Our pick-up at the airport brought us to our casa particulares in the old center of Havana. The first thing I noticed – which was so nice – were the old timers on the streets. I always thought it was more a tourist thing and there were only a few on the road itself, but they are are literally everywhere!
Arriving at the casa, our host was already waiting for us. She explained us a lot of things, and one thing in particular I didn’t know yet. Apparently Cuba uses a different currency for tourists, of course. The rate? 1 CUC (pesos convertibles, almost the same as 1 US dollar) is 25(!) CUP (pesos Cubanos). Even though if you know, all locals will charge you CUC instead of CUP. If you’re lucky, they will ask half the price, but then you’re still paying 12 times as much as the locals do for things like water, fruits and pizzas (you can buy them on every corner, with the oil dripping of though).
First impressions – the old city center of Havana
The streets are nice and chaotic, with holes in most of them. We walked from El Capitolo along the Obispo to the Plaza de Armas and Plaza Vieja. A lot of taxi’s, tuktuk kind of taxi’s, old buses, old timers, horses to ride people around and really little taxi’s that look like they come from a cartoon: little eggs on wheels. Or as they are officially called: the Coco-taxi. There are shops literally everywhere. Just in front of their houses with fences before it and the locals just buy the stuff through these fences. I remember this from Brazil. Doesn’t really add up to the safety feeling, but apparently it is necessary. Some repair stuff, some sell just a few candies or of course souvenirs and paintings. Pretty cool ones! I took photos of them for my own inspiration for when I get back home when Romain said ‘Stop stealing art!” Oops, busted :).
More to come in Havana part II at the end of our trip!
La Bodeguita del Medio / La Floradita
The two go-to places for drinks as they say. I vow for La Bodeguita, although way too overprices of course as one of the main bars of Havana. La Floradita is way too up town, chique for my taste. We enjoyed a nice mojito and decided to buy a bottle of rum and some cokes to enjoy some more in our casa :).
That feeling when you’re all of a sudden wide awake at 04.30 am and you realize you forgot to turn off your mobile data…!! OMG, the text I got said that the costs per MB were 5(!!) euro. Worst case scenario I would have to pay 675 euros with the roaming I used. I used some at the airport in Paris too, so hopefully the damage isn’t too bad. In the end I must be very lucky that the internet is really really shitty in Cuba, since I didn’t get charged anything although I was ‘online’ for a quite a few hours.
To make things worse, as I already wrote in my last blog, I didn’t bring the correct pin code of my credit card to Cuba. How stupid can you be right?! I already asked my sister to contact her colleague that was coming to Cuba in a week to bring money, and explored all other options to get money, until we went to the bank to exchange the money we brought and I all of a sudden thought ‘Hey, maybe I can get money just with my card and passport without the pin’. And yes! We could. That was a day of stressing over nothing eventually. Although she ripped me off by exchanging it in US Dollars instead of Euros, she really made my day, my holiday!
All of this brought some niceness as well, a local experience :). Since we tried to look for a place where we could use the internet but the internet place was closed and there was again a huge line in front of the shop where you could buy the WiFi cards which you can use on certain WiFi hotspots in the city. A local guy overheard us talking and asked if he could help. A guy in his building has internet, which we could use for a small price. Sure! We followed they guy a few blocks down, Alexis was his name. He studied tourism, he was in his first year. His English was quite impressive for a Cuban! Entering the building we already saw the internet wires going up. A woman opened the door and excused for the way she was looking, she looked fine to me. The house was simple. An old broken couch with two old chairs. We got behind the computer and we had internet! Not too fast, not too bad either. The computer keyboard and mouse came out of the 80’s and when we moved it, it got disconnected 🙂 We looked for places which we could book online in case we couldn’t get any more money, but unfortunately that was impossible. Only the really expensive hotels took iDeal or other online payments. And we couldn’t even book through Airbnb, since we were already in Cuba so they blocked the reservation option. Something with the US – Cuban relations ;). We decided to just go and see. “Part of the adventure” was our motto!