The Cubans we met were the most welcoming, kindest and friendliest people I had met in a long time. From hosts – who let us make their home our own – to guides, taxi drivers, travel agents and waitresses, they were all lovely and genuinely helpful.
However, the reason this topic is interesting for me is that when we talked to other travelers, they told us of their often quite mixed or even negative experiences with the locals they encountered on their trip.
Without a doubt traveling as a couple protected both of us from a lot of unwanted attention by street hustlers, which probably made our experience more pleasant. And it’s not like the Cubans we met started pouring their heart out to us immediately, but the more genuine and open we were, the more they started to open up. That way we found out about our guide’s family history throughout the revolution and how that still shapes them today. By asking a waitress about her favourite bars we found nice venues and by asking our taxi driver about his car, we found out about the influence that the lack of sufficient cars has on their day-to-day and their place in society.
With our first host family we had breakfast every day and talked for hours. They were keen to find out who we were, where we came from and what we did. They explained that talking to their guests was their way of traveling and exploring the world as it was difficult for them to actually leave the country.
Those are only very few examples of the conversations we had with a wide variety of people who gave us the privilege of an insight into their Cuban life.
Of course, all of that doesn’t mean that we never got annoyed by street vendors or approached by beggars, but the positive experiences greatly outweighed the negative ones in both quantity.
Were we just extremely lucky or our fellow travelers unlucky? Or did we just make clever use of our dictionary? I’d love to hear some of your thoughts and experiences.