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12 April 2016 / leggypeggy

Your luggage in Cuba and how to hang on to your stuff

Sailing in Trinidad Cuba

Setting out to sail in Trinidad—fully dressed

If you’ve been following our trip to Cuba, you’ll know our bags were missing—although you probably didn’t know this situation lasted for nine days. ARGH!

The good news is we have our luggage back. The bad news is a very important item is missing.

In the interest of sparing you (or anyone else) similar grief regarding belongings in Cuba, here’s the story of what happened to us. Plus advice on how to avoid similar things happening to you.

For starters, from the time we left Mexico, we were pretty sure our bags wouldn’t arrive in Havana. Our flight from Cancun to Mexico City left 80 minutes late, cutting the time we had to change flights to about 10 minutes.

We were able to run between planes, but our bags couldn’t do the same. So while we were disappointed not to see our bags trundling around on the carousel in Cuba, we were not surprised.

The lost luggage window was directly opposite the carousel and the two women there spoke good English. They asked for all our paperwork and spent quite a long time recording our home address, local address and contact details, bag descriptions and such.

They then presented us with a claim receipt that included a file reference number and two airport phone numbers to call if we wanted to find out the status of our bags.

They also said the bags would come sometime the next day, the 29th.

This was encouraging, but given that our flight arrived well after 11pm, we wondered whether they might come on an earlier flight. We were leaving Havana in the early morning of the 30th, and would need the bags to be at to our homestay address (362 O’Reilly) by the end of the day on the 29th.

More problems arose as soon as we reached our homestay. The address was 309 (not 362) O’Reilly. It’s now close to 1:30am and we’ve awakened the homestay family to let us in.

The only thing to do was go to bed and hope to sort things out in the morning.

Now it’s hard to make this story short, but I’m going to try.

Turns out that 309 O’Reilly is overflow for 362. Fine. But we needed to let the airport know of the change of address or let 362 know about our bags.

Even though we had four phone numbers (two for 362 and two for the airport), not one answered. I called, the homestay family called, the homestay family friends called. In the end we got through to a fifth number (the brother of 362 and the person who seemed to be dealing with things).

Although I didn’t speak to him (Leandro), he went to great lengths to promise our homestay people that he would call and call and call the airport, and do everything in his power to sort out our luggage problems that day.

I have no idea what Leandro did that day. We went on a lengthy walking tour of Havana, and our homestay family kept trying the airport numbers.

Evening came but the bags didn’t, so we left the next morning on our pre-paid tour—with our minimally loaded daypacks and two spare white t-shirts given to us by the folks at 362.

From Havana we stayed in Playa Giron, Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santa Clara. Every homestay family called the airport numbers (no answer ever) and Leandro (who was still knocking himself out to get our bags back).

Up to this point, my only complaints were with AeroMexico, which may or may not have gotten our bags to Havana, and the airport, which never answered the assistance lines.

Crocheted dresses, Cuba

Which crocheted dress would suit me?

Replacing clothes hardly an option
Oh, clothes were another problem. We had the clothes on our backs, the two t-shirts, one spare pair of slacks and a pair of bike pants.

Playa Giron was tiny and sold no clothes at all. Cienfuegos was bigger and where Poor John’s foot flared up. Most of our time there was spent at the hospital (I’ll do a post on that and have to say the service and care were excellent).

My homestay hostess gave me a brief walking tour of downtown Cienfuegos, but only tourist clothes seemed to be available. There were sarongs, t-shirts, and crocheted dresses and tops. No one had undies in our sizes.

By then I’d developed a fairly good routine for washing clothes at night—in the sink with bath soap. It was windy and hot, and laundry dried in a couple of hours. That said, I hadn’t planned to accompany Poor John to the hospital wearing no bra and a cheap white t-shirt that said a relative went to New York City and bought me this t-shirt. You know the ones I mean.

We were in Trinidad on a Sunday so only tourist clothing was displayed, including bathing suits in sizes for Barbie and Ken.

Santa Clara seemed like our best bet clothes-wise. Our guide had great English and was very fashionably dressed. Turns out her sisters send her clothes from the USA. We did try a few shops for undies, but the sales people always said there was nothing in my size.

The reunion
So nine days later we returned to Havana. A nice taxi driver took us from the bus back to 309 O’Reilly. He gave us his phone number and said he’d take us to the airport later in the evening if we wanted to go.

