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Old October 16th, 2009, 04:15 PM   #1
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XHA1 to Cuba...good or bad idea?

Anyone here have any feedback on how safe and easy it would be to take a XHA1 and some associated video equipment on a personal trip to Cuba? I believe Cuba is relatively safe but I have concerns regarding passing through Cuban/Canadian customs, and just general precautions that would ensure the lowest risk and problems.

We will be travelling to Holguin area and plan to expand out from the resort at least as far as Holguin itself, as well as take in some sites around the Luna de Mares area.

While the trip itself is in most regards a personal vacation I wanted to bring the camera both to capture the vacation as well as gather some stock footage from this part of the world.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

James
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Old October 16th, 2009, 06:35 PM   #2
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I've done a lot of travelling and Cuba is one of my favourites. In Havana you can't get away from the sound of music. Just walking around the historical section, live music from the restaurants and coffee houses fades in and out as you walk, it was beautiful. My wife and I travelled by bus across the island to Trinidad on the south coast without any trouble.

Don't know the exact current situation but I wouldn't take my XHA1 because it's too big. I had no trouble taking in a HV20, small tripod, filters and 10 tapes. So I'd take a good smaller prosumer vidcam to avoid drawing attention to yourself in the streets.

The Russian type customs booths at Havana International are certainly intimidating with one serious officer and you behind locked doors, but that's Castro. Dress conservative, take health insurance and keep smiling.

I'm glad we saw it all before the Castro bros exit, and McDonalds and KFC take over.

Cheers.
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Last edited by Allan Black; October 16th, 2009 at 09:54 PM. Reason: typos
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Old October 17th, 2009, 02:03 PM   #3
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James,

While I haven't done Cuba, I've been to Costa Rica several times with my XLH1. On the most recent trip I did have some stuff stolen from our rental car. Not the H1 - but an HV20, a laptop, a DSLR, some lenses, batteries (for my H1 (PITA)), a large manfrotto tripod. My lesson from this:

Pack your camera gear in a large suitcase - even if it's in a smaller bag in a large suitcase. In this case, the thieves quickly grabbed the smaller bags and made off. I'm not sure what they were thinking grabbing the tripod (in a bag). None of the large suitcases were touched as they were bulky and heavy.

Also - don't take anything more than the essentials.

IMHO - It's risky, but it's worth it to take gear with you.

Oh yeah... insure it before you go. I have a home business policy that covered all of my stuff for full replacement value - even out of the country.
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Old October 17th, 2009, 04:14 PM   #4
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Holguin has an airport, but it is mainly a military one, so they could be more picky about a cam (any model) in this area than another like Varadero, where tourists are common.

I do not think they care about the size of your cam if your are not cuban.
The only thing is they will (perhaps) mark your camera as entering the country and will likely ask you to show it when you leave.

Each year my wife is going to cuba (she's from there) and take a ton of luggage , both for her personal use (two children) and as gift for family.
Since last year importing electronic equipement is now common in Cuba (screens , DVD player, camera) but cost a lot in taxes (As non-cuban i have to pay taxes in dollars) while cuban pay taxes in the local currency that has almost no value.
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Old October 19th, 2009, 04:08 PM   #5
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Ken:

Was that a vacation or a shoot you were on?

Jeff
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Old October 19th, 2009, 04:28 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ken Diewert View Post
On the most recent trip I did have some stuff stolen from our rental car. Not the H1 - but an HV20, a laptop, a DSLR, some lenses, batteries (for my H1 (PITA)), a large manfrotto tripod.
Ken, you fell at the first hurdle. It's an absolute no-no to leave gear in a rented car. In fact, some insurers wont cover the loss from theft like that.

I've shot in Cuba with no problem at all. My advice for shooting there is pretty much the same as it is for any of the fifty or so countries I've filmed in, be sensible and don't leave your gear unattended. I have to say though when I'm on vacation the big cameras stay at home.
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Old October 20th, 2009, 12:04 AM   #7
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Jeff,

It was mixed business and pleasure as I had a couple of promo shoots lined up shooting rental villas. I also collect stock footage of birds/wildlife when I get a chance, and when I throw the 70-200 2.8L on the front of the H1 (equivalent to +1400mm), it's hard to leave at home.

Liam,

I was a little to cocky - I've traveled there before with gear, and I know the area pretty well (not well enough). This was a little village 25 km from the nearest pavement. I had stopped to pick up the keys for a house we were renting from a property manager. Even this house was way out of the way, I later realized that because they're property managers for 50 villas, and everybody stops there to pick-up house keys, that they've been targeted.

