There’s nowhere in the world quite like Cuba. Topping many world travelers’ bucket lists, this fascinating island nation has inspired artists, musicians and writers, and captured the world’s imagination.
Beyond its inherently cool vibe, drawn from a quintessential mix of tropical beauty, unforgettable salsa rhythms, world-famous cigars and ever-flowing rum, Cuba is also blessed with of some of the friendliest and warmest people you will ever meet.
So what could there possibly be there to avoid when traveling to a country like this?
Even though it’s one of the safest countries to travel to with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, the influence of nearly six decades under El Bloqueo are bound to take a toll. To help ensure your trip to this Caribbean island is as incredible as it should be, make sure you avoid these potential pitfalls.
20 Using Your Credit Card
You’ll want to avoid using your credit cards at all costs while traveling in Cuba.
Hopefully you won’t find this out the hard way, but this is predominantly a cash society. That means you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone anywhere on the island who accepts credit cards of any kind.
How about homestays (casa particulares)? Nope. Those cute little family-run restaurants (they’re called paladares, people)? Nope. What about those smaller tourism companies – they’re sure to give you a break, right? ¡No, hombre!
First of all, unless you live under a rock, you know that American bank cards in particular – debit or credit cards– aren’t accepted anywhere on the island, and that includes everything, from government-run institutions, to car rental agencies to most hotels, this also includes international chains.
Second of all, not only are ATMs hard to come by, but when you do find one, they’re often unreliable (thanks to those lovely occasional power outages) and charge massive fees, sometimes up to 11%!
So leave the cards, take the cash. Lots of it. Preferably in small bills.
What’s the best currency to take to Cuba? If you’re looking for a good exchange rate (and who doesn’t), your best bet would be Euros, but if you can’t swing those, you can also use Canadian Dollars, British Pounds, or Mexican Pesos.
If you do happen to show up with US dollars (though Lord knows why), you’ll need to exchange them for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), the tourist currency, and that can only be done once you arrive, because Cuba has a closed currency (CUCs can’t be pre-purchased outside of the country ). You can do so either at the airport (head upstairs to level 1 of Havana International Airport, though you may want to avoid this if you can: the rates aren't as good and as the airport’s bureau de change (they are known for giving incorrect change and the rates aren’t as good). Otherwise, your resort’s bureau de change, at a local bank, or an official Cadeca Casa de Cambio (exchange bureau).
Even then, however, you may run into some trouble because Cubans get charged extra by the government to change USD and they will very likely pass on the special 10% penalty fee for the service of converting dollars to pesos onto you.
In either case, beware of getting fooled when comes to the dual-currencies: Cuba has a currency for tourists (CUC), and a local currency, the Cuban peso, and you’ll want to make sure you know the difference. If you don’t, read on.
19 Street Scammers
Make no mistake: Cuba is an extremely safe country, so don’t get put off by this one too much. At the very most, the only thing getting hurt will be your pocketbook.
But after years of economic sanctions and embargoes, it’s no surprise that survival on this island nation has, for some locals, meant resorting to the fine art of street hustling, especially in Havana. Young men and women, known as jineteros/jineteras- sometimes acting as couples, will approach and charm-talk you into just about anything from helping you with directions to a museum (only to find out it’s mysteriously closed), to grabbing a drink at a local bar (only to end up being stuck with a huge bar tab), to buying powdered milk for their baby (only to later split the profits from the inflated price with the store owner), all under the guise of helping tourists and foreigners.
From hard-luck stories to guilt trips, these often genuine-seeming locals will lay it on thick to get an extra buck for their self-imposed “service” and insider recommendations. More often than not, they’ll get a commission for taking tourists to a specific casa, paladar, or getting a specific taxi. Don’t be surprised if, once you arrive, the bar is closed, the taxi is charging a different rate, or the restaurant suddenly doesn’t serve deer.
Sure it can be off-putting to be seen and treated as a walking dollar sign. Sure, it sucks to have someone make a quick buck at your expense. No one likes to feel swindled, but chalk it up to part of the experience, and now that you’re forewarned, hopefully it won’t ruin what can otherwise be an amazing and unforgettable time in one of the most unique places in the world. Feel better now? Good. Now keep reading.
