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Sun, Sand, Rum and Rumba, family trip to Havana and Varadero via Monterrey

Sun, Sand, Rum and Rumba, family trip to Havana and Varadero via Monterrey

Old Jul 5, 16, 12:04 pm
  #1  
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Sun, Sand, Rum and Rumba, family trip to Havana and Varadero via Monterrey

Cuba! It remained the only country I haven't yet visited in the Americas. My friends and I had been wanting to visit there for many years but we could never get our schedules synced up. With the recent thaw in relations with the USA I hoped to visit sooner than later. I had been monitoring airfares from Nuevo Laredo and Monterry as they're the most convenient options from Texas. Last November, Interjet had a fare sale and I saw roundtrip tickets from Monterrey for $215 over Spring Break. The trick was buying them on the Mexican site vs USA site as the tickets were much cheaper priced in pesos vs USD. I bought tickets departing Sunday and returning on a Friday for myself and mrs and miss hauteboy.

Interjet also fly from San Antonio to Monterrey, unfortunately I discovered after booking the Havana flights that they don't fly to Monterrey on Saturdays! And the San Antonio flights didn't connect with the HAV flights anyway. So that meant spending two nights in Monterrey either end of the trip. Not such a horrible thing I guess. Or we could drive to Monterrey. I wasn't sure about driving in Mexico, so we would drive to Laredo then catch a Greyhound bus to Monterrey, spend one night then fly out to Havana the next morning.

Cuba has gotten very popular lately, even a few months out availability was limited to none at hotels in Havana. Obviously most US travel sites still won't let you book hotels. However, Airbnb has started operating in Cuba, using the existing network of 'casa particulares' homestays. I left my booking a bit too late, I had to contact several AirBnb listings that showed available but came back full. Luckily we were able to find a place across from the Habana Libre (former Hilton) Hotel in Vedado for two nights. We then planned to go out to Varadero beach for a few days. I managed to book a pre-paid stay on a Canadian site. Then another AirBnb for one night when we returned to Havana. This time I found one in Old Havana that was available. That meant all my hotels were pre-paid and I wouldn't need to worry about carrying a huge wad of cash.. ATM and credit cards from the USA won't work in Cuba!

Another tip about currency in Cuba. There are actually two currencies, the 'tourist' Convertible Peso (CUC), and the national Peso (CUP). Although officially the USD/CUC are 1:1, they charge an extra 10% when converting USD. Most places also tack on another 3% or so, so for every $100 you change, you only get 86.50 CUC. You can avoid the 10% charge by taking in Euros or Canadian dollars. The 10% surcharge maybe going away after President Obama's visit and loosening of banking relations. President Obama was visiting Havana just a few days after we left.. he was in Austin the day we left for Cuba so I think he's been following me
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Old Jul 5, 16, 12:05 pm
  #2  
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Mar 11, 2016
Hotel: Courtyard Laredo

Our flight from Monterrey wasn't until Sunday morning but we decided last minute to head out of Austin late Friday night for the drive down to Laredo. President Obama was in town today and traffic was a bit of a mess so we didn't leave until nearly 9PM. Booked a last-minute stay at the Laredo Courtyard. I'd never been to Laredo before, or even anywhere southwest of San Antonio. The drive was fine but I was pretty tired. Even from San Antonio it's a long way to Laredo, 150 miles of mostly nothing on a dead straight road, passing a few towns, fracking trucks and freight trains. I was fighting to keep my eyes open that last 50 miles and was regretting not stopping somewhere enroute. Finally though we arrived at the hotel about 1AM.

Mar 12, 2016
Hotel: Crowne Plaza; Monterrey, Mexico; 5000 PointSaver

I had already bought our Greyhound tickets from Laredo to Monterrey for 12:30PM as originally the plan was to leave Austin very early for the drive. We even could have caught the bus from Austin as it runs from Dallas to Monterrey, but it takes a lot longer getting to Laredo. If you buy tickets early enough they're only $5 from Laredo to Monterrey, though we paid closer to $15 each. So we had a bit of the morning free to relax and not rush off anywhere. We stopped at a HEB to stack up on snacks for the bus ride to Monterrey, and I went by the courthouse for my 254 Texas Courthouses project (Webb County was #75!).


