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Is Cuba overrated?

Is Cuba overrated?

Old Jul 19, 16, 9:00 pm
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Is Cuba overrated?

I keep reading how everyone is desperate to visit Cuba. But is Cuba that great?
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Old Jul 20, 16, 6:04 am
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Good question. There is this (I think) ridiculous fear that Cuba is going to become Americanized overnight and that there will be McDonald’s and Starbucks on every street corner, and so we’d better get there before that happens. First of all, when those companies arrive in Havana, the average Cuban will never be able to afford to go there. And if you as a visitor disapprove of those places, you don’t go inside. It’s that simple.

The result is this influx of visitors that the country can’t yet handle. To be honest, if you want great hotels and amazing food, you can do better elsewhere. But if you want a fascinating case study in a country in transition that is bound to have some stumbles along the way, Cuba is your place. You have to go into it with that mindset. You’ll be disappointed otherwise.
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Old Jul 21, 16, 7:34 pm
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Cuba is a simple country where there is nothing American(besides the old cars) and thats why people love Cuba.

When I see Starbucks & Macdonald's, that'll be the day I stop flying into Cuba. Cuba reminds me of my childhood especially the smells and the buildings.

Last edited by djjaguar64; Jul 24, 16 at 7:39 am
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Old Jul 23, 16, 7:04 am
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I thought so.
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Old Jul 23, 16, 6:58 pm
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As said, Cuba is pretty much a place culturally uninfluenced (at least in modern times) by its neighbours. Almost no international brand presence in Havana, let alone the rest of the country, to take away from the fact that you are in Cuba.

Lores of the cold war (especially if you grew up in the '60s and '70s), the classic cars (I can't think of anywhere else in the world one would go primarily to look at cars), the ramshackle nature of the cities, and the country in general. And not to forget the music and dance culture.

I started a trip report but it's stalled (from April last year).
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Old Jul 23, 16, 7:00 pm
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Canadians have been going to Cuba for decades. Are there Tim Hortons on every street corner?
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Old Jul 23, 16, 7:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Dieuwer View Post
Canadians have been going to Cuba for decades. Are there Tim Hortons on every street corner?
Not allowed by the Cuban government. Not that I'd want Timmies there (or anywhere). Less expansionist (or at least less capable of) than U.S. brands at any rate.
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Old Jul 27, 16, 6:17 pm
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Cuba has its pros and cons. Varadero beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and several of the newer resorts compare favorably with those you would find in other locations. The entertainment and customer service can be very good, the food not-so-much, but you won't starve and who wants to gain weight on vacation? Save the calories for the delicious rum-based drinks (and the fabulous coffee). The problem is that buildings in Cuba don't tend to age well, especially by the ocean. Bad storms and humidity take their toll and trade restrictions make repairs difficult. So, book a newly built resort, lower you expectations a bit and book at least 1 star class higher than you would elsewhere.

On the plus side, the prices are great. All inclusive vacations are cheaper than in most locations and some of the world's best rum and cigars are a steal. I'm not a smoker but I must say that I enjoy the smell of a good cigar wafting through the warm night air (although there are more non-smoking areas now then when I first went in 2008).

The local markets are great for souvenir shopping including some beautiful jewelry. The vendors aren't overly pushy like I've seen in some other Carribean countries although they will try to lure you in with some good-natured banter. Most young people in the tourist areas speak excellent English thanks to Cuba's free education system.

Havana is a bit run-down in spots but you can see that it was once beautiful and people have done their best to protect the facades of buildings in the hope that they will someday be able to restore them. You can see why it is a Unesco world heritage site. Some restoration work has begun in recent years and will hopefully bring back its former glory. The old cars are definitely worth seeing and many are used for tours and taxis.

So yes, it's worth seeing. Have a mojito, relax your standards a bit and Enjoy!
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Old Sep 27, 16, 6:18 am
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Originally Posted by YVR Cockroach View Post
As said, Cuba is pretty much a place culturally uninfluenced (at least in modern times) by its neighbours. Almost no international brand presence in Havana, let alone the rest of the country, to take away from the fact that you are in Cuba.
On the contrary.
Currently they (or at least, many) can sit at home watching Univision with its commercials for Lowes and Macy's using backgrounds of US homes with US products. That's a significant cultural influence, IMO.


Originally Posted by Suman84 View Post
I think Cuba is a good destination. Havana is listed in top 10 destinations in the world.....
Listed where?
No way would I consider it in the "top 10 destinations in the world" for any reason (culture, art, music, scenery/beaches, architecture), including the picturesquely crumbling architecture and number of 1940-50s cars.

With destinations like Paris; London; New York; Rio/Salvador/Sao Luis in Brazil; Egypt; Turkey; Pacific islands including Fiji, Tahiti, and Hawaii; Japan; China; India; safari and historic buildings in several African countries; Machu Picchu in Peru; Rome/Florence/Venice/Cinque Terra in Italy; and more? Right.