18 Renting A Car
That’s right: You can forget about renting a car in Cuba, unless, of course, you want to pay top dollar, and don’t mind the hazardous road conditions, complete with colossal, out-of-nowhere potholes, no road signs anywhere and the fact that traffic lights are pretty much non-existent.
If you think you can hop off the plane in Cuba and rent a car from the airport, think again: This is rarely an option due to insufficient demand and online car rentals don’t work for foreigners.
As an alternative, you might want to consider getting driven around in a 1950s vintage taxi máquina for that quintessentially Cuban postcard-perfect experience. Sure, you may need to polish up your haggling skills (considerably!) to negotiate a decent price before you get in (average rates will run you $8-$10 per ride), but you can also split your tourist taxi with other travelers.
For an extra dose of fun, not to mention the option easiest on your wallet at 0.50 CUC per ride, you can also grab an Almendron (local shared taxi). Just hail one down and jump in!
The only downside when it comes to these old classic joy rides is that they only go through a set route through Havana. If that’s an issue, there are also official taxis in modern cars available, costing on average about 5 CUC from Old to Central Havana, but be careful: You don't want to take an unlicensed taxi which, while cheaper, is illegal and can possibly get you scammed or worse, robbed. You'll know how to spot them because they're rarely, if ever, metered.
A final option if you need wheels, and also one of the most comfortable options, allowing you to visit all major cities and travel all around the country and costing in the vicivinty of 1 CUP (about $0.04 – which you can pay in CUP or give 5 cents of a CUC), is the main bus line in Cuba, called Viazul. The only downside here is that the buses are not very frequent, and while it does have a website with a current service schedule, booking tickets online isn’t an option which means heading to a bus station ahead of time and queuing for a ticket, which, as you can imagine, sell out quick.
17 Forgetting To Count The Change - Or Checking Your Receipt
Another one to hit the pocketbooks is forgetting to count your change anywhere you go in Cuba. With a dual-currency system – one for locals: the Cuban Peso (CUP), one for tourists: the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – many travelers often get confused, not knowing the difference, and can consequently get short-changed by shopkeepers and exchange bureaus alike, who switch up CUP for CUC to unsuspecting tourists, a situation made only worse by the fact that Cubans often still use the terms peso and dollar interchangeably.
Not understanding this difference can cost you – big time – especially when receiving change, so pay close attention, to avoid getting scammed.
You'll also want to make it a habit to always double-check your restaurant bill or bar tab when traveling anywhere in Cuba, especially if you've had more than a few to drink that night (when you're most likely to be scammed). If the tab seems to be off or "adjusted" with things you didn't order, you're probably right.
Make sure, however that when you do raise the issue, you do so respectfully. Cubans are a proud people, and a rude tone might only escalate emotions and worsen the issue.
Well, not all food. You do have to eat after all. But chances are, you’ve heard that, in large part due to trade embargoes government rations on most key ingredients, Cuban cuisine is often nothing to write home about. Especially when it comes to pizza. And to a certain extent, it’s true. But that’s only part of the story. The trick is to know where to eat.
Most of the food in Cuba that’s crowned with that unflattering reputation emanates, are from hotels and large state-run restaurants generally set up for tourists, with high tourist prices ranging around $15-$20 for a meal, local low-quality products, and, according to locals and insiders alike, have little financial incentive to care about quality or fresh ingredients – after all, they are supported by the government regardless.
For homemade, authentic Cuban food, tasteful and heartier portions, and an overall more intimate interaction with Cuban culture to boot, try the private restaurants of Cuba, known locally as paladares particulares– usually found as part of local home kitchens or family-run casa particulares (homestays), meals here costs between a mere 5 and 12 CUC.
Not sure how to find one? Just pay close attention to where locals are eating.
15 Buying Fake Cigars
Any “deal” on the much-coveted world-famous hand-rolled Cuban cigar is sure to lure aficionados and amateurs alike, and it’s easy to get swindled by street hustlers who promise to take you to what might end up very much looking like their "cousin's" secret local factory. But is it really a deal, or are they (pardon the pun, but I can’t help myself) just blowing smoke?
If you want to avoid the risk of buying fake cigars, one sure-fire way is to avoid buying them altogether off anyone in the streets, for starters, and for better prices, avoiding even the official shops themselves in Havana.
