My Cuban Suitcase!

Packing for your holiday in Cuba needs some thought! We at Encompass Tours are familiar with the situation and we’d like to pass on some packing tips!

Apart from the usual “clothing to suit the weather conditions and activities you plan to participate in” What else??????

Knowing what conditions are on the ground and that the US trade embargo means that shopping for EVERYTHING can be either limited, difficult or impossible to get in Cuba.

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Bring everything you think you will need for your stay. Any thing you can not live without and maybe some extras to give away to Cuban friends you have made during your stay!

My list might help you!!!

Toiletries

Sunscreen, Shampoo, Conditioner, Moisturizer, Insect repellent, soap antibacterial hand wipes/gel, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, eye drops, toothpaste.

Medicines

Aspirin, Paracetamol, Neurophen and any thing you take on a regular basis

Food stuffs

Travel kettle, Tea bags, instant coffee, black pepper (if you like pepper) chili sauce (if you like spice) Chocloate, Nuts.

Other essential items

Universal adapter

Phone plus charger

Camera plus charger

Chargers for any i pod, pads, tablets

Books to read on the flight

Clean English Pounds, Euros, Canadian Dollars, Australian Dollars in Cash (not travellers cheques)

DO NOT BRING

Scottish Pounds!! US Dollars!!

Damaged notes of any type

Dongles of any type or GPS will automatically detain your arrival in Havana and hours will pass waiting for the forms to be filled in and your hardware confiscated. You will be charged for it and can pick it up on your departure from the airport!!!! Best to check your baggage and not make delays for your self!!!

 

 

Music Port Festival

Music Port is Whitby’s annual world music festival! Encompass Tours will be promoting its famous “Cuban Snapshot” and “Mi Cubita” tours and asking the question “What do you want from a Cuban Holiday?” All input from you the general public will be considered in planning our new tours and increasing our ability to satisfy your holiday dreams!

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Join us from October 18th to 20th at the Whitby Pavilion for a “Journey through World Music” a holiday requiring No Visa or Passport!

Bring your dancing shoes and a thermos of tea for a beach party in the comfort of the Whitby Pavilion! For more information please download the flyer and poster from the links below.

Hope to see you there!

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Virtual Havana Bus tour!

Join us for encompass tours virtual Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of Havana, Cuba

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Got your camera, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, money and maybe a snack??? Yes? “Listo?” Ready? Then let’s go…….
This is your Hop – on Hop – off bus tour of the major attractions of the city of Havana!
Keep your ticket in a safe place, it is valid all day and will be inspected every time you hop on or off!! Remember you can get off at any stop and there will be another bus to pick you up in about 20minutes!!!

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As we are staying in a lovely casa (BnB) in Havana Vieja, we are “hoping-on” in Parque Central just opposite Hotel Inglaterra and Café Francesa. http://encompasstours.com/2012/09/coffee-break-havana/  This small park is surrounded by some of the most popular hotels of old Havana. Shiny new ones like Hotel Parque Central and not quite so shiny old ones like Hotel Inglaterra and Telegrafo.

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The best seats for city views are on the top deck, so cover up with sunscreen or you will burn quickly in the sun!!

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We are off!! Down Prado towards the Malecon, passing the Museum of the Revolution housed in the old Batista palace (recently restored) and a fascinating “must do” visit in itself!

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The city’s historians have realised the value of the old architecture to the tourist industry and attempts are being made to re build. Restoration of some of the crumbling facades is underway, but for some of the decaying buildings, fronting the malecon, weathered by the sea spray and the winds; it’s too late and they are being torn down. The malecon is always a popular place for Cubans and tourists alike. http://encompasstours.com/2013/02/life-on-the-malecon/

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Our tour bus stops to pick up people from various hotels en route, then we arrive at the first stop of real interest; Plaza de la Revolucion. This expansive plaza was built to celebrate culmination in 1959 of the revolutionary struggle for Cuba led by Fidel Castro.

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Plaza de la revolucion

Castro used the plaza to make countless public addresses to the masses in praise of the revolution over the years, but more recently this enormous plaza has been used for non political musical events. Famously the free concert in 2009 given by many of Latin Americas most famous and popular stars. This concert was attended by a staggering one tenth of the population of the island and astounded the authorities who struggled to provided security and support!!!

Next stop the Miramar trade centre with a good view of the coast and National Aquarium!

AquariumHavanaCastro announced the Aquarium would be “the best in the world”, but if you do hop off for a visit you will see it has a long long way to go! It’s mainly a day out for Cuban families who have not heard of animal rights or welfare, and sadly there is little information about the lovely fish that are housed here. Turtles are abundant and there are shows daily of trained of dolphins and sea lions who seem to be well fed!

Miramar
Winding through busy streets, a bus ride is a great way to see life going on in this extraordinary city where most buildings seem to be half ruined. Everyone going about their business.

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The CDR and Huge political hoardings remind Cuban’s to be uphold the revolution and this one at the gates of the cities cemetery Cementario Colon broadcasts the words Jose Marti  http://encompasstours.com/2012/05/in-search-of-cubas-national-symbols/ We can hop off here and explore the maze of magnificent tombs within the yellow walls, but If it’s not your thing stay on the bus!!

