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Cuba Travel Stories, Page 5

Cuba Money Exchange in Hotels

Cuban money is confusing. I am lucky to have a friend from Norway who lives in the Hotel Melia Cohiba. It is a 200 dollar a night hotel, and she booked a room for 100 dollars on the Internet.



This is the Melia Cohiba, look at the flags in front of the Hotel.

Inside the Melia Cohiba, a person can exchange money, and use the internet. The airport had no money exchange, a few taxi drivers wanting 20 US Dollars, 20 Euros, or 20 of what you had to go anywhere. I could not find a money exchange business in the Airport, however during the day, not at night there are people standing around who want to exchange money. This mean you must know the exchange rates very well, and arrive during business hours.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, December 5, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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If you live close to a Five Star Hotel, all the necessities are possible, money exchange, telephone, and internet. A person could look at the Five Star Hotels as base of intelligence. Tourist havens where you pay a lot of money to have someone explain information. The Melia Cohiba is beautiful, I will not call it friendly. I have been counting the prostitutes; there are many standing outside this Hotel at night. This is probably the essential tourism of Cuba.

I was lucky, my Norwegian friend met me at the airport; arranged a room for 25 CUC per night in a private house called a Casa Particulare. I did not need money for the first day. I asked the owner of the Casa Particulars where to use the internet, she said,
“Melia Cohiba.”

Again, the locals point me at the Five Star Hotels.

There is tourist money called CUC, and there is local money used by normal people. There is nobody explaining this, they more or less want you to spend money, they do not want to help. They assume you already understand, all the tourists I have seen are Latinos at heart, maybe one generation away from Cuba. I believe the majority of tourist coming to Cuba already have a connection to the country established.

Cuba Money Exchange in Hotels


Santiago Cuba Immigration

All passengers debarked the plane in Santiago, Cuba. Went to the baggage carousal and retrieve their bags. All foreigners were taken into an area where dogs sniffed the bags, and some bags were open and completely checked.

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Havana Habana Cuba Friday, December 4, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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The immigration officer completed a checklist of questions:

1. Name of Hotel with address.
2. Cost of Ticket
3. Where you purchased the Ticket, it would be good if you have a business card of the Travel Agency.
4. One American citizen was asked four times, why she did not fly directly from Miami. I talked with her later; she just kept saying she could not.
5. Money, a person had to show money. I showed 600 Euros to the immigration officer. I do not believe Dollars are acceptable.
6. A dog was brought in to smell the bags.

My bag was not searched, and either was the carry on. An Algerian friend had some cookies in his bag; this caused the dog to repeatedly come to his bag. I had some ground coffee in my bag; the dog did not seem to care.

The Algerian passenger had many stamps on his passport, the immigration officials looked at every page, and every stamp slowly. He worked for a telecommunications company in Haiti, and was coming to Cuba to meet his wife and parents. While USA citizens do not consider Cuba as a destination, to the rest of the world, it is just another Caribbean country.

Santiago Cuba Immigration


Cuba Visa or Tourist Card

Cuba does not stamp passports of visitors to Cuba, a person must purchase a Visa either at the Travel Agency, or at the airport.



This Visa cost 15 United States Dollars, paid in Dollars. Even though the country of Haiti uses Gourde it appears major purchases are done in Dollars.

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Havana Habana Cuba Friday, December 4, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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The right side of the paper is torn off by immigration up entry to the country. The holder of the visa retains the left side until they leave.

Cuba Visa or Tourist Card


Haiti to Cuba Airplane Flight

I took a Tap Tap from the center of Port-au-Prince to the Airport. I paid 10 Gourde, or 25 cents USD. The flight left one to two hours late. The cost was 600 USD round trip from Haiti to Cuba with Aero Caribbean. The plane had a propeller, however was large as a small jet.



We stopped in Santiago, Cuba for immigration, then returned to the same propeller plane for the final two hour flight to Havana.

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Havana Habana Cuba Friday, December 4, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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Aero Caribbean was very disorganized, the paperwork in Port-au-Prince was done by hand. They hand wrote the tickets by hand and boarding passes. The process of entering the plane was slow because many people were taking extra luggage. The cost was three dollars per kilo, and many people were paying hundreds of dollars.



There were many motorcycle tires being checked in at the Port-au-Prince airport. The rest was clothes people were taking to Cuba to sell. The majority of the passengers carrying these large packages left the plane at Santiago.

All bags need to be wrapped in plastic, or locked, many times bags are open and items removed. A Norwegian a year ago lost a computer, camera and many person items from a locked bag, the opened it after they were checked in on her flight to Europe.

Haiti to Cuba Airplane Flight


Mr Hidalgo starts Cuba

Mr. Andres Hidalgo will take over this Travel Journal for the next couple of weeks. Please treat him with respect, he is a good person. I will be emailing with him daily, editing a lot of his work, and trying to make his life easy. I will probably go back to Miragoane, a truly nice city here in Haiti to relax, and wait for his return.

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Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Ayiti - Thursday, December 3, 2009
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I want him to post about 15 photos per day, so we can see, not read the truth.

Mr. Hidalgo Starts in Cuba