Watch out for some tourist fleecing.
6 of us arrived in a big American taxi to join the back of the queue at the Central Havana venue. The door staff offered us 'priority boarding' if we paid 5CUC per person. Without question they took us to the front of the queue and we were straight in. This seemed a great deal, until we got inside to find that we were customers number 1-6 that evening. We got in between 23-2400h!!
While most of the group left bags at the cloakroom, 2 of us were shown to a table and pressured to make a drinks order. Normally I'd have had none of this but the guy was so persistent, we ended up ordering a bottle of rum and some cokes, as this is what the locals do! The options given for the rum started at 16CUC and went up from there. We confirmed that we'd like the cheapest option. When he dropped off the rum, he told us that we should pay at the end. We agreed, merrily took photos of us around the bottle and cracked in to it!
When we came to pay, there was a kerfuffle at the bar. To cover the 16CUC bottle, I paid with a 20CUC note only to have a bill produced for 60CUC. The guy then with increasingly good English whipped out his iPhone to demonstrate how similar '60' and '16' can sound, by typing these two numbers and having me say them to him. After some negotiation and involvement of onlookers the 60CUC was paid (to avoid the lengthy alternative of involving the police). As we walked out the smug, knowing grin on his face confirmed to us that we had been fleeced and that this was not an unfortunate mis-understanding.
>Check what time doors open and what time the show starts
>Judge whether you think 'priority boarding is required' - it may well be of benefit if you're entering later than we did!
>Don't allow the pushy waiters to take a drinks order before you're ready
>Order what you want and not just a bottle of rum and a couple of cans of coke
>Write the price you've agreed for the drinks down (or stick them on your phone)
>Get the bill with each drink and don't let them say pay later!
This was the only time our group experienced a rip-off during our 2 week tour of Cuba. It annoyed us immensely at the time. By breakfast we'd put it down to a great holiday story - but committed to warning fellow travellers.
That said, a member of our group spoke to a Canadian women in Havana and she said what the waiters do is show you one menu if you ask to see it before you order with reasonable prices but if you order the drinks and then question the bill then a different menu will be brought. So it pays to avoid the trap!
Fleecing (and chicken girls - of which there were many) to one side, the salsa band that night were fantastic.
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