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The simple scams tourists are falling for

I was sitting in a shabby bar in Havana, with two locals I’d just met, who seemed friendly at first

but turned out to be like the Cuban version of Will Smith and Margot Robbie in con-artist movie Focus. It seemed innocent to begin with. A young couple that looked about the same age as my partner and I struck up a conversation with us on the street. They must have known Australians feel downright rude refusing an invitation to go for a drink, because the next minute they were leading the way to a bar where they said they would tell us about some local’s places where we could see live music that night. We said we’d shout them a drink in exchange for the insider knowledge. When we got to the bar the guy — let’s call him Will Smith — suggested we order a round of mojitos. Ever the budget-conscious traveller, I asked how much they cost. ‘It’s very cheap here, don’t worry,’ Will insisted as Margot nodded. My request to the waiter for a menu went unanswered. When the bill came, each cocktail had been charged at $5 CUC (the Cuban Convertible Peso) which is worth around the same as the US dollar. It was outrageously expensive for a dive bar in a rundown part of town — even the bars in the top hotels don’t charge much more than that. A $20 CUC drinks bill (around AUD $28) wasn’t a trip-ruining amount of money. But as Will and the waiter stole glances at each other as I put the money on the table, I had the feeling I’d been played. And as it turned out, the ‘secret bars’ Will and Margot recommended turned out to be the biggest tourist traps in Havana.
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