02.03.2015 - 03.03.2015 30 °C
With a little trepidation, I make my way to Cancun airport for my last destination - country number 13 (and last) on this trip - Cuba. My first job of obtaining a tourist card was easy, just hand in 300 pesos and you get your bit of paper. I then get in the queue to check in (first class as it was the only ticket left when I booked) so the queue is not too long. However, I am told there is no plane and they do not know when it is coming! This is not uncommon with Cubana airline (in fact it happens a lot) so they register the luggage but do not take the bag away. We are told to wait by the Cubana ticket office.
An hour later, we are told that our 4pm plane will now leave at 00.50! Fortunately they put us on a bus and take us to a nice hotel back in Cancun where we each get a nice room for just a few hours! I haven't been in a room this luxurious in my whole trip! After a complimentary dinner I try and get a little sleep.
At 11pm back on the bus and we (that is the first class passengers and the rest up to 250 people) eventually board a smaller Russian plane. The rest of the passengers will have to wait till the next day!
We arrive in Havana airport at 2.00am and I am with a 30 yr old German guy who is looking for a hostel. We decide to wait till daylight to take a taxi into the city first because we don't want to arrive at a hostel in the middle of the night and also because we want to be able to get our first impression of Cuba in daylight. So we wait in this very bare airport. The only ATM does not work so we have no money either.
At about 6.30am, they have refilled the ATM so I am able to get money and Simon changes some Mexican Pesos, we're finally off to discover Cuba.
A few facts/dates
Population of Cuba is 11 millions and about a quarter of them live in Habana where there are 200 people per square km. It is a very young country with 60% of the population between 15 and 60 yrs old. Only 12% are above 60 and 22% are around 15 yrs old.
Whilst 70% of the cuban population is white, descendants from European countries, it has also many african descendants and the whole mixture of heritages gives it its unique vibe. The cubans are extremely friendly people and not as pushy towards tourists like many other countries.
Education and health care are totally free and many are very talented but cannot currently earn enough. The top salary for a fully qualified doctor is the equivalent of £52 a month. For this reason many qualified professionals have given up their jobs to work in the tourism industry as waiters for example where they can earn more with tips in order to feed their family.
2006 - Raoul Castro takes over from his brother Fidel as president and starts to reform regime
2008 - Cubans are allowed access to tourists hotels and allowed to purchase mobile phones and other electronic goods
Jan 2011 - 1million government workers are laid off and the private sector is stimulated by granting business licences to 178 state recognised professions
Oct 2011 - legalisation of car sales and allowing Cubans to buy and sell their homes
2012 - Cubans are allowed to freely travel abroad for the first time since 1961 (although not as easy as it sounds)
2014 - Relations with the US under Obama starts to open and everyone wonders what the future will bring for Cuba
Privately, the young people have had enough and cannot wait for the death of Fidel Castro (now 88 yrs old), hopefully the end of the embargo and for the country to open their doors and for allow the economy to grow and the Cuban talent to flourish.