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Why I prefer Cuba to Mexico or Dominican Republic as a holiday destination
Old 03-06-2012, 01:38 PM   #1
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Why I prefer Cuba to Mexico or Dominican Republic as a holiday destination

I love warm beaches (I live in cold Canada) and getting away from the snow. I have been to Mexico, the Dominican Republic ,Cuba, Barbados, and the Bahamas. I wont be returning to the first two, I have had negative experiences with the aggresive people who grab your bags and bully you/follow you/harrass you for tips (you know you must give them money when they grab your bag to take it to the bus...or you wont see the suitcase again!) What is the word...hmmm extortion. I went to Cuba for the first time three years ago and many times since. Say what you like about the Castro brothers...they know that tourists should not be harassed. Totally different experience when I first landed at the Havana airport. It is not that the people don't appreciate tips like porters/wait staff in Canada and elsewhere...but they are polite and not aggressive. When I left the airport in Havana all bags had "complimentary" (and compulsary) bag wrap (you know the stretchy cellophane wrap that you use to make sure your suitcase doesn't split open)...someone told me the Cuban government enacted this policy when they received complaints from tourists that their bags had been opened and items removed from Havana airport.
I just returned from a four day cruise Florida to Mexico. I enjoyed the day at the Key West cruise stop and enjoyed the eclectic , colourful community and had a nice excurision. We landed in Mexico the next day and I read that a group of cruise ship tourists on a one-day excusion were robbed of money and passports a few days earlier . My DH and I stayed on board , enjoyed the warm air and the pool that was not busy (I even went down the water slide!). I would have liked to take an excurision to see the Mayan ruins as I love history, but decided it best to stay aboard. In Cuba, if you are interested in history and cultural experiences, it is all around you in Havana...and you can get the sun and beach as well...for the same price or less than Mexico or the Dominican Republic. So I am off to Cuba again next month!
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Old 03-06-2012, 01:43 PM   #2
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I am very jealous! I would love to get to visit Cuba...
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Old 03-06-2012, 01:46 PM   #3
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Interesting that you mention not feeling harassed in Cuba. We had the same experience in Peru. Not that there weren't people wanting to sell you stuff/take you in their taxi/etc, but they stopped promptly when we smiled and said no, gracias to them.
Very refreshing.
Like others from the USA, I'd love to visit Cuba one day. Though not willing to pay through the nose for the educational tours offered now, nor quite ready to go on the sly.
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Old 03-06-2012, 01:51 PM   #4
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My wife, mom and sisters just got back from a cruise...

My wife did take the trip to the ruins.... she said she was not harassed at all... thought that it was better than Jamacia...

I think that it matters where you go... I remember that when I used to go to Mexico along the border you could not get away from the vendors... but when my sister and I went to a small town outside of Mexico City we had a wonderful time... I do have to admit this was 30 years ago, so I do not know what it would be like today...

The worst place I have every been was in Egypt... you could not even take a picture without someone trying to jump in and get money... and there were plenty of 'guides' that would want to take you around and show you the sites... I do not think that when we were out of our excursion bus, boat or train I had a consecutive 10 minutes without being disturbed by someone...
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:07 PM   #5
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TP, your comments about Egypt reminded me of this blog post by Nomadic Matt, about his experiences in Vietnam. Sounds like a similar sort of story:
Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam | Nomadic Matt's Travel Site
No real desire on my part to go to either one, I'll confess.
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:25 PM   #6
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TP, your comments about Egypt reminded me of this blog post by Nomadic Matt, about his experiences in Vietnam. Sounds like a similar sort of story:
Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam | Nomadic Matt's Travel Site
No real desire on my part to go to either one, I'll confess.
Interesting read....

It did remind me of one of the things in Egypt that used to get me upset... the people would act like they were your friend... 'come into my shop and drink tea'... but if you did not buy anything they tried to make it look like you were rude not to spend money.. 'but you drank my tea' and even worse...

Also, even the police would try and get some money from you.... I remember when I was at the Pyramids I had a policeman shake me down... I thought I gave him a 10 (whatever their currency is)... he looked at it and asked me if I was sure.... later my wife said 'why did you give him a 100?... seems that he was surprised on how much I gave and did not know what to do....

