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Touring Cuba

Old 08-14-05, 02:48 PM
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Touring Cuba

Has anyone toured in Cuba lately?
I know there is lots of information on the net but I am interested to know if anybody has been there in the past year or so.
I realize that the local situation re tourism and the dollar economy can change quickly.
Are casa particulares still operating freely? Any problems with transporting bicycles?
Any other tips about cycle touring in Cuba.?
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Old 08-14-05, 04:57 PM
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You're lucky you're in Canada. The US govt. has an awful lot of restrictions for traveling. US citizens can ride a bike--but only as part of an approved educational program. Otherwise, we face some stiff penalties.
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Old 08-14-05, 08:30 PM
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Along these same lines, is it possible for a U.S. tourist to go with a Canadian Tour group to Cuba without penalties?
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Old 08-14-05, 08:35 PM
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I met some Americans that travelled into Mexico. From there, they hopped a plane to Cuba. I think they avoided the penalties because they went to Cuba through third party means without getting detected by the USA.

I think we are only allowed to go now for educational and/or religious purposes.

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Old 08-14-05, 08:46 PM
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You can do it but not legally...

Joan Slote



Joan Slote, a mother, a grandmother, a breast cancer survivor, and a medalwinning cyclist in the Senior Olympics has been fined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for her travel to Cuba.

Slote, who has biked throughout the United States and in 20 nations overseas, made the mistake of believing a travel brochure from a Canadian tour company that erroneously stated that it was legal for Americans to travel to Cuba so long as they first passed through Mexico or Canada. Slote toured Cuba with a friend, and when they returned to the United States, she forthrightly reported to U.S. Customs that she had traveled to Cuba.

Nearly three years of state-sponsored torment has ensued. Slote was fined over $7,000 for violating the travel ban. Treasury and OFAC declined her initial requests to negotiate the penalty, denied her a hearing, and threatened to attach her Social Security check in order to secure payment of the fine, which grew to nearly $10,000.

“I cannot understand why any American is fined for exercising [her] right to see this beautiful world,” says Slote. “Even if the fine were reasonable, the way it is being administered against me and others seems heartless. I hope others do not have to continue to suffer as I have. We Americans can make a difference in Cuba by traveling there,” she concluded. “We should have our freedom back.”

Thanks to members of Congress, Joan’s fine has been reduced to $1,900.


https://www.cubacentral.com/travelvictimsdetail.cfm?ID=4
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Old 08-14-05, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by skookum
You can do it but not legally...

Joan Slote



Joan Slote, a mother, a grandmother, a breast cancer survivor, and a medalwinning cyclist in the Senior Olympics has been fined by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for her travel to Cuba.

Slote, who has biked throughout the United States and in 20 nations overseas, made the mistake of believing a travel brochure from a Canadian tour company that erroneously stated that it was legal for Americans to travel to Cuba so long as they first passed through Mexico or Canada. Slote toured Cuba with a friend, and when they returned to the United States, she forthrightly reported to U.S. Customs that she had traveled to Cuba.

Nearly three years of state-sponsored torment has ensued. Slote was fined over $7,000 for violating the travel ban. Treasury and OFAC declined her initial requests to negotiate the penalty, denied her a hearing, and threatened to attach her Social Security check in order to secure payment of the fine, which grew to nearly $10,000.

“I cannot understand why any American is fined for exercising [her] right to see this beautiful world,” says Slote. “Even if the fine were reasonable, the way it is being administered against me and others seems heartless. I hope others do not have to continue to suffer as I have. We Americans can make a difference in Cuba by traveling there,” she concluded. “We should have our freedom back.”

Thanks to members of Congress, Joan’s fine has been reduced to $1,900.


https://www.cubacentral.com/travelvictimsdetail.cfm?ID=4
If it's illegal, then you can't do it. I don't know how people fall for that stuff- I thought the majority of people know you can't go to Cuba under those circumstances (hence the sneakiness of the Americans I met while travelling through Mexico). It is true- ignorance of the law doesn't mean you're innocent!