In fact, if you’re serious about getting the finest quality cigars at the best price, you might not mind taking a two-and-a-half-hour trip (preferably in a classic vintage car, if you want to do it up right) over to the gorgeous, breath-taking countryside of Viñales and buying them direct from plantations there. Not only are they much cheaper (you can usually grab a roll of 20 for $20 bucks!), but there’s something to be said about getting your money directly into the hands of the very plantation farmer who raised, dried and rolled the cigars the same way his family has for decades.
Depending on where you’re heading back to, you can take back a box of up to 50 duty-free cigars in a sealed box with a receipt (20 without), if you’re Canadian, eh? If you’re American, sorry guys, all you get to take is a handful of Cohibas, and maybe a bottle of Havana Club rum, but hey, even that’s a step up since the recent easing of restrictions.
14 Using The Internet
Travel these days is hardly imaginable by most of us, without apps and wi-fi, whether getting directions or access to important official documents.
But in Cuba, you’ll need to avoid any situation that requires you to have even the most basic access to an Internet connection. This is no joke: Getting online in Cuba is not only a feat, it’s pretty much impossible.
Call it liberating - a chance to finally unplug! Or call it (what it is) a disaster. Either way, you might want to let your friends and family know that you won’t be Whatsapping them anytime soon, while on this little Caribbean island. Sure, you can head over to one of those ETECSA centers (Cuba’s national telecommunications company) if you don’t mind watching the hair on your chin grow (it’s literally that slow).
Even since it was recently announced that local wi-fi would now be available in major Cuban cities, the costs are beyond exorbitant, and the speed is, you guessed it, pretty-much non-existent.
The best thing is to print out any travel documents you might need before you leave for Cuba and to simply avoid, if you can, any situation that requires getting online altogether. You might want to do your research on tours and activities before you head out too.
Otherwise, the best way to contact loved ones, if you need to, is via the good ‘ol fashioned telephone by buying a calling card at that same ETECSA center, and or a Tarjeta Propia to make local calls using public phones if you need to coordinate travels with local hosts.
Sorry guys. I don’t make the rules – I just report ‘em.
13 Self-Guided Travel
Solo travel has been gaining great momentum in recent years, and with good reason too! But even the most experienced traveler will tell you that independent travel in a country like Cuba is a different beast, rather than a moveable feast.
Despite the lure of self-guided travel in a country with low crime rates, this island nation is not only much more expensive than its neighboring Central American counterparts, but its challenges are many-fold, ranging from shoddy wi-fi, as mentioned above, to bureaucracy – and lots of it – all sure to throw a wrench in even the best laid travel plans.
Finding your way around without the usual solo travel app tools, and trying to navigate amid what can sometimes feel like a landmine of everyone asking for tips while avoiding being scammed or swindled can be challenging to say the least.
So if you have your wits about you, you might want to avoid independent, self-guided travel altogether when it comes to Cuba.
Still, if you’re digging your heals and are up for one heck of a challenge, a few ways to soften the blow on the pocketbooks is to travel around the country using the Víazul bus system, and staying only in private homes with rooms for rent (casas particulares).
One more golden tip: Spend a few bucks and download the paid Galileo Offline Maps app (preferably before you arrive) which allows you to use your phone’s GPS to locate yourself and find your way around using a smartphone even without internet.
12 Choosing The Wrong People-To-People Category (If You’re American)
Ah, the lovely People-to-people exchange loophole. Thanks to Obama and the reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba back in 2014, individual American travelers were, at least for the past few years, finally able to set foot on the beautiful island nation on their own (read: without a group) relatively hassle-free, and enjoy its Montecristos amid turquoise waters and salsalero rhythms, with one quick stroke of a pen on their Tourist Card under “educational purposes.”
That was until, of course, Trump stepped in.
While the now-famous People-to-People Travel option is by no means eliminated and the 12 OFAC categories authorized by US authorities remains, for the most part, stricter controls and amendments have recently been imposed, resulting in the elimination of the Individual People-to-People Educational Travel option, and with it, many airlines routes between the US and Cuba.
What all this essentially means for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba is that, unlike their European or Canadian buddies, Americans visiting Cuba can now only do so as part of a group organized and sponsored by – no surprise here – a U.S. organization.
