places to stay. Although we were in a hotel, they wanted $600 CUC to stay for the night and didn’t accept credit cards. I found a Casa Particular (Someone’s home that they open to tourists) nearby and decided that it would be the best course of action for the night. Once we arrived, we were informed the fee would be $45 for that night to house all three of us. It was actually a steal considering this room had an A/C, power outlets and private bathroom. I actually have no complaints about the room and the hosts were really nice.

[…]

Nightlife

Once settled in and calmed down, we decided to go explore Havana’s nightlife. Everyone back home exclaimed that Havana has some of the best nightlife in the world. I later realized that those people were on drugs because Havana is so boring at night that it’s just ridiculous. We first stopped by the Hotel Libre to grab a quick bite from their restaurant. Being managed by an international hotel chain, you’d think that the food would be okay. Well, to no one’s surprise, it was terrible. Whatever my friends ordered wasn’t edible so they just ate what I ordered and to be clear, I ordered spaghetti without sauce. It was just white spaghetti. By 11PM the same day we arrived, we were now reveling at how good this white spaghetti was. Cuba officially destroyed us.

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Currency Issues

Mulling over the entire experience we had, one thing that really irritated me was the currency. For a country like Cuba to value their currency on a 1:1 basis with the US Dollar or even 10% less than the Euro is absolutely appalling. For the infrastructure, transportation and even food to be as expensive as it was, everything should have been leaps and bounds better than what it was. This only means 1 of 2 things in that the country is a massive tourist trap or that the government is skimming money and not reinvesting it to build a country up.

Read the entire account HERE.

4 thoughts on “American travel writer visits apartheid Cuba, quickly finds out it sucks and not that ‘cool’”

  1. Cuba is not that cool? Whoa, that’s very serious–far more serious than being a totalitarian apartheid regime. The Castro people better start doing some damage control on this sort of thing right away, because unlike human rights abuses, this could cost them.

  2. Asombra, you’re absolutely right! LOL! Sad, ain’t it? That said, I have an American friend who just came back from Cuba. I told him not to go and what he should expect, but he was swept away by the incessant propaganda about going to Cuba before it changes, etc… Unbelievably, that tired sell does work! People are suckered by it.

    Anyway, upon returning, he told me that he’s never going back. He could have written that article himself. He said that the exchange rate was attrocious, the food was bad and it was boring. He told me that one of the worst experiences was taking a taxi back to the hotel at night and going through the narrow streets of pitch black slums without a street light in sight. Mind you, this guy lives in Newark which is one of the toughest cities around famous for its high crime, murder rate and projects! Yet, he was scared!

    Oh, and did I say that he of course had a prostitute? Get this, this is how demoralized Cuba has become. He paid the prostitute about 20 bucks and she then went to someone’s house and paid them 2 pesos to rent a room out. This was a family with a mother, father, two kids and a grandmother. They walked in through the house [while the family was eating in the kitchen] and used a room that the family keeps in the back for this type of thing.

  3. So he got a prostitute? But of course; that’s an integral part of doing Cuba. I hope she gave him a little something to remember her by. And by the way, he wasn’t suckered; he just doesn’t give a shit.

  4. Yep, he hired a prostitute. Doesn’t everyone? [sigh] Fifty-eight years after the beast based his “revolution” on cleansing Cuba of her alleged prostitutes, that’s why everyone goes to Cuba. Sad thing is that prostitutes in Cuba back in pre-59 where limited to certain areas and charged fees compatible to any first world prostitute that you might find in Paris, Berlin or Amsterdam. Nowadays, they are destitute and desperate and practically give it away for free. But fear not, We have Mariela and her uncle who have boasted how educated Cuban prostitutes are and we have apologists worldwide defending and praising the regime.

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