Yes, I have one. No, it’s not what you’re thinking 😉
I wrote a lot about scams in Cuba. But mostly about love scams. However there are jinetros who are not trying to make you fall in love with them. They just want your money. And that was the type of jineteros I met way before I knew people like jineteros even existed.
Let’s go back in time. As you may know I booked my first trip to Cuba very spontaneously in 2014. I knew some stuff about the country but I didn’t do too much research. I mean I researched places I wanted to visit, restaurants I wanted to eat in. And that’s it. I didn’t look for safety information because I was going with the tour and even had an airport transfer included.
But then a friend of mine decided to join me on the same tour and we decided that we should meet in Havana few days before the tour to catch up.
So we did and spent our very first day in Havana wondering around and have few drinks. And when we were walking down the Malecon a Cuban couple approached us. They just started to talk to us and how nice is to meet foreigners to share informations because they really didn’t know what was going on outside etc. My friend who is artist himself was thrilled to meet locals so when they said to go somewhere for a drink he was more than happy. I am usually more careful in those situations but after some mojitos I said what the heck , I’m in.
They took us to Callejon de Hamel which was pretty nice and we all sat down in the local cafe. They asked for drinks and started to explain how difficult the life was in Cuba and how hard was to feed their children. They knew it was our first day in Cuba so I guess we were the perferct target. I have to admit that they were really nice during all this time and did not ask for money at that point. They did ask for more drinks. Now, the drinks (mine and my friends) were really strong. Obviously to make us drunk quickly however I don’t think they knew where we were from 😀 Polish and Swedish poeple are not that easy when it comes to getting drunk lol.
Later the guy said he will give us a gift and dissapeared. He came back with 3CUP Che Guevara coin and started to explain the story. What he didn’t notice at the same time I saw another couple with 2 foreigners doing exactly the same thing, telling the same story and giving them the 3 CUP coin. That was when I knew something was off. I told my friend we should go and this is when their attitude started to change. They told us we should at least help them to buy some milk for their kids etc. I saw all the weird guys (the barman, the other couple and some other guys) looking at us. My friend paid for drinks (very expensive of course) and I said we would go with them to the shop because I wanted to leave the bar. The guys told me also that if we want to buy cigars there is this chance because someone from the family works in cigar factory (yeah right) .I said no so they were like “ok so let’s just go to this special place to get the milk”. But as soon as we left the Callejon and were on street again I said “ok we are going to leave now”. Oh they were so pissed. The guys started to insult me and saying I have to go because I promissed. I said ” we paid for the most expensive drinks in your life, we don’t have to go anywhere with you” and we left in other direction. They were so angry they lost all this time with us that I though for some second they would actually do something to us. Fortunately they just left insulting me even more on their way.
We were lucky but also we were just trusting our guts. If you think something is off, it’s probably off. Especially that jineteros are not stupid. They know a couple will not look dangerous. They know you will feel sorry for their kids etc.
I don’t know where they were trying to take us. If it was just to get us buy milk with double price and they wanted us to go to some apartment to take what we had (I heard stories like that). I guess, I’ll never know.
But you know what? It can happen literally to anybody. Just be smart. Not everyone in Cuba want to use you for your money. Most of people don’t. But just be caferul, the same as you would be in your country.
Still it was a great trip which made me feel so in love with Cuba that eventually I found a love in Cuba as well.