We trotted over to 362 (no one at 309 spoke English) and found no luggage. The airport numbers didn’t answer either, so we booked the taxi for 7:30pm.

After running around the airport for a bit, we were led to the lost luggage cage. Our claim receipt us got us into the cage (then they locked us in) where about 12 other people were waiting to claim bags. Three gals from Germany said they had been waiting a couple of hours to be served. Their taxi driver had even delivered them to the cage entrance. He knew all about lost luggage issues.

Clearly lost luggage is not a surprise in Cuba.

After about an hour, the officials started calling people to come inside to see if their bag was the one that had been hauled out of the bowels of the building.

The first success came to the German girls. Oh my, the squeals of delight could be heard across town. They were two or three days into their 18-day trip, so they were overjoyed.

Then a few local parcels were handed out—large bundles wrapped in plastic.

And finally Poor John’s bag appeared. They had him sign off all the paperwork and tried to send us on our way. I kept tapping the claim receipt to show them two bags were involved. In the end, they let me into the bowels of the building to search for my bag. Surprisingly, there were only about eight bags still on shelves and mine was one of them.

So the reunion was complete and we hopped in a taxi to 309. By then it was approaching 10pm. Our homestay family was entertaining guests and they bounded down the stairs to carry up our bags.

Leandro still alive
Now there’s more long story here, which I’ll tell in time, but the very short version is that the next morning we finally met Leandro and told him about our trip to the airport for the bags.

He said, more or less, oh yes, that would be right. The airport doesn’t deliver bags. You have to go get them yourself. And they certainly wouldn’t have let me go get them.

And he expects me to believe he knocked himself out to get our bags? We have no idea when they arrived, but we might have been able to have retrieve them if we’d gone to the airport late on the 29th.

Leandro is still alive, but only just. And I have an even longer list of why I’d like to choke him. Stay tuned for more episodes.

A last comment about baggage
Don’t pack anything in a checked bag that you are not prepared to lose. When we were leaving Cuba, we checked in at the airport about 3 1/2 hours early.

The next day in Chile, when Poor John opened his bag, which had been locked, he found the contents had been ransacked. Only his iPad was missing, but the contents were in disarray. The coffee set he carries (two stainless plunger cups and a packet of ground coffee) was out of its carry bag. His monocular was out of its case and had been tampered with. And his clothes were strewn about. It was obvious that someone had had plenty of time to scrounge through his bag. And that could have happened only in the baggage handling area in Havana.

We’ll be writing to Lan Chile to let them know about this.

Don’t let something like this happen to you.

No matter where I’m travelling, I carry all my precious items in my backpack. I don’t travel with jewellery, so that means cameras, chargers, cords, spare batteries, a little laptop, and usually a change of clothes. No idea how I managed to forget that this time.

P.S. I have plenty of good tales to tell about Cuba. We’re glad we went. Stay tuned for more.

Statue, Cienfuegos, Cuba

I wonder where he got his clothes?

71 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. gerard oosterman / Apr 12 2016 2:17 pm

    Yes, plenty of underwear and copious toilet paper is what gets packed in our on-board luggage together with plaster-strips for blisters and dept of Aus. Foreign affairs numbers.
    We travelled for two weeks and after our return to Sydney were searched to the bottom of our heels. No one could believe two elderly travellers could arrived from Chile/ Argentina without suitcases. ( full of drugs.)
    Thank God, the coffee plunger was still there, Leggy. That is an important item. How clever to have taken that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 7:37 am

      I almost always have a spare set of clothes in my carry-on. Can’t believe I didn’t this time. And yes, the coffee plungers are a bonus.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rashminotes / Apr 12 2016 3:12 pm

    Such an ordeal Leggy; am glad it is over:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:27 am

      Thanks. We’re sure to have other mishaps, but we’re glad this one is over.

      Like

  3. Jolandi Steven / Apr 12 2016 3:13 pm

    Oh my, Peggy. Your story left my heart racing. I never travel with a change of clothes in my carry-on luggage, just all my valuables. I guess you got slightly more of an adventure in Cuba than you bargained for. Am looking forward to all the good stories. 🙂 Safe travels.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:28 am

      Okay, now you know to throw a few spares in your carry-on. Please let me know if that ever saves you a lot of hassle.

