Places to avoid in Cuba

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Cuba tops many world travelers bucket lists, being a nation that captured the world’s imagination, with a unique mix of tropical beauty, wonderful salsa rhythms and ever-flowing rum. Also, Cuba has amazing warm and friendly people, always ready to host you and your traveling buddies for the best Cuban experience.

However, if you want to make sure your experience here is well worth it, there are a couple of places you should try and stay away from. Cuba is not a dangerous country, but for the well-being of your trip, we created a list with the top areas you should avoid during your stay in Cuba.

 

Varadero

The Varadero peninsula stretches into the Caribbean at the northernmost point of Cuba, and it is about 2 hours east from Havana. This area has an interesting history, but its activity is mostly unethical regarding tourism. This area was created once the American mafia wanted to build a stretch of casinos from the peninsula all the way to Havana, naming it Casino Coast.

However, when Castro took control, he kicked the American mafia out. But all the casinos and beach resorts stayed, and they are still spoiling the beautiful scenery and the beaches. Usually, at these beach resorts, you find a lot of unwelcome tourists, which keep people away by constantly guarding the beaches and denying access.

There is even a gate at the start of the peninsula to stop any Cubans from entering. Therefore, we do not recommend you to visit this area.

Avoid slums

In Cuba, as in any other place, it is better if you try to avoid visiting marginal or poor neighborhoods. Some areas are more dangerous than others, some are even outside the law where a tourist might be an easy target for muggers.

You should be very careful if you visit Havana because it is more dangerous compared to other cities. Neighborhoods such as Centro Habana, Marianao and Guanabacoa have more of a bad reputation than others, so if you find yourself interested in visiting them, you should at least visit them alongside a local friend, someone you really trust.

 

Bechlin

This is an area where spontaneous fights might erupt, but usually between locals. There are a lot of bars around this area, so alcohol has a lot to do with the incidents too. Don’t worry, if you stay away from these areas, especially at night, you won’t have any unpleasant experiences.

Orange Casa Particulares

Across the country, there is a national network of “staying in” locations which are called “Casa Particulares.” Foreigners and travelers are only allowed to stay in blue Casas Particulares because the orange ones are for locals. Both the traveler and the owner can get in big trouble if visitors choose to stay in a orange one.

You should also avoid over-crowded places or very noisy/loud bars. Cubans are mostly friendly and nice, but there are cases when they can act sketchy. Don’t flaunt your wealth, don’t wear showy jewelry and don’t carry with you a lot of cash because that will increase the chance of you getting mugged. Avoid drinking tap-water or brushing your teeth with it, because it most probably could make you sick.

Always be aware of your surroundings and try to befriend some locals to have a couple of trustworthy people that can show you the true and hidden beauties of Cuba. Even so, you should be careful who you trust, because there are people who will try to scam you into buying questionable looking items such as cigars, decorative objects, alcohol, etc for unusual high prices.

 

 

5 tips for driving in Mexico

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If you’re planning a trip to Mexico and you intend to take your car or rent one from your destination, you need to know your way around. Here are five pieces of advice that we have prepared for you if you’re in the situation of driving an automobile in this country.

 

General information

First, let’s discuss the documentation needed to drive in Mexico. You can use a driver’s license obtained in the U.S. or Canada, but if you intend on driving more, and leave Mexico for other countries, you can also get an international driving permit. You should always have your license with you, along with your ID and the tourist card.

If you use your own car, make sure to have your insurance and registration. Alternatively, keep your rental agreement and insurance with you when driving a rented car.

You should know that buying gas is simple, but a bit different compared to other places. For example, always make sure that the meter shows zero before the attendant starts pumping the gas. Also note that it’s a custom to tip the attendant if he or she has done something else for you, like washing the windshield or checking the tires and oil.

Avoid driving at night

Unfortunately, road fatalities are a lot higher at night in Mexico than they are at day. That’s because there are plenty of animals that you can run into, and there are pedestrians that cross the street recklessly. You will also see many vehicles that lack tail lights and they are a danger on the road.

Another noticeable thing is that there aren’t many overhead lights on the road so you will not be able to see obstacles from afar. That is why you should try and drive more slowly than you usually do. Also, if you’re stuck in a remote area, there are slim chances of someone helping you so you will be stuck there all night.

 

Stick to the main roads

Although thieves are not as big of a problem as they once were, they can still cause some trouble on the usually untraveled roads. Another problem that back roads have is that the road conditions can be suboptimal and your car might run the risk of hitting a hole and sustaining too much damage.