I will admit that if you go to one of the resorts on the Red Sea you can be left alone... but to me that is a beach and we have plenty of them in the U.S.
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Old 03-06-2012, 02:36 PM   #7
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No real desire on my part to go to either one, I'll confess.
I had to laugh at the references.

DW went to Egypt (Nile Cruise) two years ago (before the "troubles").
I went to Nam in '68 (during the "troubles").

Neither of us have the desire to return to our "past" ...
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Old 03-06-2012, 03:33 PM   #8
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I am very jealous! I would love to get to visit Cuba...
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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
........Like others from the USA, I'd love to visit Cuba one day......
For years I've wanted to go to Cuba too! But, alas, being an American I can't go 'cause it would be p*ssing in Uncle Sam's Wheaties or some other dumb a$$ reason.

Oh, well...hopefully someday the 'powers that be' in D.C. will give their official Okie-Dokie so we can be free to travel there!
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:26 PM   #9
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I almost made it to Cuba. Back in '79 I lived in Caracas but worked in Puerto Ordaz, flying out every Monday morning on the 6 am Aeropostal flight. Was a couple of minutes late one Monday, but the guy behind the counter was in a bad mood and closed the flight even thought I was right there and it was only 5:45 or so - plenty of time and usually an easy thing. So, I took the 6:30 Avensa.

The 6am flight was hijacked to Cuba. The passengers were there for 2 nights and came back with all kinds of good stuff. Cigars, rum, etc.

I like Mexico a lot and think it's a great place to visit. It is culturally without compare in Latin America. The taxis do always to rip you off and the airport is a mess, but once you learn to deal with that kind of stuff it's a lot of fun.
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:47 PM   #10
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The worst place I have every been was in Egypt... you could not even take a picture without someone trying to jump in and get money... and there were plenty of 'guides' that would want to take you around and show you the sites... I do not think that when we were out of our excursion bus, boat or train I had a consecutive 10 minutes without being disturbed by someone...
It hasn't changed a bit in the past 58 years, then. Back in 1954, my parents were touring Cairo (their probable description, were they still alive), a.k.a. dragging their three hot, dirty, miserable kids by foot singlehandedly through the filthiest, most appalling slums of Cairo (my description, from memory). We were constantly hounded by beggars, of course. At one point, a little girl my age asked me for money to eat and told me she was starving. My parents stopped me just before I gave her the one shiny dime in my possession. Close call! We would probably have had great difficulty had I chummed the waters like that. I learned young.

And back on topic, I've been to Cuba! Unfortunately that was in 1949, so my memories are pretty faint since I was only one.
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Old 03-06-2012, 04:50 PM   #11
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Aggressive touts are an unfortunate part of some places. The real downside for me is not the hassle but the distance it forces between me and the locals. There are plenty of friendly people in the world who are genuinely interested in talking and helping. But distinguishing between them and charlatans is difficult in areas where hordes of people are aggressively trying to get in your pocket. Without the ability to tell friend from foe, you tend to keep everyone at arms length. It does sully a place.

I'd very much like to get to Cuba before they open their first McDonalds. Unfortunately my country still thinks its 1962 so I'll have to wait.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:03 PM   #12
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I was once in Cuba. It was around 1971 on a shakedown cruise on DE-1078. Gitmo was glorious. Ships and sailors everywhere. We searched for submarines, shot at tugged target sleds, fire at air targets trailing from jets and blew holes into distant beaches. I don't recall much of a problem with the locals either. In fact, I don't recall seeing any locals.
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Old 03-06-2012, 07:22 PM   #13
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I have Canadian friends who love Cuba.

It is (or used to be) possible for an American to go there without being arrested upon return through Mexico or Toronto. As I recall, you could get the Cubans to not stamp your US passport. You might get another piece of paper instead. Returning took a smidgeon of intelligence, however. I was told that some people got off the plane in Toronto, walked straight across the hall and tried to get on a plane to the states. Immigration was watching this parade.