Going to it alone as an American traveler is possible however, under the Support for the Cuban People category, as long as you avoid any kind of transactions at military-owned businesses and record all your activities which should include – yes, this is your cheat sheet and you’re welcome - staying at a casa particular (or Airbnb), engaging with local businesses, artists, musicians, food vendors, filmmakers, and eating at local restaurants (paladares). Hey, that’s not so bad after all, is it?
11 Packing Heavy
These days, with ever-climbing checked luggage fees, it’s a good habit to learn to travel light wherever you go. But when heading to Cuba, there’s an extra incentive to do so. For starters, you’ll rid yourself of much of the potential headache (or heartache, depending on what you’ve packed) that comes with the very real possibility that your checked baggage will either get lost or damaged. The latter’s an especially big concern in a Cuban airport where the building’s doorways are so small and the stairways so tight, you’ll find yourself struggling (and truth be told, most likely cursing like a bad drunk) all the way out.
Sure your paranoid little head might be telling you to pack every single toiletry you might possibly need in this heavily embargoed country from tampons, condoms, sheets, towels and shampoo, to that extra large bottle of Pepto Bismol (good thinking!), and of course, who can forget the gifts (toys, toys, toys!) …but really now, take it easy: Cuban Customs will only allow you a 30 kg maximum weight upon entering the country. Any more than that, and you’ll be paying duties and excess baggage fees of 10 CUC per kilo. And you can forget about packing your drone, Casey (all 47 of them): They're not allowed in the country, and are viewed by Cuban Customs officials as a kind of contraband.
One trick of the trade that seems to work for the overly ambitious packer is the use of duffel bags (called gusanos, in Cuba) which, if you don’t mind the fact that they don’t have wheels and can be awkward to carry, are otherwise not only light and spacious, but extra flexible for extra use of space.
10 Not Having Medical Insurance
Upon entry into Cuba, tourists from all and any country have to show proof of travel health insurance documentation at the border, and not just any medical insurance: The plan has to cover the heavy-duty stuff like air evacuation, medical emergencies, and even repatriation. While many travelers report that they’ve never had to produce proof of insurance on their visits to Cuba – indeed, it is subject to ad hoc spot checks - it most certainly isn’t something you want to risk forgetting or sidestepping because if you do, you’ll be forced to buy a Cuban one right out of the airport or else you won’t be allowed in. Now is that something you want to deal with?
On the upside, if you’re from Canada, custom officials will accept your provincial health care as valid and sufficient proof, with the downside being that should you actually need the medical coverage while in Cuba, is that something you want to deal with?
True, the credit card you use to buy flights often includes nominal travel insurance included, but you’ll want to make sure that it covers Cuba, not to mention the fact that it’s often just that– nominal – so you’re taking a gamble. Is that something you want to deal with? I rest my case.
Unless you have the patience of an elephant, be prepared for some serious culture shock when it comes to lineups in Cuba. Otherwise, it’s definitely something you’ll want to avoid – oh, and good luck doing that because lineups in Cuba are literally everywhere: Need an internet scratch card? There’s – no, not an app – a lineup for that. Need to use the bathroom? There’s a lineup for that. Need to buy a bus ticket? There’s a lineup for that. The bank? Yup – you get the picture.
So if you can bear avoiding the need to use the bank, the bus, the internet, the bathroom, and most of all - good luck with this one - anything that involves the government, great.
Otherwise, according to Business Insider, there is a system, ingeniously devised by Cuban locals themselves, that just might come in handy.
The first thing to do is ask – preferably in Spanish (more on that later) "Who's last in line?" (Quien es el último?) and whoever’s last will instantly tell you. All you have to do is go behind them, call out el último and José’s your uncle – that is, as soon as a new person arrives and becomes el último, which is when you’re then free to wander. Just be sure to be back before it’s your turn, and never, ever, try to cut in line because everybody - including José - knows exactly where they are in the queue.
8 Going Between July and November
It’s hard to argue with the fact that, being in the Caribbean, Cuba’s weather is pretty much what dreams are made of, and that, at least technically, you can go anytime of year – with one big exception, and that’s hurricane season.
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people will book a flight to Cuba during this period, hoping they can cash in on the fact that it’s low season, though surprisingly, prices of flights don’t change much throughout the year, with the average return flight from Europe costing about $700, and $350 from Cancun.