Laredo Courthouse



Greyhound Laredo to Monterrey

We went by the Greyhound station about 11 AM, still with plenty of time before our bus. Miss hauteboy and I walked around a few blocks near the bus station to kill some more time. Lots of shops selling basic clothes, trinkets, wedding stuff, etc. Our bus finally shows up a few minutes late. For Greyhound it was a pretty nice bus, seemed fairly new and clean. The bus was only 1/3 full too which was nice. We drove a few blocks to the border crossing bridge and across the Rio Grande. No checks leaving the USA! Once on the Mexican side though it took nearly 40 minutes to get to immigration and fill our our arrival cards. The guard said I needed to pay $75 'entry' fee. I'd only crossed into Mexico at Brownsville/Matamoros before but had never paid anything. At first I was thinking he was trying to hit me up for a bribe but apparently there's a $25 arrival tax (usually included in airplane tickets) if you're going past the ~25 km border zone. He said I could pay in Monterrey though and just waved us on. Then came the luggage/customs check. We had to get off the bus and take our bags for the X-ray. Another guard seemed particularly interested in one of our bags, kept asking about syringes.. of course we didn't have any in our bag so not sure what he was on about. Eventually he lets us go.

That whole process had taken nearly an hour and a half.. so it was after 2PM by the time we got on the road through Nuevo Laredo. The bus first went to the Nuevo Laredo bus station before we finally got on the expressway headed to Monterrey, 140 miles of dead flat straight tollway. Supposedly it's 'safer' than local roads as there are police checkpoints. The road started going through the mountain pass as we got closer to Monterrey. We arrived at the Greyhound station well after 4PM. Uber is now in Monterrey. I'd never actually used them before but decided to give them a try. Mrs. hauteboy was convinced we'd be murdered but I was fairly sure we would be ok, and besides I didn't have any pesos to pay a green cab. The Greyhound station is in the north part of town and it took about 20 minutes to get to the hotel. I had booked the Crowne Plaza downtown on a IHG pointsaver rate. Monterrey seemed like a nice town, very modern and gorgeous setting surrounded by mountains. It would have been nice to have had a few days here after all.



Crowne Plaza Monterrey

It was already getting late so we just had dinner at the hotel and went for a swim in the pool, more to wear out miss hauteboy than anything else.
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Old Jul 5, 16, 12:05 pm
  #3  
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Mar 13, 2016
Flight: Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) to Havana, Cuba (HAV); InterJet Economy
Hotel: Airbnb; Havana, Cuba; $45

I wanted to get an early start to the airport this morning. Our flight didn't leave until 10:30 but didn't know what procedures might be involved for the Cuba flight. The ATM wasn't working at the hotel so had to call a (expensive) cab that could take credit cards. It was a gorgeous morning in Monterrey and I wished I'd had more time to look around. The ride out to the airport took about 25 minutes even with no traffic. The airport seemed pretty new. At the Interjet checkin desk they sent us over to the ticketing counter to buy our Cuba tourist card, 250 pesos each. Checkin itself was very easy. There were a few other Texans on our flight who had come in from Del Rio. After we had checked in I heard my name being paged over the intercom. I went back to the checkin counter and they said since I didn't have a Mexico entry stamp I'd have to pay the entry fee at the migration office. Probably should have gotten pesos from ATM in hindsight as it was more expensive in dollars and used up some of my cash. The other Texans had to pay here as well.

There was a Priority Pass lounge here but didn't get a chance to check it out. Went down to the end of the terminal where there was a play area for Miss Hauteboy. Then back to the gate to get my last Starbucks for a few days. Miss hauteboy found a balloon somewhere and was chasing it around for awhile. Finally we boarded the flight, which ended up being mostly empty, maybe only 1/3 full. I think the Monterrey-Havana flight is a new route. It is operated by a Sukhoi Superjet 100, Russian-made and seemed brand-new. The flight to Havana was about 3 hours. The airport was pretty busy on arrival, with LAN and Aeroflot flights at the terminal. We collected our bags but then miss hauteboy's booster seat didn't come out. Went to the wrong baggage counter initially but then they mentioned sometimes they send odd-shaped pieces to the other baggage claim area. Luckily it was there waiting for us.




Monterrey-Havana flight

We got the express lane at immigration as they give priority to people with kids. The female immigration agent did ask if we wanted our passports stamped or not. Once outside the terminal there was a huge long line waiting at the cambio. Mrs hauteboy didn't want to wait so we grabbed a taxi to our AirBnb. They wanted 30EUR/CUC fare... it should be 25 but I didn't have change. Weather was gorgeous today. Saw lots of classic cars of course and old motorcycles.

