When on holiday in Cuba Internet access does exist ... but! To access it is a step by step process: first you have to buy an access card and then find and get to a WiFi (weefee) zone. Standing or sitting on a pavement or a park bench getting access. With a slow and limited connection.
When you are accustomed to easy internet access having it so limited is like having one hand chopped off. It is impossible to use apps like Speak and Translate or Google maps. There is no access to the Internet to look up information about sightseeing sites or events.
Food is generally quite bland and quite greasy – but served in king-sized quantities. In many cases what it lacks in quality it makes up in quantity.
Eating in tourist frequented places is premium priced.
Manufacturing appears to have evaporated – many imported products could be made in Cuba. Saving foreign exchange and employing people throughout the supply chain.
There are many countries and individuals that could assist if the leaders showed some creativity and vision. The Cuban people would respond to the opportunity.
There are piles of garbage on the roadsides of highways and in some towns and villages. Why? Wouldn't it be a simple task to arrange garbage collection?
In the cities we visited sidewalks and roads are littered with broken glass. Something I always notice and is a pet hate. To me it’s a sign that people don’t care. This blight is in complete contrast to countries in Asia like the Philippines and Vietnam where it is rare.
With free education system isn’t one of the most basic lessons … do not litter? Do not break bottles on sidewalks.
Using Homestay.com we made accommodation bookings for our complete itinerary. The prices of rooms per night varied from USD49 (extravagant in Santa Clara) through the USD30’s to USD20’s per night.
The price didn’t always have a direct correlation to the room, or the breakfasts or the hosts ... often less was more. Although some hosts didn’t speak much English we managed to communicate using the Spanish Dictionary and Google Translate apps (Android and IOS) and hand gestures!
One improvement of the casa particular service is that they could organise the transfer from the airport or bus station to prevent their customers being taken advantage of by taxi drivers.
We were shocked by the laundry costs at some casas. Our first load of laundry in Cuba cost more than 3 weeks in Vietnam!!!
Cuba has a unique, weird two currency system and no one seems to understand why. Local people get paid in pesos (looks like a lot!) and many of the items they buy are priced in convertible pesos or CUC (looks like a little). The official exchange rate is 25 pesos to a CUC.
Then the official exchange rate is 1.00 CUC to 1.00 USD but in exchanging them and with ATM fees it is more like 1.10 USD to a CUC.
What are the benefits of this two currency system? Why does it exist?
Off the National Highway getting anywhere with Cuba transportation by road is very slow. Negotiating plodding water buffalo drawn carts, horse carts, dilapidated motorcycles and cars.
Today we said “hasta luego” for the last time as we started our walk to the bus stop in town from SEPA Spanish School. After attending two weeks of "Survival Spanish" classes we were sad at leaving. We'd met interesting people and our Spanish had advanced from “non-existent” to “confused"!
We spent 3 weeks travelling around the western half of Cuba speaking to people, visiting shops, sightseeing and trying to form an unidealistic, realistic opinion about the country.
The simple conclusion. The system has failed most people.
We arrived in Quepos after a long day of traveling. Four hours by bus from Monteverde to San Jose, then finding a bag at the airport … which thanks to Cubana air had detoured via Caracas. This was followed by a few hours waiting in an apology of a restaurant that charged like a 3 star Michelin topped off with a three-hour shuttle trip to Quepos.
We decided to take the jeep-ferry-jeep from La Fortuna to Monteverde. It is quite a short distance but over mountainous terrain.
We were collected in a full bus … again becoming aware of the number of tourists around.
This is the peak of the visitor season when temperatures are mild and there is no rain.
After taking an Über to the bus station we were on our way to the town of La Fortuna. Up through the Central Valley to the site of the Arenal volcano and the first nature park we planned to visit.
We settled on the crowded bus. A representative of the bus company then announced in English and Spanish that we should be aware that when leaving San Jose there is a chance that undesirables may board the bus with the intention of separating us from our valuables!
What would it be like retiring in Cebu? These were my thoughts as plane's wheels shuddered down onto the runway … a better lending than normal on Mactan island.
We lived in Cebu for nearly three and a half years. What was the experience really like?
The Cuba government pays ridiculous and unacceptable low wages and pensions. The consequence of a completely failed political system.
The people are not happy but completely resigned trying to find ways to work around the system. Hoping that they have some family connection to Spain or a family member who has left the country and can now provide some support.