Why did I not meet the lovely, friendly Cubans everyone talks about?

What’s up with people visiting countries and always, inevitably and predictably falling in love with its people? Each time I plan to visit a new place, I spend hours on the web reading about it. Travel blogs, online magazines, guides, travel diaries and what not. I don’t think I have ever come across a negative comment about the people of a specific country. Hardly anybody ever said publicly that the people in said country are unwelcoming, or that those of another are rude, pushy or lazy.

Privately though, it is a different story. And recently I have started coming across more and more blog posts that give a honest and personal version of things. That’s when I hear people say that really, they hated the people in a country and actually fled because they could not take the locals anymore. A friend of mine who spent years living and working in Peru finds Peruvians hardly amicable. Another who travelled across South America thought that people in Bolivia are rude and cold. What’s interesting is that I have a completely different opinion on both Peruvians and Bolivians. In my experience, they are both reserved people, yet so welcoming and caring. I have had some great encounters in both countries and hold great memories of the people there. Then again, I appreciate reserved people as I enjoy silence and time alone.

This goes to show that really, the way we perceive a people and a country is all a matter of individual perspective. It depends on how we feel while we are travelling, and sometimes even on who we are travelling with. And, quite importantly so, it depends on our ability to communicate, both verbally and non verbally.

Havana, photo 3, Cuba

People you meet at the book market in Havana

If what I say is true, I must not have been in a very good mood when I travelled to Cuba then (and none of my friends who have been there before and after me were in a good mood either!) because seriously, I did not like Cubans all that much. Mind you, I love the country and I could visit it again any time. I had a great time there, despite everything, and I even think that the second time around I would have a real blast and perhaps, knowing what to expect, I would not have such a hard time communicating with the locals. Because really, in the end it was all due to miscommunication and cultural differences.

But… was it?

I like to think of myself as a fairly open minded individual. I have travelled widely, and I have lived in various countries that are not my own. I have learned to communicate effectively with people from all over the world. However, try as I might, it was impossible for me to meet those loving, friendly, smiling, fun, relaxed and fantastic Cubans everyone talked about, to the point that I even wondered if we were talking about the same country, about the same people at all.

The Cubans I have met felt more like sharks I should steer away from, swimming against the current not to fall for their scams. They made such a strong impression on me that I actually started my blog in the very ambitious attempt to warn the world about what travelling to Cuba really implies. I suppose I had to digest what had happened though, as now, despite my various misadventures and the numerous scams, I end up recommending Cuba as a country to visit to just about anybody – with a number of scam warnings attached to my recommendations.

Read more about Cuba on my post on the things to do in Cuba.

I actually felt lonely in Cuba

I actually felt lonely in Cuba

What I found frustrating in Cuba was that I could hardly mix with the locals. I speak Spanish fluently (and in any case, not speaking the local language has never stopped me from communicating!) and I find that getting to know someone from the place I visit, sharing my travel tales, and even parts of my life, culture and country, as well as learning more about the country where I am travelling through the eyes of someone who was born there is always an enriching experience. I have always met amazing people during my travels who, for as brief the encounter, have always wanted to help me, to know about me, and to just talk for the sake of it.

I would have liked to chat but I felt a barrier

I would have liked to chat but I felt there was a barrier

Having an authentic experience: scams in Cuba

Hardly any of this happened to me when I travelled in Cuba. Any genuine conversation I would try to have would end up in an offer of sex (in exchange of money or a drink), in demands that I buy something or that I give away my clothes (including those I was wearing), or in a trickier scam attempt. Not so much of a cultural exchange – or perhaps it was a cultural exchange, just not the kind I was hoping for. Even if I tried to find an explanation for what was occurring, I could hardly justify it. Cuba is a poor country, I told myself. But then, I have been to places that are considerably poorer and none of this had happened and even those who had nothing were kind and helpful and not so hardened by life.

What about those people who’d approach me and start introducing themselves by saying: “I’m not like other Cubans”? In fact, they were not like other Cubans – way more sleek in their scams! They would present themselves as the most helpful people in the city, so good in their act that they seemed genuine. They would master a few words of Italian. They’d prompt me to watch out for scams and people working for commissions (called jineteros) and then offer to take me to a good restaurant or bar (hardly the one I may be looking for) to then sit and have a drink (which I’d offer, to thank them for their tips), leave without a word of thank you and get a commission from the owner in the end. Ah, the irony!

What about those who were celebrating their birthday everyday? I can’t even remember how many people I have met in Cuba who, after some small talk, told me “today it is my birthday” – and then expected to be offered a drink in a bar of their choice (scam warning: this is just a strategy to bring tourists to a bar or restaurant and get a commission from the profits).

All in all, the feeling I had was that people saw me as an ATM with legs that they could try to get cash from, or as a sexual object, or a passport, or all of that. There was no explaining that I was on a tight budget and had saved for years to be able to afford that trip, or that I was not interested in sex as I was in a relationship (I wasn’t, but you get the point). Nobody cared. All that people seemed to think about me is that I was a foreigner, therefore better off, and as such it would be fair to try to take advantage of me.

Station Baracoa, Cuba

The wall – casas particulares owners looking for guests at the bus station in Baracoa

Some other episodes that occurred to me during the few weeks I spent in Cuba made my opinion of the locals become less than positive. I spent my first ten days in Cuba fighting not to get scammed. The first thing that the owner of the first casa particular where I stayed in Havana warned me against was the existence of the jineteros. He made it a point that I learned to defend myself against them.

When he offered to take me to the ceremony of El Cañonazo in Havana, I gladly accepted – he was so well educated that I figured it would be a great experience. Then, a few hours before going, he said he could not make it and suggested his (less than talkative) cousin could take me instead, for “protection”. I said that would be nice of him, and he told me straight out to just pay him the entrance fee, the taxi, and a meal and drink afterwards. I was shocked. Had he not just warned me against this practice of having to buy drinks to men in exchange of company and protection?

I felt like I always had to watch my back

I felt like I always had to watch my back

By the end of my trip, I was well trained in recognising scams. On my first night in Viñales, I signed up for a salsa lesson. As the dancing school was undergoing renovation works, I had to take the class at the teacher’s neighbour’s apartment. The lady was nice, polite, her flat small but spotlessly clean. As we finished the lesson, I asked the teacher if he could suggest a restaurant for the night as I didn’t have time to look for one on my guide. The lady jumped at the occasion and said I could eat at her place. In disbelief for the invitation (was a Cuban really going to offer me dinner, at her house?), I started asking questions.

It soon became clear that I wasn’t going to be invited in the western sense: I’d have to pay for the food, I’d be served at the table and sit by myself. Just as in a restaurant, only this time sitting uncomfortably and slightly abashed in some0ne’s home. I told her I’d eat there the day after and suggested that the family, as well as the salsa teacher, should eat with me. I suppose I took them by surprise. But I think they were not surprised when the day after I did not show up as there was no way I would accept an invitation to then have to pay for everyone’s meal – my means were not such for me to be able to afford it, and even though I could appreciate the cultural differences, it would simply be odd to have to offer dinner to some complete strangers when I had been “invited” to their home.

However, the episode that well classifies as the worst and that still makes me angry if I ever think about it happened to me on my very last day in Cuba, in Viñales. The guide who took me on a tour of the valley seemed to suffer from mood swings. One minute he was kind and helpful, the next he’d leave me alone to bike and hardly said a word. All in all, he was rude. I had kept to myself, and he must have not liked it because at some point, when we stopped to have a break, he started talking to my Mexican friend in Spanish (as if I was not there to hear and I could not understand) and said that if he did not plan to have sex with me, he would. I felt like an object, and disgusted.

I was right there when the guide (on the right) asked my friend whether he planned to have sex with me.

I was right there when the guide (on the right) asked my friend whether he planned to have sex with me.

All in all, I suppose I did get a very authentic Cuban experience – as authentic as it can get for tourists. Because really, there is hardly anything as authentic as a Cuban scam in Cuba.

Don’t get me wrong. It was not all so bad and I actually met a few people who were nice. Although most owners of casas particulares were almost intrusive when wanting to find out about my future plans on the island (so that they could push the services of one of their friends on me, whether I liked it or not), others were very kind and talkative yet never pushy – one was so keen to practice his English that he took “advantage” of me on that; another was so motherly that she’d check on whichever guide that took me around and if he didn’t pass her test she would not allow me to go out; one more spent hours in Trinidad looking for the yogurt I asked her for, not knowing it was hard to find in Cuba. Some guides were protective of me to the point that they offered to go give a lesson to the driver who had scammed me the night before. A young man in Baracoa carried my backpack across town when he saw me bent over the weight.

Mojito time

I left from Cuba with a huge smile on my face – I wanted that to last

In general, my impression is that Cubans have suffered from the isolation that the embargo era has caused. They have all they need – food, education, healthcare. But nothing more than that. However it is in human nature to want more – and to find ways to get it, even if this means swindling unaware tourists.

Travelling in Cuba was tiring. I knew that any time I’d set my foot out the door, I’d be surrounded by people making demands, either openly or in a more sneaky way. I knew I could not go for a walk by myself, because nobody would respect my need for alone-time. I never felt respected as a tourist, as a person, let alone as a woman. I remember spending whole mornings saying “no” to taxi drivers who, one after the other, would ask me if I needed a taxi, although they heard me turn down their collegues’ offer just one second before. Did they never realise it was annoying?

I became almost aggressive any time I was approached by locals, because a polite “no thank you” would not end a conversation but turn into an endless rant which would inevitably lead to a quest for money, clothes (even those I was wearing) and whatever else I may have on me. I remember walking in the street without ever making any eye contact, or smiling, or answering to those who said hello, because I knew that there was no way they’d be interested in me as a person but they only saw me as a tourist to exploit to their benefit.

That was not how I wanted to travel. It made my trip less enjoyable, because there hardly was a memorable encounter with a local that was genuine and kind to me, just for the sake of it. I felt I could not let myself go and enjoy a conversation because if I lowered my guards there would be a scam waiting for me; and if I told straight out that I was not looking for company, or that I had nothing to offer, people would get offended. I tried a few times to be more approachable and I fell for scams – it happens to the most experienced travellers, really, but this did not make me feel any better. In the end I really felt I could not trust anybody, that nobody wanted to help me, ever – they only wanted to help themselves and make money out of me – and this is not an uncommon feeling among people who travel there.

I like to think the way I felt when I travelled to Cuba has a lot to do with my personality. I consider myself to be a “social introvert” – I like socializing, but I need a lot of alone time. I like observing, but from a distance. I don’t always want to be surrounded by people and I don’t necessarily want to talk all the time. In my experience, Cubans are the opposite of that: they very open, they like meeting people; they like to talk and they don’t have as much a need for privacy as I may have. Cuban homes are a mirror of Cuban culture and personalities: they are always open and people go in and out, often unannounced. I need people to ring my bell and ask permission before I can open up.

I now can’t help but wonder if, going to Cuba again, I would be able to finally connect more with the locals and have a more enriching experience, that cultural exchange that I felt was missing my first time there. I wonder if, knowing what to expect, I would be able to figure out the people I had to steer away from and those I could trust. I surely am ready to try.

Have you been to Cuba? What was your experience with the locals?

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is it really easy to travel around Cuba - via @clautavani




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  • Sarah Ebner
    22 August 2015 at 11:29

    I have never been, but I’m sorry to read about your experiences. I can totally understand your sentiment especially because of the scams, but would hope that they are not entirely representative.

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 August 2015 at 17:56

      Of course they are not, but it is hard to meet really genuine people there – more than in other countries!

      • Elena
        29 March 2017 at 7:38

        Thank you for this post! I came across it today, after I recently returned from Cuba and needed to know that someone else had a similar experience. I actually cut my trip short because I never let my guard down and could not relax. The cat calling, the scamming and the aggressive taxi drivers were enough to make me leave early. Also, as a female traveler I felt very unsafe and objectified in Cuba. When I told my air bnb host my concerns, he looked puzzled and in shock. He told me that all the other female guests that he has had, have never complained and some were very “young and pretty”. All 158 reviews I read on air bnb of the neighborhood and the city itself were positive. No e spoke of the snakes lurking at every corner. So thank you for keeping it real! Perhaps I would go back….but many years from now. Cheers to us for being strong women that can voice their right to say NO to pushy locals and walk with our heads high through crowds of slimy Cuban men. Travel on my friend!

        • Claudia Tavani
          29 March 2017 at 9:50

          Oh dear, I am so sad to find out you haven’t had a good experience. When I was there, all girls I met were saying the exact same things, having the exact same experience as the one you (and I!) described. I don’t think people there even realize how bad they make it for visitors and it is sad…

  • antonette - we12travel
    22 August 2015 at 16:26

    I’m sorry to hear about your experiences! I’ve not been to Cuba nor am interested in going there, but if getting in touch with locals is what drives you, I’m sure it is insanely disappointing. Maybe someone else can answer the question better for you 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 August 2015 at 17:57

      I have heard of people who have had better luck. But most of the people I spoke to (other friends who have been there) have had similar experiences, if not worse!

  • Fiona @ London-Unattached
    22 August 2015 at 17:16

    I’ve never been to Cuba, but I had a friend who went with her boyfriend and felt much the same way as you did, despite having her boyfriend there too. I’d probably feel as ill at ease as you did at times!

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 August 2015 at 17:57

      LOL really? WOW, that is intense!