Our AirBnB was in the Vedado neighborhood, right across from the Habana Libre hotel, originally the Hilton. We had to climb up two flights of stairs to reach the apartment. We met the owner and dropped our bags in the room. Nice enough with aircon, fridge and TV, but a tiny tiny bathroom. The mother only spoke Spanish but her son spoke some English. They had been renting out their rooms for more than 10 years. Miss hauteboy started jumping on the furniture immediately so we went out for a walk to get some of her energy out.

The Coppelia Heladeria is a famous institution in Havana. It was Sunday afternoon and there were lines stretching around the block, so we decided to check it out later. We walked down past the National Hotel. Saw the 'coco-taxis' which look like football helmets on wheels. Vedado was the 'mafia' neighborhood back in the 1950s and has a fair number of hotels. As we walked along I saw some neat but crumbling houses and old classic cars. Miss hauteboy commented that 'it stinks here'. We came across the Paladar Los Amigos, where Anthony Bourdain had visited on his trip to Cuba. Paladars are the private home restaurants throughout Cuba. We had to wait a few minutes to get a table. Small intimate setting and decent food, I ordered the Ropa Vieja for 8CUC. The bill came to 35CUC for 3 of us including drinks. I changed 50 Euros to CUC.






Paladar Los Amigos

After dinner we walked down to the Malecon, passing by the National Hotel and coming up to a big crowd, supposedly the gay meeting area. It was getting dark as we came back to the National Hotel to have a peek. Went downstairs to the cafe and had my first mojito. Lots of other tourists here, and I heard more than a few Americans. After the hotel we headed back to our airbnb. They had a back window overlooking the empty lot in the back. Miss hauteboy loved climbing up and looking out the window.





Malecon



Vedado




National Hotel



Airbnb
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Old Jul 5, 16, 12:07 pm
  #4  
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Mar 14, 2016
Hotel: Airbnb; Havana, Cuba; $45

I wasn't sure about the breakfast situation, some casas serve breakfast but some do not. We asked about it and they were able to whip up some omelettes, coffee and toast. Ray had asked if we needed to change more money and his friend came over giving us a better rate (92CUC/$ vs 87/$ official rate). We hadn't booked a tour or arranged anything for our time in Cuba so after breakfast we walked across to the Habana Libre hotel to their tour desk. The hotel was crazy busy and had been booked full even several weeks ago. I counted 9 tour buses out in front of the hotel. The tour desk had to call around a few places to find availability but eventually found us a city tour. Pretty much all the tours go the same places anyway, and cost the same.

We started off the tour in a nice empty bus but then went to the National Hotel where we were packed into a smaller battered minibus. We passed by the University on the way to Plaza de la Revolucion, with the iconic mural of Che Guevara. A few other tour buses were already here. After the plaza we headed to Old Havana, parking near the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. There were a ton of tour buses here, I counted 20! The Castillo was right next to the Plaza de Armas, typically the historic center of Spanish colonial cities. We stopped at a cigar/rum shop. I was familiar with Havana Club rum but supposedly the Santiago brand is the original Bacardi rum.




Plaza de la Revolution


Coco taxi




Havana


Cigar Shop

The Plaza was surrounded by book and trinket sellers with Communist propaganda books (Muerte al Invasor!). The 'paving bricks' were actually wooden blocks. There was a lot of work going on to restore the buildings around the plaza. Supposedly some 30% of the buildings in Old Havana have now been restored. The ones along the Malecon are in bad shape with the salt spray. Some gorgeous old Spanish colonial architecture. We walked along to Plaza San Francisco where we had a few minutes to look around. There was a band playing at one of the restaurants and miss hauteboy took the opportunity to dance along. After there we went to Plaza Vieja, very photogenic with restored buildings and cafes/restuarants. Old Havana was quite packed with tourists at least along the main streets.

We stopped at the Hotel Los Frailes where workers dress in monk outfits. Pretty unique to be served a mojito by a 'monk'. Some of the other tourists left at this point before we went to a paladar for lunch. They had a patio out on the roof, but service was quite slow and we were definitely paying tourist prices, nearly $60 for the three of us. That's the only problem with tours as you're herded about a fair bit. Our tour guide had a smartphone, apparently a tourist had lost theirs and now she was proud of her new phone.





