One of my big goals during the around the world trip was to visit Cuba. I wanted to see the tropical island before the Castro era ends. After a cancelled flight, a detour from Mexico City over Cancun and hours of arguing with airport personal we finally arrived in Havana. A couple of hours late, tired and exhausted from the day I must have looked quite suspicious to airport security in Cuba. What made me even more suspicious was the amount of camera gear I travelled with. The cross-examined us and took apart my whole luggage. Yeah, I might be a spy… You never know.
Well, finally we were allowed to enter the country which turned out to be one of my favourite places I have visited in the last year. David and I separated during the time in Cuba but I was never travelling alone. I met so many nice people during those three weeks. I could write a whole book about my stay but who would read it?! So instead of my stories I post some tips to get along:
- Take euros, not dollars with you. You will get a better rate as there is a penalty tax on the exchange of dollars.
- Most ATMs don’t work. American credit cards are not working as well.
- Internet is just available in big hotels and REALLY slow. I heard that they get a landline now but it is just for state services.
- 1 CUC (convertibles – money for tourists) = 1 USD
- 1 CUC ~ 23-25 CUP (nacionales – money for locals)
- A pizza on the street is between 10-15 CUP i.e. half a dollar. A bottle of good quality rum is about 5 CUC. You can get a breakfast for 10 CUP. You can ask people if you can pay with CUC at a street shop and get the change in CUP.
- There are restaurants where locals go to celebrate, e.g. their birthdays. Those are relatively expensive for Cubans but quite cheap for tourists and offer an amazing quality.
- Cigars offered on the streets are usually of bad quality and taste. Well, usually… Thanks to Erik I found a guy who sold the best bootleged cigars in Havana for less than a tenth of their actual value. But that’s another story… Keep your eyes open!
- Instead of expensive hotels you can stay in casas particulares. A good place to start is Rolando’s Backpacker in Havana. His network spans over whole Cuba and he can arrange almost everything. Btw the small rooftop bar with Leo, the barkeeper, is just great. :)
This post is dedicated to Erwin, Kimlee, Jeanette, Lina, Geo, Simone, Erik, Linda, Matthieu & little Nils and all the others that made my stay special. And now: Way too many pictures…