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Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Cuban Carol


by Nigel Best

(This is a cautionary fable. Some minor editing has taken place since the original story appeared many years ago.)


July 22

Well, after the drunken debacle of falling off my moped (forgot to put down the stand) and knocking over, like dominos, the 12 mopeds that were next to me, I've decided to continue exploring Cuba in a rental car.

July 23

Raced around with two bottles of rum in the car last night and woke up in a strange bed with three people I don't recall meeting. That's all I know.However, deep sea fishing today. No Old Man and the Sea comments, thank you.


This old man beat the sea today! Two, count them, two marlin!! Now to eat. Then to enjoy some down time, which, for me, means what exactly? 


My friends from last night arrived with rum and are waiting in the lobby. Ah nightime!!

July 24


I'd never seen so many hermit crabs. Hundreds of them in hundreds of different size shells scuttling past my eyeballs where I'd come to a face-down stop in the sand at some point on my journey back to my hotel. The largest crab was in front of my right eye as it took up new residence in the remains of a coconut shell. Behind him, a line of crabs all moving into the larger abode left by the crab in front.

I needed a shell too.


I have no idea where the rental car is. I vaguely remember stumbling down a shallow river just before dawn, my body already starting to scream from hauling in those two marlin yesterday on a day-long fishing excursion.

I must have finally collapsed in the sand at the river's mouth. The last place I recall being last night was somewhere south of here where the government has evicted the fishing community to make room for a new mega-hotel. I do remember the fire we'd built using wood from the remains of someone's once-proud seaside family home. 

There was music, stars, rum being passed around, conversation - some for, some against replacing existing currencies with international notes.

I heard about American embargos. I heard about the inability to import milk; Rice ration books in homes; engineers working as bellhops.


At some point I must have fallen asleep, only waking to dying embers, a severe lack of people, and no car. 

I did recall that the river wound down to the sea and that I may be able to get to the beach, then the hotel.

I recall tripping over mangrove tree roots in the water. With each stumble I sensed there could be eyes of despicable creatures watching me. Cuban crocodiles, perhaps ?  Jeezeus, if I’d tripped and fallen in that swamp?

Instead, I woke eyeball-to-eyeball with crustaceans seeking out new homes. My body aching from fatigue, I've arrived home and now my partner wants breakfast and sunbathing. No questions, just that look on the face that says, "No pity here!" 

It's going to be a hot day, and I need to find the shell that's my car.

July 25

It was 8:10 a.m. when I got a phone call in my room. Tired hardly describes my manner. As it was, I hadn't been able to sleep last night.

How to explain that damn missing car?

The mind raced all night with scenarios.

I had not contemplated this one.


I have to go into town for noon to speak with the local constabulary.

That's all I know.

Steadying my resolve with a couple of rums as I wait out the time.


When I was younger, someone told me, "Never give the game away. I wrote that today on the wall of the holding cell of the police station in Guadalavaca as I waited for my interview about the rental car I lost in Cuba.


Two hours I had to sit, sweating in that cell. Plenty of time to be arrogant, I thought.

Then came a walk to an interview room, where a white-haired elderly policewoman proceeded to ask me questions about my past.


What the hell does this have to do with a rental car, I thought as she asked me about England, Canada, Bermuda, Chile, USA, South Africa, Egypt.


Then the questioning about my parents, my schooling?


Opening an envelope, she pulled out a photo of the car I'd rented.

"Si. Si," I nodded., relief flooding through me that the car looked fine. “That's it. Did you find it?"

She gave me a look I didn't like, and I started to sweat some more as she picked up the photo, then stood to leave without saying anything else.

Forty-five minutes I sat alone. Then, in came another cop, who proceeded to show me a series of photos of what could possibly have been the car.

Jeezeus, no vehicle should look like that, but hell if I knew how it came to look like a missile had hit it.

He mentioned some blood and a couple of spent shell casings, then asked me to stay where I was.