Miss hauteboy dancing





Monk Mojito



Plaza Vieja

The tour bus dropped us back off at the Habana Libre hotel and we walked over to Coppelia for an ice cream. No lines at all on Monday though the security guards directed us to the kiosk instead of the main building. The ice cream was nothing special, it's more about the social experience which we missed today. Later for dinner we went to La Roca restaurant. Ordered a paella for 12CUC which ended up being huge.. we barely made a dent in it. This place definitely wasn't charging tourist prices!





Lunch



Coppelia Ice Cream

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Old Jul 5, 16, 12:33 pm
  #5  
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Mar 15-16, 2016
Hotel: Paradisus Varadero; Varadero, Cuba

We had arranged a shuttle to Varadero at the Habana Libre yesterday. 25CUC per person vs 100+ for a car. Though I suppose a car would have been nice for being able to stop along the way. The shuttle showed up late and we spent awhile longer going around to other hotels for pickup. Eventually we make it on the road out of town. The drive itself was pretty nice, along the northern coast. We stopped at a rest area for bathroom break. There was a band here playing as well which set off miss hauteboy dancing. We bought their CD to listen to later. There were some oil derricks along the coast here, I didn't realize Cuba had their own oil.



I had booked our Varadero hotel through a Canadian website. The Paradisus was nearly at the end of the 20km-long Varadero strip. It's very popular pacakge destination for Canadians and the strip is lined by resorts, the largest in the Caribbean apparently. The water is the most amazing turquoise color and smooth as glass. Checkin at the hotel was easy and we rode in the golf cart to the room. Second floor with aircon, tv, and fridge stocked with Cuban soft drinks. We wandered around the property a bit, checking out the pool and white sand beach. The hotel was nearly full but still didn't seem too packed other than meal times in the buffet. The hotel also has 4 ala-carte restaurants but these were already booked out for the next 4 days! The buffet was actually quite decent, Iberian ham, grill station, fish, pizzas, etc.















Paradisus Varadero

We just lazed around the hotel for the next few days, spending time relaxing on the beach and pool. The hotel puts on shows nightly. All inclusive hotel so we didn't need to worry about having extra cash on us. Unfortunately miss hauteboy knocked my camera off the table and it stopped recognizing the lens. So I was down to using my camera phone for the rest of my time in Cuba.

There was a band playing in the lobby one morning. Miss hauteboy went up and grabbed the maracas and was playing along with the band at one point.


Miss hauteboy joining the band

Mar 17, 2016
Hotel: Airbnb; Havana, Cuba; $50

We had arranged for the shuttle back to Havana today. Only 15CUC each vs 25, so a good bit cheaper. The bus couldn't drop us off at our hotel though, so we had to catch a taxi for the last 6 blocks. Casa Caracol was in a quieter part of Old Havana, less touristy but still close to the main attractions. It was still 3-flights of stairs climb! Clean and modern room with a bigger bathroom than our last place.





Old Havana

We caught a bike taxi to the Cathedral and wandered around a bit, stopping in a government shop that was selling paintings. We planned on going to Paladar Doņa Eutemia for dinner, but were still a few minutes early. We didn't have a reservation but luckily they still had one table free upstairs. Ordered the ropa vieja again. They also had a frozen mojito that was absolutely delicious. I really wanted to order another one... After dinner we went back to the government shop to buy one of the paintings for $40.


Frozen Mojito, yum
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Old Jul 5, 16, 12:34 pm
  #6  
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Mar 18, 2016
Flight: Havana, Cuba (HAV) to Monterrey, Mexico (MTY); InterJet Economy
Hotel: Holiday Inn Monterrey Aeropuerto; 10000 points

Today was our last day in Cuba but our flight didn't depart until 4PM so we had a good chunk of the day to explore. Our casa didn't have breakfast though as apparently we were supposed to tell them the night before. I wanted to check out one of the tobacco factories, so we walked over to the Saratoga hotel to check out options and grab a quick breakfast. The nearby tobacco factory behind the Congress building had closed a few years ago but they offered to take me around in a coco taxi. Mrs hauteboy wasn't so interested in going though.






