We are getting famous :-). This was an actual interview!
Can you tell us about your Cuba travel site? When and why did you start it?
I wrote the basis of CubaConga 7 years ago as an alternative travel guide for friends and family that wanted to go to Cuba. I found that everything that they knew or found about Cuba was inaccurate. Ok, it is an Island…
So I wrote the book to help them enhance their Cuban experience. They were happy with it, so I decided to sell it over the internet and started www.bestcubatravelguide.com about five years ago to make it publicly available.
Why do you prefer to remain anonymous?
Everybody (except me I believe) has a political, commercial or personal agenda on the Internet when it comes to Cuba. Because I tell the truth as I see it, this might offend the Cubans although my book clearly shows my love for Cuba. I don’t want that truth to be (auto) censored just to avoid getting kicked off my favourite Island. If some colonel does not like my opinion that is a real risk.
Tell us about CubaConga. What will readers find in your ebook?
It’s a no-nonsense reality guide about life as a foreigner in Cuba. The book describes it as a game in which you can play at different levels. Hence the name CubaConga which is inspired by Donkey Kong. A game with obstacles and levels.
The book takes you by the hand and shows you Cuba under the surface.
Your tagline is “valuable tips about travelling the real Cuba” … what is the “real Cuba” and how can we find it?
The “real Cuba” is all around you all the time. The problem is that most people don’t have the eyes to see it. The trick is simply opening your eyes, and that’s the primary goal of CubaConga. If you understand what you see, you see more!
What makes Cuba a great travel destination?
Everything is entirely different from our western civilisation. Nothing is what it seems to our reference frame. That makes the whole of Cuba one big surprise. At least if you go there to really travel it, not if you want to see the Disneyfied sites that all tourists are hoarded through.
What should visitors be wary of while visiting Cuba? What’s your best
advice on avoiding trouble?
The best advice to avoid trouble in Cuba is “Don’t go there”. You will always run into some trouble because Cuba is so different it just does not fit our brain. But be reassured, most trouble is quite harmless. Cuba is a very safe country!
How easy is it for tourists to get ripped off when visiting? How can you avoid scams?
In Cuba, the price of ignorance is rather high. I call it the ‘no clue’ tax. Avoiding scams is easy: Don’t interact with any Cuban. Lock yourself up in your room. But that’s no fun, is it? The second best way is to read my book. If you know what is coming, it is easy to anticipate. You will still get scammed a few times, but at least you know it. I recommend laughing about the few dollars they will take from you. It is the price of learning the game.
Where are some of your favourite destinations within Cuba?
I live in Havana and Holguin. Travelled the whole Island a few years ago but now just live here. I’m not a tourist anymore. But I would recommend Vinales and Trinidad for the novice Cuba traveller, and I would recommend just spending some time in any park, chatting with the locals.
Where do you like to stay when visiting?
I have my own house in Havana and a son in Holguin. I would recommend anyone to stay at a Casa Particular (that’s the Cuban B&B)
What’s been the most interesting or unique experience you’ve had visiting Cuba? A story that you find yourself telling over and over again…
I’ve got loads of stories, but two that can be put in a few sentences are:
– Talking to two students that just got out of a philosophy class I asked them which philosophers they talked about. ‘Marx and Lenin’ they replied. Being some of an amateur philosopher myself, I can see some philosophy in Marx but ‘what kind of philosopher was Lenin?’ I asked.
‘A very practical one’ was their reply.
– The waiter asks us if we want sparkling or natural water. Sparkling replies my friend. ‘We don’t have that’ says the waiter. ‘OK, natural then.’ They did not have that either!
If you see the absurdness you will love CubaConga!