Cuba - Scams
Replies: 38 - Last Post: Feb 10, 2012 7:09 PM Last Post By: peloblanco
Feb 8, 2012 10:14 AM
Cuba - ScamsHello Readers,
I just got back from 10 days in Habana and would like to refresh or update LP readers on the recent scams going on in Habana.
Nothing earth shaking but whe you are too relaxed they can be easy to fall for:
1. "Death by a thousand CUCs" - it seems like everyone is asking for "just one CUC". After the first day you will be wise to this. It seems that every Cuban has a brother/parent/child/grandchild who is celebrating a birthday and that they would like some money to buy them a gift. We have to put a stop to this! Please resist these requests. The fact that we are in Cuba as a tourist is support enough for the country; tell them this. If someone does a good deed for you (and you requested/needed it), by all means, send a CUC or more their way.
2. Outgoing Cubans - in the street you will by happenstance run into friendly cubans who are going to a great bar or restaurant. They will claim to be professors or museum workers who just want to hang out and talk with a foreigner. You may be invited to follow them to a bar where the Buena Vista social club band is playing (or memebers of the band - so they claim). You will,in the end, be paying for their drinks or more!
3. Date with a Cuban girl - she will claim that she can't be seen in public with a foreigner and insist that you both go to a pallador for dinner. There will be no menu - the waitress will rapidly go through the prix fix option. The bill in my case was 50 CUC for a very average dinner and two beers. Your date is going to receive a kickback later on. By the way, they are not supposed to serve lobster in these places.
4. Information gathering - be careful what data you give to a cuban. Seemingly innocent questions, like: when did you arrive; when are you leaving; how many times have you been to cuba, what do you do for a living....are questions to help them size you up. Depending on who is asking ...tell them yo have been to cuba/havana many times before, arrived last week, are leaving in a month, are travelling with friends and have business with your home country's embassy and the cuban government ministry of _________.
5. Going to bars - watch out for pick pockets in crowded bars and dance halls.
6. Hooking up - chances are the girl will ask for a drink (just like at home...) she may well ask for some money. The "random" taxi that you are both jumping into is driven by her handler. Not sure what happens next....
7. Salon Rojo - near the Hotel Nacional - great bands but full of Putas. The "random" taxi that you are both jumping into is driven by her handler - usually big guy. Not sure what happens next....
8. Cigar - Puro - everyone is selling these. Buy them at your own risk. Tell the touts (or your casa owner) that you don't smoke ("no fumo") If you do make a purchase, do so at the offical stores (hotel Habana Libre) or in the ciudad vieja. The airport is also well stocked.
More later on where to eat etc... (an some good things about Havana)
Feb 8, 2012 10:57 AM
1Excellent post. The regulars on this branch will be familiar with all or most of those efforts to separate tourists from a few of their vacation CUCs, but it is obvious that a great number of visitors still fall for some of them. It would seem that it cannot be stated often enough that when a foreigner goes out with a Cuban, the foreigner is, not unreasonably, expected to pay. Thus the idea that a local is going to help you get by on the cheap is pretty silly. Even if the local takes you to an inexpensive place and the check is correct (pretty rare in itself), by the time you pay for two, it usually will not be the low-cost outing the visitor supposed it would be.
It might also be said that if the price of ANYTHING is not clearly determined in advance, the Cuban service provider may reasonably assume that the price doesn't matter to the foreigner, and thus increase it. I have been charged as much as 1 CUC for a single piece of bread, and another 1 CUC for a pat of butter, simply because when I ordered them I did not ask in advance how much these items (not listed on the menu) would be.
Feb 8, 2012 11:11 AM
2Thanks man. I just want to give back to the community. Just realize that you are playing the game when out with cuban. Always ask for a 'carta" or menu. I got charged 20CUC per person for a very average meal. The add on's like bread, rice, butter and two beers drove it up to 53CUC. I can have a meal on college street for that in Toronto!
When you are out with a cuban try to call the shots (what bar to go to, where to eat etc...) Be in control of the situation!
Feb 8, 2012 12:14 PM
3I am a bit shocked at how tourists are expected to throw around 1CUCs at the drop of a hat. I haven't been to Cuba yet (we leave this Friday), but I have travelled a bit in the 3rd world - Thailand, Guatemala, India, Mexico, etc. If the average Cuban makes 150CUC a month (50 CUCs a day), then tipping 1CUC is like giving 1/20 of the average salary. So if you assume the average Cdn salary is $36k a year, it's like giving $9 ($36k / 200 days and taking 1/20 of that). Yikes!
I was thinking of treating 1MN as the equivalent of $1CAD, but I'm going to have to change my ways, apparently!
