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Cuba-Havana The Great Cheat


To all travellers who will visit Havana for the first time - a few notes to keep you warned...
We just got back from Havana [Nov.2006] and I must say, we won't be back there soon. Our group was one guy[me] and two girls, all in our late 20s. We are Bulgarian and being from a former comunist country, Havana was pretty much going back to our country some 50 years ago... russian ladas, moskvitchs and the odd cadilac are running the streets, the taxis were all a big cheat, usually about 3 to 5 times above the real price which we found out when we insisted on checking the meter, some of them did not have meters, others did not turn it on, some even had caps to cover it. One thing- never negotiate the price beforehand, it will always be cheaper if you just go by the meter. The last time we negotiated, we were again cheated- the driver said 15 pesos, the meter showed 5.90
The food is the most unhealthy and usually deep-fried, and most of times you will be charged about 10 or more pesos for something that should actually cost about 3.
Drinks should never be more than 2.50-3 pesos, though they might want to charge you 4 or more.
Cigars offered by the guys on the street are never legal, and they will always try to convince you they know someone from the factory and they're 100% legal- not true!
We were stopped on every corner to be offered all kinds of things and it really got to the point that we couldn't take this harrassement any longer, we were so frustrated, everyone asks you where you're from, what's your name, what do they care! Our money of course. Whatever they talk about it always comes to the money at the end. No matter how nice and sincere they might seem.
All the shops are rubbish and we got cheated even in the shop when buying water and crisps, so we had to count everything beforehand just like in Bulgaria in our childhood. The hotel we stayed - Inglaterra was 4stars, but the rooms are more like 2 stars and we were given the worst room ever, only after we made a scene they gave us a proper room with a balcony. They were extremely rude in all restaurants, no smile or even eye contact when they serve you and they still expect you to be happy to pay European prices for crap food and zero service. Even the poorly made cds cost 12 pesos[10euros] which is the price in Virgin for a top chart cd...
If you're a vegetarian, DO NOT GO THERE, you will STARVE. My friend is, and she spent the whole week on bread and cabbage salads[ with a hint of green tomato] - terrible.
And if you're not happy to be whistled and shouted at on every two steps, then you will not really have much fun. Maybe you will try to avoid the old city and Malecon for these reasons. there is a lot of police everywhere, but most of the time they are corrupted and not so reliable.
These people really think that all tourists are loaded and try to get as much as they can from everyone, no matter where you are from. I thought I might have a nice massage on the beach. Well, 25 pesos [23 euros] did not sounds cheap to me at all. I can get that in IBIZA, actually, everything seems to be IBIZA prices, only the good parties are absent. For a cheap holiday aim at another location. Or at least avoid HAVANA. For the money we spent, we will go to Cote D'Azur next time... Good luck!