Almost getting arrested in Cuba

Yeah, almost got myself into a world of hurt. So this story is to tell you, what not to do when going to cuba. Trust me, this story will save you the headache. Especially, if you are American.

It all started when I bought my tickets to Cuba. They were for an aiport called Holguin. I would fly from NYC to Toronto and then Toronto to Holguin. Looking back, I should had double checked more information about the Airport first.

Outside view of the airport photo courtesy of Hugo Morel

What makes this airport special is the fact that it’s in the province that Fidel Castro was born in. Being the Communist country that it is, Castro is almost viewed as a holy figure. So of course, this airport would have some national pride to it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my most memorable moment.

Waiting at the airport’s parking lot photo courtesy of Hugo Morel

Got into the immigration and customs line without a problem. Eventually, it was my turn to speak with the officer. Showed him my passport and said everything wrong. At that time, if you were American, you could travel to Cuba for educational reasons. However, you don’t say that to the Cubans. You need tell them you are there for vacation. If you all know me by now, I told them I was there for educational purposes.

To the immigration officers, all the red flags were shown. I got sent into another room where three other officers started questioning me in Spanish. Luckily, I spoke Spanish. I can’t imagine what would happened if I didn’t. They spoke no English, apparently.

After about 20 mins of questioning and convincing, I was eventually let free. Met up with a local friend named Andy. By the way, those 20 minutes were rough. They asked me everything, even about my relatives. This was my first minutes in Cuba and they were already bad. However, I was not going to let this ruin my time.

Walking towards the edge of the street photo courtesy of Hugo Morel

Outside of the aiport was where the real issue occurred. Andy and I were looking for a taxi. Holguin is about a 2 hour drive from Santiago de Cuba. Which was the place I would be staying at. Unfortunately, the roads in Cuba are horrible. It would probably take up at least 3 hours.

All the taxi drivers in Holguin are run by the goverment. They were very aggressive. I would say no and they would circle around the aiport just to ask me again. I felt like a dying mouse and the taxi drivers were birds of prey. They all wanted about two hundred usa dollars worth for one way. It’s ridiculous because most of these drivers only get paid about 5 usa dollars a month! They have the nerve to try to rip off/scam tourists!

Sidewalk just outside of the airport where we got harassed by taxi drivers photo courtesy of Hugo Morel

Andy and I started walking outside of the airport. He was a little nervous because of the situation. Andy knew that these people were apart of the government and they could tell any police officer false claims. We could end up in jail because of their lies. Ironically, I only had 300 usa dollars worth of currency. American cards do not work in Cuba because of international policies. So, what I had was what I had. We had to find out a way out of this mess. What made things worst, this airport is in the middle of nowhere. Country side for miles, you can not walk on the streets without being watched.

We were about to speak with another driver, when that same driver that has been circling us pulled up. We told him no for the fourth time. This time he was angry. The driver screamed at us claiming he would tell the police. The situation was getting intense.

Back in the airport’s parking lot where we found a kind hearted taxi driver photo courtesy of Hugo Morel

By chance/luck, we found a driver that would take us for about 80 USA dollars worth. The driver was going to Santiago anyways. Andy’s showed off his strong negotiation skills. Sadly, the situation was still not over.

As we got into the car, we noticed the cameras were following us. I didn’t noticed them at first. They were moving everywhere we moved. This was proof the other driver made the government aware of us. Our good hearted taxi driver started to get nervous as he started the car. As what he was doing, was technically illegal. By helping us out with a cheaper fair, he was putting his safety at risk. The cameras were straight on us. We drove out of there as soon as possible. While the goverment’s cameras were following our every move.

After about 30 minutes of driving, we started to feel more comfortable. The tension in the car died down. We were out of the airport and out of that province. The music started and the laughter began. Even with everything dying down, you still felt that the goverment could stop us at any moment.

Thank you for reading! Much love and safe travels.