  • zof
    23 August 2015 at 10:47

    Thank you for this honest post. I felt in a similar way when I was traveling in Morocco. I, too, have read tons of posts on friendly locals before . I never found them and by the end of my stay I refused to talk to any locals if it wasn’t totally necessary. I wrote a note about it on my blog, because I believe that a honest blogger writes real stories. Imagine my surprise when I had a chat with another blogger who told me privately that her take on the locals in Fes was same as mine, but she decided not to mention it in her articles. I was a bit shocked. Let’s keep blogging real.

    • Claudia Tavani
      23 August 2015 at 18:23

      Thanks for your comment. I am sure that some travellers – blogger or not – have indeed met friendly and lovely people (in Cuba, Morocco or other places). I haven’t really had the pleasure, except for some cases which in general did not make me change my opinion of the locals. Then you know, as I say at the beginning of this post, some of my friends told me that Peruvians or Bolivians are not kind, and I found them to be nothing but really lovely and friendly!

  • valeria
    23 August 2015 at 16:17

    because they dont’t exist….!

  • Travelwith2ofus
    23 August 2015 at 16:58

    I had a similar experience in a couple places I have visited, not as bad, but locals always trying to outsmart visitors. The thing that annoys me is that they are so consistent. You can say no a million times, but every time they see you they ask you again. I have not travelled to Cuba, but it is unfortunate you had that experience. Hope when I do visit I will have a better time with the locals.

    • Claudia Tavani
      23 August 2015 at 18:24

      When you plan to do so, let me know – I will lecture you fully on things to do, places to visit in Cuba and scams!

  • Tatiana
    23 August 2015 at 17:32

    Oops. I want to go to Cuba so badly, never been there and I really was planning a visit there next year. Never thought that the people would be so rude.
    Well, I thank you for sharing – it’s always important to also mention the negative aspects of a place. It isn’t always rainbows and unicorns when you’re traveling 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      23 August 2015 at 18:25

      You will have my guide on things to do to read and many other posts that will prepare you fully 🙂

  • Mel Jones
    23 August 2015 at 21:20

    Sorry to hear about your experience Claudia. I would have called that guide out though for making that comment by responding back in Spanish haha imagine his surprise! At the end of the day, as travellers we have our own experiences and opinions about a place and this is how you found it. But at least you came back having had the experience and still enjoyed Cuba which is a plus 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      25 August 2015 at 9:52

      He knew! Because I spoke to him in Spanish all the time (although he had said he spoke English). But he just did not care!

  • Joe Ankenbauer
    24 August 2015 at 8:53

    Sorry to hear that your experiences with the Cuban people were far from pleasant. Personally, I didn’t run into many of the things you described happening. That’s truly horrible. Although, it was everybody’s birthday haha! I’ve run in to that particular “scam” all over though.

    • Claudia Tavani
      25 August 2015 at 9:55

      I told you so! 😉

  • SVV
    25 August 2015 at 8:55

    It’s what I like to think of as the death of authenticity. With the outside world readily available to even the poorest countries via the Internet or a cellphone, in addition to the realization natives have about the walking ATMs in their midst, the world is rapidly becoming a full blown market, and you’re for sale. I’ve been traveling since the late 90s as a fairly-introverted-but-open-to-random-conversations/experiences-with-locals and there has been a real increase in situations like this with me, and people that I know, as well.

    It’s a difficult and sticky thing to write about (and probably why you don’t see much of it) because you don’t want to paint an entire culture with a broad brushstroke. But let’s be honest, if 98 percent of your interactions are of the negative kind like you describe here, it’s totally valid to associate a country with scams and swindlers. The why of it doesn’t necessarily matter because these are still human beings making real decisions to be assholes, to be aggressive or to straight up lie to your face.

    Now that authenticity is dying in most of the world, the only way that I can see traveling to an oft visited destination is to parachute in, snap a couple pictures with the peace sign and then shovel the crooks out of the way back to the boat or plane. It certainly isn’t a fun way to travel. Having friends in these places (real, real friends) usually flips the occasion in your favor but even then, you might begin to wonder..

    This right here, this great, honest post that I wish more travelers would write is what attracts me to traveling in the first place. The challenges that we face in every culture is slightly different, but the hook that most often binds them is the hunt for your dollar (or in a woman’s case, quite a bit more).

    I hate it, and if I were you, I wouldn’t count on a different experience the next time around. It’s actually getting worse, and not just in Cuba.

    So, with that comforting thought, there are destinations that spring to mind that are actually authentic, and we need to hold onto those for as long as we can because it’s only a matter of time til everything gets tainted.

    Nice post Claudia! I’ll definitely be coming back to your website

    • Claudia Tavani
      25 August 2015 at 10:43

      What a sweet, insightful comment! Truth be told, I was really expecting a different reaction from this post. I was expecting people to accuse me of singling out an entire people based on my experiences (and that of 99% of my friends and of other travellers I know who have been to Cuba). I was expecting people to tell me that I need to put myself in the shoes of the locals, that I need to understand their poverty, etc etc. I really thought I would be attacked and would have to defend myself and explain myself all over again, and instead it seems that people really appreciated what I had to say.

      Yes. Cuba was a challenge for me. And no, poverty is not an excuse to treat others badly and scam them all the time. People there have adopted this attitude and the result is what you read on this post. I have been to far poorer countries, and I have met so many people who were kind, friendly, polite and overall genuine. So genuine that they would refuse any offer of money in exchange for their help.

      The funny thing is that I have met Cubans outside of Cuba and… well, they were not much different from those I have met there. The administrator of the place I rented in Rome was Cuban and I could hardly stand dealing with him in the end, as he constantly invaded my privacy. In the end I would tell my roommates to warn me if he was around, so that I would either lock myself in my room or… just avoid getting back home!

      • Yohan
        8 January 2016 at 1:26

        So sad to read your post and the comments here…I am Cuban, I am 41 years old and living outside Cuba ( in Spain) for almost nine years. First, it´s not valid to mark Cuban people for the 99 bad experiences you had ( As CVV said) I am sorry and I apologize in the name of my country but it´s simply not fair. It is true that scams have increased a lot lately BUT there is a large percent who is not interested in ripping you off. Hard working, honest, simple, real people…It is a pity you didn´t encounter them. However, most of the ones related to tourism will try to get as much from you as possible. A rent house owner, a street jinetero( yes, thousands..), a bici taxi, a cashier, a hotel worker, a salsa teacher, taxi driver: they all have learnt an easy and horrible way to make profit.But that is not Cuba! Maybe I should mention that Cuba has lived an unprecedent past, Cuba has suffered in a way most people can´t even imagine and not only the material aspect of life( you would need to live there for more than three weeks to realize it..It´s a country whose people are crossing the sea on an inflatable raft to escape and many of them are surely trying to do so right in this moment! This tragedy and the families separation over the years deserve more posts on the web and news on the media but, oh..this ironic and hypocritical world!) But, I won´t justify it. I simple feel sad, angry about what some of my fellow countrymen have turned into. Again, sorry you had such a bad time and you could enjoy my piece of lost paradise, which I love so much. I hope it would get better in the future, so people don´t have the need ( or willingness) to harass tourist to make easy money. Where we all can sit in front of the beach together ( you and the neighbour of the salsa teacher and her family..) to enjoy one CUBA-LIBRE and just…chat about life.
        I like your blog and the way you write. Congratulations. I wil read more.

        • Claudia Tavani
          8 January 2016 at 10:33

          Yohan, thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate having an insider’s perspective, really. You are most definitely right – in my time in Cuba, I only managed to scratch the surface of it to be able to explain what I saw and experienced. A better understanding would definitely need a much deeper cultural immersion, which however isn’t possible as you surely know. Tourists are not even allowed to stay in the country for longer than 30 days on a row. Another thing that I found disheartening was the fact that it was impossible to get out of the tourist circuit. I really wouldn’t know who to blame for that – I think the easiest would be to blame “the system”. No matter how much I tried to go to a certain specific place, everything plotted against me and eventually I never made it there. If I decided to go to a specific village, I would first had to go all over town to find whether there was a public transport to go there (and trying to extort certain information at a ticket office isn’t the easiest thing). Eventually, when it was established that no bus or train would go (or at least, not one I could take), someone would offer to take me by taxi and shoot the highest price ever so of course I would give up. On other occasions, I even said yes to the price (after extenuating haggling) and eventually… the driver decided that nope, he wouldn’t take me there for all the most “reasonable” excuses and took me where he wanted to take me (aka a tourist spot where I would have to spend money and he’d get yet one more commission).

          This is to say – it isn’t easy to get to know a country and a people that have suffered so much for their isolation, and boundaries have been set so clearly that even if one wants to cross them, it is very difficult to do so. The ridiculous separation between tourists and Cubans who have no access to certain places? SO UNFAIR. I made it a point NOT to go to any of those places.

          Cheers to a day in which we can sit on a beach and enjoy a mojito (sorry, I don’t like Cuba Libre) and celebrate for a CUBA LIBRE! A LO CUBANO!

  • Nikoleta Míchalová
    25 August 2015 at 20:33

    Great article! Thanks for posting!!!

  • Heather Cole
    26 August 2015 at 9:28

    I’m always suspicious when people wax lyrical about the ‘locals’ wherever they visit, building them up to be some wonderful stereotype only to have your dreams dashed when you arrive. Everywhere we’ve been we find some are lovely, and some are not, and at the end of the day we’re all just individual people. Having said that I have to admit your Cuba is our France…we never really feel welcome, and the people are often downright rude to tourists who speak English. It’s good to know I’m not the only one!

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 August 2015 at 19:54

      I still remember the first postcard my sister sent me from Paris. She wrote something that read: “Paris is gorgeous, but people here have a stinky attitude”. She’s been there many times and yup, she still finds them unbearable LOL

  • Lucy
    26 August 2015 at 12:36

    whoaa.. Thanks for sharing your experiences…
    I’m not planning to go in Cuba but if I ever did .. I would be careful …
    I’ve never heard of these things before .. I’m kind of shocked.. )
    and btw, from where I’m coming…if it’s my b-day – I have to pay.

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 August 2015 at 19:54

      Ha, that’s the same in Italy! I don’t even celebrate with my friends if I can’t afford to pay them a drink!

  • Janna
    26 August 2015 at 17:57

    I’m sorry to hear that your travels around Cuba we’re what you had expected. You’re not the first article/blog post I’ve read where people have said that the people there only saw them as an atm or a sex object in a matter of speaking.

  • yvonnelaura
    26 August 2015 at 18:39

    Oh you’re not the only one;-) I traveled to countries where I’ve met the most amazing local communities, but there were also countries where I just didn’t seem to band with anyone. I’m guessing it’s just a culture clash you’ll have once in a while. No biggy;-)

  • Brittany
    26 August 2015 at 22:50

    I have nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award! I have posted some questions on my blog for you, to get to know you better 🙂

  • Jakob Gibbons
    27 August 2015 at 0:06

    This was a really reflective, well-written post that I really enjoyed reading — glad to have come across it and your blog!

    I think I had a similar feeling in Morocco (although I think the Middle East seems to be the only common exception to your opening comment about people never saying they didn’t like the people somewhere). I only spent about two weeks there, but in the inland cities like Marrakesh and Fez I really just didn’t enjoy myself, mostly because of the people. I’m a diehard Couchsurfer and to me I’ve wasted my time if I’ve visited a place without getting to know locals, but in Morocco I found it nearly impossible to penetrate the same mentality you talk about here in Cuba.

    However, when my friends and I travelled waaaaayyy off path to the last village before the Algerian border, we spent two nights in the desert with a really lovely, warm, friendly Moroccan Berber family, which made the whole trip worth it. It reminded me that it’s important not to generalize and to hold onto just a little bit of that naivete that makes you want to believe everyone who comes up to you with a smile just wants a smile back and nothing more 🙂

    I really enjoy your writing, and will be keeping an eye on this blog!

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 August 2015 at 19:57

      Thank you for such a lovely comment. Yes, I think that at times that naivety helps us a lot. Perhaps I was a bit too worried to be scammed in Cuba and it was noticeable?

  • Jakob Gibbons
    27 August 2015 at 0:07

    (P.S. — I hope you’ll write the whole story one day of the overprotective motherly owner of the casa privada who wouldn’t let you leave the house if the guides didn’t meet her standards! She sounds like quite a character 😛 )

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 August 2015 at 19:59

      Oh she was UNBEARABLE. I remember we had planned to go to Trinidad and we wanted to stay at a particular casa we had read about. She would not have it. She wanted us to stay at her friend’s place. She insisted, insisted, insisted till we’d tell her where we were going to stay, because she wanted to make sure we wouldn’t. She talked really loudly. So much so that I would tell my sister: “You go deal with Caridad” because I could not take her. LOL. But on the other hand, she was caring and well, she gave really good advice when it came to transportation, guides, things to do and eat etc 🙂

  • Julie Cao
    2 September 2015 at 18:19

    I went to Havana Cuba for few days, stayed in a hostel in downtown core and after three days I just cannot wait to leave and return to Canada. It is not a bad city but I was just being annoyed each day by scams and ripoffs. and I was so happy when I arrived in Canada, This was ever happened to me in other countries.

    Many friends do not understand and saying that I should have stay in the resort area so I can travel hassle-free, but I agree that this prob is part of the culture exploration, just not the one we all expected.

    • Claudia Tavani
      2 September 2015 at 19:38

      Julie, if you want send me a quick email and I can really teach you how to react to those scams and spot them. I am not a resort kind of person and would never recommend staying in one. Cuba is better lived and experienced the way you are doing it – although it may be rough at times. There are ways to work it out!!