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Heading back towards the old part of the city our bus returns to the Capitolio (now closed and being restored) and the Gran Teatro de la Habana,  the majestic grand theatre, which is certainly worth a visit. You can take a guided tour for 2 or 3cuc. If you want to come back in the evening to catch a performance that will cost you tourist price of 25cuc upwards great value!

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More or less the last port of call on our bus tour is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. These fortifications are situated at the entrance to Plaza de Armas and were listed in a UNESCO world heritage site as part of Old Havana and Fortifications. If you look up at the watch tower you will notice a familiar figure, La Giraldilla, this one is a copy, but she is the symbol seen now on every bottle of Havana Club!!

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In the magic and romance of the old city, maybe it’s time to Hop off for one last time and explore! Find a nice bar to enjoy a cocktail before dinner and digest all you have seen!!

Why not join us for a real tour this year and take your own fotos!

“A Cuban Snapshot” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

“Mi Cubita” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

A shopping revolution in Cuba!

A shopping revolution in Cuba!

New year’s announcements are normal in Cuba but new year 2012 was an unexpected surprise!  It was announced that, along with the cutting of 500,000 government jobs, Cubans would be allowed to register and set up their own small businesses!!!!

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The truth is that Cubans had been running their own small illegal “negocios” for years in order to survive. The new laws simply made it possible for them legalise their enterprises and operate freely and for that privilege pay their taxes of 50% ish to the government!!!  Everyone happy!! Except the ones that lost their government jobs!! (but more of that later)

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The ball set in motion is gaining momentum. All kinds of small shops are being set up all over the country. People living on ground floor housing can open up their windows and display wears for sale. Food is always a popular commodity, as are illegally copied CDs and DVDs, beauty products, hair accessories, electrical goods, and clothes. The majority of these items imported from China.

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Some people with more stock and finances have turned their downstairs room into a walk in shop. People are out and about buying and selling and enjoying what can only be the start of a shopping revolution!!!

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Cubans can employ other Cubans, and there is no limit to how much they can earn (so long as the state gets its cut!) There is a state list of allowed businesses, so provided you can fit into one of the state registered categories you need not fear the police!  Curiously, there is a registered business for “gigolo” which must be one of the most lucrative trades on the wake of tourism.

Society is becoming more divided… the people with some money are getting more, and those at the bottom, out of reach of the ladder, will have to get by on their ration card allowances as before!

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Visually the streets are changing……dare I say that “consumerism” is creeping in, to shake up the monotony of run down government establishments. Tourists expect more than Cubans suffice with.

The arts and crafts markets have always been abundant are now booming!

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As for the loss of government jobs announced?  We are told it didn’t really happen… people were worried and dashed around asking friends and worrying about their income, but down on the ground, people retired and were not replaced and that just about covered the job loss target! Reductions were made! Every government department was over staffed anyway so plenty of people to cover the extra work load!

Why not come and enjoy Cuba for yourself on one of our tours this year?

A Cuban Snapshot 7 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Mi Cubita a 14 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

Cuban Soup of the day

“Ajiaco Oriental” is our Cuban soup of the day.

Ajiaco Oriental sopa

“Ajiaco Oriental nuestra sopa del dia!”

This typical Cuban soup is cheap, delicious and nutritious!

Ajiaco Oriental is so named because it’s from the orient of Cuba, down in the region of Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa! It’s so good and popular that it’s made the length and breadth of the island in markets and at home.

Market Havana Cuba

First you need to go to the farmers market and buy your ingredients!

No meal in Cuba is complete without meat and beef is the key ingredient in this dish! There are some standard ingredients and others you can throw in to your taste and budget!

Garlic Havana

**Major supermarket in the UK now  have a general selection of Caribbean foods but in more remote parts of the British Isles some of the ingredients will have to substituted for other similar vegetables. 

Peppers&Onions Havana

 

Ingredients

Beef of some sort –  Carne de res
Yam –  Yuca
Sweet potato –  Boniato
Pumpkin –  Calabaza
Taro –  Malanga ….possibly not available in UK, it’s a root tuber.
Potatoes –  Papas
Plantain green or ripe –   Plátano verde o madura
Sweet corn –   Maize
Peppers –   Ajies
Onions –   Cebolla
Mexican Coriander or Coriander (fresh)  –   Cilantro o Culantro
Garlic –   Ajo
Lemon juice –  Limon (in Cuba its Lime)
Tomato puree –  Puré de Tomate
Chopped tomatoes  –  Tomate en torsos
+ Plus any other vegetables and flavouring spices and herbs that you like!!!
A little oil + Salt and pepper!

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In Cuba the majority of the people have basic utensils and basic cooking facilities, so this is a “one pot soup”

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Choose a nice big pot with a lid if it has one!

1. Cover the bottom of the pan with oil and add finely chopped onions and crushed garlic and cook gently to extract the flavours and soften the onion.

2. Turn the heat up a bit and add your shredded beef next!

Once the meat is browned, turn the heat down again and begin adding the other ingredients well chopped up into small pieces.

3. Let it all simmer adding more water as needed. As the vegetables begin to soften and break up you will be delighted to find a thick tasty broth!

Cilantro Mexican Coriander Havana Boniato Sweets Potatoe Havana

Join us in Cuba for Ajiaco Oriental this year

A Cuban Snapshot 7 days tour.

http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Mi Cubita 14 days tour

http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

Calabaza Pumpkin Havana