While it is admittedly true that traveling both off and shoulder season can score you better rates in most parts of the world, when it comes to Cuba, you might want to steer clear of your penny-pinching ways. Why’s that, you ask? Um, Hurricane Irma anyone?
In fact, from Ike (2008) to Ernesto (2006), Wilma to Rita (both in 2005), hurricanes seem to love courting Cuba and it just so happens that their favourite time to come calling seems to be between the months of July and early November. So unless you have a death wish, avoid traveling to Cuba during these months, regardless of the fact that temperatures are always hovering in the 70s F to 80s F.
7 Talking Politics
What’s the fastest way to make Cubans hot around the collar? Just strike up a conversation about politics or the government.
To be clear, Cubans are very well-informed, and genuinely enjoy a good conversation, even a good heated debate, on a wide variety of topics. The key is to remain respectful, avoid inflammatory remarks and keep an open mind like you would do anywhere else.
Sure, it’s tempting, what with over five decades under an embargo that marked modern history, and all the recent headlines and breakthroughs made to re-establish ties with the island nation (only to have those efforts overturned again), it’s hard not to think about politics when it comes to Cuba, let alone wanting to talk about it with every Cuban you meet there.
But doing so, can get you in a lot of hot water. This goes beyond what’s merely socially acceptable; it could actually end up getting you reported to the police for being a subversive foreigner.
Make no mistake: Despite recent reforms, Cuba is still a communist country and the government won’t tolerate criticism of any kind.
So when talking to locals, keep politics out of your banter; avoid, if you can, anything critical of Cuba or the Revolution, and for Pete’s sake, don’t diss the Castros!
6 Photographing Soldiers Or Police
In an Instagram world where everybody and their mother seems to have a travel blog, taking pictures of anything remotely interesting or different when traveling has become more than an irresistible urge; it’s a way of life. And in a country as photogenic as Cuba, it’s hard not to get snap-happy at every turn.
But you’ll want to keep your iPhone in your pocket when it comes to photographing police, soldiers or even airport personnel in Cuba, lest you want to seem suspicious or worse, undergo interrogations by the authorities, or worse, risk being accused of espionage.
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, it’s illegal to photograph military, police or airport personnel in Cuba, and although enforcement of this law can be erratic, avoid taking chances at all costs and point your camera the other way.
With an endless choice of tourist models – both opportunistic and professional –street photography, and candid photo opportunities abounding all around you, not to mention the fact that Cuba is a photographer’s haven and quite possibly one of the safest places in the world to be one, you should, otherwise for the most part, have no problem with this one.
5 Drinking Water (That's Not Filtered)
While some resorts around Cayo Coco and Varadero use purified filtered water (yes, even for ice cubes!), you’ll want to make a point of avoiding drinking local tap water from just about anywhere else in Cuba, and be sure to this in mind even when you’re brushing your teeth!
Like many developing countries where the distribution of fresh water supply is a problem, tap water in Cuba is definitely not safe to drink. Not only is cholera and typhoid a concern here, but you’re looking at some serious upset-tummy action if you’re not careful.
While significant efforts were indeed made in 2015, resulting in giving over 95% of Cubans access to an improved water source, water supply and sanitation in Cuba still faces a limited quality of service, so don’t take your chances.
Stick to sealed filtered water bottles, or better, if you haven’t picked one up yet and expect to be traveling extensively across Cuba, consider buying a LifeStraw water bottle which allows you to filter any kind of water from anywhere, anytime on the go. This nifty little thing not only removes every waterborne contaminant including E.Coli, but is BPA-free, and saves both waste and money, not to mention all the hassle that comes with constantly having to buy disposable plastic water bottles, especially since bottled water can often be difficult to find in major cities.
4 Being Unfamiliar With Local Schedules
At the cost of half a national peso, it’s hard to resist trying your luck at taking one of the local buses to get around Cuba’s towns and cities. But between overcrowding and the fact that bus schedules and timetables aren’t posted at local stops anywhere, it’s no wonder that few foreigners use them.
You’re certainly much better off using the long-distance interprovincial buses – one of two national networks, Viazul and Conectando Cuba – to get around instead. That is, of course, if you were smart enough to print out the schedules before you left for your trip!