I was really sweating now, and the idea of staying in that holding cell had me wishing I'd had more rum before I'd left the hotel. What the hell happened two nights ago?


Two hours is a long time to wait for anything.

Finally, in came someone who said he was a representative from the Canadian Consulate. My eyebrows slightly raised as he said "I'm Seymour Cawks."

I daren't laugh out loud. I couldn't invent this if I tried, I thought.

Seymour asked what I'd been doing and who I'd been talking to. I told him I was out for a drive, drank too much, needed to stop, fell down an embankment, couldn't locate the car.

I told him about the being lost in a river, the hermit crabs, and passing out on a beach.

Seymour explained that the police at the station were concerned that I and the car may have had something to do with the disappearance of a local U.B.A. official.

"Goddamnit! What the hell do I know about bananas?" I shouted across the table at him.

He got up and left. Another sweaty fifty minutes. My head was beginning to hurt.

When he came back he told me to stay out of trouble, as though I'm a fifth-grade school boy, and that because it's a national holiday to celebrate Castro's revolution, all the government officials, including the judges, weren't working, “This could have been more serious. The police are letting you go,” he said.

He talked to me about what could have happened. He explained that the bullet casings were of major concern as Cuban nationals are not allowed guns. The police would investigate. I had no gun, so I wasn’t a suspect, he explained to me before asking me to sign some papers and agree to not rent vehicles in Cuba for two years.

Then he waved me out.


I got back to the hotel and found a note from my Cuban friends inviting me out tonight and tomorrow for rum, a pig-roast and celebrations.

How can I resist?

Viva La Revolucion!

August 5

There's nothing like opening the front door and being greeted by the sharp, gnashing teeth of irony.


I'd just made coffee a little more than an hour ago, Cuban coffee with a serious amount of Cuban rum to set the day's mood. At that moment, the doorbell rang.

Through the doorshades I could make out two men in suits, and at first I thought I was going to be met with a beautiful religious message as I stood sipping my hot rum with coffee. 

Not to be! 

“We’re from the Foreign Government office," one announced. "We need to talk about the recent situation in which you were involved in Cuba. May we come in?" 

I took a good long drink, then showed them to the kitchen table.


A quick visit to tell me that there seems to be a bit more to the demolition of the rental car I lost in Cuba.


The basic outline is that there is a serious investigation surrounding the car, and a possible connection to someone important who has been missing for almost two weeks. 

"Have you checked the trunk?" I asked, only to be met by four raised eyebrows.

"Would you like some coffee?" I then asked, and sauntered over to the kitchen counter and proceeded to pour more rum into my cup. They politely declined.


So, I now have to return to Cuba, with an m accompanying member of our fine government, on August 18th to answer some more questions.


The g-men left, for now, and I'm supposed to await telephone instructions. 

"Arriba! Salud!"

August 8

So, Cuba it’s to be in just over a week. I’m to fly in and fly out; No beaches and no duty free. What is the world coming to?


My lawyer called and assured me not to worry, but, laughing, suggested no rum for at least 24 hours before I leave.


“Just in case,” she cautioned.

Was it worth asking in case of what? 

I’ve been assured it's all a simple procedural item based on a mix-up at the police station from two weeks ago. 

I’m not implicated in anything. I’ll be home by 11 p.m.


The escort is a fellow from the Foreign Countries Offices who will ensure that I’m taken care of.


Odd situation indeed, but life’s a dog that doesn’t always like to do as it’s told.

August 18

I'm sitting in a toilet stall at the airport and I have mere minutes to write. All indications are the next few hours could be very rough.

I stayed up last night and had a few token drinks so I could look and feel my best at 6:30 a.m. when I was picked up for this day-long excursion.

Richard had greeted me with a bemused look that quickly changed to one of concern, perhaps because of the slight smell of rum.  Once in his car, I'm not sure he knew what to do when a silver travel flask emerged from my jacket pocket, other than for him to try and crack another awful joke.


I offered him some rum, but these young government types seem to have an aversion to anything that possibly hints at fun.