Just past the Congress there was a line of brightly colored classic cars offering tours around the city for 35-40CUC. Miss hauteboy picked out a purple Pontiac, still with the Indian head hood ornament. The driver seemed like a nice guy, he said things were much better in Cuba and had been improving since 2009. He was excited about more American tourists coming, more work for him! We drove out to the Plaza de la Revolution again, then past the Christopher Colombus cemetery to Lennon Park. There is a statue of John Lennon here sitting on a bench. Supposedly this park is where the young kids would gather to listen to 'illegal' music after the revolution.





Driving around Havana





Lennon Park



We had the driver drop us off at the Revolution Museum, but I didn't go inside, just looking at the open-air park with planes and tanks. We caught a bike taxi to the Chocolate 'Museum' which sold freshly made molded chocolates and hot chocolate. Very good stuff! We had lunch at the nearby Point Zero restaurant before going back to our casa. Soon it was time to go to the airport. Our casa had arranged a taxi for 25CUC. The driver showed up in a Chinese car which turned out to be a POS and kept cutting out at every stoplight. Even the driver complained about the car. His English was OK and he kept saying he was the Cuban Wesley Snipes!

Checkin for the flight was easy.. the Monterrey line was much shorter than the one for Mexico City. We had a bit of a wait for our flight. The Aeroflot flight to Moscow was boarding just before ours, I can't imagine there were many people on that flight as I only saw about 10-15 people boarding.


Bike taxi


Flight board

The flight back to Monterrey was uneventful. On arrival back into Mexico I forgot to tell them not to stamp our passports. I was a bit worried about re-entering the US with two Mexican entry stamps, but since we were going back overland maybe it wouldn't be an issue. We had just missed the Holiday Inn shuttle but one of the other hotel shuttles gave us a lift. We had dinner at the restaurant in front of the hotel.

Mar 19, 2016
I hadn't yet booked our bus tickets back to Laredo. I still wasn't even sure if we planned to make the whole trip back to Austin today or break it somewhere. Either way I'd hoped to make an early start but wasn't looking forward to heading to the bus station at 4 in the morning! I asked about getting a driver to the border at the hotel desk, they said they could arrange a driver for 1800 pesos plus tolls ($115). Basically the bus would have been $60 anyway, plus add in taxi to the bus station and bus station to Laredo border with bags made the driver seem the best option.

We set off in the darkness after 6AM. The drive took nearly 3 hrs, and we arrived at Laredo border just after 9AM. I had been checking the border wait times online, it had been showing 0 wait but by the time we arrived there was a fairly long line now on the pedestrian bridge. So it took us over 40 minutes to cross back into the USA. No issues at all though other than the wait. It was quite chilly this morning though, all the locals were bundled up in coats and jackets and here we were in short sleeves as we hadn't brought any cold-weather stuff with us. We caught an expensive taxi for the 6 blocks back to the bus station. We were pretty hungry by this point and just ate at the Burger King in the bus station. I figured we would be back in Austin by 4PM or so.

On the way back to Austin, I wanted to stop at a few more courthouses. The weather wasn't the best today, overcast. My first stop was the LaSalle courthouse in Cotulla. I was wandering around the courthouse taking pictures when a cop came up and asked what I was up to. I told him of my plans to visit the courthouse and he said 'well that sounds OK I guess'. He then went on to say the courthouse was haunted!


Cotulla Courthouse

Pearsall was the next county seat (Frio County). There was some sort of Pioneer Days event going on today and they were setting up booths. The lighting wasn't the best for getting a picture of the courthouse though. On the way out of town I stopped at Cowpoke's BBQ, one of the Top 50 BBQ in Texas. I was still pretty full from lunch so just grabbed some brisket and sausage to go.


Pearsall Courthouse

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Old Jul 5, 16, 1:02 pm
  #7  
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Previous trip reports:

Here's links to some of my other trip blogs
2005
Peru/Ecuador[#49]/Galapagos: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...agos-trip.html
Mongolia[#52]/Caucasus: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-mtskheta.html

2007
Andaman Islands (India): http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...a-ixz-maa.html
St Vincent [#68], Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...h-guianas.html
North Korea[#76]: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...oryo-trip.html

2008
Ethiopia[#78]: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-airlines.html
Central America: Honduras[#88], El Salvador, Nicaragua http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...a-managua.html

2009
St. Petersburg, Baltics and Belarus[#94]: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...d-st-pete.html
Canadian Rockies: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...n-rockies.html

2010
West Africa: Ghana, Benin [#102], Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ir-france.html
Guam, Palau [#111], Micronesia: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...n-pacific.html