      Like

  4. Yvonne / Apr 12 2016 3:36 pm

    What a tale of things that went very much awry. I’m glad you FINALLY got your luggage, but sad that your iPad was stolen. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Norbert Haupt / Apr 12 2016 4:07 pm

    A young co-worker of mine recently went to Cuba and had his iPhone stolen on the first day. He hated the whole experience and couldn’t get out of Cuba fast enough a week later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:30 am

      We didn’t hate Cuba. In fact, we quite liked it, but it’s very sad that so many things went wrong there. They need to start making a good impression.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jeanettev2014 / Apr 12 2016 4:53 pm

    My goodness what a time you had getting your luggage. Then not to have it all..

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:31 am

      Yes, very annoying. Luckily, an iPad can be replaced.

      Like

  7. Fiona / Apr 12 2016 5:02 pm

    Sounds like South Africa. Even domestically, I don’t put any valuables in luggage that goes in the hold. About 20 years ago, going between Johannesburg and East London and when I lived in Queenstown, SAA sent my luggage to Durban. Fortunately I was heading home. Even more fortunately, I didn’t have to make the 2,5-hour trip back to East London to collect it, it was delivered. To the door. Look forward to happier installments about the trip.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:33 am

      We’ve travelled in South Africa, so we know how important it is to protect your personal belongings. Everyone is looking for an opportunity to take your stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Andrew Petcher / Apr 12 2016 5:30 pm

    You have just removed Cuba from my ‘to do’ list.
    We once lost a suitcase travelling to Iceland. Luckily for me it was Kim’s! We shared the contents of mine but she refused to wear my spare underpants!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeanettev2014 / Apr 12 2016 5:51 pm

      I remember traveling with the family. 1st day gave them their bathing suits & off to the beach we go. Now I wanted to put a pair of shorts on over my suit but could not find them. I did find them when Dh came out of the ocean wearing them, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:36 am

      Oh Andrew, you should see Cuba anyway. It isn’t all bad. Even thought we lost both of our cases, I had just enough spares in mine to allow us to stay semi-clothed while the washing got done. It’s been a good reminder to me to pack more in my carry-on.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. derrickjknight / Apr 12 2016 5:51 pm

    Your humour comes through, but what an absolute nightmare

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:39 am

      Good to know the humour comes through. I mean, it’s one of those beat-your-head-against-the-wall-while-you’re-laughing situations.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / Apr 12 2016 6:25 pm

    Lessons learned although I still want to go….
    Great post Peggy

    Liked by 2 people

  11. wfdec / Apr 12 2016 6:34 pm

    Right, now that that’s been solved I can’t wait for the good stories about Cuba.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. poshbirdy / Apr 12 2016 6:44 pm

    Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear this but thank you for sharing this advice. I will be very aware of it when we travel to Cuba in August

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:41 am

      I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. Let me know if you have any questions.

      Like

  13. Heather Sjoberg / Apr 12 2016 6:59 pm

    What a saga! Glad it didn’t happen to me – I have a short fuse with incompetence! Now safely back in Melbourne enjoying the autumn weather and the coffee culture. Not back in Darwin until 23 April. Cheers. Heather Sjoberg

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2016 9:53 am

      It was frustrating, but now a thing of the past. Enjoy your wonderful hit of autumn weather in Melbourne.

      Like

  14. Jane / Apr 12 2016 8:25 pm

    Phew, I’m glad you finally got most of it back but how very stressful, Peggy! I’m not sure Leandro would be still alive if it had been my luggage. 😉 Thanks for the advice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:42 am

      Hey Jane, if he gives me any more problems, let’s go get him together. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Midwestern Plant Girl / Apr 12 2016 8:36 pm

    OMG! What an experience. I think I will put Cuba on the back burner for places to go 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:43 am

      Oh dear, don’t skip going. We found lots to do. But it’s wise to manage your luggage.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Derrick / Apr 12 2016 10:46 pm

    Quite an ordeal, but knowing you Peg, as harrowing as it sounds and was, I had every confidence in you

    I guess John is fine now (I had gout, it really hurts)

    As you know I put anything I can I can afford to lose in hold luggage, stuff I like to keep goes in the hand luggage (and that has caused a few arguments at check in and with security staff)

    Only thing I would really hate to lose is my washing/shaving kit

    As you know by your travels, anything can be found in Africa (and most of it seems to come from our home countries, but never seen underpants, I know bra’s are always sought after there)

    Never thought about putting underwear in carry on though (maybe I should put a pair just in case

    Never had my bags rifled through either, but they have gone astray a couple of times

    I never saw anything really about your trip in Cuba, I thought it was because of the lack of internet

    I’d like to se and hear more about your trip there, my missus wants us to go there at some point, so anything about accomadation, getting around, food would be helpful (well anything that sounds remotely interesting ) even walking tours

    Do they do street food out there ?