I'm still trying to figure out why the Foreign Office has sent a pimply-faced 20- something to escort me to Cuba for the day to answer some questions about a missing rental car lost when I was in Cuba three weeks ago.


I wouldn't have trusted me at that age to transport me at this age to a county fair, let alone across an ocean.

My mood quickly turned sour though here at the airport once we'd been shown into a side room. 

Richard laid out some protocol ballyhoo, then told me that once on the plane I've to hand over my phone for the duration. Once in Cuba the passport is to also be handed over.

So here I am in this bathroom stall frantically trying to delete my web browser history, text messages, telephone numbers, and photos.

Out of curiosity last night, I shook some bones and pepper in a brown bag, tipped them out and did a reading the way I'd been shown in New Orleans many years ago at a voodoo ceremony at a house I'd been taken to by a taxi driver. That's a story for another time. The bones told me:

“You could learn a tough lesson today. More than likely, it was for you to hear. It's important that you accept failure gracefully. It could be that the one who kicks you when you're down will also be the one who helps you get up. There are strange twists to this day that you may not expect. Take things in stride."

August 21

Jeezeus! The powers that be, sitting around in offices and courtrooms deciding destinies.


The verdict was quick and three days in a Cuban jail beckoned, as well as paying the cost of the destroyed car. It could have been 10 years. No-one thought jail time would be in the cards.

Stranded, and no help from my pimple-faced representative. He just seemed angry and had  little interest in how this unfolded. After signing some papers, he just upped and left.


The jail was 40 minutes from Havana, and an 8-hour drive from the court in Holguin where this all took place.

Of all the prisons that have had my company over the years, this ranks as a four-star. Everything was open-air and the food was excellent, the only downside being the mosquitos, tree rats at night (once caught and cooked they taste good), and the two resident scorpions in my cell.


Most of the other inmates were inside for nothing more than petty crimes like robbing houses of food or clothing.

One man was inside for a ten-year stretch for having slaughtered two cows, a heinous crime in Cuba.


There were a couple of dissidents who had been inside for a while. For me, though, it would take Katie flying in the funds for my release and I would be free.

Two men of note though from the jail.  Juan, a 70-something, who held sway each day emerging from his cell to sit on a rock and tell stories to groups of us of the glorious days of Che.


"One day," he proclaimed, "the current tides will turn, ok? A warmer wind will blow, and the peoples' revolution will claim the world. We are all one family, ok? 

“Remember, he said, “you need to know where you are before you can get to where you're going"

He also asked me if I'd ever walked backwards in Cuba. Apparently this, he said, was the cause of my bad luck as only crabs walk backwards.

He assured me that crabs are the oracles of doom.

Then there was Luis Marcos, a man, so it was told, with only one testicle; A man who had killed men, sliced off their arms and legs, and eaten the bodies. He stayed in his cell and good luck to anyone who entered that place.


Sitting around, there were  questions about my imprisonment, and questions about home. There  was much laughter about the car stories, and lots of questioning about why I'd returned to Cuba.

"Honesty?" I winked.


It was sad in a way to leave today, but the three days of captivity have expired. Katie had paid, I later discovered, only $2000 for the wrecked vehicle.

Upon release it has been quite the journey back, and a little must be recounted here for this ending to be plausible.

The car that drove me back got a flat tyre three hours into the trip. After sitting around waiting for it to be fixed and eating fresh mango with a family who stopped their horse and buggy - the peoples’ limousines - to sit with us, the next stop was a small village to get lunch where five lovely chantreuses charmed us with exotic Cuban songs as we ate. Swaying side-to-side as they sang, the enchantment was complete as I ate my black beans and rice and chicken.


I could have stayed and listened all day, but Jenni Tutti, the policeman driving me back, needed us to move on.

Back in Holguin and there's Katie. After hugging me and whispering in my ear that if anything like this happens again, she will let me sit in jail, she sucker-punched me really hard.

