Cuban Music

Yes, Cuban music is famous all over the world. Everybody knows at least the Buena Vista Scocial Club.

But Cuban music is not just Salsa and Son or Reaggeton. There is much more and especially young Cubans experiment a lot and make mix different styles and influcences to create a unique musical envoirnment. There is Cuban Rap, Indie Rock, Reaggea, Punk, Metal and also electronical music.

In Havana you can see concerts from different groups and styles in many places like the Fabrica de Arte Cubano or the Diablo Tun Tun (Calle 35, esquina 20, Playa)  and the Corner Café, or Clubs like the Berthold Brecht (Calle 13 e/I y J, Vedado) or the Submarino Amarillo close to the John Lennon Park .

In those places you can discover more Cuban music and see live concerts for just a small fee or even no entrance prices. You can enjoy Jazz, Indie and other types of music that you might nor have expected on the Island.

Here are just some artists and songs that you should have heard of:

X Alfonso

The artist who also started the F.A.C in Havana grew up in very musical environment and mixes a lot of styles and influences. He has a lot of songs about the Cuban lifestyle and everyday life. He got popular, also internationally, by making the soundtrack to the Spanish movie: Habana Blues.

Check it out:

Buena Fe

Buena Fe are really popular on the island. They have nice and interesting lyrics and catchy songs, also they do great live concerts. They form part of current Cuban culture so if you have a chance to see them while you there, do so!

They also have quite creative video clips, check them out:

Wichy De Vedado

My next tip is a Cuban DJ, who named himself after a neighborhood in Havana. He produces and mixes his music in his home in the Vedado and does a really good job with it!

check it out:

Xander Black

Another good Cuban Dj. You could also expect him to play in a Club in Berlin or elsewhere in Europe.

http://www.cubamusic.com/es-ES/Store/Album/07000129/dj-xanderblack/tour-havana

Telmary

Telmary does Hip Hop mixed with Cuban rhythms and Cuban topics. Her music is for listening and for dancing. She gives great concerts and you should also have heard of her or take the chance to see her live!

Sweet Lizzy Project

Sweet Lizzy Project is a young indie band. They sound like a indie folk band from Norway or Sweden, but they are from Cuba and they rock!

don’t miss them:

 

So check these artists out and be surprised by the variety of Cuban music. Soon there will be more about Cuban music here…

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Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to all of you and thanks, you guys for reading and following!

Or better to say FELICIDADES!

Cuba, as every country has their own Christmas traditions and especially for new Years Eve, people gather around with their families and share the last week of the year with them.

On the 24. in Cuba people celebrate Nochebuena and on New Years Eve people meet again to celebrate the end of the year with their families.

Important for both days is the food! People start preparing early to have all the stuff together for the big celebration and everybody ships in to buy “carne puerco” (pork), Yuca (Maniok) and all the other food for the big dinner!

Christmas is less about religion and presens since the revolution but some people still celebrate and have a small Christmas tree made of plastic, ususally with a colourfull decoration. The decoration got more more popular over the years and if you happen to be in Cuba around Christmas you will see a lot lights and inflamble Santas.


These Days are dedicated to the loved ones.

So hopefully you have a nice Christmas, maybe even in Cuba!

Merry Christmas and Felicidades to all of you!

Thanks

 

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Basic advice for travelling to Cuba

There are some things you should know about before you travel to Cuba, or at least have a rough idea about them to avoid unpleasent suprises.

I am not talking about planning every detail about your trip… just some basics

so here we go:

THE INTERNET: Cuba has an extremely poor internet envoirnment and most of the foreign companies have really high roaming fees for Cuba. And, yes I mean extremely poor internet envoirnment, there is no private internet connection, just public WIFI in parks or hotels (2CUC -3CUC per hour). More habout the Internet here. And more about Telefons and Cells here.

MONEY: There are two currencies in Cuba (maybe that’s going to change soon) the CUP and the CUC (similar value than USD). One CUP is 24/ 25 CUP and you can pay with both of them in almost every place, you just have to know how much they are worth. You can change money in banks and CADECAS (currency enchange) or withdraw from the ATM with Visa or Mastercard. Just be carefull with American cards, there are still some problems. Try to get money in the bank with your credit card, before your try the ATM. (The last advice is just for travelers with American Credit Cards). More about Money here.

ACCOMODATION: Stay in BnB (Casas Particulares), more here.

TRANSPORT: There are buses and shared taxis all around the island. Also you could hitchhike if you are on a budget or seek for authentic adventure. More abut transport here.

Here are some general tips for behavior in Cuba.

Politeness: Be polite to the people. Please don’t just walk into homes, schools or official buildings without permit. (Would you want people to do that at your home?) If you want to talk politics be polite and not hardly direct and accept it if people do not want to talk about that kind of topic. Also be respectful. If you want to bring gift please consider this post first.

Tipping: As in many countries, in Cuba you also tip 10%. Sometimes the 10% are included in the check. You usually would tip in restaurants and bars, also tour guides or taxi drivers. In a restaurant you leave the money with the check, wait until the waiter returns with your change and then leave the amount you would like to tip.

