First impression

Havana Travel Blog

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El Malecon

On the way to Havana, we stopped at Panama City. As we got out of the plane, there was latin music playing everywhere at the airport. I thought it was fantastic. I started to get in the mood even after flying for 6 hours after arriving at the airport at midnight to catch the flight at 3 a.m. It didn't matter anymore. A new and exciting place was waiting for me. After 2 hours, I reached my destination. Cuba here I am! :)

I picked up my luggage, fortunately nothing got lost and went to the reception desk at the airport to find out how much it costs a taxi to Vedado. It was 25 CUCs*. *Note on that: Later on I've been told from locals that the real price for a cuban would be 15 CUCs, a fair price to a tourist 20 CUCs and a "cheated" tourist 25 CUCs :P Ok, lesson learned, on the way back I paid 20 CUCs ;)

On the way to Vedado, I was a little bit cautious.

Calle 23 in Vedado
Not that the taxi driver tried anything or said something, not at all, but I was really paying attention to the way, the streets and signs... I've never been there before, nothing looked familiar, my mobile wasn't working and one never knows what can happen. As I saw the first "Vedado" signs I could relax and enjoy the view, watch the people and the famous old cars - both american and russians. ;)

On the Calle 23 - the main street in Vedado - I should look for this guy Eric, who is the local representative for the language school. I was crossing my fingers, hoping that this Eric exists. Otherwise I don't have any idea what I would do. As we reached his place there was a big sign in front of the building written "Eric" indicating a bell - it just makes easier for the many foreign students he welcomes.

2 weeks-home :)
It was a relief, the guy exists :) For my surprise, when I rang he was on the phone. Talking to my mom. What, how??? Exactly. I left her all possible directions, names and phone numbers I had and she called him I guess 1 minute before I came. They were communicating in portunol (combined portuguese and spanish) and she just couldn't believe him when he said I've just had arrived. She thought she would hang up the phone and would never hear from me or this Eric ever again. I went to his appartment and waited for her to call me back. As she heard my voice, she was not yet 100% convinced but felt better. Mama stuff ;)

Now was time to get to know my new home. I could have chosen a hotel, but instead, it made more sense for me to stay at a "Casa Particular" (Guest house) as I wanted to experience life like a cuban, or as close as I could get.

Living room at my casa
 I wanted to get in contact with local people and understand more about this country and learn with them. It was worth it. Of course a lot of things I still can't understand, I guess you must be born there to get it, but I learned so much in such a few time and met so many cool people... Specially my mamazita Marta who "adopted" me for the time I lived at her place.

I went to her place and we immediately connected. A very nice, open-minded lady and an amazing cook. A good friend of her was also there and we sat at the kitchen, drank a coffee and talked for a while. My spanish knowledge and portuguese background helped a lot, specially because they talk really fast and have a lot of slang. Getting there without any previous knowledge of spanish can make it hard for tourists. Not everybody speaks english.

I really wanted to understand how it works there with money. I've been told that there were 2 currencies, one for tourists and one for cubans. They told me that is BS. The difference between pesos nacionales (or pesos cubanos) and pesos convertibles (CUCs) is that the cubans get their salaries in pesos nacionales and some things can be bought with this currency or to take the bus for example. On the other hand, a lot of things have their prices in CUCs which make them affordable only for tourists because the majority of cubans simply don't have enough money to buy it. Now, CUCs are more or less equivalent to euro and 1 CUC buys approximately 25 pesos nacionales. They wanted to show me how was that in real life so we went to the supermarket.

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El Malecon
El Malecon
Calle 23 in Vedado
Calle 23 in Vedado
2 weeks-home :)
2 weeks-home :)
Living room at my casa
Living room at my casa
Havana
photo by: mario26