Monthly Archives: November 2008

Adventure

Gone are the days when travel was a great adventure and excitement.  How I wish I lived  in the times where one could discover uncharted lands,  jump on a pirate ship and sail the seven seas… how I wish.

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Top 10 Travel Tips of the Week: Cuba Feature

Hi Everyone.

So I know it’s been a few weeks since I posted a top 10 travel tip blog. It been quite hectic around here these days. My friend Connie had recently return from Havana and Veradaro Cuba. She is one of my few close friends that has travel as much as I have.  The first time I left for Europe she was just coming home from living in Thailand for three months (did I say yet how jealous I am?).  I emailed her the other day and asked her for some suggestions on what to see while in Havana, thinking I would get a few tourist attraction recommendations. But! Connie one up me and provided me with a list of travel tips that was so good I had to pass it along. Thanks Connie.

  1. Check out Old Havana. Touristy but beautiful.
  2. Exchange only enough money for the day.  Not really for security but you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of unusable CUC as they cannot be exchange outside of Cuba.
  3. One CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) is an acceptable tip for pretty much everything.
  4. Don’t pay full price for anything in the markets. Haggle!
  5. Don’t by cigars from anywhere but the government shops or they could be counterfeits.
  6. Drink bottled water. The tap water is safe but has a lot of chlorine in it and could upset your stomach.
  7. Some museums require a small fee if you want to take pictures (usually 1-2 CUC)
  8. Use cash or debit. Anything purchased with credit card will have an 11% surcharge added to the cost. ( make sure that your bank card or credit card doesn’t have any kind of American logo on it because they wont accept it.) She used her TD Canada Trust cards and had no problems.
  9. Bring your own bathroom stuff as they are hard to find or expensive especially tampons.
  10. Only take certified cabs. Not really for your safety, but because it’s illegal for Cubans to have non-Cubans in their cars unless it’s a certified cab.

Thanks a lot Connie for your tips. Check out her blog her at http://constancecreations.blogspot.com/

Stay tune for some awesome additions to Travel Along the Way.

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Coming soon…

How to Pack for Havana, Cuba video…

Travel Along the Way travel journal…

Stay tune….

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Good News for Plus Size Air Passengers in Canada

The Supreme Court of Canada has declind to hear an appeal launched by Air Canada,  Jazz and West Jet of the desicion made last May by the  Canadian Transportation Agency that people who are obesity deserve to have two seats for one fare.

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Swiming with Dolphins: Animal cruelity or good vacation fun?

As mention in my last post one of the things I hoped to do while in Cuba was to swim with dolphins. It been on the top of my list of things I wanted to do in life forever. I have always been a huge animal lover and wished I could be dedicated enough to be a full time Vegan. Before I started searching for places in and around Havana, Cuba for places that I can swim with dolphins, it had never accrued to me that swimming with dolphins like going to certain circuses could be supporting unethical treatment of animals.

I read arguments posted on boards for and against swimming with dolphins. Some arguments being that dolphins are captured in the wild taken from their mother too young or mother taken from their young leaving them defenseless and ultimately to die. Or the dolphins generally seemed to enjoy the interaction with humans. Money from these endeavours help fund research. So I took to PETA’s website (http://www.peta.org) and looked up their views on swim-with programs http://www.wildlifepimps.com/feat-SwimWithDolphins.htm

Many foreign facilities acquire their dolphins from the wild. A recent exposé on ABC’s Primetime detailed the cruel methods that are used to capture wild dolphins and the enormous profits that are made by those who sell the animals. In this piece, a marine park in Cancún is placed under the microscope, as is the capture of dolphins for swim-with-dolphins programs. What Primetime discovered is alarming. In the Solomon Islands, for example, dolphins are driven to the shore and slaughtered for their flesh, but a few are instead sold into the marine-park trade.

Although captive dolphins in the United States are afforded some legal protection, programs outside the United States are often governed by few, if any, protective regulations. Conditions are often poor: Dolphins are sometimes kept in small pools and exposed to sewage drain-off and other pollutants. Their diets may be inconsistent because many facilities generate additional revenue by selling fish to tourists to feed the dolphins; assertive dolphins can grow obese, and less aggressive animals can suffer from malnutrition. Debris and trash left in or near these pools, such as plastic bags, coins, or the paper used to wrap the “fish food,” can be ingested by the animals, causing acute gastrointestinal problems and sometimes even death. Many facilities operate almost continuously, giving the animals little respite from a constant stream of tourists.