  • richard davis
    9 September 2015 at 15:30

    The problems you were met with has to do with the government. Perhaps you heard the old Cuban joke: The three successes of the Cuban Revolution –medicine, education and sports– and the three failures of the Revolution: breakfast lunch and dinnner. In reality, the medicine success is a failure, too. There is also the common phrease: “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.”

    Aside from the sexual advances, which I’ve seen happen to women in all corners of the world, the Cuban people are desperate. Remember, the embargo on trade and travel, has been about as effective as using a net to hold water. Nations of the world trade with Cuba, except for the US. US goods find their way through to Cuba by a third party in many cases. So, where is the money? It stays at the top with the political and social elite. No Cuban has one job.

    I think in some ways you have to pardon the Cuban people. As a frequent visitor I’ve run into a few scams, but nothing like the Middle East. Cubans haven’t lived normally for over 50 years. People are watching them as they watch you. Did you see the “Committee for the Defense of the Revolution” (CDR) signs? The snitches are still there. Talk with any Yanqui long enough and you, as a Cuban citizen, could be questioned. I’ve known of some pulled in for that very reason.

    Cuba is not a free country, and people have to survive. As far as being approached sexually, I can’t comment. I’m old and ugly. But at least I didn’t have some guy offer to sell me his sister for a few hours, like I did in Mexico.

    Try Cuba again if it ever becomes really free, a democratic nation.

    Cuba libre is more than a drink.

    • Claudia Tavani
      9 September 2015 at 21:06

      Thank you for this insightful comment, Richard. I am actually very keen to try Cuba again – I wonder what a bit more of traveling and haggling experience, and much improved Spanish communication skills would do. I think I’d have a better time the second time around. What’s funny is that my sister and I – we went together – keep saying that despite all that happened to us, want to go again. We will!

    • Yohan
      8 January 2016 at 1:42

      I think this is the best comment that I have read here, because YES, in Cuba you should go a little deeper, into the roots of things to understand it. It is not like any other country in the area, it is unique ( politically, culturally, socially..)..and that is why so many feel attracted to it. It is true that the values I was raised as a Cuban are lost or decandent, the respect for others, honesty..But if you manage to stay away from the tourist spots, then you know the real Cuba. Go to the countryside…maybe you will be asked for clothes or candies, but perhaps they didn´t have breakfast ! Many people don´t think it is possible in Cuba in 2015 and I say Yes !! No doubt. Ok, it doesn´t justify scams but softens them. People are just desperate, and somehow they are not thinking-acting in a normal way, or not in the way it used to be years ago. It has been a gradual process based on a tragedy that has lasted too long. I visit my country every year and I also suffer it. They think I go loaded with money. BUT I know the truth about their empty lives, so I don´t judge them too hard. Claudia I hope you have a better experience next time.

      • Claudia Tavani
        8 January 2016 at 10:39

        That’s the thing, Yohan… it is so hard to stay away from the tourist spots in Cuba. SO HARD. I need to go again, to see if the second time around I manage!

  • Guiselaine
    13 September 2015 at 9:16

    I think the isolation of Cuba makes people want things they can’t get. But the basic needs they have.
    I like their way of being inventive in getting what they want.
    But it is indeed tyring have to tell people off all the time, but it’s no different then in Bali. There you have to tell people of also all the time. They see you as the walking bank, you are not. At least I am not.

  • Lucy
    21 October 2015 at 9:34

    Oh no! I am sorry that you had that experience – I had the same one in Fiji. Altogether, it was a good learning experience though. I am now heading to Cuba this coming February, by myself as well! Eeek – hope I can avoid some of these troubles!

    • Claudia Tavani
      21 October 2015 at 12:53

      I am sure you will be fine! Read my other posts maybe, so you know what to expect? Or just go with a VERY open mind 🙂

  • Oana Presura
    3 November 2015 at 14:23

    Great post Claudia! Very insightful! Came across it on time … going to Cuba at the end of the month for a couple of weeks so I am definitely going to keep your advice in mind and try to stay out of trouble! Also, great blog in general, will be coming back to it with pleasure. Writing one myself, together with one of my best friends, Manuela. We sometimes also write travel posts. Looking forward to your next posts! Kind regards, Oana

    • Claudia Tavani
      3 November 2015 at 15:05

      Thank you! Watch out for the scams 🙂

    • Julie
      23 November 2016 at 20:22

      Please go to cuba with an open mind and heart. I am from the United States and just got back from ten days in Santa clara, havana, Trinidad and vinales. Cubans are sweet and warm and helpful. You have to remember the poverty they endure. If you are humble and polite and thoughtful they will treat you likewise. If you come off like an entitled , spoiled tourist your experience will be less wonderful. Yes taxi drivers will ask to drive you and men are fascinated by foreign and local women. I think people sometimes mistake friendliness for the attempt to start a scam. I had an amazing time , I lovedon’t the country aND it’s people. Go a mm d have a blast!

      • Claudia Tavani
        23 November 2016 at 21:23

        I surely think Cuba deserves one more chance. I am going back – hopefully soon!

  • Fraintesa
    3 November 2015 at 17:03

    Oh, how I know what you’ve been through… 😉
    P.S.: today is my birthday, can you buy me a drink? ;D

  • Emily
    4 November 2015 at 19:03

    Thanks so much for sharing Claudia. So many people write such amazing articles about Cuba – a place I would love to visit – but I have only come across a couple of articles like yours. I suspect your experience is much more like other peoples, they just don’t want to say it.

    We were desperately hoping to visit Cuba before it changes to much, but unfortunately won’t make it there on this trip. Maybe that’s not such a dreadful thing. Perhaps in the future tourists will be seen as more than a way to make money.

    • Claudia Tavani
      4 November 2015 at 19:09

      You see, there are A LOT of travelers (and even travel bloggers) that actually go on a tour of Cuba… a pre-packaged tour of Cuba. Where all experiences are pre-established. Where they are somehow magically and spontaneously invited to get inside the home of a local and have a cup of coffee. There is nothing spontaneous about that – and that comes from someone that has worked as a tour leader for a good while, though not in Cuba. Everything is paid and accounted for. And I am surprised that people don’t realize this. Traveling independently to Cuba is challenging, it can be frustrating and I HIGHLY recommend it as it really is an eye opener. Don’t worry too much about it changing and being invaded by tourists. It will take ages to change, and it already is invaded by tourists anyways 😉 Just go when you can and enjoy it! A LO CUBANO!

  • Deb Bryan
    17 November 2015 at 3:49

    Thank you for your honest post. Visiting Cuba just moved down on my list of places I want to visit.

    • Claudia Tavani
      17 November 2015 at 9:26

      Oh no! Don’t let this deter you! You should by all means go see yourself and just go prepared 🙂

  • Michelle
    28 November 2015 at 23:24

    Yes! Completely relate. Solo female traveller to Cuba in 2012. Got hustled on my first night by a guy and his “sister” who took me to a bar when I was smoking outside one of the big hotels. I naturally was overcharged for drinks but the guy was friendly but told me he liked me and would I be interested in seeing him. I loved the country but I did find not being able to sit on a bench for 5 minutes without being approached by some old Cuban rather tiresome by the end. “No” was my favourite word. Good blog post.

    • Claudia Tavani
      29 November 2015 at 10:02

      Such a shame though, right? On other occasions, in other countries, I would have been glad for some spontaneous company. I was so exhausted by all the people trying to get money from me in Cuba that I became rude. No, “vate” and “dejame en paz” were my favorite expressions too. So bad. I felt like humanity and spontaneity were taken away from me.

      • thedeathstar
        4 January 2016 at 22:50

        Did you consider that maybe they didn’t understand you, especially if you’re telling them “vate”?

        I have never been to a foreign country where people weren’t constantly staring, scamming, or begging. Congratulations on traveling.

  • Josh
    1 December 2015 at 18:08

    Hi Claudia. I’m going to Cuba later this month and will be staying for 3 weeks! I’m as excited as I am nervous since I’ll be travelling alone and I get that people are going to target me as a ‘rich westerner’. I’m prepared for that though, and like you I am fluent in Spanish, so that should help me feel more at ease. But what about security? I’ll be taking expensive gadgets with me as it is a long trip. Did you feel that your stuff was secure in casas particulares? Or did you never let it out of your sight!?

    • Claudia Tavani
      1 December 2015 at 19:33

      I have never had a problem, actually – but I have met several other people who did. Always lock your important belongings in your suitcase, and hide your money. A good thing to do is actually counting the money you are leaving behind and, whenever you go back, recounting them. If anything happens, say you are going to call the police. Police in Cuba is very strict and that will make all your belongings magically reappear!

  • Mar
    14 December 2015 at 7:54

    Such a shame! I have great memories from 2001 in Cuba but then again it was my first time out of the country and I am Spanish. back then there were very few tourists and the country was pretty much closed off to anyone but Spanish who floaded in hoards. I guess tourism and foreign currency has changed this a lot, I would be very annoyed by what happened to you. I get frustrated when I am seen like na ATM with legs…such a shame

    • Claudia Tavani
      14 December 2015 at 9:17

      Yup. Since then, I have been wanting to go back. Just to see what would happen if I go fully prepared 🙂

  • Karen Patterson
    22 December 2015 at 3:51

    Hi Claudia, I am off to Cuba shortly and so found your blog/website on the internet. I’d rather read this than the Lonely Planet, so far, so good.

    As for the inability or missed opportunity to bond with the locals, I think you nailed when you bring up their 1) isolation and 2) lack of wants (as they have what the UN decrees as the basic human rights in terms of food, shelter, education, health) … I spent 15 years in mainland China, where the culture is very much based on barbaric thinking = ‘us vs. them’, and there are some similarities to what you experienced and what most foreigners experience in China. However, not to the same degree. I am not sure why Cubans are that way, I have not met many Cubans, nor have I been there yet, but I generally think that there can be a certain ‘jealousy’ when wealthy tourists (or at least in the minds of the locals we are wealthy) show up and it is pretty clear that there is a massive economic gap between us and them … much of this thinking that all Westerners are rich is, well, thanks to the pop culture that has reached their shores, movies and TV and everyone has heard of the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Hollywood … when i lived in China, I was asked constantly about my Benz and Mansion back home in Canada (say what?), not to mention they always asked me my salary where ever I worked. Part cultural, but a lot is based on the fact that for many folks in the world, and especially in lovely places that we like to ‘backpack’ to, the locals don’t fair as well, they don’t usually have access to the education, the jobs and the income, nor the luxury of time to be able to just pick up and travel. For CHinese and what appears to be Cubans, too, getting a passport (not a government service passport or a dip passport) and visas to other countries is very difficult, unless you are going on an organized/government controlled ‘tour’. So, this kind of ‘gap year’ travelling for so many people is not a reality, and is sort of the epitome of luxury (despite we stay in huts on the beach, etc). “What? How will I support my family if I am backpacking overseas?” And, perhaps because of western culture (music videos, movies, tv shows), western women are seen as open and available when it comes to sex … it really shocked me when I was in NE China and many Chinese male taxi driver’s not only assumed I was Russian, but assumed that I was a Russian prostitute and asked if I was available and for how much. Many men travelling to China find themselves in interesting situations, much having to do with a Chinese woman wanting a visa / new citizenship to a Western country to have a better life. Men staying in hotels are often called in the middle of the night for ‘extra room services’, regardless of who he might work for or be travelling with. It is crazy, but for many, it is a way of life, hopefully to have a better life.

    I think I married locally in China in order to see if it would change, the assumptions of this and that just because of my citizenship. Many things changed, but a lot stayed the same or were somewhat amplified. My artist husband at the time was told he had it made, for his wife was a foreigner … what’s that supposed to mean? There was an assumption that he would succeed more because his wife was a foreigner. Bizarre thinking, but it exists.

    Is this a communist thing for Cubans and Chinese? I am not sure, perhaps for the lack of goods and absolute controls on their lives, relationships, and the media, but China has opened up and you can pretty much buy ANYTHING for a price there … I am not sure about Cuba, but I ‘ll let you know when I get back in mid January. There were scams in China, but there were also many locals who would help without a string attached, or could find some ‘goodness in their heart’ to help or whatever. The worst scammers I met in Asia were the gem dudes at temples in Thailand – beware!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 December 2015 at 10:09

      Thank you for this insightful comment, Karen. A lot of what you describe as the current situation in China also goes on in Cuba – the main difference that I find is that for what I have seen and heard while I was there, Cubans (men and women) are actually more open about their sexuality than we are in Italy. I just find it sad that people – anywhere in the world – try to “make it” by exploiting others. I have been to many poor countries, way poorer than Cuba, but nowhere else I have experienced the stress and frustration that traveling there caused me. I wish to go back though, just to see if the second time around, being more prepared on what to expect, things are different! Have a good time there, hopefully you will find my other posts useful (also check out my In the Media page for links to guest posts, plenty of stuff I wrote for other blogs!).

