My Cuban Mistake(s)

I suppose no holiday can be 100% perfect.  When you book holidays over the internet, you always take a bit of a risk.  I was excited to visit Cuba.  I’d seen friends’ photos on Instagram and thought it would make a wonderful holiday destination.  While I don’t regret visiting Cuba, I think I could definitely have planned it better.

As Cuba was just one small part of a big summer holiday, I made the decision to spend my whole stay in Havana.  This was my big mistake.  Well, mistake number 1.  I made more than one mistake!  While Havana is great to explore and there are awesome photo opportunities, you can do it all in just two days.  The problem was, I had booked six nights in Havana.  Six nights was way too long and just became excruciating.  I have never wished a holiday to be over as quickly as I did this one.  Which brings me to my second mistake.  In the interests of saving money as I had a long holiday in many countries ahead of me, I booked a room in someone’s home rather than a room in a hotel.  Never again, that’s all I’m saying.  While the owner herself was very sweet and made great breakfasts, she didn’t stay in the house.  Instead, she rented out the other rooms to some of her family members.  They were loud, like really seriously loud.  My bedroom was next to the lounge.  The lounge was busier than a New York railway station, with visitors coming and going all day until late at night.  They enjoyed watching TV which was obviously put on full volume so that they could still hear it above their loud chatter.  My advice, pay extra and stay in a hotel.  Especially if you like privacy and you want to rest and relax on holiday.  Also, make sure the hotel has a pool.  Havana is hot.  I feel like I spent 6 nights in a sauna.

Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so stressed if I didn’t constantly have people in my face.  I had visits from different family members all trying to sell me cigars, curios, tours, you name it.  Everything except water.  Now water was one thing I would have happily bought.  The heat makes you thirsty, but water was in short supply.  Corner shops ran out of water.  Sodas and ice-creams were hard to get because of Trump’s embargo on Cuba.  In fact, I never saw a single ice-cream.  You had to replace ice-cream with a mojito.  Some restaurants had limited supplies of soda, but they were starting to run out.  There was no shortage of mojitos though.

What I should have done is spend two days in Havana, and the rest of my time in a beach resort.  But as I had prepaid for my accommodation, I was trapped.  Stuck in a situation that just caused me undue stress.

One of the family members offered to organise me a tour of Havana in a horse and cart.  Special price, she said.  The guide showed me a card with the price $45.  I thought it was a bit pricey, but felt  that it would at least get me out of the noisy house.  The tour was great, the guide was excellent.  Unfortunately, as they dropped me off at the house the price changed somewhat.  He had accidentally covered up the fine print with his thumb when he initially showed me the price on the card.  Mistake number 3.  The lesson to learn is always take the price card in your hands and look at it carefully.  That way their thumb cannot hide important information – like the words ‘per hour.’  So you guessed it.  Instead of what I thought was an expensive $45, I had to pay $160!  I felt sick.  I had budgeted so carefully for the holiday.  For the next two days I saved my breakfast rolls and juice to eat for dinner so that I didn’t have to go out and spend more money.  Fitting punishment for not reading the fine print under the guide’s thumb!

Another thing to remember when planning a holiday to Cuba, is that there is no free WIFI.  I’m not sure if hotels offer their guests free WIFI, but you definitely do not have access to any in restaurants or public places.

So, do I regret coming to Cuba? Definitely not.  Havana is worth a visit.  However, don’t be cheap and stay in someone’s home and also only plan two days in Havana and spend the rest of your stay at a beach in Cuba.  At this stage I would give my eye-teeth for a beach, a pool, anywhere I can do my hippo impersonation!

Cindy Vine is a South African author and teacher currently living in Norway.  She is the author of numerous novels including Not Telling, Defective, Hush Baby, CU@8 and The Freedom Club.  All her books are available on in both ebook and paperback format.  The Freedom Club is available in Spanish and Portuguese.  You can find out about her novels

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