Banking on Cuba

The next day we are off, first to the bank to attempt the arduous process of extracting money from our accounts, and then to the National Park office to see about tours in the UNESCO-listed biosphere of Cienega de Zapata.

Banking proves largely fruitless…First we have to join a queue, no more than one person per teller. There seem to be a lot of people hanging about, but this bank also does some kind of certificate, (don’t ask me what) so maybe our wait won’t be too long. There is a rather officious man guarding the door, glaring fiercely at anyone who jumps the queue or tries to get in out of turn. He also asks the young french trio behind us, if one of the young men also wants to go change money. Yes he does, but our guardian tells him he will not be allowed entry in a singlet – his female companion is fine in a sarong over her swim suit, but the young man has to wear his friend’s t-shirt on top of his singlet. What the???

S enters the bank, and I attempt to accompany her as quasi-translator; oh no no no – Mr Guard shoes me out despite all protestations. After 20 minutes of much sign language and writing numbers down on paper, S is unsuccessful, and Mr Grumpy comes to get me to understand why. It would appear it’s a bank problem, the teller seems to think that it’s Westpac, and we need to phone Australia to sort out the problem. Now it’s my turn…. First I try to use a MasterCard that doesn’t have any purchases already booked – if I use our visa card, we’ll get charged interest of 18% not only on our cash advance, but on any and all charges already on the card. No thanks!!!! Well, Master Card doesn’t work, which doesn’t really surprise me, since I haven’t notified the bank I am in Cuba, and I suspect Citibank is part of the imperialist conspiracy to enslave Cuba Libre. My Visa also doesn’t work????? And don’t even think about a debit card….

So now I have to call W – he gives me his Visa plus copy of his passport. Not allowed – W is the  person who has to present himself to the teller, not his wife with access to all his accounts 🙂 – and I am ushered back out.

The three French are dismayed – when will it be their turn??? Ah what the hell – age before beauty, and we’re not leaving till one of us gets cash. Next urgent requirement is to find WiFi so we can clear the debt; no such thing in Playa Larga – we will have to wait for three days till Cienfuegos, our next stop. Let’s hope we’re not bankrupt before then.

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