  • Jonah Jose Olias Guerra
    6 January 2016 at 23:22

    I would like to start off by saying thank you for sharing your experience. Although you make a point of it on your blog/twitter it’s always a personal thing to share your travels both negative and positive and regardless of what was felt the world is illuminated by the sharing of experience.
    ` I am a Cuban man (40 years of age) and first generation Cuban American. My parents left Cuba two years prior to Fidel Castro taking control of the island nation. I say this to lend some credibility to what I wish to share. I have not been to Cuba although plans are in the works for a visit in 2017. I have however met current residents and know a handful of folk who still live on the island and a few of which I stay in touch with. I also lived in Miami for the majority of my life and over the course of 30 some odd years have met pretty much every facet of Cuban that there is. Having said all of this I can tell you that you are correct in your initial viewpoint that your mood and state of mind will direct your personal experience and how you might perceive a culture when visiting.
    Cubans in Miami generally are classified into four groups.
    Those who arrived before Mariel.
    Mariel Folk and Beyond.
    1st Generation Cuban Americans (Americans born of Cuban immigrants).
    Beyond 1st Generation Cubans.
    Each group has very distinct set of beliefs and behaviors. They also carry stigmas and preconceived notions. I want it said that although the following are generalizations they do not define everyone grouped with them. The most commonly accepted are:
    Those who arrived before Mariel are fiercely Anti-Castro, beyond appreciative, incredibly giving, and the hardest of workers.
    Those who came with Mariel are hardened street Cubans, many of them criminals, hustlers, and indifferent to Castro having already lived under the regime for decades and having survived what was thrown at them.
    Those 1st Generation Cubans like myself are often described as the bridge culture between what being Cuban means and what being Cuban means in a country that was closer to what the elder Cuban culture grew up in. Cuba was a bustling and very advanced nation prior to Castro and the parents of my generation worked hard and sacrificed much to give us everything they had or didn’t have. Many of us keep the tradition of old Cuba alive as best as one in this country can although we can also be guilty of misunderstanding what that life may have been in that island nation prior to the 1960’s.
    Beyond 1st Generation Cubans I am sad to say are for the most part clueless to what their grandparents went through and much less what Communism meant, and even less what it meant for an island nation like Cuban to be ruled by a Dictator and have everything they ever were familiar with taken from them and forced to risk their lives for a better future for their kids. Most of this generation don’t even speak spanish and have embraced a different kind of Miami life than that for which many Cubans have come to love.
    Now I know what your thinking. What does this have to do with Cuba Cuba. The point I am trying to make here is that Cubans are very much transient and transpersonal in their environments. I have no doubt that there are endless number of scammers out there, (have you ever visited China?). Communist nations (and in the case of Cuba it would be just to call it a straight up dictatorship country vs Communist) are well known to breed poverty and an inequality that can sometimes push poor behavior and dishonesty to the forefront where tourists are concerned. I know this is rampant in Cuba. I also know that there are areas designated for travelers to go and deeper more personal and “real” areas of Cuban cities and countryside that seldom get visited by travelers much like yourself.
    I do hope you return to Cuba and by your own words it seems like you have reserved some judgement and I am pleased to see you have. I can say with some bias but I swear it is minimal, that the Cuban people are by far the most generous and warm culture I have ever come to experience. The history of that great island is long and complex. The suffering of it’s people as well as their strength to persevere under one of the worst dictatorships known to man (still much of the atrocities which took place in the first half of Castro’s regime have not been made public or exposed) only fortify in my mind that the Cuban people are not only unique in this kindness and humility but a culture that excels at fostering it.

    • Claudia Tavani
      7 January 2016 at 19:16

      Thank you so much for this incredible comment, Jonah. One thing I know for sure is that I am definitely interested to get to know the Cuban culture and people better. The strange thing that I have noticed is that there is no in-between. Either people go and their experience is similar to mine (an every day struggle to avoid scams), or they encounter fantastic souls who are willing to help, share, embrace. When I went to Cuba I was not used to not getting things my way. I had a plan in my mind, and every day I crushed with the fact that in Cuba things simply don’t work as they do in other countries. It is the one place that showed me the beauty of spontaneous travel, to the point that now I am reluctant to plan anything at all.

      As a former human rights lawyer I am also really interested in knowing more of the dirty secrets of the dictatorship. One “strange” thing I noticed when I was there is that all the postcards where I did praise the country made it to my friends. The ones where I expressed cynical views about the revolution, never made it. I think I was being censored!

      Either way, Cuba taught me a lesson and I am willing to go back for more!

  • Zuzet
    2 March 2016 at 16:51

    Dear Claudia:

    First my congratulations for your writing, as a Cuban it was heartbreaking for me to read your words, but I know that deny the reality is living in denial so thank you for bring me back memories from Cuba even if they are not the best ones. I am a 43 years old Cuban living in Finland. I came to Finland to work and to study, five years ago. I came because as many other Cubans I worked very hard, I studied very hard and I wanted my son to have the future I could not have in Cuba. I have not been in Cuba in five years, it is heartbreaking but it is also a lesson of humility and sacrifice. I was apart from my son for three years because he could not come with me, I am still apart from my lovely family and I do not know when I will see them again. (My case is the case of many Cubans)
    I still close my eyes when I am in the forest and I imagine the sound of the wind in the trees is in fact the sound of the waves of the sea in Cuba. Finland opened its arms to me, I love this country nevertheless there is something missing and not matter where I will be in the future, I know that emptiness will remain in my heart.
    However, I chose to give my smile and my kisses to all those Finnish friends who really need it but cannot ask for it. I chose to make every day count for me and for everyone who get close. I chose to be grateful because many Cubans will never have the opportunity I have now to build an independent life. I chose to fight in order to provide for my son and do my best to raise him as a good man.
    Now, I propose you to imagine people who broke up with the love of their lives and there is not possible reconciliation. Imagine those people being abandoned by the person they love and trust the most. Imagine how that person broke their spirit. What happen then?. I think it depends on the people but usually we try to gain that person back and after working hard for years without any results, we decide the only option is to escape from that person (Cuban government) who destroyed every hope we had. Like in a broken love, you low your self-esteem and become desperate to find a way out of the pain for example with a rebound relationship that can fill the emptiness. Then, foreigners come and offer themselves as the rebound relationships, Cubans take the opportunity, and the foreigners take the opportunity. Cubans learn to see foreigners as an opportunity to survive and many foreigners see Cubans as an opportunity to explore the exotic world. Cuban + foreigners think they gain something, unfortunately I think most of the time the only gain is emptiness. I do not pretend to justify, I just want to show you why many Cubans are so desperate to sell their souls to tourists.
    Many other Cubans chose other ways to escape if they have the opportunity. I was lucky to be among those others, but many have not been so lucky.
    I would also like to apologize in the name of all those persons who made your time in Cuba unpleasant. I believe that unfortunately when you visit Cuba as a tourist you face many limitations; it is not possible to have the big picture of Cubans.
    I feel sad because my lovely country is bleeding, because my people is desperate, I feel sorry for myself whose generation did nothing to change the reality.
    I feel sorry you did not get to know so many hard working people, struggling everyday with their lives without forgetting to give you their big smile and to dance with you because they know how hard life is so they cannot afford to waste one second. I deeply apologize for your bad moments in Cuba. Finally, I hope one day you revisit Cuba and find the other face. I hope you forgive the bad moments, I hope you never forget the deep wounds a bad government can cause in people spirit. At least now, you have seen a different side of Cuba, the one that it is not salsa, rum and tobacco, mulata and mulato; you have seen the desperate face of a broken country. At least now you are ready to go deeper, reveal the origin and understand the sadness beneath the Cuban smile.
    I hope your future experience in Cuba can take you heart closer to many people who are suffering and do not find the way out.
    I would only like to kindly request something from you: If you ever revisit Cuba please go to the beach look to the sea and tell Yemaya that there is a Cuban somewhere who is grateful for her blessings, and miss the Caribbean Sea every day of her life.
    My kind regards and the best wishes for your personal and professional life

    • Claudia Tavani
      15 March 2016 at 11:14

      I cannot begin to say how thankful I am for your lovely comment, for opening your heart to me, the way I was hoping to see in Cuba. Yes, I will go back to Cuba. I only scratched its surface when I was there, and I am ready to go for more, and take a whole different approach next time!

  • Karen Patterson
    2 March 2016 at 18:03

    I was in Cuba for 8 days in early January and I did not have any harsh experiences with the country, government or people. There was, of course, a musician dude who was trying to solicit my friend and I but that could happen anywhere, and was definitely an exception to our stay. I can not speak Spanish, so had a harder time engaging Cubans, unless they could speak English, but my friend speaks Spanish very well. She didn’t have any crazy experiences, either, and in fact was very welcomed where she and her husband went before I met up with them in early January. I will go back!

  • Theresa
    2 March 2016 at 19:30

    Thanks for the article. I’m thinking of traveling to Cuba soon and your words have helped me form a better picture of what it might be like. I’ve had similar experiences in the Dominican Republic. Have you been there? Can you compare the two places in terms of scams and unfriendly people? Just trying to get a sense of what I might be getting myself into. 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      15 March 2016 at 11:17

      I haven’t been to the Dominican Republic, actually. But I am ready to go back to Cuba, for sure!!

    • Karen
      31 March 2016 at 20:32

      Compared to Cuba, people in DR are very friendly and are hospitable. As a tourist you always know you are getting ‘taken’ by just a little and it’s usually reasonable amounts (extra pesos here, extra pesos there) but in cuba if they can take all your money (the first person you meet) they will do it!
      Ex: they can charge me 10cuc for a cab ride 10km but will charge you 45 for the same distance even if we are riding in the same cab (colectivo) everyone always has a friend and you are better off going to touristy places where they charge reasonable prices and not someone’s else’s friends house that triple it.

      The problem with cubans is that they are thieves disguised as your best friend. Except it seems to be everyone so you never catch a break.

      • Claudia Tavani
        1 April 2016 at 9:43

        It is sad. I think poverty has hardened them so much. But then, why hasn’t it hardened Nicaraguans?

  • Karen
    31 March 2016 at 20:23

    Thank you for this article. I just came back from a long time dream of visiting Cuba and did everything possible to make it a reality. I saved for a year!

    Your article has helped me not feel so alone in my dissapointment in the Cuban people as hospitable humans. I too have traveled extensively and I’ve never encountered so many people trying to so shamelessly take you for ALL you have, even literally the clothes on your back. They are sharks and they don’t think of others besides themselves.

    I am from central America and I would state my country (which is really poor) and I thought this would open some kind of cultural exchange or hospitality. ..zilch! They scammed me over and over again. I came back puzzled and without money and went on Google to make sure it wasn’t just me…I’m glad I found you. I too will write about my true experience to warn others of the people.

    I encountered thousands of people and only 3 did not scam us (one being a juice establishment which the lady charged us the correct amount and she gave us the correct change). I’ve never been to Morroco so unfortunately this would be the worst experience and it all has to do with the people.

    For everyone else – the country was absolutely breathtaking and the cleanest I’ve ever experienced. It’s just exhausting to meet so many people with such little moral compass.

    • Claudia Tavani
      31 March 2016 at 20:28

      Your comment express everything I felt when I visited Cuba. Breathtaking country, truly beautiful, but close to a nightmare to travel there, especially as a woman. I am sorry you have had some bad experiences. I even have a post on scams, to warn people about what to expect and how to react to these scams! But hey, there is always a lesson to learn, even from bad experiences. And I am glad you enjoyed the country regardless!!

  • Bill
    9 April 2016 at 22:13

    Hello, Laura. I am 20-years-old Cuban living in Cuba, and although watching this story is very sad for me as a Cuban, I can’t hide the Sun with my fingers. I’m agree that this attitude is not a by-product of poberty or necessity, but in my opinion, it is what some people call “cult to vividness”, a cultural scourge in our idiosincracy, fueled by the isolation, that make people wrongly think that it’s good to be vivid and tricky, and if others fall in your tricks, it is their fault, not yours.
    I live in the countryside and here the people are nicer than in Havana. For what I’ve heard from those who live in the capital, the people there are somehow malicious. The good thing is that, hopefully, I can see this way of thinking is decreasing along with the isolation, and the new realities of Cuba, like the contact with a lot turists and Internet connections (as the one I am using) are going to change our culture for good.

    • Claudia Tavani
      11 April 2016 at 10:33

      Hello Bill – my name is actually Claudia 😉

      Yes, I think people are nicer in smaller places in Cuba, but that is the same in all countries don’t you think? It’s just a result of people being able to see each other more often, meeting in the streets more easily. I am glad to know Cuba is changing in this sense!!

  • Ana
    24 April 2016 at 12:02

    I don’t completely understand why because there are many poor countries in the Americas but they are not like what you are describing in Cuba. I’m originally from Nicaragua, and we are poor poor…we don’t get the free healthcare and education like in Cuba. Many people in Nicaragua are literally starving, but they have not dedicated their time to developing a culture of scamming foreigners. It can happen anywhere, sure, but taking advantage of non-Cubans seems to be part of the Cuban culture. Initially, I was intrigued reading about Cuban culture and wanted to visit. I decided to seek Cuban friends here in the US. I met some Cuban immigrants, even tried dating one, and it was very similar to your experience in Cuba. He always asked for money. I thought, “what kind of machismo is this?” and not just twenty bucks, hundreds of dollars! I did not have the amount of money he needed, and instead of him accepting that, he became extremely angry. It was scary! I started to realize, this man is actually a very spoiled boy, who is used to women doing everything for him and used to non-Cubans giving him financial assistance. I was compassionate and helped as much as I could, but I am a poor immigrant too. When I couldn’t give him money for a car, he said I never did anything for him, which was not true… he just didn’t appreciate the help I had given. Entitled. Malagradecido! It was a terrible experience because he lied about his intentions. He told me he wanted to be with me, but he’s actions contradicted that. His MO was completely foreign to me, I had never seen anything like this. He called mainly when he needed something, and was not ashamed to ask. Most men would be ashamed to ask an attractive new female for so much money, if they were truly interested in her. So, I did some investigating on social media. I saw his profile and how he was interacting with females, younger ones, in Cuba. I confronted him and told him he is not acting like someone who cares about me and wants to build a real relationship because he was still pursuing women in Cuba. No matter how hard I tried to get him to see the humanity in me, it felt like he saw me as a machine. It felt like I just wasn’t invited to be a part of this awesome culture that he liked to brag about but never showed me. I saw some very ugly character traits and some disturbing cultural ones as well. This man came to the USA on a mission, and the first step is to find a woman who can offer financial support. When I found out he was still communicating with the mother of his sons in Cuba, I asked him about it and his response was not satisfactory. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t believe him at all, so now I can only assume that from me he only wanted help to establish himself, get permanent status, and then apply for his woman and kids in Cuba to come. What a disappointment. I would say don’t even waste energy going back. I’m sure most Cubans are good people, but it’s not cool to travel, be out of your element, feel uncomfortable, and have to look over your shoulder. There are other beautiful, cultural places where you can feel relaxed.

