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¡Hola Cuba!

“Can you really work on Caribbean islands?
Business Travellers to Havana tend to think of time out with rum, salsa and socialism lived out in the patina of better times.
But business and leisure is possible in Cuba – and worthwhileh.” Kai Böcking

I work remotely all over the world. Whether Europe, Dubai, South Africa, always hoping for a working WLAN on site. Cuba fell into my lap as a remote work destination for a TV production, and other projects in Germany had to be worked on as well – so working from Cuba is the order of the day.
It‘s not so easy to get to Island at the moment. There are flights via Madrid, some charter connections from Europe and again more flights from Canada and the USA. So if you have business in ­Toronto or Miami, you can relatively quickly be in paradise. When I enter the country, I immediately buy a ­mobile phone SIM card for only 10 euros and with a solid 4 GB connection. As expensive as roaming charges often are, in this case, one can praise socialism.

Problems arise with the right currency. With the abolition of the peso, with which Cubans were enslaved for so long, the CUP came into force in 2021. Formerly the currency for tourists, it is now used by everyone. But nobody really wants it! Canadian dollars, US dollars and the euro are easier to redeem. Why? Because in Cuba the CUP is not allowed to be used for buying all those iPhones, clothes and other luxury items. So every Cuban stashes away the “gringo money“ to be able to afford something. In a beach bar 600 km from Havana, for example, I am supposed to pay 4 Cana­dian dollars for a mojito. But I don‘t have any, so I pay 8 dollars in CUP. Inflation! The game with credit cards is also confusing: In the good hotels ONLY credit cards are accepted. In the private restaurants: not possible! So if you want to experience the real Cuba, you should have dollars with you.

Buena Vista from the Kempinski La Manzana in Havana – and work goes well too.

Great Havanna

Remote Work really remote: Kai Böcking at Kempinksi Cayo Guillermo Resort Cuba

Havana, or better La Habana, with about 2.1 million inhabitants, is also the largest city in Cuba. Tourists usually don‘t end up here at all, or “only“ on their way to the all-inclusive ghetto ­“Varadero“. And that‘s a pity, because Havana – like the rest of the country – is poor and lacks everything, but it is a great city with flair and patina.
Besides some Spanish hotel chains, the noble brand Kempinski now runs three hotels on the island. Their flagship is the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana in a former historic shopping centre. Kempinski also operates the boutique hotel Gran Hotel Bristol and – about 600 km away – the Kempinski Cayo Guillermo Resort Cuba on the island‘s most beautiful beach.

Havana is a turbulent metropolis with creaking cars and motorbikes, salsa music and noisy street vendors. However when you enter the bright La Manzana lobby, you land in an oasis of calm: 246 rooms and 50 suites, two restaurants, lobby bar, cigar bar and an incredi­bly beautiful roof terrace with pool and bar including a view of the historic Capitol. On Top of Havana. The rooms – in my case with a view of the most beautiful oldtimer – are are classically modern equiped with lots of space, dark wood and a desk. There are plenty of sockets with adapters, and the Wi-Fi works, even when streaming films for work. I‘ve had worse Wi-Fi in the south of France. So working is fine, even on the roof terrace by the pool. And because the breakfast, which is opulent by Cuban standards, is ­served until 1 pm, I can make a lot of phone calls to Germany before.

 

„No sugar, no mint ­today“

Like all hotels in Cuba, the Kempinski Hotels are under state control and dependent on government supply chains. This leads to curious shortages in the restaurants – and to sentences like “No sugar, no mint today“: Unbelievable on the sugar island of Cuba. But there are always cigars and rum in the hotel. Machine, the cigar sommelier, recommends me a Romeo y Julieta with an 18-year-old rum. I never drank and smoked in a better combination. Interestingly, the supply fluctuations do not exist in the ­private restaurants and bars that have been licensed since a few years. This is due to the “organisational talent“ of the­­ ­Cubans who, as operators of these paladars, have turned their ­homes into chic restaurants. (see box “Bleisure Tips“)
My “Cuba-in-love conclusion“: The Caribbean island is at this moment not a number one place for remote working. But it is possible, even very good. I would like to see more of Cuba, even outside Havana.


Kai Böcking …

… had been to Cuba as part of the filming of “Herr Raue reist“ (TV documentary with Tim Raue, see also p. 70f), and definitely wants to come back soon. Here, travelling is still discovering, he says. In yesterday, which is also digital in its own way – and invites you to do wonderful remote work.


Bleisure Tipps Kuba

La Casa de Julio: in Playa Baracoa, 30 min. from Havana, small fish restaurant by the sea run by Julio. Very simple, fresh, delicious. Better than any sushi.
Paladar La Guarida: on the top floors of a villa where Enrique lived and where Havana‘s best-known restaurant now resides. Fantastic cuisine. Of course: cash only!
Paladar Grados: in Vedado, my favourite. Here, the whirlwind Raulito cooks in his parents‘ house. Star-level Cuban cuisine. Greetings from Tim Raue, who didn‘t want to leave here!
Kempinski Cayo Guillermo Resort Cuba: Beach sister of the Kempinski Manzana on Playa Pilar, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The journey is long without a plane, but perfect for real remote work away from home in a water villa.

Fotos: © Stock.com/ oliver de la haye, Kempinski, Kai Böcking /BSB

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