When I got up off my arse, she gave me a lovely travel-mug full of rum and coconut juice She knows this engine runs on alcohol.

"Surprise!," announced Katie. "We are here in Cuba until Monday."

By the police station, I sat down again and wept. There I drank my libations to a great journey,  journeys to come, and the goddess that is Katie.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

August 26

It ran out of the suitcase. Stowaway! A Cuban cockroach the size of a child's foot. Antennae the length of a shoestring.


Straight under the door to the basement, and damn if the beast can now not be located.


It will probably grow to a hideous size with the warmth of a basement.


Perhaps it will be best to keep visitors from going downstairs until it's coaxed out and dealt with.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Where Will We Be Able To Travel Abroad Again?


Roland fantasizes about when we can get on the road again. The other day he asked me where I want to go most. He's all in on either Thailand and Indonesia or Sri Lanka and India. I'm thinking of France or Italy or Spain and Morocco. These are all places we've been to before and numerous times. The next day another friend of mine asked me the same question, but when I started answering, he said "no, those countries are closed to Americans." THat's when I figured out he meant NOW, not in a few years, after the pandemic when it's safe again. He wants to fly to someplace exotic and exciting now. He's cracking up.

A day or two later the Washington Post published a story that was so popular that they re--published it a few days later, When Will Americans Be Able To Travel To Europe Again?. Author Natalie Comptom asked 4 travel insiders. We'll get to it in a second, but I just want to point out that Americans aren't just barred from all but 6 European countries-- North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Belarus and Turkey-- but that Europe is going through a big second wave and it is completely unsafe to travel there. These were the new cases reported Sunday and ---> Monday in a dozen European countries [Basketcase Sweden has basically stopped reporting]:
France- +11,123 ---> +4,070
Russia- +7,867 ---> +8,135
U.K.- +5,693 ---> +4,044
Spain- +5,321 ---> +2,425
Ukraine- +3,130 ---> +2,671
Netherlands- +2,995 ---> +2,914
Belgium- +1,827 ---> +1,376
Italy- +1,766 ---> +1,494
Romania- +1,438 ---> +1,271
Poland- +1,350 ---> +1,306
Germany- +1,313 ---> +2,279
Czechia- +1,303 ---> +716
None of them are doing as badly as the U.S., but none of those numbers look remotely inviting to me. I have a feeling we'll be postponing until either Christmas 2021 or summer 2022. Now, back to Natalie Comptom. She wrote that "The closure of European borders to American tourists in March, with no clear off-ramp, has been one painful blow of the pandemic. Six months later, Americans are starting to travel again, but international destinations are still limited." She agrees with my assessment that "there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight to the travel ban." She spoke with her 4 experts
Rick Steves, America’s Godfather of European travel, sounds sullen on a phone call to discuss the pandemic and its impact on travel.

“It’s whack-a-mole until we get a grip on the virus,” Steves says, explaining that when one pocket of the United States starts to reduce its cases of the coronavirus, others lighten restrictions and see new surges of cases. “I’m really disappointed that people are so impatient and they don’t realize that you can’t just jump back to normalcy when things start to look good.”

Earlier this year, Steves’s company was scheduled to take tens of thousands of Americans to Europe on guided tours; those trips were of course canceled and refunded, and now he’s started a waitlist-- already 10,000 families deep-- for potential 2021 tours.

...Steves says he’s hopeful for Americans to be able to return to Europe in 2021, although he’s more concerned that the businesses that make European travel so special won’t survive the economic fallout from tourism remaining on hold, not to mention the economic crisis would-be American travelers are facing at home.

“We have more immediate needs right now, and that’s dealing with the reality of the economic division in our own society here,” Steves says. “When the easy money from the government runs out and this pandemic stretches on because of our inability to get a grip on it, I think are our concerns are not going to be, ‘Can I get a flight to London?’”

Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, an association that represents the European Union’s national tourism organizations, says he had been hopeful for a summer tourism bounce-back.

