Archive for January, 2004

Cuba: Money in Cuba

Posted by Arlo on Jan 28, 2004 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Cuban National Pesos (20k image)Part the Third: Money in Cuba

If you’re anything like me, then your first couple days in Cuba will likely be spent roaming the streets of Havana, admiring the architecture, dodging illicit cigar sellers, and shooting roll after roll of film. After that you’ll spend the next two weeks scratching your head, trying to figure out how the Cuban monetary system works.

Let’s back up a bit.

The first and biggest problem you’ll have (as an American traveler) starts before you even leave the States. You see, that senseless embargo is going to raise its ugly head and bite you in the ass again.

Remember that no American companies are allowed to support Cuba in any monetary way. While in Cuba you won’t be able to access your bank account with an ATM card. Nor will you be able to use any credit card that is issued by an American bank. You can’t use traveler’s checks, either. Western Union won’t even be able to transfer money to you in Cuba! (However; I understand that it is possible to send money via Western Union to a Cuban citizen with an existing Western Union account.)

How can an American refill their wallet while in Cuba? For all intents and purposes, they can’t.

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Cuba: Getting to Cuba

Posted by Arlo on Jan 26, 2004 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Presidente Magalis (20k image)Part the Second: Getting to Cuba

Because it’s so difficult for an American company to do business with Cuba, it can be quite an ordeal to find a flight from the U.S. If you’ve got all your Treasury ducks in a row, though, it is possible.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of run-of-the-mill, passenger flights out of Miami. From what I’ve been able to gather, most of them are filled with Cuban-Americans visiting their families. They can only get a visa for 21 days total in a year, though, and flights around Christmas are usually full. If you’re thinking about going to Cuba when it’s all chilly and cold up north – what better time? – then you better plan ahead and buy your tickets in September.

Gulfstream Air, Tico Travel, and Marazul Charters are some likely candidates to get you started. We used Tico Travel on our first trip and while they got us there and back, we had some hitches that made the trip more worrisome that it needed to be (although they made right with everything in the end.) Gulfstream is a company owned by Continental Airlines and we used them on our second trip. If things go well, expect to pay roughly $350 round trip from Miami to Havana. If plans blow up in you face, you can still get there for $9014!

Let me explain.

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Cuba: Intro and Getting Permission

Posted by Arlo on Jan 22, 2004 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Looking down on Cuba and Florida (25k image)Arlo’s Guide to Traveling in Cuba

In December of 1999 I made my first trip down to Cuba. The University of Alaska, Southeast offered a month-long experiential learning class on the Language and Culture of Cuba. I went as a student and discovered that our media-inspired American fears about communist Cuba were completely unfounded. Just last month I completed my second UAS class in Cuba – going this time as a co-instructor. My second visit only confirmed what I already knew – Cuba is an amazing country; easily the most friendly and safest place I’ve ever been!

In the next few postings, I plan to use my weblog as travel guide of sorts for Cuba. If you have the opportunity to go, I hope that it will be useful. If you’re looking for a place to spend some vacation time, perhaps it will help you decide where. And maybe, just maybe, I can dispel some of our American propaganda against Cuba along the way…

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