However, if you’re with a group of friends you can be confident that these issues can be resolved and you can try and visit the part of Mexico that you can find off the beaten track. This is where you will see the real spirit of the country, with the kids waving at you and asking you to buy stuff and adventurous roads with sharp curves.

Unwritten driving rules

In the U.S. and generally around the globe, a left turn signal shows the driver’s intention to turn left. But that’s not always the case in Mexico, where it’s generally an invitation for the driver behind to pass. If there is no intersection with a road on the left, then be sure that the left signal asks you to pass.

This shows how polite Mexican people can be. However, they expect you to be polite, as well. If you’re going down a road that has a shoulder and a car comes from the opposite direction, on your lane, if that car is overtaking someone you are expected to drive on the emergency lane.

You can also pass a car on the right, on the shoulder lane, but you need to make sure the driver you overtake is aware of that.

 

Don’t attempt bribes

When being pulled over, firstly ask to talk to the chief. If the officer that stopped you only wants your money he or she will probably back off when hearing that request.

Most Mexican policemen are honest and that is why you should never be the one to offer to bribe them. This act could get you in a lot of trouble. As expected, paying an officer to get rid of the fine is illegal in Mexico.

 

 

Top 5 safest countries to visit

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To say that everybody loves traveling is sort of an understatement. Although the world feels unsafe due to current events, the truth is most countries are more than peaceful. There are terrorist attacks, riots, and wars, but according to a study, our civilizations have never been more peaceful. Apparently, there are fewer wars now than were in the middle ages.

Nevertheless, there still are places which are safer than others, and this list’s purpose is to reveal them to you. It is better to read about such places before going on a trip, so you know what to expect. This is essential information, especially if you are a solo female traveler.

We base our article on the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report from 2017, where countries are listed and classified according to their safety and to the level security they provide for their citizens and tourists alike. Some of the criteria used to measure a country’s safety control were the lack of terrorist attacks, police efficiency, and the number of fatalities registered throughout a given period.

Even if the countries you are about to see are thought as safe, it doesn’t mean they are boring, as some of them are fantastic party hubs, full of young and vibrant people. Some even allow you to drink on the streets, which is quite surprising. Let’s get to it!

To start this countdown we chose Qatar. It is situated in the Middle East, and it is top rated from many points of view. It is both luxurious and safe, and if you visit it, there are hundreds of things to do, from visiting museums to admiring private human-made islands. And even if the country is associated with luxury, it is still very cheap if you are a tourist.

Just keep in mind that Qatar is a predominantly Muslim country, so make sure you follow the local rules and common practices. The police there is very vigilant, and if you cause problems, they will take measures that might seem a bit rough for a westerner. Otherwise, if you are a fan of opulence, this might be the place for you.

Next on the list is a country made up of diverse cultural backgrounds. Switzerland is not a country, but just like the U.S., it is a union of different regions. There are many official languages in the Swiss nation, including French, Italian, and German. There is even a small part that speaks a Latin dialect.

It has also done well in the broader report, for many years, as a matter of fact,  and has reached a status synonymous with neutrality, for its position during the World Wars. Moreover, it is incredibly expensive, but the little country is safe in has a lot to offer. Everyone has heard of Swiss watches, cheese, and chocolate and of their stunning natural scenery. If you don’t know much about Switzerland, do yourself a favor and google cities like Bern, Geneva, and Zermatt now.

Another European country with great scores is Norway. Is this surprising anyone? The Nordic jewel is famous for its reliable police and for the fact that the people are kind, helpful and laid-back. If you want to see beautiful nature in its pristine form, Oslo, Bergen and everything in between should be on your travel list.

You’ll be happy to know that Norwegians have some of the lowest homicide rates, especially when compared to most places in America. There are also many cultural destinations in Norway and a lot of nightclubs for those who enjoy this type of adventure.

At number four, we have Oman. Despite having neighbors in a state of conflict, raided by terrorism, Oman is like a peaceful oasis in the turbulent Middle East. It outshines even large countries like the UK and France and is for sure an inspiration to us all.

And the last country might be a surprise to some of you, especially since in the previous few years it held a different position on the top. We are talking, of course, about Finland and its capital, Helsinki. It climbed almost eleven spots and now it is considered an emblem of police efficiency, and it is praised for its criminal justice system.