    • Claudia Tavani
      24 April 2016 at 12:12

      Thank you for your lovely comment Ana. I am very sorry to read about your bad experience but I must say this is not the first time I hear of such a story. Sure, it isn’t nice to travel to places where you constantly have to watch your back and can’t really trust anybody. It is all the more interesting that you compare Cuba to the situation in Nicaragua. I have been to Nicaragua 3 times, I saw the real poverty – the one that breaks your heart – and yet, people are so kind, so nice and so helpful. I fell completely in love with it and I know I will go back. It is one of those places I will never get enough of. And to date, if people ask me what my favorite country among those I have visited is, I will say it is Nicaragua.

      Stay strong, and keep away from bad men!!

  • Melanie
    16 May 2016 at 1:37

    Dear Claudia,
    Thank you for your honest blog post. My boyfriend and I are Australian and we left Cuba this afternoon after a week in Havana and Trinidad – me crying with relief to be leaving and exhaustion from the strain. As soon as I had internet again I started searching around to try and understand the experiences we have had. Like you, we have both travelled extensively and always pursued the “local” experience as much as possible. Accordingly, in Cuba we decided not to go with tours or hotels, but stay in casas and eat in local restaurants where we could. However, our first experience of Cuba was having a phone stolen from our luggage at the airport (yes – our fault for not securing it!) That wasn’t particularly noteworthy as we had been fairly lax in our security – what really scared me was having the “Lost and Found” staff immediately weigh our bags on a scale (that we later deduced had been tampered with), declare that the bags were actually HEAVIER than when we left (by comparison to the scales at the Grand Cayman check-in counter) and therefore nothing could possibly have been taken. This was mostly communicated through facial expressions, signs and, after merely a couple of minutes, the turned backs and shrugs of the counter staff. Since then, we had our casa owner steal our taxi money to the airport from our bedroom (under the guise of going into our room quickly to “check our hot water”) as well as countless “leakages” (as we called them) for hidden “foreigner tax” of all kinds. Our experiences of Cuba were absolutely dumbfounding. We are used to “short-con” street scams and being fairly relentlessly hassled for money or for custom. The corruption and shameless “long con” scams were fairly new and noteworthy – but nothing that we ultimately couldn’t take in our stride. What was truly horrible was the undisguised contempt from most of the people we interacted with and the sense that under no circumstances would we have help from anyone (unless we were lucky). We felt quite helpless. Like you, we initially tried to justify our experiences on the basis of inequality or desperation. But our experiences went beyond that and appeared to be systemic; I have never experienced anything like it and am simply unable to put it down to “bad luck” or “culture clash”. What made me particularly sad is the affection which we saw many Cubans showing each other on the street – which was in such stark contrast to our own treatment. Having toured some of the museums and seen some of the political propaganda, we are left speculating whether the Cubans are somehow taught this attitude by the regime. In any case, our speculation may not be correct or helpful. The only thing that I know for sure is that I will unfortunately be unable to recommend Cuba to my friends at the moment and can only hope that easing of restrictions will bring new outlooks and attitudes to the Cuban people.

  • Claudia Tavani
    16 May 2016 at 9:47

    Hi Melanie,

    I am sorry for your bad experience. All I can say is that I completely understand. I remember sitting on my bed in Trinidad after yet another argument with a local (this time it was an agent at the local Cuba Tours office), crying to my sister who was traveling with me and saying that I couldn’t wait to leave the country. I managed to enjoy Cuba anyways, but I always had to watch my back in order to avoid scams, and I promise you I have never argued so much during a trip! It took me a good two years to get over that experience and manage to write a bit more positively about Cuba. Did you know that I started this blog in order to vent about that trip and in a very ambitious attempt to inform everybody about the real Cuba? I was so annoyed by the sugar coated versions of it that I had read online, that I made it my mission to say things as they really are.

    Had you written me before actually going, I would have trained you on the scams and on how to make the most of it. If you go prepared and knowing what to expect, it is more manageable.

    I don’t think the government has anything to do with the Cuban attitude towards foreigners. It all boils down to people trying to make a buck or two extra under the table. I had to argue fiercely with cashier at Duty Free at the airport (of all places!!) to have a receipt for the bottle of rum I had purchased – which I needed so that I could show I had bought it after passing security, just in case. She didn’t want to give me a receipt. Why? Because then she could put whatever amount she wanted in the register and keep the rest to herself.

    Other things I could have told you, in preparation: never leave any belongings unattended. Always lock your stuff in the suitcase, and count whatever you are leaving, including the t-shirts (yup, they steal that stuff too! – my friend saw the owner of her casa walking around with HER t-shirt on!!) and even more so money. I counted the money I was leaving in my suitcase (locked), made a note of it, and recounted as soon as I was back. Nothing ever went missing (I was lucky in this sense, at least) but I was ready to say I’d call the police in case it did (and I know that things would magically reappear at the word “police” as for whatever reasons Cubans are really afraid of that).

    One day you will be able to laugh at this, I promise you!

  • Jenny
    19 May 2016 at 21:45

    Wow, Claudia. I read all of this (including every single comment) and it felt like I could have written it myself, our experiences were so similar. Like you, I’m tired of reading the sugar-coating of Cuba, because I met plenty of other travelers there who felt the same way I did. Where are they? Why aren’t other boggers writing about the real experiences they had?
    I was already somewhat tired when I arrived in Cuba, and I think this didn’t help me deal with the circumstances, but by the time I left 5 weeks later I was thoroughly exhausted by everything. It was not a relaxing trip, and the first time I’ve ever actually been glad to be leaving a country. I think the people who ‘adore’ Cuba are generally the ones on organized tours or staying in All-Inclusives, so they aren’t exposed to just anyone on the street who might wish to take advantage of them.
    I also don’t think poverty is an excuse, because I’ve also been to plenty of other very poor countries and not been treated like I was in Cuba. But it’s a different kind of poverty – because they have enough food, health care, and education (although I’m not actually sure that they do – how many people told me that the food rations didn’t actually cover their needs?) but there are serious problems when a doctor can make more money scamming tourists than working in a hospital. And poverty doesn’t account for your tour guide telling your friend he was going to have sex with you. I can’t even believe that – when he knew you could understand! I think this is a product of their probably somewhat limited (by TV and movies) view of foreigners, as well as assuming that the rest of the world is as sexually liberated as they are.
    I also had trouble avoiding the tourist areas, but when I did I actually met some wonderful people, so I know they’re around. I think if I could pack lighter, so I could easily take the public transportation (which we aren’t technically allowed to) I might be able to visit smaller villages more easily, and perhaps meet more of those lovely Cubans.
    I’m worried for Cuba, because this attitude of taking advantage of tourists doesn’t make for a sustainable tourism industry in the long term. Although it is already getting a huge influx of tourists and will get more with Americans being able to go, sooner or later the hype will die down, articles like yours and mine will get spread around and there will be more of them, and word will get out that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Understandably, right now Cubans are looking after their short-term needs by getting money any way they can, but how will this develop into an environment tourists want to step into for years to come?
    I’d like to go back too, one day, because Cuba is a beautiful country and I know those good people are out there. It’s too soon now and I really haven’t gotten over it yet, but with time and some mental preparation I think I would like to try again. But until then I know there are lots of other countries that are just as beautiful with amazing people too! (Sounds like I need to go to Nicaragua!)
    Oh, and I don’t remember even once having anyone tell me it was their birthday!

    • Claudia Tavani
      19 May 2016 at 21:55

      Give yourself time. I took me a good two years to get over the anger I felt whenever I heard people talking about Cuba. And all those people on organized tours that see the real Cuba… everything is so staged, including the improvised visits at bars etc. Having worked as a tour leader, I know this as a fact!

      Aaaand the hype to see Cuba before it changes: suuure, go there, be scammed 😉

  • Irene
    2 June 2016 at 17:35

    Oh…I planned to go Cuba this late August… I am little bit scared now to go. It will be my friend and me going there for the first time and we will be going Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Varadero. Any tips/wisdom that you could give me? Also, should we reserve the Casa before we leave Canada? Thank you in the advance!

    • Irene
      2 June 2016 at 17:37

      Also, we do not speak Spanish :(….do you think we will have hard time, because we don’t speak Spanish?

      • Claudia Tavani
        2 June 2016 at 18:29

        Hello Irene, you will be 100% FINE! I am sure you will have a blast if you know what to expect. Head over to my Cuba destination guide. It has a lot of tips on how to make the most of it, and also indicates all the casas where I have stayed. Feel free to email me again for more tips!

  • Sonia
    15 July 2016 at 19:19

    I feel so similarly to you!!! I always approach people and places with an open mind and heart and I have met some amazing people this way, the best people I have met are those who do not have a lot; they have been so genuine and would give you the shirt off their backs asking nothing in return. With Cuba , I do not feel the same way, from men professing undying love after 2 minutes of conversation, the overpowering aggression, the assisted deception from other women and locals. I find the whole thing rude ,annoying and so strange. The country is beautiful though and I will visit again once I have suffered enough amnesia regarding my first visit.

    • Claudia Tavani
      18 July 2016 at 12:13

      Same here. I think I need to go back. Enough amnesia accumulated 🙂

  • ken
    15 July 2016 at 21:14

    Having visited Cuba for 3 months at a time for the last 4 years my realistic, mistaken as cynical, side agrees , my yearly amnesia is overtaken by my desire for a warm climate (I’m Canadian)
    The Spanish Culture has a lot to answer, from the Inquisition and brutal and empirical suppression of the Caribbean, Meso and South American cultures.to the present day.
    So, a large pair of skepticals is needed when reading Granma.

    • Claudia Tavani
      18 July 2016 at 12:13

      They have suffered a lot indeed. Time to go back for me too!

    • Gregor Glistovich
      5 August 2016 at 1:37

      Too bad your trip to Cuba wasn’t the way you expected. I am planning on visiting Cuba for the first time next month with my girlfriend and I had been doing some research for that is the way I love to travel. We are also both fluent in Spanish. She is better than me since she is from Madrid and with her blond hair and blue eyes she could be from most countries in in Europe.

      My girlfriend had been to Cuba, also alone, and the way she described it is totally different from your experiences. Sure the scams are there but she knew when to avoid them and who to talk to and when to walk away. She is not shy or worry if anybody will be offended it she has to say “no” or “adios” since nobody is going to attack her for doing that. She also felt that Cuba is the safest place in the planet and didn’t need anybody holding her hands. So why did you have to have someone “protecting” you at all?

      I love traveling across America and the best and safest places I had been are: Argentina, Canada, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic. The least safe American nation, and where I lived two years attending school, is the USA, also Brazil, Venezuela, Honduras and Guatemala.

      Then here in Europe, like in many 3rd world nations, you will find scams in many countries. In Italia, and my girlfriend is fluent in Italian, I always need to be on guard 7/24 since each time I visited there someone tried to steal something from me or my girlfriend. A pity that, my last trip there 2 years ago, in more than one restaurant food items that we never ordered and were never placed on our table were added to the final bill. Then when we complained the restaurant’s owners were not even apologetic at all. Same with the taxi driver who wanted to charge a lot more than the normal ride fare.

      We also noticed many Italians who were not happy at all and would be complaining. Probably has to do with the bad economic there and corrupted government. Then in Spain things were much better all the way around and people were happier and friendlier and always willing to help.

      Lastly, I don’t really understand these few lines: “I told her I’d eat there the day after and suggested that the family, as well as the salsa teacher, should eat with me. I suppose I took them by surprise. But I think they were not surprised when the day after I did not show up as there was no way I would accept an invitation to then have to pay for everyone’s meal”

      So you are saying that you invited the family and the salsa teacher to eat all together at this lady’s home, but the day of the dinner you didn’t show up at all. So why would you do that? We all know that most people in Cuba don’t have much, so imagine if they went to the trouble of having the best meal ready for everybody yet you didn’t show up at all? It would had been better saying, “thank you but I would eat somewhere else.”

      Also you are from Italia yet you wrote this: “I like to think the way I felt when I travelled to Cuba has a lot to do with my personality. I consider myself to be a “social introvert” – I like socializing, but I need a lot of alone time. I like observing, but from a distance. I don’t always want to be surrounded by people and I don’t necessarily want to talk all the time. In my experience, Cubans are the opposite of that: they very open, they like meeting people; they like to talk and they don’t have as much a need for privacy as I may have. Cuban homes are a mirror of Cuban culture and personalities: they are always open and people go in and out, often unannounced. I need people to ring my bell and ask permission before I can open up.”

