What do you need to know when going to Cuba for the first time?
Two types of currency are used in Cuba: the CUP (Cuban Peso) and the CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso). СUC is for tourists, and pesos are for Cubans. CUC’s exchange rate is the same throughout the country and is approximately equal to one dollar. It makes sense to buy CUC in large hotels. It will save you from huge queues in city exchangers.
You won’t be able to buy pesos just like that, since they are not intended for tourists. One CUC equals approximately 25 pesos. Externally, the currencies are very similar, only the CUC is brighter, and the CUP is paler.
It is convenient to pay with CUC for hotels, gasoline, and restaurants. However, it is profitable to buy bread, vegetables, fruits, and any products that are mainly intended not for tourists but the local population. When paying with CUC, the price of the goods can be four times higher!
Public transport in Cuba is poorly developed. The local population prefers to hitchhike, which is very popular here. The taxi usually consists of retro cars, which are good not only for traveling on Cuban roads but also as a generator of likes on Instagram and Facebook.
Tourists can rent a vintage car only with a driver. It is not necessary to go to a special agency for renting such a car. Owners of vintage cars offer their services everywhere in Cuba. On average, a trip to a distance of 10 kilometers will cost around 5 CUC (≈ 4 euros). However, it makes sense to bargain, when traveling a long distance.
Renting a regular car is not easy, especially when it comes to the high season. The queue for the car will be at best a week, so you should take care of the car in advance.
Internet and cellular
The Internet in Cuba is available only in expensive hotels; it is almost impossible to find it anywhere else. Therefore, when planning an independent trip around the island, you should not rely on the help of the World Wide Web, it is better to draw up a route in advance.
The cellular situation is no better. Only a Cuban can buy a SIM card in Cuba, so it makes sense to connect a convenient travel tariff of the national operator before the trip.
In restaurants and cafes around the island, you can taste the national Cuban cuisine, which is a special mix of Spanish, Chinese, African, and Latin American culinary traditions. The only problem with most good restaurants is that it takes a very long time for the dish to wait.
There are no supermarkets in Cuba, there are shops, for example, in Havana, where you can buy tomato paste, pasta, sunflower oil – and that’s all.
In the morning, always before lunch, fresh bread is sold in any city in Cuba, but you need to wait in line to buy it. You can buy meat products only with coupons; persuading the seller to sell sausage for money is useless.
Fresh cheese can be bought hand-held on the track. Also, on the track, you can buy melons, bananas, huge cucumbers, and tomatoes. Some gas stations sell canned food.
Drinks and cigars
Cuba is famous for its Havana Club rum. Depending on the aging and volume, the price for it ranges from 1 to 8 CUC (≈ 0.8-6.7 euros). In Cuba, rum is cheaper than water! A special flavor to any Cuban city is given by the beggars who drink the Havana Club on the street straight from the bottles. Rum is sold everywhere: in shops, stalls, gas stations, and you can buy it at any time of the day.
Cigars are sold in tobacco plantations, tobacco factories, and in many bars. The price for 20 cigars starts from 100 CUC (≈ 84 euros).
Varadero is considered one of the best resorts in the entire Caribbean due to its developed infrastructure, white beaches, and clear seawater. But there is a place in Cuba, no worse than Varadero, it is called Maria La Gorda and is located in the western part of Cuba, 300 kilometers from Havana, on the Guanacabibes peninsula.
Maria La Gorda is a beach and international diving center located in the Peninsula de Guanaacabibes National Park. Here you can sunbathe on deserted white beaches and go diving.
In ancient times, pirates chose the Guanacabibes Peninsula, as a result of which a large number of artifacts and the remains of sunken ships have been preserved in the coastal waters of Maria La Gorda. The cost of one dive is 35 euros.
Cubans are amazingly beautiful, cheerful, and kind people. They treat tourists very well. However, people here do not like to work at all. When the sun goes down, all work stops, Cubans go for a walk, dance, drink rum, and enjoy life. It can be assumed that the dislike for work is associated not only with the mentality but also with very low wages, which is about 15-20 CUC (12.5 – 16.7 euros) per month.