“Obviously that didn’t crystallize in the end, because of the beginning of the second wave of outbreaks in different countries and regions,” Santander says from his home in Brussels. “For the first half of 2020, [European tourism was] down 66 percent, but now we are down in some places even by 90, 93 percent. So things are not looking very good at the moment.”

Santander says he understands why Americans feel confusion and frustration about not being able to travel to Europe, or know when it may be possible. In the beginning of the summer, the ETC tried to convince E.U. member states and members of the Schengen zone to agree on a consistent protocol for resuming tourism. With every country carrying out different covid-19 strategies, Santander says the consequence has been an even more fragmented map of Europe.

While domestic tourism in Europe has resumed, Santander says American travelers have been absolutely missed. However, they will likely not be allowed back to Europe before Christmas due to the status of the pandemic.

“We are actually advocating that governments, the U.S. administration and also the European Union, work together,” Santander says. “Because if we come [up] with standardized protocols for testing and tracing, not only in Europe but also worldwide-- or if you want it just between the U.S. and the European Union if that makes it easier-- I think traveling is not at risk at all.”

Santander says he doesn’t discourage Americans to plan or book trips to Europe for 2021, as long as the reservations are adjustable or refundable: “People should not stop dreaming about traveling.”

Access Italy is a luxury travel company that primarily guides American customers, including former president Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, on private tours. With the company’s main season running from March to November, its CEO (and son of its founder), Simone Amorico, says they knew early on that 2020 would be a wash.

The company has been taking this time for research and development. Amorico says his team has been exploring Italy and developing ways for clients to have safer experiences, like finding private villas and yachts to book.

Amorico doesn’t expect Americans to be able to return in 2020. “I just hope it will be before spring of 2021, which I believe most certain it will happen,” he says, adding that he thinks by March or April there will be tools (like faster coronavirus testing) in place to facilitate safer travel between the United States and Italy.

Meanwhile, Amorico says requests for 2021 bookings are already trickling in despite the unpredictable situation.

“Our suggestion is not to confirm anything yet, but once the border opens, to try and book as fast as possible, because there’s going to be a huge demand for next year,” he says. “Americans just can’t wait to come back to Europe, especially Italy, especially after they’ve been told that they cannot come next year.”

In the years leading up to the pandemic, American tourism in Finland was on the rise. Sanna Kyyrä, chief specialist of tourism policy for Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, says Americans were among Finland’s biggest spenders, making the United States a significant part of Finland’s tourism income.

As far as when Americans will be able to get back to the land of happiness, saunas, karaoke and Northern Lights, “unfortunately, it looks very difficult at the moment,” Kyyrä says.

Kyyrä says Finland has been following and taking part in E.U. discussions regarding which countries will be included on the “green list” for travel, and hoping it will be possible to make a long-term plan by spring to help American travelers and Finnish tourism businesses prepare for a reopening.
So what about Asia? Well... Turkey again. And a few countries admit Americans with certain restrictions-- like Cambodia. That's a cool place but not only do you have to get tested, you also have to leave a $2,000 COVID-deposit. Dubai requires a test as well and proof of valid international health insurance. And South Korea will let you in-- after a 2 week quarantine (same as England, by the way). Armenia is also open to Americans, but requires a test at the airport or a two week quarantine-- same for Bangladesh.

So I was surprised over the weekend when I read about an American being arrested in Thailand. Turns out he was at an island resort on Koh Chang, complained about the hotel on several online travel sites and was arrested and thrown in jail for two days after the resort complained to the local police. He wasn't a tourist though; he's an American teacher living there. He had to post a $3,200 bail. And he faces a 2 year prison term if found guilty of defamation.

“The Sea View Resort owner filed a complaint that the defendant had posted unfair reviews on his hotel on the TripAdvisor website,” Pol Col Thanapon Taemsara of the Koh Chang police told AFP.

He said Mr Barnes was accused of causing “damage to the reputation of the hotel”, and of quarrelling with staff over not paying a corkage fee for alcohol he had brought to the hotel.