Toilets: There is a thing about Cuban toilets that you shouldn’t forget: Do not through your paper in the toilet!Never! In most places like hotels or public restrooms you should pay about 10cents or 1 CUP for the paper, or carry your own. Also be aware that most public restrooms are not in the best condition.

Safety: Generally Cuba is a very safe place. Nevertheless you should be aware that there are pickpockets and scams in touristic areas.

Water: Do not drink tap water. You should buy bottled water or drink boiled and filtered water like most people in Cuba do. Don’t wonder if you cannot get water anywhere, that happens. Make sure to drink enough because of the heat and the sun.

 

Read here what’s useful to prepare before traveling to Cuba.

Tips for the peak season in Cuba

Now after the days of moarn and the funeral Havana and Cuba are heading back to normal again and so is tourism.

So don’t worry you will be able to buy rum and have drinks again.

And speaking of tourism, it’s also the beginning of peak season in Cuba! So there will be a lot travelers and tourist, but also Cubans and families from all over the world visitng their loved ones on the island. SO prepare for things to get crowded.

Usually travelling around Cuba is not a problem at all, Bnb owners send you from one “casa”to another and might also reserve the transport for you. Usually there is not much planning needed.

For the December and January I suggest you reserve some places early. Especially in Viñales, wich got so booked out last season that people had to sleep in parks. If you don’t mind that , you’re fine though!

If you plan to rent a car, you should also plan ahead, because family members from abroad tend to rent most of them in that season, so they disapear fast. If you want to take the Viazul busses, you should maybe plan that as well, but usually there are more taxis that just charge a little more and take you to your bnb or hotel directly.

If you plan to have big party on New Years Eve, be aware that in Cuba usually people celebrate this holiday with their families, so there is not so much going on on the streets. If you do look for a party you should probably be in Havana that day, because there are more and more clubs and bars offering specials and parties.

Over all the time around Christmas and New Years is a great time to be in Cuba and exeperience a different kind of holiday season!

 

 

Film Festival 2016!

imageThe yearly film festival in Havana started yesterday! There are many promising new Cuban and international movies to watch! Make sure you get your “passaporte”and do not miss it!

more infos: https://www.facebook.com/festivaldelnuevocinelatinoamericano

Cuba on a Budget Part 2 

This is the second post about traveling in Cuba on a Budget. As I mentioned in the first post, before you travel to Cuba on a tight budget you should be aware that tourism is the main income of the country and it’s still not really prepared for backpackers and travelers. But don’t worry! That doesn’t mean there are no ways to travel cheap or at least to safe money on the way, for example on food or accommodation by not traveling alone!

But there is more: 

Transportation

Unfortunately there is a big difference in prices for tourists and for locals, that means Cubans or foreigners with a residence. If you stay for longer you should consider a language course to get an ID card and safe on transportation and entrances. 

If you stay for shorter periods you can also try to take the local buses like ASTRO or to travel with a Camion. Those are trucks that are transformed to transport passengers or just ordinary trucks that have some space left and take passengers standing from one place to another.

It’s not the most comfortable way to travel, but it is an interesting way.

You just have to know that the driver could possibly have to pay a retribution if he get caught taking a tourist with him. So maybe they don’t like to take tourists with them. You could think about offering to pay the amount for him.  

Hitchhiking is also a possible and common way to travel around Cuba, you just have to stand under a bridge or somewhere in the shade. Believe me that is an useful advice! 

You could also think about a trip by bike! That safes you the prices for transportation around Cuba. 

More about traveling Cuba on a budget coming soon… 

Romerillo 

There is a lot of art and interesting projects in Havana. Some of them combine the artist’s work with social projects that benefit their neighborhoods and the people living there. One of those projects is the “Museo Orgánico Romerillo” opened by the artist Alexis Leiva Machado (K’cho), from the Isle of Youth. K’cho studied art in the close by ISA and was one of the youngest Latin American artists to exhibit his work in museums like the MoMA in New York. In 2014 he opened the Romerillo in 2014 as part of the 12th Bienal in Havana. It’s an interesting place combining art, learning and social projects. 

K’cho started a exhibition with google this year is offering free Wifi to anybody. In the Studio there are several art students working and their are also given time and space to create their own work with the equipment of the studio.

They know a lot about the place and K’chos work and are happy to give you a tour around the Romerillo to see his work and the work of artists that participate in the project. 

The Romerillo is close to the ISA (art school) and the Paradero de Playa in the neighborhood Playa in Havana. 

check: http://www.kchoestudio.com for more information and to keep updated about current projects. 

If you have time in Havana make a visit to the studio, you won’t regret it!