    I’m looking forward to more of your trip (which does seem to have escalated into an adventure)

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:47 am

      More soon about Cuba. The lack of internet made it impossible to post. And I still want to do more about Alaska too. Try to be patient. 🙂 Oh heck, I know you. Put a sock in it for the moment! 🙂

      Like

      • Derrick / Apr 13 2016 4:52 pm

        I will keep you busy on the laptop telling me about Alaska, Cuba, now Trinidad, yup, you know me and I know how much you like telling everyone about your trips and adventures

        As you and I know, there are some who read these blogs cant travel, too old, too infirm, working, skint that follow our blogs, they travel with us, they see it through our writings and photos

        There may not be any internet in Cuba, but it is else where, its not going anywhere soon, so there is plenty of time to jot things down, then post it, there is always something you forgot about on the first posting and have to add to another entry

        But while there is no internet, get out there gal, enjoy yourself, soak it up

        One day we might even travel together again 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 9:48 pm

        You are so right Derrick. There’s plenty of time to get the blog done. Heck, it’s not a job and I don’t get paid to do it. It’s something I do for fun and for remembering, so it gets done, when it gets done. I really appreciate the fact that so many people are interested in travelling along with us.

        So where do we go next?

        Like

  17. susan@marsha'sbungalow / Apr 13 2016 12:57 am

    So, with all that brou-ha-ha, you still have good things to say about Cuba? The rest of the visit must have been wonderful. Looking forward to those tales, also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:47 am

      Cuba has lots of good to offer. My next post will be about the positive.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Curious to the Max / Apr 13 2016 4:29 am

    The man in the photo must be Leandro after you turned him to stone . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:45 am

      Nope, Leandro wasn’t that stylish. But I like the way you think! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. spearfruit / Apr 13 2016 7:23 am

    Wow, such an ordeal – I am glad you finally got the luggage back. Look forward to your posts on Cuba. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Carol Ferenc / Apr 13 2016 8:53 am

    So glad you got your bags back, Peggy. What a hassle! My hubby and I cross pack, meaning some of his things go in my bag and some of my things go in his bag. If one of the bags is lost, we can still make do. Looking forward to the next chapter on Cuba!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:51 am

      Yes, cross-packing is a brilliant idea. We’ve done it on occasion, but not this time. Thanks, Carol, for reminding me of the option.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol Ferenc / Apr 14 2016 12:12 am

        Of course, if BOTH bags go missing . . . 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Sy S. / Apr 13 2016 10:10 am

    LeggyPeggy,

    Glad you and PoorJohn made it out of Cuba, want an ordeal… and Leonardo is bad news.. and perhaps the luggage was in Havana the next day after you arrived??!!

    I could not figure out how you went to Trinidad and then to Santa Clara, California. So after checking out maps and Googling the above cities you stayed at… they are all in CUBA!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 11:53 am

      Impossible to know when the luggage arrived, but that darn Leandro could have been much more helpful. I’d like to give him a smack.

      And, yes, the city/town names are confusing. All those places really are in Cuba. 🙂

      Like

  22. Vicki / Apr 13 2016 4:19 pm

    I didn’t know whether to smile or cry (on this post).
    What a nightmare and the worst of it was that the nightmare kept going for days.

    I vaguely remember putting a couple of pairs of clean knickers, toothbrush/toiletries etc in my carry-on through my 1970s travels, but these days I have no idea what you can and can’t carry on a plane.