According to the TripAdvisor review that Mr Barnes posted in July, he encountered “unfriendly staff” who “act like they don’t want anyone here.”

Tom Storup, the rooms division manager at the resort, replied to Mr Barnes in a post dated July 20. He said that guests bringing their own liquor “goes against our rules, as it does in any hotel or resort I have worked or visited around the globe.” He said Mr Barnes used “abusive language” toward a staff member who explained the 500-baht corkage charge to him.

The resort’s food and beverage manager intervened “for the safety and comfort of our staff and guests who were having a peaceful dinner”, Mr Storup wrote. “It was then when another guest at your table took over the conversation with our F&B manager and he apologised profusely and shook hands after a short chat.

“The F&B manager then decided that, in order to avoid further disturbance, to allow you to have that liquor without charging you for the corkage fee.”

The Sea View Resort told AFP on Saturday that legal action was only taken because Mr Barnes had written multiple reviews on different sites over the past few weeks.

At least one was posted in June on TripAdvisor accusing the hotel of “modern day slavery”-- which the site removed after a week for violating its guidelines.

“We chose to file a complaint to serve as a deterrent, as we understood he may continue to write negative reviews week after week for the foreseeable future,” the hotel said, adding that staff had made “multiple attempts” to contact Mr Barnes but they were ignored, leading the business to resort to a legal complaint.

Mr Barnes did not immediately respond to requests from AFP for comment.

“We agree that the defamation law may be viewed as excessive for this situation,” the resort said in its statement, but it said the guest had included “fabricated stories” in reviews posted on both TripAdvisor and Google.

“The guest refused to respond to our attempts at communication and instead continued to persistently post negative and untrue reviews of our business. We simply want to ensure that these untrue reviews are stopped, and we had no way of negotiating the matter with the guest until after our filing the complaint with the authorities.”

...Sea View, a 156-room resort on Kai Bae Beach was founded in 1989 and is ranked 10th out of 85 properties on Koh Chang that have been reviewed on TripAdvisor. It has received 1,922 reviews, with 1,090 of them rating the resort excellent, 580 very good, 170 average, 48 poor and 32 terrible.

Defamation laws in Thailand have long been seen as problematic, as they are frequently used by businesses and influential figures to intimidate critics.

The maximum sentence under the law is two years in prison, along with a 200,000-baht fine.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Safe Places To Visit... In Mexico

Over the weekend, citing the gargantuan COVID pandemic in Arizona, Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich closed the state's border with Arizona, cutting Arizona holiday-makers off from Mexican beach towns like Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point), Kino Bay, Los Algodones Beach and San Carlos (and Nacapule Canyon). The U.S. had already done the same thing fir northbound traveller in March.

There are over 9,000 confirmed COVID cases in Sonora and hospitals in Nogales and Guaymas are at full capacity. Arizona is due to pass the 100,000 Covid cases mark on Monday. 3,536 new cases were reported on Sunday.

Meanwhile Puerto Vallarta reopened to visitors last week and visitors began arriving over the weekend. The city's tourism bureau boasts of "health and safety protocols to meet the realities of a world of Covid-19.
Local officials put the entire city of Puerto Vallarta under quarantine starting in early March. It has since undergone a multi-phase reopening process led by local officials following state, federal and international protocols. The process ultimately contributed to the State of Jalisco obtaining the “Safe Travels” stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) last week.

The measures implemented in Puerto Vallarta began at Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport-- the destination’s main “filter”-- which, thanks to its own internal protocols to prevent Covid-19, received the WTTC “Safe Travels” stamp. Social distancing is being practiced by airport workers, and thermal video cameras are being used as people enter the immigration zone, where electronic documentation is currently taking place. Disinfectant mats are used at all airport entrances and exits.