      So if you’re that way and prefer to be alone, why travel to a super open culture like Cuba where everybody wants to talk to tourists? That is exactly how Italians are, so I am a bit lost by your comments. Maybe the problem, as you wrote it, was you been a “social introvert” and approached it the wrong way.

      As a final note, while doing research for my upcoming trip to Cuba I found a blog from another woman who traveled there recently and also have another experience.

      Very glad I found your blog and I hope my first trip to Cuba is a lot different than what you experienced. I will keep you inform and hope than when you return it will be much better for you 🙂

      Admin note: I removed the link as my comment policy doesn’t allow to insert links to other websites. Thanks for respecting this rule.

      • Marissa Leon
        5 August 2016 at 2:05

        I love how egotistic you are and that will surely help you in Cuba!

        I am a Spanish speaking extroverted Latina whom has traveled the world including dangerous Honduras and El Salvador and I gotta tell you…I share in Claudia’s sentiment.

        Cubans were by far the most manipulative people I’ve ever encounter. The reason for this statement is because they disguise themselves as friends, knowing very well they will try to con you in some way or the other. I’ve also traveled through Italy and I had a normal experience. If you encountered an angry Italian than you knew to stay away because something was making them mad. They weren’t friendly sharks like the Cubans.

        I traveled there with my boyfriend this year and we could not wait to get out.

        I really hope you have a better experience given that your girlfriend is a pro Cuba traveler but understand that bad experiences are more common in Cuba than not.

      • Claudia Tavani
        5 August 2016 at 10:20

        Thanks for your comment Gregor. For sure, speaking Spanish fluently helps a lot when traveling to Cuba. I have also been to the rest of Central and South America (only countries I haven’t been to are Venezuela and Paraguay, and the smaller Guayanas and Suriname). What I have experienced in Cuba hasn’t really happened to me anywhere else in the world but I must say since traveling there I have learned a lot. It was a good training.

        As for Italy: actually, thanks for raising this up. It gives an idea of how different countries are perceived by foreigners and that scams can really happen anywhere! I am from Sardinia and I know that some places in Italy aren’t exactly friendly towards tourists and scams do happen. Having said so, I think I will soon go back to Cuba and see if having been trained and now speaking fluent Spanish would help. It is a gorgeous country and I am keen to go back!

  • Mark Ennis
    29 August 2016 at 20:38

    Hi Claudia,
    I have just returned from a holiday in Havana and I wish that I had read your blog before making the trip. Some forewarning of the culture would have allowed me to relax more and enjoy the city better. Instead, I learned pretty quickly after me and my family were lured into an ‘intimidating’ bar by a ‘very friendly’ cuban due to visit the UK soon!!! After paying for a round of overpriced drinks and buying a few knock off cigars we made our escape. Lighter some CUC’s but now aware that we were nothing other than ‘walking wallets’ to the locals.
    I, like yourself think it is important to get to know the people of a place in order to fully get to know the place. I am sure that there are decent Cubans who are being treated rudely by tourists as a result of the actions of these types.
    My advice to anybody about to visit would be to go without any hesitation whatsoever, but, do not go in any building on the advice of someone you have just met and realise that the local people are only being friendly in order to extract money from you.
    Havana is a beautiful city and I hope that the Cuban people’s fortunes improve in the near future as this will be the only true way of addressing this problem.

    • Claudia Tavani
      29 August 2016 at 21:43

      Hi Mark! You are not the first one who comments on this post by saying “I wish I had read it BEFORE going”!! What can I say? Well, I am sure we can both go back and have a great time the second time around. I surely know I want to, and this time I will be much more prepared 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it regardless!

  • Freya
    18 October 2016 at 23:07

    Yes! I visited in Cuba in March and was so excited but honestly it was the most disappointing travel experience of my life. I didn’t feel like I got scammed so much, as soon as people started to make their sale I would just brush them off, but I definitely found it impossible to shake that ‘walking dollar sign’ feel. Most upsetting was the Casa hosts who would become particularly rude because I didn’t want to eat dinner there every single night. Made me feel more unwelcome than anywhere else I have travelled, like I wasn’t worth an ounce of human decency if I wasn’t offloading all my cash. And like you, almost everyone I met there was not enjoying it. BUT everything you read online preaches Cuba to be the greatest place on Earth haha. Thanks for a refreshingly honest post!

    • Claudia Tavani
      19 October 2016 at 2:11

      It’s about time the people who write actually say how things really go. Some countries still deserve to be visited, despite some negatives. Cuba is one of them, for me. But I don’t want to describe it as a paradise, which it isn’t!

  • Raul
    12 November 2016 at 20:19

    Como sabes español prefiero escribir mi opinión en español, si no te importa.
    Llevo buscando una opinión como la tuya desde que volví de mi viaje en Octubre de este año, 2016.
    Y digo esto porque la sensación, respecto a la gente cubana, que me llevo para España es frustante.
    Es curioso como en webs como Trip Advisor hablan de hoteles, playas, localizaciones,…pero no hablan de sus habitantes. Ojalá hubiese encontrado un blog como el tuyo antes de ir a Cuba porque probablemente no hubiese ido. Puede que en un futuro, ahora no. Y no lo digo por la pobreza sino por la gente. Me siento totalmente identificado contigo. No es cuestión de añadir más historias de timos (conté 14 intentos de timo en 14 días, de gran variedad) pero, Cuba no es un país para todos los viajeros, al menos el viajero que quiera conocer toda la isla y no sólo los resorts, acostumbrado a mezclarse con la gente.
    Enhorabuena por tu opinión franca y sincera, no existen muchas cómo estas en la web. A veces la verdad duele, pero sigue siendo verdad.

    • Claudia Tavani
      13 November 2016 at 11:05

      Que pena. Yo de verdad regresaria a Cuba. Ahora que se como es la gente allà, ahora que hablo y entiendo espanol perfectamente (lo siento que no lo escribo bien, pero no tengo teclado espanol), yo iria a ver si me queda mejor. I think Cuba deserves a second chance!

  • Paul Holden
    24 November 2016 at 0:15

    I have just returned from Cuba this week and really wish that I had read your blog before we left. We are not shy or newbie travellers and have travelled extensively throughout the world. However, Cuba, or rather I should say Cubans killed any hope that I will return in the near future.
    We actually cut our trip short by 2 weeks and blew a $5000.00 sailing trip and an additional $3000.00 in airfares to get home.
    The first Casa owner we stayed with took great delight from trying to perve on my wife getting dressed by looking through the shutters and when she saw him he slammed the shutters and ran away. God knows what he was doing.
    Or the guys in Trinidad who picked up a stray dog and shoved it into a plastic bag to kill it in the middle of the day.
    Or the lady at La Habana airport who tried short changing by 10 CUC for 2 coffees and then proceeded to argue with me about it or the the lady at the cambio in the same airport who tried short changing us 20 Euro after converting our remain CUC back, then argued with us that we were lying.
    In all I found Cuba a very bland place to visit, no doubt the scams and the way we were treated tainted our experiences.
    Would I recommend Cuba to others???? Yes, but with caution, because I believe need to find their own experiences.
    Would I have gone to Cuba, even if I had read your blog first? yes of course, but just maybe with a bit awareness of what I was getting into to.

    This experience will not deter me from travelling in the future, but it did make me very tired from trying to guard myself all the time.

    • Claudia Tavani
      24 November 2016 at 8:56

      What you describe is exactly the kind of experience I had there. It did not deter me from traveling (here I am, now, with my own travel blog), but it did put me off. I actually opened this blog after my trip to Cuba, out of frustration for having read how wonderful the people were to then go and actually have a completely different experience. You will see that most people will continue to only share the positives about a place, and never the negatives. I think it is our duty to also mention the bad experiences – to warn others, and also to push for change. I would love to go back to Cuba and I think that, being ready for it, I would have a much better experience the second time around. I am sorry you didn’t come across this post earlier, perhaps you would have prepared for it in a different way! All I can say is that to me it was good training: I went to India last October, everybody telling me to prepare for the scams, the touts etc. It was a piece of cake compared to what I experienced in Cuba!!
      And what you say about being tired of having to guard yourself: I hear ya! I remember one afternoon in Trinidad, when I cried myself to sleep, my sister (who was traveling with me) trying to cheer me up (although she felt the same as I did). We were exhausted from trying to avoid the touts, the scams, fighting to get proper change etc.

    • Claudia Tavani
      24 November 2016 at 8:57

      You may also want to read the other comments on this post: have you noticed how many there are? All of people who have had the same experience as we had… So, it was not you: it was THEM!!

  • Kay
    19 December 2016 at 18:24

    Hola Claudia!!! Mucho agradecimiento por tu blog! I am originally from El Salvador & live in Canada . I have travelled to Cuba on several occasions now as I find it harder to go home because of security but love to travel to learn. Recently I visited an area of Cuba so lovely it makes me yearn for everything I miss back home…but I also returned extremely frustrated by feelings I imagine are similar to what your experiences evoked in you. Speaking Spanish I felt helped to connect more with locals, which was what I wanted most (ie. they were willing to open up more about the positives & negatives of their lives..especially in light of Fidel’s life & death; some said although tourists are not allowed of course I could take the local workers’ buses to see nearby towns, etc.)…I appreciated the kindness & warmth, but overall the majority of experiences left me with a sense of “was anyone really sincere?” that hurts more than anything. I agree with Ana’s comments, as well as your own, about..having lived in or visited other countries with extreme poverty in my life, living it in El Salvador & other Latin American countries at points in my life, it is harder to accept this behaviour as being born only out of poverty, & it certainly leaves a bad taste..moreso because one wishes to believe in people & it gets so hard to trust anyone that even the slightest acts of kindness or beauty are questioned. Like you said, you return exhausted when it should be the opposite. I much appreciate not only your blog, but everyone’s comments on here for opening my eyes & heart. Gracias!

    • Claudia Tavani
      19 December 2016 at 18:29

      Hi Kay, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for taking the time to read not only my post, but the rest of the comments. You are right: it is a sad occurrence that people living Cuba would have to leave with a sour taste in their mouth. I have been yearning to go back, to at least see if the second time around I can have a better experience.

  • a Miami
    27 December 2016 at 17:52

    Think its bad in Cuban, wait till you get to Miami!!
    Cubans are known all over the Caribbean for this behavior and have always been. They have been called nick names for this.
    Yes, there are warm and kind people but they are also very practical minded. Life on the island is hard and many are eager to get out of that. but then life in Miami is hard also. Just look at the real estate scams that go on in Miami for a sample of the bad tourist experiences that visitors complain about.

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 December 2016 at 18:10

      I have never heard of such scams (real estate scams) but perhaps you may want to describe them for other readers, just in case? That would be really helpful!

  • Stephan
    2 January 2017 at 12:43

    thanks for your great blog post. I was actually married to a Cuban woman for 16 years but I had my troubles dealing with Cuba. On my first visit in 1999 I had very similar experiences to yours. Having travelled to many countries, also poor countries in Central and South America I was quite shocked about Cuba with its scams. If somebody is in a difficult situation I can even understand that they might rip you off or steal. I would probably do it too, but I would still feel bad about it. But in Cuba people do not seem to think there is anything wrong with it, even when you point it out to them. There seem to be low moral standards. I think poverty is not the sole reason for this problem, but rather the combination of a very good (theoretical) education, economical problems, bad future propects and little hope for change no matter what you do. This leads to great frustration and loss of moral. I also think that more experienced travellers/backpackers will enjoy Cuba less since the usual approach and open mind does not work. So why do we want to go back? Maybe to prove to Cubans that they should treat us nicely because we are so lovable 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      2 January 2017 at 14:30

      You know, you are right. I will go back to prove them that I am lovable. Even my ex boyfriend says I am adorable. He tries to hate me, but he can’t because I am adorable! Hahahah thank you for your insights Stephen!

  • Laurie
    11 January 2017 at 1:56

    Hi Claudia,
    Just came across this blog and thread after researching trips to Cuba. I am thinking to go in February for a couple of weeks, alone, as a single woman. I have always wanted to visit Cuba and was just about convinced, until reading this. It’s the first negative I’ve encountered (but seemingly very “real” and honest and I appreciate that). I do speak Spanish, and have traveled before, but I must admit, after reading this post, I am now a bit apprehensive. I can picture myself having the same experience, as I am usually more of a “trusting” person. Not sure I should go now, curious as to your opinion…..

    • Claudia Tavani
      11 January 2017 at 9:31

      Hi Laurie, you should totally go! I encourage you to do some readings about scams in Cuba (there’s some of my posts around the web with those keywords) and just go. Expect the best, and be prepared for the worst. You will have a blast!

    • Mark Ennis
      11 January 2017 at 11:11

      Hi Laurie,

      I would also not hesitate to return to Cuba, but with a more ‘guarded’ approach to the local people. It is the ‘lonely planet / BBC’ type of advice that leaves you with a feeling that you are walking into a bygone era of friendliness and hospitality that can leave you unprepared for the reality of the economic situation.
      If in doubt say “No” and walk away.
      Happy Travels

      • Claudia Tavani
        11 January 2017 at 11:18

        Thank you for that Mark – yes, sometimes these publications like to perpetuate a romantic view of a place, that is far away from reality!

        • Laurie
          12 January 2017 at 20:17

          Thanks so much! That’s what I thought. Just needed some reassurance. About to book my ticket! 🙂

          • Claudia Tavani
            12 January 2017 at 20:59

            Remember: expect the best, be prepared for the worst. Have fun!