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Old 08-14-05, 09:13 PM
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Bring Euros, not dollars!
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Old 08-14-05, 09:20 PM
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People do all sorts of illegal things and get away with it. So you can do it but you are breaking the law. Anyway I am not advocating that Americans travel to Cuba in defiance of their government.

I am just asking if any of the international non American readers of this forum have any experiences of cycling in Cuba that they would like to share.

I'm not breaking any US law by asking this, am I?
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Old 08-14-05, 09:28 PM
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Oh, I know you aren't advocating breaking the law. I'm just saying I got no love for grandma there.

If you're worried about breaking our laws, though, let us know. We can always delete.

If I ever give up my US citizenship, I'll head out to Cuba myself. From the people I've talked to, I get the idea that it is an absolutely beautiful country (some of my friends go for vacations disguised as "educational purposes"), but none of them went on a cycling trip.

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Old 08-14-05, 10:08 PM
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Cuba should be a really cool place to cycle! The roads are shared by a mix of pedestrians, horse-drawn carts, bicycles and motor vehicles. The balance is more towards cars and motorcycles and urban areas, more towards "alternative" transport in more rural areas. The roads are definitely not as good as the roads in the U.S. and and Canada, at least not in the western part of the country where I've been (near Holguin). A couple of the roads that I was on (in a bus) that went through farmland were outright bad, but this seemed to be the exception, rather than the rule. Do be aware that all of the traffic can kick up a LOT of dust - and you probably will want to be riding during the dry part of the year, because quite a few roads will get pretty churned up in the rain. Oh yes, and be sure to take lots of pictures!

Also, a tip - if you do happen to cycle in "el Oriente" (the western part of Cuba), check out the coastal town of Gibara. It's a beautiful place with a lot of local history. Neat place. Besides, I have friends there .

EDIT: Yes, I am American, and yes I traveled to Cuba legally. So no need to get me in trouble .

Last edited by grolby; 08-14-05 at 10:41 PM.
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Old 08-14-05, 11:18 PM
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Dammit... I just dialled the 91... then I saw the edit just in time. So emergency didn't get the call after all!

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Old 08-15-05, 07:24 AM
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There's a great book titled The Handsomest Man in Cuba: a bicycle escapade written by Lynette Chiang, who sometimes posts here but is not doubt too modest to mention the book herself. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book details her experiences while biking in Cuba on her Bike Friday.
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Old 01-15-06, 10:08 PM
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Oriente, western cuba. Give your head a shake!
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Old 01-17-06, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Tug
Along these same lines, is it possible for a U.S. tourist to go with a Canadian Tour group to Cuba without penalties?
It can be done, but unless you've got special permission from the US State Department, it's not legal, and there are penalties if you get caught, and those penalties will be enforced, especially under our current administration.

That said, it can be done. I've done it. About ten years ago. I went with a companion from New York to Montreal, and we made our travel arrangements to Cuba from there.

Cuba has no problems with US citizens, and they're as welcome as citizens of any other country. The Cuban customs officials are very understanding of the situation US citizens find themselves in. They won't put a stamp in your passport.

We didn't try to bring bicycles with us. We rented them there. That meant we had old beater bikes, but they worked fine for us.

The Cuban people are friendly and outgoing and have no dislike of Americans. They don't especially like our government, which is understandable under the circumstances, but they do distinguish between the people and the government. If you don't speak Spanish, many Cubans speak excellent English, so don't worry -- that's not a problem.

The currency is in effect US dollars (probably Euros too, these days). A standard tourist scam is to offer to exchange your dollars for Cuban pesos at a really good rate. The problem is that nobody will take peso for anything. They're useless. Hold on to your dollars.

Cuba is absolutely beautiful and well worth the trip. If you're a journalist or some kind of artist, you can probably get permission for some sort of cultural exchange trip or something. The same is true if you're a doctor or med student -- Cuba is justly proud of its health-care system, and people come from all over the world to study tropical diseases there.