What about programs that your snorkeling in the ocean in areas highly populated. Organizationsthat have tough  rules about how to interact with the animals (they come to you, no touching), no foreign products left in the ocean. Companies who support research and conservation of these animals. Is that okay?

To Swim or Not to Swim? What’s your take on the subject? Is it all animal cruelty no matter how you look at it. Or is only aquarium, tourist programs who use unethical practices cruel? Vote in the poll and leave your views below.

 

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Cuba Trip Planning

I’d officially booked my trip to Havana, Cuba yesterday through a company called http://www.tripcentral.ca with my agent named Lisa.  After playing phone tag with her for a bit I put down my $250 deposit on my $595 trip.  That amount includes round trip airfare, hotel at a 2.5 star hotel, breakfast and all taxes and single supplement fees [bah]. In my books an amazing deal. I could have paid less then $200 more to be staying at an all inclusive property. But budget aside, I am not the type of person who likes to stay at the hotel for the entire time, nor do I feel it’s convenient to have to come back to the hotel for every meal and it would be a waste of money to pay for meals and not eat them. Thus I picked Kohly Bosque Havana Hotel. The remainder of my trip cost is due December 3rd.

 I will be leaving Lester B. Pearson Airport(to date still my favorite airport) at 6:20 AM. Which means I will have to take airlink at roughly between 2 AM and 2:30 AM. I will be touching down in Varadero around 10AM, then as Lisa said I will be “chartered” to Havana. I am kicking myself for not asking her what she meant by that and if it is apart of the package, or at my own expense and if so how much will it cost me. Varadero is roughly 2 hours from Havana and the place of choice for my many cousins who traveled to Cuba on frequent bases.

When leaving Havana I will need to make my way to the Varadero Airport for a 10:20 PM flight arriving at Lester B. Pearson airport shortly before 2 AM. I haven’t been on a flight that short since my trip to Calgary in 1999.

WHY CUBA?

So any one who has read my past post about trying to decide on a location for my trip during my companies’ renovation in January would have read that I had consider several options – Venezuela, Cuba, Venice Italy (again). Privately I had also consider Iceland, taking advantage of the countries economic collapse and the starkingly bottom of the barrow low airfare ($455USD from JFK http://www.icelandair.com). I was pretty dead set on Iceland, until the Canadian dollar began to drop drastically against the USD making the fabulous airfare to Iceland not so fabulous. 

Because of little time to save and still planning on going to Africa this summer (no one tell the boss) budget for a trip in January is going to be sparse. Really sparse a minimum of $1450 all and all. That has to cover the:

  • Cost of trip: $595
  • Airlink transportation from Brantford to Toronto: $160 RT
  • Insurance (learned this from last year): $90
  • Cuban departure tax $25CUC = $32.77CAN
  • Daily spending budget of 100$/day = $800

                                                           Total: $1677.77 Over budget by $277.77

Not really a big deal. My min budget is based on saving $200 every pay for the next 6 pays. My last pay I’ll most likely have full access to, but in case I don’t I’ll have to increase my savings by $46.29 a pay. This is not including any donations (see donation page 🙂 ) Christmas gifts, and my January tax refund.

ITINERARY

I currently haven’t planned on an itinerary as of yet. But I do know I want to see at least:

  • Old Havana
  • Swim with Dolphins
  • Tropicana – famous stage show. It’s expensive at 70$ So this is a maybe.
  • Hemingway Museums.

Any suggestions?

PACKING LIST:

  • Bathing suit X 2
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat (Do I own any?)
  • Shorts/Capri X 3
  • T-shirts, respectable tank tops x 4
  • Beach towel/sarong X 1
  • Flip flops and sandals ( one pair of thongs and one pair of straps)
  • Non perishable snacks (nothing that will melt)
  • Guide book- Frommer’s Cuba
  • 8 pairs of underwear, 4 bras 1 pair of socks that will never be used
  • My travel planner by Ryland, Peters and Small (see previous post)
  • Small first aid kit and travel pharmacy (Tylenol, pepto, condoms, sanitary protections.
  • 2 small 100ml bottles of each shampoo and Conditionar or 2 bottles of 2-in-1)
  • Waterproof eyeliner and mascara and chapstick.
  • Copy of my manuscript to edit during down time and laying on the beach.

So far that is my current packing list.

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