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!

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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/

Waiting for snow in Havana: Book Review

Waiting For Snow In Havana by Carlos Eire first published 2003

ISBN 0 7432 0737 8

EAN 9780743207379

This is a delightful evocative, novel of non fiction telling the story of a privileged Cuban boyhood in an island paradise turned upside down by the revolution of 1959. Christmas was cancelled and life was never to be the same again. The sound of firing squads replaces firecrackers and friends began to disappear from school. People were scared! Carlos along with his brother and 14,000 other children were airlifted alone to the United States in an operation called Peter Pan, in an effort to save lives. With the promise of families to follow… one day.  Son of a lawyer, who is convinced he is Louis XVI , the author recounts evocative tales of childhood pranks and adventures influenced by the imaginative world of his father’s intricate model making and fantasies of noble birth. The story is of a life torn between two lands and two cultures, families forced apart and the difficulties of adjustment and acceptance.

This book is a great read! It will make you laugh and cry at the same time! It will leave you with a beautiful and realistic image of pre revolutionary Cuba and bring into focus on a very personal level the  practicalities of difficult decisions made in haste with best intentions the consequences of which are being lived out by many too young to understand what was going on.

Why not book yourself onto one of our Cuba Holidays and see how the island has transformed!

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

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