Or you could just take the risk, like I did. I've never had any problems because of it.
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Old 01-17-06, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by skookum
Has anyone toured in Cuba lately?
I know there is lots of information on the net but I am interested to know if anybody has been there in the past year or so.
I realize that the local situation re tourism and the dollar economy can change quickly.
Are casa particulares still operating freely? Any problems with transporting bicycles?
Any other tips about cycle touring in Cuba.?
Why would anyone want to line Castro's pockets?

Tim
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Old 01-19-06, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by cs1
Why would anyone want to line Castro's pockets?
OK, fair question, and I'll give you my answers.

First, you're not lining Castro's pockets, you're lining the pockets of the Cuban people, who can really use it.

Second, you probably have your own ideas about the embargo, and you're entitled to them, and I'm willing to listen, but I don't like it. It seems kind of ridiculous to cast tiny, impoverished Cuba in the role of godless Communist threat to the United States, when China, with a billion people and lots of nuclear weapons, most of which are aimed across the Formosa Strait at our allies in Taiwan, is our best friend right now. What's the difference? There's money to be made in China, that's the difference, and that trumps all. Hey, by the way, how many of us are riding bikes made in China? The embargo is an outdated policy catering to a small constituency that happens to be near and dear to our current adminstration. Let's not forget that the President's brother is the governor of Florida, home to I don't know how many Cubans who fled Cuba after the revolution. They all vote Republican.

Third, Cuba is beautiful. It's well worth a bike trip. So many Cubans get around by bike (or at least they did when I was there) that the country is better-suited to bike touring than anywhere else I've ever been. The people are hospitable and generous and just really nice (even to Americans!).
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Old 02-13-06, 09:22 PM
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Skookum, If you want the real dope on biking in Cuba buy the book "The Handsomest Man In Cuba" by Lynette Chaing. She did a long solo bike tour of Cuba, the real Cuba, not the tourist Cuba. It's a great read, and will give you many insights on the country and the culture. Here is her website where you can order, or I think you can get it from Amazon.

Forget the political junk and have a great time!!

https://www.galfromdownunder.com/
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Old 02-13-06, 09:43 PM
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Well stated Saintly Loser and I fully agree. It also burns me that Cuba is out of bounds yet we, Americans, can travel to almost any other destination. Liike you I have a much bigger problem w/ China than Cuba. W/out saying to much, I would probably lose my job if I traveled there but thinking of doing it anyway. Is it against the law? Yes. Will there be any victims? Only one-me. It would be my way of protesting a law that's BS. It's crazy that people can travel there if they have a good reason and are approved. It shouldn't be one way or another if it's the law.

Skookum, if you go, good onya and look forward to reading your posts.
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Old 02-15-06, 01:12 AM
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"ignorance of the law doesn't mean you're innocent!". Obviously, but it doesn't make you a bad person, and she should sue those canucks if they actually misrepresented the facts. That is inexcuseable.

It certainly has nothing to do with lining the pockets of Fidel, remitences are legal, as far as I know(?). So they are getting the cash. I assume the reason is that one is not required to make life easy for a leader who thumbed his nose at the US, and invited nuclear missiles to a point a few miles offshore, and by all accounts, including his own, very nearly precipitated the end of the world and was willing to embrace it. I'm not taking sides in the argument, but the sides exist, and their positions are fairly logical. I mean they are getting a sweet deal in Cuba, compared to the several million dead and 20 years of being frozen out accorded to the Vietnamese. It's a gentle approach.

Cuba is a great place to go to because Americans can't get there. That isn't any insult to the best neighbours a guy could ever ask for, it's just a fact. The society is quaint and uncrowded due to that artificial break on their normal partern of development. Kinda like France.
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Old 02-15-06, 01:26 AM
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we travelled to cuba via jamaica a couple of years ago. hardest trip to organize but so worth it. if you're of the mind to go, do it...at least before the u.s. opens it and you see marriots on the beach in havana

a few lessons learned:

