La Habana is sunny and dirty, and it feels like people are trying to keep their secrets inside these funny-colored houses with balconies.
I think, Cuba is the only place where you can smoke in the airport. And no worries if you don’t have a ligher, you can always ask a police officer for a fire. Also, I think, Cuba is one of the few places on the planet where a freelancer won’t survive. Like… I’ve travelled enough to be sure about certain things: to never reach out to your wallet on the street, to make sure water is good, etc. But I never even thought about checking the Wi-Fi situation in Cuba. It’s 21st century, baby! Only after 30 minutes of switching Wi-Fi knob on my iPod I realized it was totally hopeless. It was also impossible to find Starbucks, Coffee Bean (or at least McDonalds) in Habana. Nothing.
Next thing I realized is that everybody was trying to cheat me. Okay, I have to admit that I look like gringo, but, come on, guys, I am not that stupid to buy a hamburger for 5$! Or Coke for 2$. Or (it is the best) 3 bananas for 5$. In the airport I’d exchanged dollard for CUC (Pesos Convertibles), and only the next day I found out that pretty much everything is in Pesos Nacional. Normal rate is 1:24 (24 pesos for 1 CUC), but none of the banks in Habana allowed me to exchange it. (Note, no Internet to look up the addresses online.) So, I had no other choice than to use CUC throughout the day. And yes, I’ve spent a shitload of money
People are nice. They are nice as long as you are willing to buy something. Or as long as you are supporting local taxi industry. Honestly, now I have a strong opinion that 50% of Cuban people work in transportation; some drive vintage Russian cars, others drive some kind of bicycle-powered trolleys. They want to drive you anywhere, but most of the time they just drive you crazy. And, of course, they offer you a very special gringo-price. Let’s say, ride from the airport to the center of La Habana is about 25$ (usual price not more than 10$). Also every taxi driver tries to establish a personal relations with you and ask a whole bunch of personal and way too personal questions.
Beer is cheap. So as whiskey and some other stuff. But, honestly, I feel sorry every time I compare beer and book prices. Cuba was my first Latin America experience and I was scared to death to see what is it like in South America. Fortunately, I had to leave that small Island of Freedom after 22 hours there.
As we took off, I looked down to see a beautiful land that stuck in 1970s. I was blaming myself for not giving it a chance. And I was scared to see what’s going on next.