  • Cubano
    18 January 2017 at 10:20

    You only came in contact with criminals like the kind who run to the US not real Cubans

  • bjack
    21 February 2017 at 23:50

    Glad i came across your post. I’ve been in Havana for 5 days now and been counting the sleeps until my departure outta here. The majority of people I have encountered have been cold, unfriendly and rude. Airport information attendant, wait staff, tourist office worker, museum staff just a-holes. I’ve never been a fan of compounds and prefer to experience arts and culture but I can see why some might stick to the resorts in Cuba. I suppose I’ve realized some other silver linings. It’s been a good reminder to treat others as I would like to be treated. Also, I’m thankful I don’t live here and get to leave tomorrow. Only 17 hours to go.

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 February 2017 at 9:10

      Hello! I am so sorry about your experience. I always wish people read my post BEFORE going, then travel with a full warning and come back to say their experience was amazing instead. I think if you go back there, knowing what to expect and a little bit more disillusioned, you’ll have a better time. That’s what I am hoping for myself!

  • Pamela
    23 February 2017 at 5:39

    I have never been to Cuba, but had exactly the same feelings you are describing when I went to Morocco, especially Marrakesh. But then I am a social introvert too and I am also from Sardinia.. 🙂

    • Claudia Tavani
      23 February 2017 at 8:56

      Haha – si ho sentito dire che in Marocco ne capitano di ogni, e pure in India. Non sono stata in Marocco, ma in India si e tutto sommato dopo il training a Cuba non ho avuto difficoltà. E’ stata una scuola di viaggi 😉 E comunque il mare come da noi… insomma 😉

  • Cadi
    16 March 2017 at 17:04

    Having just arrived back from a three week cycle tour of Eastern Cuba I have to say I had the same experience. Of course I met a lot of lovely people but there were also times I felt that extra charges were added on sneakily and some people were downright rude. We found we were ignored in small shops and restaurants or when we tried to buy from the food stalls. People seemed to walk at you and expect you to move for them. The country is stunning and I too would still recommend people visit but with open eyes.

    • Claudia Tavani
      16 March 2017 at 19:56

      Hi Cadi, thanks for your comment. I am sorry your experience wasn’t better than mine. I am still hoping to go to Cuba again and prove myself wrong. But your comment and all the ones before you makes it hard to believe so!

  • Iris
    29 March 2017 at 0:43

    I’m so glad that I read your website before I went to Cuba and not after, like so many people here.

    I already had a nagging feeling that I would be a walking ATM machine and that the picture that was painted on the internet about the extremely friendly people was too good to be true. That’s why I googled for websites about scams in Cuba and found yours. I must say that your website is by far the most honest I have come across!

    It must have taken you a lot of courage to write about this negative side of Cuba and I can image that you felt a bit nervous when you posted it, as it’s not uncommon to be severely attacked by anonymous readers when you dare to give a not so political correct point of view.

    I, for one, am very glad that you did and it helped me a lot! It’s only a shame that it is necessary though :-(.

    Iris (from the Netherlands)

    • Claudia Tavani
      29 March 2017 at 0:48

      Hi Iris, thank you for your comment. Yes, publishing this post was nerve wrecking but I feel ever so rewarded when people read it and they are happy to find an honest opinion. I think it is better to go to Cuba fully prepared for what may happen, and hoping that it will not happen. I am sure you will have a great time there, especially now that you know about all the scams!

  • G D
    29 March 2017 at 8:11

    I finally got round to reading the full post after you had talked about it at your TBEX speech. I find posts like yours most refreshing in their acknowledgement of the more “real” experiences tourists are likely to have than the glossed over “everything was wonderful / it was paradise” posts more commonly found in travel blogs. I too loathe feeling like a walking target and having touter after touter besiege you constantly is very draining. Thank you for posting and I hope you have better travelling experiences soon!

    • Claudia Tavani
      29 March 2017 at 9:56

      Girl, thank you for reading the full post and thank you for coming to my presentation. There were few of us there, but I hope you guys enjoyed it. Yeah, I am all about being real. You know, it is funny: this post does keep getting comments. I got 3 more comments just today!!

  • Rosie
    20 July 2017 at 2:43

    Thank you Claudia for this great post. My husband and I with my sister and brother-in-law will be traveling to Cuba in October. Now I know what to look out for. Hopefully because we’re traveling together we won’t get accosted. What other tips can you give? Thank you in advance.

    • Claudia Tavani
      20 July 2017 at 10:11

      Hi Rosie, have you read my post on “things to do in Cuba”? That’s where I give the best tips on how to plan a trip there 🙂

  • guy
    18 August 2017 at 8:57

    nice honest write up, this is definitely a unique country that is not at all user friendly, in an environment like that peoples experiences are going to vary widely

    • Claudia Tavani
      18 August 2017 at 19:51

      It’s that experience that made me want to start my blog altogether!!

  • Peaceandlove
    7 October 2017 at 6:57

    My initial reaction is…. what do you expect when traveling to Cuba? Cuba has been isolated under communist dictatorship since the 1960s. Would you travel to North Korea (another country under dictatorship that has isolated their people from the world) and expect their people NOT to try to get some extra money out of you?? These people are poor. A Cuban makes less than $20 a month. Any foreigner is rich to them. To Not anticipate being swindled for money whether directly or through a scam is naive. Cuba is not a vacation destination, Cubans are not used to the new influx of tourists. It’s a communist country where the government owns and controls everything. Meaning no one can succeed there, a doctor makes the same wages as a laborer and doesn’t have the option to achieve more or move up in life. Perhaps if you understand this, then you’ll see how Cubans “have been hardened by poverty” as there is no way out, unless you’re lucky enough to get to leave the island. Also, Cubans will not talk poorly about Cuba, Fidel Castro or the system, as they will be jailed for doing so. A friend of mine was in Cuba coincidently during time Fidel Castro died, not a soul was out on the street, not even in the promenade that was packed the night before. Why? Out of fear of being arrested for “celebrating” the death of their alleged great leader Fidel Castro. So perhaps this gives you insight on how the Cuban people live: in fear, impoverished, without an option to even TRY to succeed in life, and just surviving with whatever is left of old Cuba. Please try to have some compassion for the Cuban people, it’s not easy to grow up and live there.

    • ken wilson
      7 October 2017 at 15:20

      Being poor and having a hard upbringing is no excuse to an immoral way of life.
      I have visited far poorer countries where culture and civility is a pleasure to experience.
      As to “Cuba is not a vacation destination” Duh
      I have visited Cuba many times and,, as a tourist, understand my privileged life and enjoy the quiet towns that are not so marred by hoards of tourists such as myself. Their sense of family is, as is common in poor countries, a great strength for them and they have welcomed me into their lives many times.

      • Entrevia
        29 July 2018 at 11:00

        Hello there. Since I am a Cuban myself, I would like to add something that will put in context why Cubans are the way they are, from what I know from firsthand. I wanna make clear that I don’t justify vulgarity, scams or any kind of debauchery against innocent people such as tourists or other Cubans; I just wanna throw some light in the why.
        Cubans are not “just” poor in the sense of lacking food and clothes and household items; they are also systematically oppressed by police, functionaries and the authority in general, with no way to escape from this situation. We have had to deal with hardships that I doubt any poor person elsewhere would ever have to deal with. For example, one of my grandmothers had a neighbor with terminal cancer and his relatives had to go to the hospital with a bucket filled with water, taking several trucks full of people across 33+ km from countryside to the capital, because the hospital didn’t have current water functioning. You can think right now about what a great myth is that widespread belief of Cuban healthcare system being “of quality and free”. It isn’t.
        The same goes with education. I don’t remember having any good teacher in my years of being a student in Cuba. In all honesty, they were all quite bad; mainly because a non-widely known politic carried by Fidel himself to form “maestros emergentes” (“instantaneous/emergent teachers”), which were “teachers” formed in 2 years of college and sent to classrooms to deal with students slightly younger than themselves, and a lot of these teachers were from marginal neighborhoods. The best teacher I’ve ever come across was a mature math teacher in later high school, who was good, but not brilliant. Of course, there never was a lack of tons and tons of indoctrination in every grade.
        But the thing I think has damaged our society and culture the most is the economic system itself. All Cubans, with no exception except those who receive money from abroad, are forced inescapably to the black market in the streets. As it was mentioned across other comments, the State monopoly, which is maintained by force, pays Cuban workers an average wage of around 22 USD/month, which is less than 0.13 USD per hour worked. The retirement pay is 8 USD/month. No one in the world could survive with this, and certainly not in Cuba. How do you make a living in such a situation? Selling goods you’ve stolen in your State-owned workplace and increasing their price in the black market. This is the ethic that most Cubans have been dealing for 50+ years, and sum up that they haven’t had any other source of ethics since they’ve been isolated by newspapers and media for that same amount of time (the State even has “wave-cleaning” technology to avoid foreign radio transmitters –such as Radio Martí –being heard by Cuban citizens).
        People are also deprived from police and lawful protection because what they’re doing is considered illegal in the first place, and police is indeed their main enemy… In this environment, people adopt the ethics of survival of the fittest, where nothing matters more than oneself: no respect for the others, no empathy.
        This whole abomination is the true legacy of Marxism and Fidel Castro: an island destroyed economically, but more disturbingly, sociologically, humanely and spiritually. Is this damage reversible? I have no other choice than expecting a yes.

        I hope this has bought a more nuanced perspective about why it’s not merely poverty what drives such a high proportion of Cubans into behaving the unique way you’ve encountered. There are another key situations which has contributed to it, but it’d take too large for a comment to put them all here.

        • Claudia Tavani
          Claudia Tavani
          3 August 2018 at 21:29

          Wow, thank you so much for your insightful comment that adds to the discussion on this post. I can only imagine the daily suffering of people in Cuba. Lately I have grown a desire to go back, and see what happens now that I know way more about the country than when I first went!

    • Claudia Tavani
      8 October 2017 at 19:33

      Unfortunately my experience in Cuba was just as I described it. I’ve been to far poorer countries where I never felt like a waking dollar sign. I’m glad your experience was different!!

  • ken wilson
    9 October 2017 at 17:39

    Hello Claudia,
    I probably misled you. I was commenting on the previous reply from “Peace and Love” who, I am sure is a Cubano and yes, he is quite right, Fidel is held in awe by most. but not so Raul. I have seen school children of only 7 or so years old with their hands out and “dame un CUC” (dollar) never a please or thank you (note that the Cuban government has an advertising campaign to say “gracias y por favor” to combat that rudeness factor). It seems a cultural education in begging and deception that is an epidemic taught at a very young age and perfected with age.
    However once I was settled in a Casa or small town, the locals got to know me and they would refrain from begging because I set rules and then I could talk to them one to one and find many quite charming intelligent people who have a great understanding of their captive predicament with no great chance of advancement through hard work, only through Party Politics and in pandering to Party officials. Mostly they live in fear, not respect ,of the Police and Military State. They are quite understandingly reticent to talk any kind of Politics to a stranger but will privately “open up” once they know you are not a threat. Perhaps, in time, through contact with our capitalist influence via tourism and their need for change that the Internet has shown them, this will improve. I suspect that their government has only changed at all because of Tourism and the Internet, two unstoppable influences. Their underground economy is enormous and this you only see if you spend time outside the Tourist Hotels. I could buy almost anything underground ,that was at higher prices and lower quality in the government stores. The Cubans have a disdain to Cuban built anything because of the poor quality. Almost all their clothes are underground, brought in from Ecuador by Cubans on holiday with large suitcases. To most, the equivalent of a Lottery win is to move to to almost any other country, although family ties defer this wish to some extent.
    By the way, in common with many other Canadians and USA citizens, I also send money to a large family in Pinar del Rio in preference to world wide charities via a Canadian Bank Travel Card that has no charges because most any other method of money transaction is stupidly extortionate . Every penny I send goes to feed, cloth and help but in the back of my mind I also know I am propping up a corrupt regime. It’s a paradox.
    Hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

    • Claudia Tavani
      11 October 2017 at 10:20

      There was no misunderstanding at all. Mine was also a reply to Peace and Love! The whole point of my post is that I felt dehumanized in Cuba. People only saw me as cash and on just a very few occasions they were interested in me as a person rather than money (which I don’t have!)

      • ken wilson
        11 October 2017 at 12:35

        Thanks Claudia,
        You are spot on with your view of Cuba. Great postings that can help tourists. I met many “green tourists” in Cuba who were being fleeced . Your Blog will help Tourists and perhaps influence the Cubans, just a bit.