1. rent a bike while your there. it's only $1 or so, and you definitely get what you pay for! but i haven't smiled that hard since i was a kid.
2. on the other hand, don't rent snorkeling gear...as it's also cheap and you...get what you pay for.
3. if you fly through mo' bay, jamaica, steer clear of any restaurant serving fish stew...
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Old 02-15-06, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Peterpan1
It certainly has nothing to do with lining the pockets of Fidel, remitences are legal, as far as I know(?). So they are getting the cash. I assume the reason is that one is not required to make life easy for a leader who thumbed his nose at the US, and invited nuclear missiles to a point a few miles offshore, and by all accounts, including his own, very nearly precipitated the end of the world and was willing to embrace it. I'm not taking sides in the argument, but the sides exist, and their positions are fairly logical. I mean they are getting a sweet deal in Cuba, compared to the several million dead and 20 years of being frozen out accorded to the Vietnamese. It's a gentle approach.

Cuba is a great place to go to because Americans can't get there. That isn't any insult to the best neighbours a guy could ever ask for, it's just a fact. The society is quaint and uncrowded due to that artificial break on their normal partern of development. Kinda like France.
There's room for debate as to how voluntary Castro's actions were during the missile crisis. He was at that time utterly dependent on the Soviet Union for fuel, technology, financial aid and more. And it's also arguable that the regime would have toppled years ago but for the embargo, which lets Castro blame all the failures of Anyway. . .

Cuba is a great place to go. I'm not sure that it's because Americans can't get there, though. Europeans, Canadians and South Americans have been developing property there for years. The beach resort of Varadero is chock-full of huge glassy luxury hotels. The tourists arrive from the rest of the world by the planeload. Development is proceeding at a rapid pace.
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Old 02-15-06, 10:14 AM
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A little history of the embargo - President Eisenhower began the economic embargo of Cuba in 1960, prior to the discovery of missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy further expanded the embargo in 1962 and 1963. The embargo was in response to the Cuban government seizing billions of dollars in U.S. assets. In plain language, the Cuban government seized businesses and homes owned by American individuals, companies and corporations. The purpose of the economic embargo is to deprive the Cuban government of U.S. dollars, thereby weakening it. With some specific exceptions, no U.S. citizen can spend money on travel to, from or within Cuba.

If you do decide to tour Cuba, make sure to leave your used tooth brush, toothpaste, deoderant, soap, shampoo and makeup behind in your Cuban hotel room. Even your used clothes, including undergarments can be left behind. Workers in the Cuban hospitality industry will be extremely happy to have your used toiletry items and clothes as they have virtually no other way to acquire them.

For information on the embargo, check here:

https://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache...a&ct=clnk&cd=5
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Old 02-15-06, 10:34 AM
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we had stayed in one home where the husband was riding a cannondale touring bike left behind by an international bike touring outfit. he had said that all the bikes were left behind as a token, and then given away to the populace. that said, my bike would come home with me. sorry cuba.
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Old 02-15-06, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl
There's a great book titled The Handsomest Man in Cuba: a bicycle escapade written by Lynette Chiang, who sometimes posts here but is not doubt too modest to mention the book herself. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book details her experiences while biking in Cuba on her Bike Friday.
I came across an article about Ms. Chiang somewhere on the web. Fascinating person...she has ridden her Bike Friday just about everywhere on Earth that it is possible to ride a bike...and some places where it is NOT so possible.

The communist regime in Cuba heavily relies on tourist dollars from Canada, and the UK to stay in power. Castro has turned a beautiful nation into a police state...and tourist dollars pay the police payroll. It is a crime that Castro has enslaved the wonderful people of Cuba. And, it is a crime that some Americans and Canadians provide Castro the means to do so.

The nearby island of Puerto Rico has an ideal climate for bike riding. I enjoyed riding beach cruisers along the beaches of northern Puerto Rico a few years ago. I'd be too chicken to ride a bike on the major roads though...very narrow, with drivers who are even faster and more agressive than the manic drivers here in Houston.
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Old 02-15-06, 11:54 AM
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Another good book on Cuba is "Mi Moto Fidel" about a guy who motorcycled through Cuba in the 90's.

It has an interesting view on the political situation which I won't try and explain. Read the book.

https://www.travelsite.com/carole/rev...moto-fidel.htm

One very good reason for visiting Cuba is how much it will annoy people like alanbikehouston.
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