    I had this dream once…..well, more than once. I dreamed that I’d go off overseas with just a small backpack and what I could carry in it. A dozen pairs of clean knickers? I suppose these days, no luggage in the hold would make you suspiciously like a terrorist/thug/hijacker to airport staff. Still, I would dearly love to travel that way. In fact, I will make a conscious effort to change that dream to a backpack of knickers, socks, toothbrush/paste, soap, rain-proof plastic poncho, spare shoes and………money to bribe the airport staff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 9:50 pm

      You can smile because we got most everything back.

      And I forgot to say that my electric toothbrush is a luxury that’s always in my carry-on. Now I’ll add bribe money. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. sidilbradipo1 / Apr 13 2016 8:04 pm

    I’m glad you’ve got your luggages back!
    I only travel with hand luggage. “Laundry?” is my first question in the hotel 😛
    Waiting for your next travel story 😀
    Ciao
    Sid

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 9:55 pm

      We are going through so many climates on this trip—from -30°C to +30°C—that we had to have TOO MUCH luggage. And we’re doing laundry too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • sidilbradipo1 / Apr 14 2016 12:45 am

        I know the problem but I’ve solved it with the socalled technical garments (t-shirts, pants and jackets are in a special textile that fits cold and warm; take little space, no iron, no crease, easy washing and drying).
        And now I am a monster to pack luggages… 😛
        Ciao
        Sid

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2016 6:00 am

        You should post a how-to-pack video on YouTube. 🙂

        Like

  24. voulaah / Apr 13 2016 8:11 pm

    thank you very much for this post, especially these pretty dresses
    Kisses
    anita
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 9:56 pm

      You are most welcome. The dresses are lovely, but are not made for my body shape. hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Wannabe Supermaman / Apr 13 2016 9:00 pm

    Blimey, what an ordeal, not sure what was the worst part…maybe the the no bra and white t-shirt bit :/ . Love the way you look on the bright side by saying “only his iPad was missing”. Good luck with the rest of the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2016 9:57 pm

      Yep, the white t-shirt with no bra was the worst. I may never be able to wipe that from my memory. hahaha

      Like

  26. Forestwoodfolkart / Apr 14 2016 11:05 am

    Oh my goodness. What a hassle but what a great travel story to remember and chuckle about in time to come. I am soon to embark on a long time, although not to Cuba, but it will make me really think about what to put in my carry on bag. ( Answer: as much as I can!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2016 11:17 am

      Yep, you’ve got that right—toss in as much as you can! Usually one spare set of clothes and a bar of soap will get you through. Wear one, while the other dries.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. afterthelasttime / Apr 18 2016 9:14 pm

    Guess I’m a fortunate guy luggagewise having a very few episodes while traveling business and then in Australia however no one obviously went through my belonings and they were really terrific about it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 19 2016 12:00 am

      You’ve been very fortunate. We have been, too, mostly!

      Like

  28. mommermom / Apr 26 2016 10:13 am

    I’m reading your journey backwards. Sorry. I can’t imagine having your luggage missing in foreign country. You seem to have rolled with the punches and made the best out of the situation…. But then what else could you do? Sounds like an amazing trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 26 2016 2:07 pm

      I have to confess that the absence of our luggage made it pretty easy to travel around Cuba. But we had to do a lot of laundry. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Rock Emmanuel / Jun 23 2016 10:28 pm

    Thanks for your like. I love your please

    Liked by 1 person

  30. lisakunk / Apr 2 2017 2:43 am

    Well that was a wild ride. I hate it for you. I am always afraid of losing luggage or having items stolen so I’ve finally learned to travel with a carry on and a backpack. My life has become oh so much simpler. My daughter and I were going to England and France with a friend and her daughter a few years ago. My friend informed me she had backpacked all over Europe and survived and so could we. She also said, When you see all the cobblestone steps you’ll understand why a rolling suitcase is not your friend. And I can’t help you. So, consider the facts.” She sounds tough but she was right. We never lost our luggage and washed clothes in the room and we enjoyed the trip. I hope ya’ll enjoyed your trip even with all the troubles. Thanks for reinforcing my newfound way of traveling. Light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 3 2017 4:05 pm

      We managed pretty well given the circumstances. You have travel figured out, and your friend is right about rolling suitcases and cobblestones. I usually travel very light with a backpack, but this trip was an exception in that we were going to be in Alaska in winter and then in Cuba, Mexico and South America in summer. Hiking boots and parkas don’t fit in a backpack!

      Liked by 1 person

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