Notes from Entering Cuba


I think it is easier for and old retired couple to enter Cuba than for a single white Caucasian flying alone. When I got to Cuba, I began to worry about my potential problems. Maybe I worry to much.

I have no place of birth on my passport. At passport control they asked where I was born (among other questions). I said, Canada. He pointed to my missing place of birth and asked why it wasn’t listed. I said, My place of birth was removed from my passport. I’m not certain how good his English was. I suppose the worst that could happen is that I would be denied entry and sent back. Anyhow he let me past passport control. Perhaps if I looked like I may have been born in Cuba, I would have had more trouble.

I was scanned, like at an airport, when entering the country. In fact I was more thoroughly checked going into the country than going out. I had some strange German nose medication in my pocket that I got from the DBA airline when travelling back from Berlin. That gave me a little bit of trouble as they tried to figure out what it was, and I didn’t really know.

Then I picked up my baggage, and all my belongings were inspected at customs. The agent asked if I smoked or ever did drugs. I said that I had never done drugs. He pointed out that they were legal in Holland. I said that they were still technically illegal, but they turn a blind eye to it in Holland. He said that it was easy to get drugs in Holland. I said that they were easy to get in Amsterdam, but that I lived in Nijmegen.

A couple things concerned me here. I only brought Euro cash with me, which I disturbed around my belongings. I had some in my wallet. Some in my little camera case. And some in my shoes. The customs guy didn’t seem bothered by the cash he found in my camera case. I suppose it is a reasonable thing to do. He only asked me what type of currency it was. He didn’t even count it.

I don’t know how I feel about the shoe thing. Maybe that was going too far. The money is a bit smelly when I recovered it. On the other hand, nobody found it during the inspections. I’m not sure why I spread my money around. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, so I thought it would help.

He went through my wallet. He seemed amused by my Zimbabwean currency. I have a lot of crap in my wallet, and he gave up inspecting about half way through it.

I also brought my friend’s Stalin biography with me that I have been reading. As he got to the bottom of my bag, I started to worry about this. There is a comment by Andrew Roberts on the cover. He pointed that out. I pointed out that the author was Robert Service.

Anyhow, the whole inspection process was stressful. I didn’t like the idea of spending my life in a Cuban prison. I was thinking about that poor Australian woman in Bali. To be fair, the inspection process was very reasonable, and fairly done. He didn’t seem to notice that I had no place of birth on my passport, and I got no trouble over that. The most offensive object I had was a biography of Stalin, so I was let into the country. The funny thing is that he didn’t look in my “secret” compartment where I would put drugs if I had any. Although if there had been something bulky in my secret compartment, then perhaps he would have noticed.

I advice other young male Caucasian people travelling to Cuba alone would be to not bring any extra junk with you to Cuba. My winter coat is full of bits of papers, and directions I needed 3 years ago and stuff. Remove all those scraps from all your bags. And for God’s sake, don’t bring any drugs.


Russell O’Connor: contact me