2011
Lebanon [#115], Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bangladesh: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...atar-econ.html
Pakistan [#122], Afghanistan: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ord-iah-y.html

2012
Nigeria [#126], Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...al-guinea.html
Central Asia -stans, Iraq[#136], southern Balkans: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...q-balkans.html
Iran [#141], Turkey: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...gallipoli.html

2013
Yemen [#142], Djibouti, Somaliland, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...land-more.html
Saudi Arabia [#148], Eritrea: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...a-eritrea.html
Sudan [#150], Congos, Angola, Cape Verde, Sao Tome: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...go-angola.html

2014
Algeria [#156], Tunisia: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...unisair-j.html
Fiji [#158], Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...nuatu-png.html
Malta [#163]: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...lh-j-km-j.html
Lesotho [#164], South Africa, Swaziland: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ther-coup.html
Romania [#166], Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Okinawa: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...nh-y-oz-y.html
Madagascar [#172], Mauritius, Reunion, Mayotte, Comoros: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...mk-y-uu-y.html

2015
Chad [#176], Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...gal-niger.html
Poland [#181], Ukraine: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...auschwitz.html
Moldova [#182], Transdniester, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ng-europe.html
Central African Republic [#186]: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-republic.html
Courthouses of Texas: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...urthouses.html

2016
Gambia [#188], Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Sudan: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...st-africa.html
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...blue-azul.html
Cuba: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...monterrey.html
Samoa [#195], Tuvalu, Nauru: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...countries.html
Channel Islands: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...-j-gr-y-y.html

Last edited by hauteboy; Apr 7, 17 at 3:14 am
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Old Jul 6, 16, 12:32 am
  #8  
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Ugh your TR has done nothing but further whet my appetite to go back to Cuba before US interests completely take over and the island becomes covered in KFCs (like Asia is).

So coincidentally, I've pretty sure I've been to the resort you stayed at in Varadero a couple of times. Not in about 10-15 years since I was a vacationing Canadian, but given the Cuban approach to change, I doubt it's changed much.

Interjet is great for short hops, I've taken them from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta before and would rank them higher than US carriers for customer service. I'd imagine the drive to Laredo isn't too bad. I've driven to South Padre Island a couple of times, and also to Eagle Pass (which is the US side of Piedras Negras). As you may have noticed there are unannounced CBP checkpoints on the northbound sides of many of the highways.

Last edited by krazykanuck; Jul 6, 16 at 8:13 am
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Old Jul 6, 16, 11:40 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by krazykanuck View Post
Ugh your TR has done nothing but further whet my appetite to go back to Cuba before US interests completely take over and the island becomes covered in KFCs (like Asia is).

So coincidentally, I've pretty sure I've been to the resort you stayed at in Varadero a couple of times. Not in about 10-15 years since I was a vacationing Canadian, but given the Cuban approach to change, I doubt it's changed much.

Interjet is great for short hops, I've taken them from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta before and would rank them higher than US carriers for customer service. I'd imagine the drive to Laredo isn't too bad. I've driven to South Padre Island a couple of times, and also to Eagle Pass (which is the US side of Piedras Negras). As you may have noticed there are unannounced CBP checkpoints on the northbound sides of many of the highways.
Yeah Interjet was fine, everything very smooth, clean plane, pretty much on time. I'll definitely consider them again as they fly out of San Antonio.

Laredo was a long boring drive... even from San Antonio it's still 150 miles of pretty much dead straight interstate. Lots of freight trains from the border and fracking boom towns (Eagle Ford shale). The drive out to Eagle Pass is also quite desolate, I was there three weeks ago. Yep I've been through the CBP checks before coming back from Laredo and out west to Big Bend.
hauteboy is offline  
Old Jul 6, 16, 12:45 pm
  #10  
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Great TR (as always) ^^. Was Cuba your last country?
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Old Jul 6, 16, 3:06 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
Great TR (as always) ^^. Was Cuba your last country?
Actually Nauru was my final country, I'd just gotten behind on writing up this report.
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Old Jul 10, 16, 4:08 am
  #12  
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Looks like it was a fun and relaxing trip with the family.

Off to San Diego early next year for a work trip, so might have to hop across the border to Mexico or even a few days in the sun in Cuba.
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Old Jul 27, 16, 6:41 pm
  #13  
 
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Your photos bring back many fond memories of both Varadero and Havana. I've been there twice in the past few years and hope to get back there someday soon!
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