Are You Really Ready For Cuba?

With the recent ease in travel restrictions from the U.S. to Cuba, there has been so much chatter and buzz about how folks just “have to get there to see it in it’s buff”, or just “have to see it before the Americans take it over”. Literally, every other time I mention that I’m going to, or coming back from, Cuba, I get a response similar to the above mentioned remarks.  But, is that REALLY what we Americans want?  To see Cuba “in it’s buff”? Do we really want to experience Cuba before it is “Americanized”?  Can we really handle that?  You’d be surprised by the true answer, I think.

The idea of traveling to a place that for the past 50 years, or so, was “forbidden” to U.S. citizens seems exciting. Adventurous. Brave. Cool.  It proves that you are a world traveler.  That you don’t need to be surrounded by all of the creature comforts of home.  That you’re not sheltered. Right? Well, based on my experiences over the past year with taking groups to Cuba to participate in People-to-People exchanges (1 of the 12 categories that allow U.S. citizens to legally travel there), not everyone is REALLY ready to see Cuba “in it’s buff”, or before it is “Americanized”.  Not everyone is the experienced traveler who is ready to be exposed to ALL parts of the globe. And, guess what? That’s okay.What is not so okay to me is that folks leave the comforts of the U.S. talking on and on about how they are ready to go full-force into the experience of this once “forbidden” country, and nearly spasm out the moment they realize that, say, the air conditioning in the room is not has forceful as it is in their State-side home. Or, that the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet is not the likes of their IHOP breakfast. Or that Cuba’s national dish doesn’t taste the way they want it to taste. I’m serious.  I can’t make this stuff up!

I admit, to some, to many, the first visit to Cuba can be daunting. The country may appear to be still in the 50’s, but it’s slowly making progress.  So, sure, it takes some a minute to adjust, and move on with their visit.  But, some visitors do not seem to make the adjustment, and unfortunately, they spend their entire visit to the place they couldn’t wait to experience in “its true form” complaining, retreating, and missing out on the moments.What a pity.

Cuba is not for everyone.  It simply is not!  Not everyone finds it easy to maneuver through the underdeveloped roads to the underdeveloped towns, differentiating between the two types of Cuban currencies, eating the staple beans, rice and meat, while occasionally swatting flies or accidentally getting whiffs of vehicle fumes. Cuba is for you if you go knowing what to expect, and with an open mind, an open heart, and a little knowledge of the history of the country.  Having a little common sense will also help.

A few take-aways, in no particular order (this is not a full list):

  • The hotel room star rating system in Cuba is not the same as it is in the States. Their 4 star is closer to our 2 star.
  • Just because you are “promised” a certain type, size, make or model vehicle, does not mean you are “guaranteed” it.
  • Sometimes the AC works, sometimes it doesn’t. 
  • The food in Cuba tastes different from the food in the U.S. because it is different from the food in the U.S.
  • You will lose money on the currency exchange.
  • The official language in Cuba is Spanish (Surprisingly, I have to remind people of this!)
  • Most of the Cuban people do not understand American slang. (Again, surprise!)
  • Cuba is underdeveloped by U.S. standards. (Yep! Surprise!)
  • Travelers from the U.S. have to meet at least one of twelve qualifications to LEGALLY travel to Cuba from the U.S.
So, think about it.  Are you REALLY ready to visit Cuba?  Know that spending most of your visit griping and complaining about how the country doesn’t have the comforts of “home” won’t change anything. Are you ready?  If your answer is yes, great for you!  It is truly a remarkable place filled with a rich culture and friendly people just waiting to greet you!

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Are You Really Ready For Cuba?
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8 thoughts on “Are You Really Ready For Cuba?

  • September 26, 2016 at 4:40 am
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    That's sad to hear that people have acted that way but I'm not surprised especially with how I have witnessed my fellow Americans abroad. I visited Cuba in March with my husband and spent a week visiting several areas and loved it. I look forward to visiting again and I for one hope they retain their own culture although I hope opening up the country will improve the economy for Cubans.

    Reply
    • September 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm
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      Nadeen, thank you for your reply. I hope you and your husband will return many more times!

      Reply
  • September 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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    Finally, someone is telling people the truth – about Cuba and about their misplaced expectations. I have never been, but truly to expect it to be as beautiful as the Cuban folks I have had the pleasure of meeting state-side, because I am more interested in the people of Cuba, than the amenities of Cuba. I will admit that when I first started traveling over 25 years ago – I too, was the "ugly American" – thinking everything should be "as perfect" as home; but thank God I've learned to understand and appreciate the people, culture, and beauty of the places I've the privilege to visit; and I can't wait to add Cuba to that list. Thanks for the interesting and sobering read.

    Reply
  • September 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm
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    Cyndie,
    Thank you so much for your comments. I welcome open-minded travelers like you to my group anytime!

    Reply
  • October 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm
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    I'm so glad I joined you in Cuba last year. It's a beautiful island with friendly people. Thanks for the adventure!

    Reply
  • October 4, 2016 at 4:55 pm
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    Great blog Ingrid and well said. You absolutely have to have an open mind. Cuba is not the US. It can be a little comfortable at times (no a/c, car fumes, etc.) but that's part of the experience of seeing Cuba "in the buff" and I hope it never changes. I absolutely loved it and can't wait to go back!

    Reply

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