Feb 8, 2012 12:22 PM
4just say no! I tipped well when I received help or information that I asked for or needed.
I gave our driver (woman doctor) a book from Argentina as a gift when I left. She was quite appreciative.
I brought 5 packs of gum with me and gave out a stick or two to folks. goes a long way and opens up conversations. The gum there is from china -yuck!
Edited by: el_gato_de_canada
Feb 8, 2012 12:31 PM
5Poster #3, if I understand correctly, you are saying that because Cubans earn so much less than a service person in your country earns, that the comparatively-poorer Cuban should be tipped less than you would tip for a comparable service in your country?
So what are you proposing? That because the average Cuban salary is only like CAD$20, you should routinely tip, say, 1 CUP, which is equivalent to about 4 cents Canadian, rather than 1 CUC, which is roughly CAD$1? That is...well, I don't think Thorn Tree posting rules allow me to say what I think of that twisted logic.
Feb 8, 2012 12:32 PM
6LOL... when I arrive I get a pocketfull of 1 CUP notes or coins. Then everytime I'm asked for "un peso por favor" I hand them one of those. The look on their face is priceless and they immediately go no senior, un peso CUC and then I'm the dumb tourist "no comprende". I call it the reverse-scam. LOL.
HOWEVER... when I go to a restaurant or want a service, then I tip appropriately in CUC, generally 15-20% as I would at home. It's the endless beggers that get the MN gag.
The ones that really drive me nuts are the "pay for the photo" people that are a bloody nuisance. I'm not going to wander about Vieja and be expected to pay 1 cuc for every photo I take. Hell.... the ROBBERS on the stilts that walk thru wanted to charge me 5 CUC for a photo that had them in it because "I had a big camera". Nonsense to this.
But seriously, when you're in Vieja, Miramar, Centro or Vedado, the game is always on. When you get either out in the outlying suburbs or completely out of Havana (or other tourist areas) life is much more relaxed.
Good hints for newbies about however. Just always remember that in the tourist areas, the average Cuban thinks every tourist has the letters ATM on their forehead.
Edited by: Steve_YYZ
Feb 8, 2012 12:56 PM
Feb 8, 2012 12:57 PM
Feb 8, 2012 3:59 PM
9Poster #8: Good luck with conveying your meaning with that Spanish. It's almost as good as Poster #3's rationale that poor people who earn little ought to be tipped less than more affluent people who earn more.
Steve, you've got the right idea. Tip well for good service, less for mediocre service, and nothing for harrassment.
Feb 8, 2012 5:12 PM
Feb 8, 2012 5:17 PM
What's wrong with that sentence? I know it's a google translation, but the first part is correct and true at that.
And how is it the same sort of rationale as the one that poor people should be satisfied with smaller handouts? I don't see a comparison. When a tourist is on a budget for whatever reason, being a student, being from a less affluent country, I imagine it is worthy of mentioning, even if it does not get people off your back.
Chill out chef.
Feb 8, 2012 5:20 PM
12We didn't exactly "fall" for the tire scam -- we were at the Villas Guajimico, and we didn't really have much of a choice. It was 10 cuc then and that was 6 (?) years ago. A few days later, at Rancho Luna in Cienfuegos, when the parking lot guy pointed out the same thing to us (different tire), because we were close to town, we called the car rental company and got a new tire.... HOWEVER, we waited around most of the day for him to come (it was a horrible rainy day anyway) so if we had had plans for the day, the 10 cuc solution would have worked better for us.
Feb 8, 2012 5:27 PM
13I am like Steve always having 1 CUP coins for those who ask. Our revenge I guess. I also tip like an American at home when the service is good.
I never pay for photos, just a documentary integrity thing. Not in Cuba, not in the US. My Cuba photo exhibit includes a photo of a fat chica and a skinny chica sitting in a bar at the corner of Neptuno y Consulado. I made the photo 2 years ago. I walked by the same bar a few months ago and the same two chicas were sitting on the same stools. They told me I could take their photo for 1 CUC. I knew I could not adequately explain how their photo was already on exhibit so I just smiled inwardly and said "no gracias".
I was talking with one of the girls who dress up and pose for tourists in Francisco de Assi Plaza. It was a rainy day in November around lunch time. Dismal tourist environment. I asked if she had 5 single CUCs for my 5 CUC note. She told me it was no problem and asked if I wanted 10 to lighten her load. She fished 10 CUC coins out of her basket mid day in a rainy November. That appears to be the job to have.
Feb 8, 2012 5:41 PM
14#13, if you used Canada and "tengo" then you might have gotten your point across.
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