The health and safety of locals and visitors are of the utmost importance across Puerto Vallarta. In addition to the preventive and precautionary measures at the airport, the city is requiring extensive and continuous sanitization in hotels, public transportation, and public spaces. Restaurants must maintain physical distance between tables and patrons, and establishments must place disinfectant mats at entrances. Local officials are also distributing antibacterial gel and conducting temperature checks.

More than 45 hotels have reopened to visitors, with a maximum 30% occupancy, and are offering modified access to on-site restaurants, pools and beaches. A second group of hotels will open before, or during July, for the summer, and the remainder will open in the last trimester of the year, facing the winter high season.

Puerto Vallarta’s iconic Malecon waterfront promenade is not yet fully open to the public, only access points to restaurants and shops. Bars remain closed until the destination exits its current phase of the reopening process.

Connectivity has improved in a notable way since last week. Mexican airlines are offering continuous flights to main domestic destinations, including Mexico City (CDMX), Guadalajara, Tijuana, Aguascalientes, and Monterrey. Internationally, four airlines are connecting U.S. cities with Puerto Vallarta. Alaska Airlines has daily flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco. American Airlines offers a daily connection to Dallas and Los Angeles.  United Airlines maintains a daily flight to Houston. Delta Air Lines will restart daily services to Los Angeles from July 2nd.

Other U.S. airlines are waiting for growth in demand, while Canadian carriers await Canadian government approvals.

Given the dynamic nature of the situation, new measures are expected from Mexico’s federal and state governments, aimed at continuing to advance the reopening of activities in a gradual and safe manner.
Puerto Vallarta isn't my kind of destination-- too glitzy. San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato is though and they also obtained the WTTC "Safe Travels" stamp last week. I haven't been there in 2 decades but I hope I get to visit again.

The whole state of Guanajuato was given the World Travel & Tourism Council's stamp of approval recognizing the implementation of COVID-era global standardized health and hygiene protocols.
The international stamp augments San Miguel de Allende’s own municipal “Health First” certification. The city launched “Health First,” which is granted after local health and safety officials evaluate each location and certify compliance with sanitary protocols for reopening, on May 25. Restaurants, hotels, golf courses, activity centers and cultural spaces, among others, must apply for the certificate online. In addition to the onsite inspection, businesses must complete paperwork providing detailed information on sanitation practices and undergo staff training sessions. Certification is "free but mandatory," according to San Miguel de Allende Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal García.

 “San Miguel de Allende’s infrastructure has been working proactively to ensure the wellness of our residents and future visitors and making many sacrifices to contain this pandemic and working with health officials to ensure that all international requirements are met,” said Mayor Villarreal García. “Obtaining the WTTC’s ‘Safe Travels’ stamp endorses this work and reaffirms that San Miguel de Allende is properly ready in terms of sanitation.”

San Miguel de Allende entered its Phase 0 of its Covid-19 Reactivation plan-- activation of the local economy for the residents-- starting June 1. During the initial phase of the plan, the city saw most of the business infrastructure that affects residents reopen, including restaurants, markets, public transportation, offices and more. At this point, hotels, bars, cantinas, clubs, public or hotel pools will not yet reopen. All residents are asked to wear masks, practice social distancing and apply extensive hygiene practices. Businesses will be required to implement international-grade sanitation protocols, including shoe-cleaning, a decrease in interior foot traffic, set-up of dispensers of antibacterial sanitizer containing 70% alcohol, provision of face masks for people without them and hourly disinfecting of public spaces.  At no point can any groups gather inside or outside public spaces.

Access to San Miguel de Allende has been closed since March to non-residents, with city police monitoring all entry points (Querétaro, Celaya-Comonfort, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and Dr. Mora). Those permitted to enter must not show symptoms of Covid-19 and must be essential to the needs of the recovery phase the city is currently in.

Mayor Villarreal García announced that hotels may start accepting bookings for July 15 arrivals as of this week, in the hope that the city may start reopening in the upcoming month.

“We take our place in the world seriously, as you do when you are with us,” said Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal García. “With these efforts we confirm San Miguel de Allende as a leading destination.