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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.