I didn't have a problem with my insurance, though I had asked many questions before I left to make sure I was covered. Really the same dangers (theft from a vehicle) exist at home. The coverage I have is similar to a tradesman transporting tools to and from jobsites. I do have a specific rider on my XLH1 though.
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Old October 21st, 2009, 10:38 PM   #8
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Thanks to everyone for the advice and personal experiences, some very valuable information!

I have gone ahead and purchased an HV40 for this trip now rather than take the XHA1. I figure it will attract less attention and possible hassle, if it's stolen it is a lot less valuable, and mabey most importantly it is so much lighter and compact. So far the images I have been getting while testing with it seem good, I'll surely miss the full manual controls but just have to pay more attention to how to make it work as needed (eg:the photo card trick).

Giroud - one question....if they are to mark my camera on import (check on export), I assume I would not pay any sort of tax or customs fees?

Just a few more days and we will be stepping onto the plane! :)
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 09:09 AM   #9
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James, just walk in, you might even get a smile. Cuba is very different today than it was thirty years ago. Indeed, tourism is now a major part of the Cuban economy, so it's not like getting in to North Korea.

Have a good trip:)
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 04:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by James Hooey View Post
I have gone ahead and purchased an HV40 for this trip now rather than take the XHA1.
James, HV40 great choice. I took a handy table tripod.

Vista by Davis & Sanford | Table Top Pro Tripod | TBLTOPPRO

Another thing, figure out how much DV tape you need to take .. then double it. A tragic waste of time looking for your brand, which you probably won't find anyway. Take headphones for reviewing at night. Never aim your cam at or video anyone in uniform and have a great trip.

Cheers.
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 10:05 PM   #11
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I'm from Holguin

Did you go already?

I'm from Holguin myself...let me know if you haven't gone already and we should chat.

O
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 12:01 PM   #12
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pm'ed you but the entire forum would likely be interested in your knowledge if you would like to post here..
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 09:17 PM   #13
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ok

I'm not expert on this but try to share what I know. I'm from Holguin myself but since I left Cuba a long time ago now I only go to visit once in a while. Myself I haven't brought any video camera yet...I already had enought trouble trying to pass my regular luggage with a few gifts for family.....always thought about it but decided not to bring big camera.

If you arrive in Holguin's airport...I heard they have a bad reputation with aduana. I always had bad experinces with them..but again I'm cuban..so it might be different for you.

They my give you a hassle...
1- they might get worry of what type of filming you are doing. This also goes for when filming outside.
2- They might think you are bringing this camera as a gift..(if its a gift you will have to pay)..
so maybe they fill up papers to ensure it goes out again.

Back when I lived in Cuba it would had been impossible but now that they were force to open up it also got harder for them to keep much control...so maybe you'll have little or no problem at all.

what nationality you have?
how long will you be there?
if you need a contact in Holguin I can give you a person to help you around. Let me know.

Let e know if you have more questions..

Cheers
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 11:18 PM   #14
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Osmany,
I'm hoping that it will be a relatively easy entry into/out of Cuba. My wife and I are Canadian and are staying for a week at Sol Luna Mares resort. I see a number of tourist areas around Holguin and abroad that have entry fees with additional fees for video cameras so I would think a tourist would generally be fine with bringing a video camera into Cuba. It wll certainly be leaving with me so if the officials would want to tag it on import/export that is no issue....hopefully there is no charges/taxes for this.

If you can private message me the information for your contact in Holguin that would be awesome! Don't know for sure yet if we will be spending much time in Holguin or travelling a little around the resort like Gibara, Banes, Chorro de Miata and hopefully Holguin. I also would really love to fly over to Havana for a day to see the big city too. It's always good to have someone local you can contact who is familiar with the area. I really appreciate it.

All the best,
James Hooey
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Old October 24th, 2009, 01:04 PM   #15
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No Cuba experience--- the US won't let me travel there --- but I have eased my way thru customs in several Latin and Carribbean countries by having a US Customs-stamped personal property declaration with me. Perhaps Canada has a similar registration program. By letting local customs hold on to my official document --- over which I made a fuss about how "important" it was --- they let me in with quite a lot of gear. And it negates any questions about bring stuff back into your country when you return. People I know here who have done video work in Cuba say to be descreet...if you are interviewing people about anything, the block watchers will know. Avoid at all costs photographing people in uniform or military / police installations and don't leave your gear in your hotel room. One friend had her laptop disassembled by, she thinks, Cuban intelligence, while she was at dinner...keep a low, cordial and harmless profile..../B. Vaughan
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