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Tips for Travelers: Cuba 2005

Eating Out

Eating out is better than the guidebooks suggest, providing that you avoid hotels and smart restaurants.

The best place to eat is in people's homes. The licensed versions are signposted as paladores.The menu choice is not wide and differs depending on what is available that day. On the good side, this means that everything is fresh and certainly not micro waved.

Buying Rum

Prices seem the same everywhere, so there is no disadvantage in buying at the Havana Rum Museum, for example, where the full range is on offer. The cheapest rum is the equivalent of Bacardi clear rum (which used to be made in Cuba, until the family moved to America). It best only used in cocktails and it does have a strong flavour, a little like gin. Most Cuban cocktails contain lime juice and extensive home research on your behalf, reveals that lime juice does counteract the strong flavour of the rum.

The best rum to drink neat is the seven year variety which is pretty fine. All varieties seem to be 40% proof.

Buying Cigars

Walking most streets in Cuba, it's hard to tell which you do the most: take a breath or get offered cigars to buy. I don't think any of our group bought from a street-seller. The shops targeting tourists are comparatively expensive. If you can, find the shops that the locals use, where you can get cigars for just a few pennies.

Safety

There are lots of police everywhere and it's best to remember that certainly in Havana they are there mainly to make sure that tourists come to no harm. Most people seem friendly or just ignore you, but there were a couple of side-streets at night that were a little intimidating. It's worth remembering that a small digital camera is equivalent to many people's annual income.

Single women are seen as a target for chaps to marry and escape the country. However, it does mean that the dance the salsa with great enthusiasm. Young women attempting a similar escape route are occasionally seen with their much older prospective partners.

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