        • Claudia Tavani
          12 October 2017 at 18:31

          I hope it does! Thanks for commenting

          • Bill
            2 March 2018 at 17:00

            I must agree with everything about society in Cuba .. sex is past time because of the oppression and the neccesity has caused moral and faith to be of almost past .. we all have needs in the world .. I’ve been around the world .. I thought I give Cuba the biggest opportunity.. however , I met very few Cubans truly honest .. and there are some ,, cubans between Cubans are in for survival and Cuban among Cubans are not to quick to sacan each other but they do a little wsys but as sooon as they see a tourist .. they have been taught to scam and steal from tourist .. as oppose to other countries.. other countries have scams and prostitution.. but in Cuba the government sadly has changed the people .. Cubans have education , food and their homes represent what really happened thus technology has helped .. I’ve heard hundreds of foreigners say it will be another 50 to 60 years to change the mindset .. and even then it will have lots of , if scars .. I married a Cuban lady and I travel 10 times a year and I know the ins and outs ..
            been to almost every place in Cuba .. and there are parts in Cuba that people are genuine.. but in Havana it’s not happening.. they all learn from each other how to scam a tourist .. that’s why tourist are so well protected .. Cuba as a country is beautiful like many Caribbean countries,, and Cuba and its history is one tio learn ,, but everyone is individual of their own actions and I learnt that Cubans are nice, people to talk to .. friendly .. like many other parts in the world .. but there much need for change and it will take sometime

          • Claudia Tavani
            2 March 2018 at 18:55

            For sure I need to go back. Perhaps it is better the second time around 🙂

  • Yenni
    26 October 2017 at 17:07

    I am Cuban and when I see comments like that I feel shame. Is a sad reality that in Cuba as a tourist you will encounter a lot of scammers people who only want to rip off foreigners. I don’t justify those people who blame the difficult economic situation and poverty in Cuba and scam tourists, it is not right. I rather prefer to die of hunger than scam people. In Cuba are welcoming, caring and friendly people, but you would not find them approaching foreigners on the street. We are more reserved with outsiders because we are aware of the bad reputation we have earned for all the things you perfectly describe in your blog. That’s why you hadn’t met them yet. I hope in the future you have a better experience and could change your mind.

    • Claudia Tavani
      26 October 2017 at 17:35

      Yenni, yours is not the first comment I receive from a Cuban who came across this post. And you all say the same thing. I hope to go back to Cuba one day, and when I do, I will make sure to let you know, and hopefully we can meet!

  • Anna Urbanová
    14 December 2017 at 16:59

    Omg thank you for this post! Me and my boyfriend have just returned from our Cuba vacation. Before coming there we spent 4 months in Mexico so we did not suppose to experience such cultural shock as if we would go straight from central Europe. During our stay in Mexico we met hundreds of people who lived in HORRIBLE conditions. But none of them treated us as bad as Cubans. 90 % of the people we met in Cuba just tried to scam us and saw us as a walking ATM. I have really never experienced such arrogant and false attitude. In the end we were so annoyed we would just walk the street not watching anybody and not answering anybody. This is the first time in my life I was really looking forward to coming home from vacation. I really believe that those great reviews on Cuba come from people who stay in all-inclusive resorts or buy those package holidays.

    • Claudia Tavani
      15 December 2017 at 11:14

      Hi Anna, thank you for your comment. I always wish people would read my post before going to Cuba, and not after – at least they’d be psychologically prepared! I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. Yes, Cuba is the only place I have visited where I couldn’t wait to get out. So sad 🙁

  • Adam
    1 March 2018 at 19:08

    I think the big point that is missing here about modern Cuban society and the reasons why morals seem to have flown out the window and everyone’s mindset is to hustle; is because of the oppression and perpetual slavery Cubans are under. You mention you’ve been to many other countries with worse “poverty” than Cuba and this is true in the sense that there are poorer people. You must understand Cubans are given many basic things for basically free such as housing, education, healthcare, food etc…but in return they have no freedoms, no aspirations for a future, this is a land where a brain surgeon makes more during his night shift being a Taxi cab driver in Havana than he does operating on someone’s brain during the day. This situation does not happen in any other poor country on the planet, as there will always be those who manage to study and become professionals in their developing countries and are able to live better. When you have no outside knowledge of the outside world, and you know that even if you work your 40 hours a week as a doctor or lawyer, that its barely enough for food, you then see these white foreigners who in their respective countries could be just a cashier at a department store and have so much more economic power and personal freedoms than you…well you’ll do w.e it takes to even the playing field. Cuba is a very special case unlike any other “poor” country, its really a big social experiment that failed miserably and has created a whole generation of people who literally are slaves in paradise, a “revolution” that has lied and hustled them for their children’s futures. If you don’t try and scam foreigners for CUC’s, well those CUP’s you make at your job will never afford you anything even if you are at the top of your field. I don’t want to make excuses for people who act wrong in this world, but in Cuba’s case it has to be noted that this isn’t a regular poor country and the peoples psychology has been molded by the regime and its decades of oppression and destroying of dreams.

    • Claudia Tavani
      2 March 2018 at 9:38

      Hi Adam, thank you so much for your insightful comment. It is important that we keep the debate going on such topics. It is human nature to want more, to be ambitious and to want to have a better life. And you are right, this nature is being curbed completely in Cuba and is causing a lot of suffering 🙁

  • Judy Mutter
    22 March 2018 at 0:44

    I will be going to Cuba in May and your blog was very helpful and informative.

    • Claudia Tavani
      22 March 2018 at 9:32

      Glad you find it useful! Feel free to browse the rest of the blog for more posts about Cuba 🙂

  • Jessica
    24 April 2018 at 5:07

    I’m going there in 5 days and I have to admit it’s VERY last second. The plane tickets have been bought, but that is it. I really appreciate your honesty!!! It helps me have realistic expectations which was NOT the case when I visited Spain. I also speak passable Spanish so getting the necessary info has never been the issue. I will keep reading comments, but being warned about specific scams sounds excellent. I had also been torn about gearing the trip toward beach or city more and now I wonder if it would be less emotionally exhausting to focus on smaller towns. . . . or is the con just as aggressive everywhere? Also, if we’re on scooters would we be prohibited from going to certain places? The non-tourist vs tourist areas is a bit unclear to me.

    The trip will be me and 2 other girls, 5 days starting in Havana then Jibacoa. We like biking a lot – I was wondering if this is something easily done on the spot. In Spain it was easy to rent from a shop, but we had issues with the kiosk to the point it was maddening. I also saw that motorized scooters were not expensive. Seems relevant to say we are attractive, we love to salsa dance, and one person is fluent in Spanish. I am curious how the transportation is- it’s next on the list for research.

    • Claudia Tavani
      24 April 2018 at 11:14

      Hi Jessica, if you go prepared it’s easier to manage, and I think you will be fine. I don’t know about renting scooters. To be honest I have never even heard of someone doing it. Bikes are easy to find in some places – ie Vinales, which you really should visit! As for scams… they are worst in big cities for sure, but keep your eyes open anywhere. For anything else, head over to my guide – you should find some useful information there as well!

  • David
    27 April 2018 at 18:02

    Greetings, my name is David Haro, my English is not so good, but I will try. I tripped accidentally with your Blog and to tell the truth I have not been surprised by the things that you say has happened, because they are certainly true. I am Cuban, I live in Cuba, I am the father of 3 beautiful children and I live with them and my wife. If I have decided to write to you publicly, it is because it hurts me that things like this are the real impressions that people who love my country take for the beauty of their surroundings and who travel here hoping to find a warmth in people they do not find.

    I will not assume the role of victim in this case, but I will try to explain some details of Cuba today, I am 42 years old, I was born in 1975 and during the years I lived before the special period (1993- onward) I assure you, people They were not like that. However, since 1993 we can say that there is a before and after in the way of life and thinking of my compatriots. Many years of deprivation, hunger and needs have brought out the worst in people. Havana, is not what it was before, people who are harassing tourists are the worst of society, the jineteros and all those vultures who expect to live at the expense of tourists are people of very low scruples. Taxi drivers and private and corporate taxi drivers live in a brutal competition process, I do not justify them, but if tourists do not fall down, they simply do not take money home, therefore, they go hungry.

    Did you know that Cubans perceive an average of around 30 USD per month as wages? The minimum wage is 9 USD per month in Cuba. What forces people to work on anything that reports money, legal or illegal.

    Certainly, scams, and all kinds of tricks are on the table everywhere, specifically if tourists are involved. The same with men as with women. Look, I’ll give you an example, 95% of Cuban women, who live in Cuba, who are on internet dating sites, ALL, all they want is to meet a prince charming (they do not care about color) foreigner, yuma like They say here, that can take them out of here from this country and take them to live anywhere, even Cambodia. But that is their decision, on the other hand, many women do not even think about it, they live their lives as professionals or workers with their sights set on something else. You won´t find these people harassing tourists, but living their normal lives.

    These people have to be total insolent to ask a stranger to go to eat and drink or show you the beauties of the city and then charge commission for that.

    But I add, not all people are equal, not all Cuban men and women are equal to these people who do these things. The main indicator is that you WILL NOT FIND A PERSON OF GOOD falling behind, harassing tourists through the streets of Cuba. These people ALWAYS have displeased me and unfortunately I’m SICK with their attitude.

    These people can choose between working and getting what they can with their sweat or simply prostitute themselves, harass tourists or enrich themselves through various crimes.

    I at least do not do such a thing, nor do I teach my children that either, and my wife does not either. I beg you to answer me because I want you to change the way you see us Cubans.

    I am an IT professional, I currently work as a consultant for a foreign company and I advise an IT management office in an NGO. My salaries are still incomparably low to what I would perceive in any developed country, but I don´t see any tourist, man or woman as a Rara Avis, ready to drained out your money or as sexual objects. That´s the opposite of me.

    A warm hug for you, with the real cuban spirit of love and friendship.

    • Claudia Tavani
      27 April 2018 at 20:48

      David, what a warm, thoughtful comment this is! You have just made my day. No pasa dia sin que pienso cuanto me gustaria volver a visitar Cuba. Por supuesto lo haré y ese dia, fijate, yo creo que voy a tener una experiencia completamente diferente. A ver si podemos seguir en contacto. Aqui tengo tu correo y me encantaria encontrar a ti, tu mujer y tu ninos. Un fuerte abrazo!

      • David
        27 April 2018 at 22:44

        Greetings again!
        Please, write whenever you want, if some day you are planning to visit Cuba again, just let me know, my family and I live in Santiago de Cuba, it´s about 969 km from Havana. Acá la esperamos con amor y con deseos de mostrarle nuestra Ciudad. Sinceramente y sin ningún tipo de compromisos, trucos o estafas. Solo déjeme saberlo para planificar y atenderla, si me envia su e-mail le envio fotos de mi familia.

        Gracias por responder,

        • Claudia Tavani
          Claudia Tavani
          9 May 2018 at 10:35

          Siiii, conozco y ya visité con mi hermana. Hacia un calor loco! Bueno, seguimos en contacto 🙂 encuentra mi correo aqui en ese sitio

  • Caney
    24 June 2018 at 20:27

    Hi Claudia! Obviously something in the Cuban reviews was missing on the net… I’ve never came across so many “bad” ones all together, so you definitely hit the nail in the had. Let me ask you something, when you said “Each time I plan to visit a new place, I spend hours on the web reading about it. Travel blogs, online magazines, guides, travel diaries and what not.”, what sites did you check online? Because I’m an old (very old) member of some of the most known travel sites, and there are plenty of warnings about scams and about how Cuba is for tourists and what to expect and so on…

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      26 June 2018 at 17:46

      Remember we are talking years ago (5 years now) and I was reading only Italian travel diaries!

  • Kevin
    5 August 2018 at 8:11

    My experience of the Cuban people has been both positive and negative. I have been to Cuba four times. The first two times were in the year 2002. The third time was in 2011. My most recent visit was in February 2018.

    The mother of a long-time friend of mine is from Cuba. My friend and her mother both live in California now. Before I went to Cuba the first time, I called my friend and asked if she had relatives there to whom I could take anything for them. She checked with her mother and they put together a backpack filled with all kinds of things scarce there. I met my friend’s relatives there and liked them very much, one of her cousins in particular and his wife and son. Through them, I have experienced the best of the Cuban people. They and their friends are wonderful people and have made every visit worthwhile.

    If it were not for my friend’s family, I probably would not have returned. I completely relate to your experiences there. Other than those Cubans who are now my friends, and their friends, almost every Cuban I have met there has invariably hit me up for money or things that cost money. It can be extremely disappointing to have that happen over and over. Now, when someone smiles and speaks to me in the street, I know what’s going to happen sooner or later. I know I am seen as a financial opportunity, not a human being.

    It gets easier. I have learned to handle it by firmly saying “no” as respectfully as possible and immediately. Sometimes that’s not enough. It can be like telemarketers and you have to hang up on them fast or they will take all of your time. But as soon as you hang up on one the line is free for another to call. And it’s more difficult for women there, I understand, as the unwanted attention from men in the street is relentless. When I was there in February, I met two young Italian women who could hardly wait to get out of there and leave behind the heavy sexual harassment.

    People should know in advance to be prepared for it. I’ve tried to tell other experienced travelers how it can be and usually they tell me they’ve been to India, or wherever, and don’t need my advice before going to Cuba. They want to be open-minded and form their own opinion and it probably seems to them like I’m being bigoted so I don’t say much. But I am well-traveled, enjoy experiencing other cultures, and have a love of the Cuban culture. There are many hustlers and scammers in Cuba, and it isn’t easy to get beyond it to enjoy the good stuff, but it can be done. By not sugar-coating it, you are deterring the people from going there who know they could not get past it and you are preparing others for the reality of it.
    Your post was a timely reminder that the Cuban people can be very tiresome. Thank you. I was planning to be there for 46 days beginning in January 2019 and today, after coming across your honest and accurate assessment, I cut it back to 30 days.

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      5 August 2018 at 21:03

      Ha! India to me was a piece of cake after having being trained in Cuba! I do like the idea of being open minded. But in this particular case, it also means being open to scams! Thank you so much for your comment 🙂


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Who is Claudia?

Hello, nice to meet you!

Hello, nice to meet you!

Hi, my name is Claudia. One day I packed my life and started traveling... except I packed too much. Follow me as I fill my life with dreams, drop the weight and inspire you to live your dreams. View and download my media kit here (updated December 2017). Learn more about me here...


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