One thing you’ll certainly want to avoid if you can, when traveling in Cuba, is being unfamiliar with local travel timetables, especially if you're assuming you can rely on your casa particular for help with this. You may be surprised to find that your hitherto charming casa owner is suddenly reticent to share any bus times with you, even sometimes going so far as to hide the truth about the frequency of buses.
While staying at local homestays undoubtedly remains one of the best decisions you can make in terms of getting a truly local experience, getting them to divulge the well-known bus frequencies will very likely be a challenge. Why’s that, you ask? To entice you into another night stay with them, of course! This is Cuba, remember?
And don’t be surprised to discover that even bus station security guards are in on it too when you ask them for bus times, opting more often than not, to hook you up with a friend’s taxi instead (and for a commission, of course).
Your best bet is to print out all of the timetables you need from the networks’ websites before you go.
3 Not Learning (At Least Some!) Spanish
Granted, Cuba is blessed with some of the friendliest locals when it comes to tourists (even if a lot of it often comes with vested interests), so you may think it’s perfectly fine to head over to the island nation without a single word of Spanish under your belt, right? Wrong - very wrong.
One of the biggest fails when traveling to Cuba is thinking you can get by with absolutely no Spanish. In a country where the majority of locals don’t speak a word of English, not only will a few simple sentences go a long way, but even the friendliest of locals will kick up the help a notch and truly appreciate it if you can at least speak a few words of the local lingo.
Truth be told, for all its rich culture, tropical beauty and fascinating history, Cuba remains one of the most challenging countries to travel in, from its confusing and often limiting bureaucracy, to its ever-present lineups.
And while it’s admittedly all part of the experience, and can even be part of the fun if you let it, imagine how much more rewarding and hassle-free that experience can be in this otherwise incredible country, with the help of a few sentences in the local language?
2 Not Understanding The Two-Tier Cuban Currency System
If your travel experience in Cuba mostly consists of perching yourself within one of its resort compounds and sipping watered-down mojitos, then this one applies to you… well, not so much.
Otherwise, you’ll want to pay especially close attention: A large part of what makes Cuba more expensive than other parts of Latin America or Central American nations is the famous second currency – the tourist currency - which ultimately means exactly what it sounds like: You’ll be paying tourist prices pretty much, most of the time.
While most travelers will chalk it up to being part of the experience, the stickler is not understanding the difference between your CUC (convertible peso, or the moneda libremente convertible) and your CUP (Cuban pesos, or moneda nacional ) because they vary considerably in terms of valuation: CUC $1 = CUP $26.5 (at press time).
Generally, tourists must use convertible pesos, which is aligned to the USD. That means that CUC $1 is equivalent to USD $1, or, in simpler terms, USD $1 is equivalent to CUP $26.5.
You still with me? Good. Not understanding this difference leaves you open to the very real risk and possibility of getting ripped off. One of the most common scams in Cuba is being given back the wrong currency as change (CUP instead of CUC) so make sure you keep your eyes open.
Where it gets especially tricky, however, is that even though the convertible peso has historically functioned on a near one-to-one parity with the American dollar, U.S. dollars are penalized by a 10% surcharge on all money exchange operations to convertible pesos. So if you think you’re getting a deal using American dollars, you’re sadly mistaken, my friend.
1 Marriage Scams
Looking for love in all the wrong places? One of those places might be Cuba.
With countless marriage scams both online and off, the king of Cuban schemes pulls at the heartstrings, leaving many visitors the victims of some serious financial and emotional stress if they’re not careful.
With over 70% of all Cuban marriages ending up in divorce, according to government stats, resisting the luring charms of your pool boy or salsa dance instructor might have to be one of the top things you avoid when traveling to Cuba.
From long-distance sugar-daddy-seekers to sudden cross-border changes of heart, scamster Cubanos and Cubanitas are cashing in on many of the nearly million tourists that visit the island nation from Canada each year, preying predominantly on lonely middle-aged singles, both male and female, to get out of the country.
Granted, love scams are far from being exclusive to Cuba, and plenty of relationships certainly do end up being authentic, but with the number of marriages between foreigners and Cubans skyrocketing, throwing caution to the wind in a country that is so effortlessly easy to fall in love in, is something you certainly want to avoid doing, especially when visiting a nation as warm, seductive and unforgettable as this one.