Check out our eBook “How to Travel for Dirt Cheap” by Hugo Morel for ways to make your dreams of traveling come true without breaking the bank.

52 thoughts on “Almost getting arrested in Cuba

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  1. An interesting read, no doubt…Glad you pulled through…Thank you! Be careful on your next trip! Lol

    However, may I suggest you edit before you print? there are a lot of mistakes…No offense, just saying… (I don’t know if you’re mother tongue English or not…reading your name *Hugo Morel*, I’m not sure.)

    Melody Fox (aka the Princess of Rock)
    LPM 💙☮️🎵

  2. Wow, this reads like a spy novel. I can only imagine how scary it would be to be questioned in another language by angry Gov. officials. I think I’ll cross Cuba off my list. thanks for sharing. Loved to know how the rest of your trip went.

    1. Wow thank you so much for the compliment. I didnt even think it was that good of writing. I wouldn’t cross it off. You should to the Havana airport. Do not go through any other airport, if you are american. It’s not worth the stress.

      1. O.K. so it’s not all of Cuba that’s like that, just this area? Maybe it can be on my bucket list then. It would certainly be a fascinating place to see.

  3. omg! I can only imagine your frustration!!
    Thank you for sharing your experience because I would have thought that it wouldn’t be so bad but judging from the situation in Venezuela, anything is possible.

  4. Take the Viazul bus next time. Cheap, comfortable, friendly and hassle free. And you CAN haggle with taxi drivers. Agree the price before going. Taxi drivers and providers of other services are terrified of being reported for trying to rip people off. Cuba is so reliant on tourism the authorities take any such reports very seriously.

    1. Santiago only has a domestic airport. That was the closest international airport. I wouldn’t go back to be honest not to santiago unless by a domestic plane to the airport near by. It’s crazy to do.

  5. Oh no! Glad you made it. Havana or Varadero is a better airport I think. But still, you learn as you go. But when travelling, ALWAYS say that you are a tourist. I don’t want to lecture you, I’m really not, but it’s just my expercience with travelling. Communist countries …. you know how to get in but once in you never know what to expect. That IS the system. Cubans are so friendly though. I would say you acuatually experienced a bit of ‘real’ Cuba, it’s not all Cuba Libre! And yes, the Viazul is great but you discovered that already.

    1. Lol yes exactly. Thank you for the tip. I will say im a tourist everywhere i go moving forward. It was scary moment. When i go back to cuba. It has to be Havana. I cant do that airport again. I hope to go to china and south Korea soon. Even though China is more socialism than anything now. Also Venezuela as well. It’s interesting to learn and makes me feel morr proud to be America

      1. I was in China. Please say you are a tourist. I did nothing wrong. They took me into an office. I stood there. I don’t speak Chinese. They took my passport. Made a copy while I didn’t know what in the world was going on. They released me. To this day I do not know what that was about. It ended all well but a friend of mine was taken into interrogation (again, in chinese) because – and I kid you not – he was running in the streets (he wanted to catch the bus with us). Oh those stories….now I can laugh about them 🙂 When you want to see communism you can always wait a bit and visit Poland or Russia. Who knows …. history repeats itself. No, in all honesty, I wish you safe and nice travels!

      2. Thank you for the tip! That sounded very stressful. I really gotta be careful in china then. I have been to poland. It’s a very beautiful country. Russia is still on my list.thank you for sharing

  6. That was scary. I suppose since I’m Filipino
    I wouldn’t be discriminated if I go there (I hope). But yeah, better do Havana airport instead, the main gateway.

  7. Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  8. Wow! That was scary, and I am Cuban myself. But I don{t understand why “educational reasons” sounded suspicious to them. Well, one never knows in mi Cubita bella. Uff. Thanks for sharing and happy new year!

  9. It’s really a communist paradise.🤔🤔 in india not only in india I think u.s.a to fake media always try to show Cuba a land of milk and honey thnx to you& social media .🤓🤓🙏

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