Originally Posted by Low Roller View Post
Cuba has its pros and cons.

Varadero beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world ……..The entertainment and customer service can be very good,….

On the plus side, the prices are great. ………some of the world's best rum and cigars are a steal.

The local markets are great for souvenir shopping including some beautiful jewelry.

Havana is a bit run-down in spots but you can see that it was once beautiful ……... You can see why it is a Unesco world heritage site. Some restoration work has begun in recent years and will hopefully bring back its former glory.
IMO Varadero may be just as pretty as some beaches in Brazil, but the majority there are much more beautiful. Let alone Fiji and places like that.
There is very little nightlife outside the hotels which put on tourist shows. No Afro-Cuban music or culture to be found easily.
The advantage is that you can be in Varadero in 45 minutes from Miami.

Prices are great? I spent 3X more money than I thought I would need as a budget traveler (and this is not a good value compared to Mexico and Brazil for example), some of it paying "the gringo tax" for things like taxis in Havana. (14 CUC taxi ride for 25 CUC for example)

$10 + for ONE cigar is NOT my idea of "a steal" !

I saw very little nice jewelry. Lots of cheap junk, badly crafted. (I am an inveterate shopper, stopping at every stall in sight anywhere in the world.)

There were a very few buildings in Havana under restoration, and those were larger public looking buildings.
This for me is in stark contrast to a residential area in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil called Pelourinho where the not-particularly-well-funded government put lots of money into restoring residential buildings of the same age with commercial spaces (bars, restaurants and shops) on the ground floors.

That said, I did enjoy the trip, particularly the people.

Last edited by VidaNaPraia; Sep 27, 16 at 12:41 pm
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Old Sep 27, 16, 11:11 am
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I am off to Habana next week and then again in December.
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Old Sep 27, 16, 2:06 pm
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Did Havana last December and having been almost everywhere in the world. so very glad I went!

Returning this December with my grandchildren. Want them to see this time capsule that is an endangered species! Meaning I want them to see it before a Starbucks or Golden Arches on every corner!

Last edited by worldspan; Sep 27, 16 at 2:14 pm
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Old Sep 28, 16, 9:57 am
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Originally Posted by worldspan View Post
Did Havana last December and having been almost everywhere in the world. so very glad I went!

Returning this December with my grandchildren. Want them to see this time capsule that is an endangered species! Meaning I want them to see it before a Starbucks or Golden Arches on every corner!
I'd bet there isn't one Cuban on the whole island who can't wait to try MickeyD's steer not pork hamburgers, have access to modern washing machines from Lowe's, etc.....and enough commerce to drive salaries that'd allow them to afford such things. US tourists' "endangered species" thinking smacks more than a bit of Colonial privilege, living with all the goodies and briefly visiting the colorful but deprived zoo.
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Old Sep 28, 16, 11:38 am
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Originally Posted by VidaNaPraia View Post
I'd bet there isn't one Cuban on the whole island who can't wait to try MickeyD's steer not pork hamburgers, have access to modern washing machines from Lowe's, etc.....and enough commerce to drive salaries that'd allow them to afford such things. US tourists' "endangered species" thinking smacks more than a bit of Colonial privilege, living with all the goodies and briefly visiting the colorful but deprived zoo.
I don't think anyone is saying that Cubans should be kept in poverty for our own enjoyment. As a Canadian who has visited Cuba several times over the years, I'm happy to see trade with the US opening up because of the economic opportunities it can provide for the Cuban people. However, that doesn't mean that people shouldn't take this unique opportunity to see a piece of living history before it becomes just like everyplace else. After all, time travel opportunities don't come up every day
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Old Sep 28, 16, 12:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Low Roller View Post
I don't think anyone is saying that Cubans should be kept in poverty for our own enjoyment. As a Canadian who has visited Cuba several times over the years, I'm happy to see trade with the US opening up because of the economic opportunities it can provide for the Cuban people. However, that doesn't mean that people shouldn't take this unique opportunity to see a piece of living history before it becomes just like everyplace else. After all, time travel opportunities don't come up every day
To think it's a case of one or the other seems to be overstating things, especially given the number of European and other tourists already traveling in the country. The Cuban culture seems pretty strong and resilient. Just as the Brazilian culture, for one example, survives strongly despite the presence of fast food restaurants and other trappings of the 21st century; Brazil is certainly not "just like everyplace else". Neither will Cuba be.
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Old Sep 28, 16, 1:02 pm
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I'm sure the culture will survive and thrive and hopefully more of the beautiful architecture in Havana will be restored. I don't think that a few fast food restaurants will hurt the country, but other things are bound to change also. As the citizens hopefully become more prosperous, there will likely be fewer 1950s cars on the road...although they have become such an iconic symbol of Cuban tourism that I'm sure that some of them will be maintained as long as possible.
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