Cuba by Bike

Biking around Cuba is a great way to get to know the Island and it’s people and culture. Why not getting to know the place this way? You are slower and less isolated than in a rented car or in a Víazul bus. In that way you have more contact to the people and might even need their help from time to time. By bike you have the opportunity to see small villages and secret beaches.
As the roads are not that busy in Cuba you could even bike on the “carretera nacional”, national highway.
There are several routes that are interesting to do by bike or by bike combined with other transports. There are also some things you should plan and bring if you plan to travel around by bike.
Great and interesting tours can be done all over the island. One really nice one is biking around the west of Cuba, along to tobacco plantations and beaches with white sand. Generally it’s possible to do all the routes also by bike, or combined by bike and bus.
Some ideas you could get from the routes section in the blog.

There are some things you should think about before you start your bike trip around Cuba.
First of all: Should you bring your own bike or rent one when you get here?
That depends on you. There are services like Cuba Ruta Bikes, that organize bike vacations in Cuba and also rent bikes and offer guides tours. That’s a great opportunity by the way, because you don’t have to plan your trip yourself and always have someday who knows the best ways and can explain you a lot.

If that’s no option for you and you love your bike, bring it! It’s not complicated to bring bikes to Cuba. Check with your Airline first, most of them, like Air Berlin or Air Canada offer to transport bikes for an additional cost, (usually about 100-150 $). Some Airlines, like Virgin Airlines already include the bike transport in the ticket price.

You also should bring the necessary tools, in case you’ll need them. You could also get help in a local “poncheria”, shops for repairing cars and tires, but it’s helpful to have special tools and tires, because they might not have it here. You also should bring a helmet, a light and a great lock.
Cuba is not a criminal place, but there are just a few good bikes, so they are a popular thing to be stolen. Make sure to lock them up!

Most of the Casas Particulares, have space to store the bikes inside over night.

If you decide to make your trip by bike, you start early in the morning because of the sun and the heat. Make also sure you bring something against mosquitos and that you drink enough water!
For more tipps and infos about biking in Cuba:
http://www.cubarutabikes.com

 

El Ojo del Ciclon

The Ojo del Ciclon (Eye of The Hurricane) is a unique space in Habana Vieja, that is worth a visit or more. The Gallery, Studio and Place to hang out and meet people, is located in Habana Vieja, just one street from the main shopping and touristic street Obispo. But inside you feel like being in a completely different world. Surrounded by art and music or voice recording, that create a special environment. In the Ojo del Ciclon Leo D’Lazaro, the artist, works and created a cultural and welcoming spot in Havana. His paintings, collages and sculptures are unique and full of Ideas. His work is inspired by what surrounds him, his friends, his family and everyday life. In paintings and collages he works with colors lice ocher or sepia and puts painting and fotos together. dsc00282

His sculptures are often made out of recycled materials and have some kind and purpose.

One of them is a table football, he created, that actually is used by the friends and visitors of the gallery. They also do parties and activities there. Every Wednesday, for example you could be part of their private Tango lessons and Milonga. They also exhibit Art of other Cuban artists and are happy to tell you everything about it!

So include a visit, you won’t regret it!
The Adress: O’Reilly No. 501 Esq. Villegas, Habana Vieja

For more Information visit: http://leodlazaro.blogspot.com or http://www.cuban-artist.com

Cuba on a Budget Part 1 

Visiting Cuba on a budget might not be the easiest but could be a lot of fun. First of all there are some things you should know about Cuba and tourism here.

Cuba’s main income is tourism, for the government and for private people. Besides that there are laws and rules that make backpacking or traveling on a really low budget harder sometimes. 

The easiest way to get around cheap in Cuba is to be a resident and/or student. In that way you pay less for entrances to museums and you can use the transportations for cubans (Astro Buses, cheaper shared cars and Camiones) 

To get a residency is not worth it if you just go on trip for a few weeks, but if you want to stay longer you should consider it. The easiest way is to do a language course at the university or the ISA (Instituto superior de Arte) and after some time you will get your own Cuban ID and are officially considered a local. 

Accommodation: 

First of all there are nearly no hostels in Cuba. There are two in Havana but almost none in other cities. That’s because for the people that rent rooms to foreigners it’s less convenient to rent to many persons as they have to report any single one to the migration and sometimes they earn more renting to less people. 

Also they have high fees to pay for the license and taxes. 

But everywhere you can find bnbs that charge around 20 – 25 CUC per room, per night. 

So here’s the tipp: do not travel alone. You will safe a lot of money. 

Food: 

On food you can safe a lot of your budget. You will hear from a lot people that just ate pizza to safe money but don’t worry you can actually eat a real meal for not so much more money. 

It’s true that you can get a lot of pizza for 10-15 CUP (50-60 cents). But you can also get a real dish for 35-60 CUP in a cafeteria. 

Cafeterías are run by private people and it’s common to find them serving food out of their garage or living room. Most cheap you will by just ordering rice and beans with eggs. But you could also get Ropa vieja or Bistec for around 35 CUP plus juice for 3-5 CUP. There are a lot of street food to eat during the day like Tamales that cost 8- 10 CUP, taste good and will help you to not get hungry in a while. 

If you stick to those kinds of Cafeterías you will have to calculate with around 10 CUC per day for food and drinks.