Have not been there myself.
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Old 03-06-2012, 07:33 PM   #14
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Now that DH is a legal Canuck, Cuba is on our future travel list . My parents went for the first time in November and went on and on about how great it was and are planning on making it their annual winter vacation .
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:27 PM   #15
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Cuba is our number one choice for all inclusive vacations-especially last minutes.

The beaches are wonderful, the people are wonderful. We no longer bother with Mexico.

We have met a number of Americans in Cuba. They have figured out how to get there. No passport stamp, cash only, no credit card, and fly in from another country. Or, they go on some sort of phoney 'cultural' exchange....to the beach in Veradaro!

It won't be long before Cuba is open. They are drilling again for offshore oil (totale I think) and you can be sure that if there are significant reserves Cuba will become a new 'best friend'.
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Have you tried Huatulco?
Old 03-07-2012, 01:00 AM   #16
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Have you tried Huatulco?

We are not travelers yet, but plan to be in retirement. For now owning a boat is the one vice we can afford while saving for retirement.

Last year we went with 3 other couples (boating friends) and rented a villa in Huatulco, Mexico for a week and then my wife & I stayed at an all inclusive for a second week. In spite of all the fear mongering about tourism in Mexico, we felt totally safe where ever we went. There was no haggling for taxis and the most expensive ride was about 70 pesos ($7) . The few beach venders were very respectful if you just waved them off with a 'no, gracias'. The streets in the local town (La Crucecita) were clean and free of any signs of poverty (kids begging in the streets etc.)

Our only previous Mexico experience are the border towns of Arizona and California. One of the things we liked best here was that the shop owners were not aggressive and constantly 'in your ear' to enter their shop and buy something. The other 3 couples have been to all the usual Mexican tourist spots and they said that Huatulco was very different.


Hey, 5 years in and my very first post!
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Old 03-07-2012, 03:32 AM   #17
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Went to Cuba once.....1974.....(coincident with Leonid Brezhnev's visit, so our scheduled Havana/Varadero trip was restricted to Varadero only); recall they had a 'Baskin Robbins' style ice cream outlet offering '31 flavors'....all of which were chocolate.

Walked up the beach to the 'International' Hotel...full of Bulgarians and East Germans...the toilets were backed up.

Chinese commisars at the airport...in Mao suits with too-long sleeves.

Ah...those were the days.
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Old 03-07-2012, 09:21 AM   #18
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Last time we were in Veradaro, we arranged (on line) a one night B&B in Havana and a guide. We took did our own thing and took the Varan bus in from Veradaro. The guide met us as we got off the bus, took us to our B&B in the old quarter, and then gave us a four hour walking tour of Havana.

It was wonderful. The guide spoke English very well since he had worked at a Cuban embassy in an English speaking country for several years. He explained the three seperate economys that exist, toured us through historic buildings (the city is a UN Heritage site), and generally told us about the day to day Cuba. We spent the night and part of the following day walking around Havana on our own. Our B&B hosts were very gracious and the accomodation was fine. We plan to do this again.

Havana is a fascinating city. I would encourage those that go to places like Veradaro to skip the usual organized day trips to Havana to reach out and do your own thing. Our trip was about 1/3 the cost of 'tour' and much better. Don't miss the cemetary.
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Old 03-07-2012, 09:43 AM   #19
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I was once in Cuba. It was around 1971 on a shakedown cruise on DE-1078. Gitmo was glorious. Ships and sailors everywhere. We searched for submarines, shot at tugged target sleds, fire at air targets trailing from jets and blew holes into distant beaches. I don't recall much of a problem with the locals either. In fact, I don't recall seeing any locals.
Similar experience; 2-3 hours at Gitmo while refueling.
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Old 03-07-2012, 10:53 AM   #20
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In 1995 a professor of mine organized a trip to Cuba using the "educational reasons" to get the ok from the State Dept, so I signed up. Not sure exactly what happened, but the trip from Ohio to Havana was cancelled. This was probably a good thing for me, because had I gone, it may have prevented me from visiting Gtmo in 2010. Once I got there, I saw no Cubans and actually no Americans either. The airbase portion of Gtmo is all staffed by Filipino contractors.
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