9 things you should know before visiting Cuba
Photo by Alexander Kunze on Unsplash
Although the world knows Cuba for many reasons, it is not easy to find up-to-date information before traveling to the Caribbean island for tourism. I felt this difficulty in 2016 and have heard similar reports since then. Therefore, I have listed some timeless curiosities about the country that is worth a visit when it is possible and safe.
Let's start at the point that is, perhaps, the most complicated of the trip. I left home with Reais for any emergency still in Brazil, Dollars for the visa and for Panama City and Euros that I had saved from previous trips. In Cuba, a fee of 10% is charged when exchanging the dollar, so it is necessary to check the quotation and calculate whether it is more worthwhile to take Dollars or Euros for the trip. Once there, you can change the currency at Cadecas. Buy CUCS, the tourist currency, and some Cuban pesos, the local currency, for smaller street purchases.
2. Internet connection
Internet access is not as difficult as you might think, but not as easy as we are used to. At Etecsa you can buy cards with one hour of wifi for your cell phone. Access points are Etecsa's own stores, squares and hotel lobby. In doubt if the place you are passing through has a connection? Look around! If you find a lot of people with their heads down working on their cell phone, you can stop and look for the network.
In the last days of May, when I went, Havana was extremely hot. In addition to the strong sun, humidity contributed to the thermal sensation. In the other cities I visited - Viñales, Trinidad and Varadero - the climate is tropical, but the heat is not as strong. Before booking your trip, it is also important to check the hurricane period in the Caribbean.
In Cuba you can stay in hotels, although there aren't many, or in family homes, my choice. Homes are registered by the government and you can search and book at www.mycasaparticular.com. The room costs, on average, 30 CUCS per day and works as a guesthouse. If you want to have a meal at the house, just tell your host who will give you the prices and menu. All the meals that I chose to have in the houses where I stayed were delicious.
andamos à pé, de ônibus e de taxi compartilhado. Fomos para Viñales também de táxi compartilhado com um trio de franceses. O trecho Viñales - Trinidad foi feito em ônibus da Viazul (não tem banheiro e fazem muitas paradas). Fretamos um táxi para nos deixar no Aeroporto de Havana na volta diretamente no hotel em Varadero para garantir que não teríamos atrasos. As histórias desses deslocamentos já valeriam a viagem!
I think I've tried every means of transport available. The owners of the house where we stayed in Havana booked a taxi driver to pick us up at the airport. In the city, we walked, took a bus and shared taxi. We also went to Viñales by taxi shared with a trio of French people. The Viñales - Trinidad trip was done on Viazul buses (they do not have a bathroom and there are many stops). We chartered a taxi to drop us off at Havana Airport on the way back directly from the hotel in Varadero to ensure we would not have any delays. The stories of these rides would already be worth the trip!
The paladares are very good and very cheap traditional Cuban restaurants. Without a doubt, they were the best meals in Havana. We went to a few, but others were completely packed as they had already been visited by celebrities who had passed through the island. It's good to make reservations at the most famous ones! My list of favorites: Los Nardos, San Cristóbal (Obama went there) and Mercaderes.
Forget everything you think you know about rum. After tasting the Cubans, you'll fall in love with mojitos, piña coladas, daiquiris and cuba libres. If traveling with reduced luggage, you will find 500ml versions that are easier to transport on sale in Cuban stores. In addition to the popular Havana Club, Santiago de Cuba rum was also highly recommended.
9. Time perception
The Cubans' notion of time is different. Because they lead a life more disconnected from the online world, the urgencies we have in our daily lives are not the same there. Scheduled a taxi or the delivery of a rented bike? Sending a WhatsApp to check if the person is arriving is not an option. Trust the agreement to be followed. And take the opportunity to slow down while ordering another cocktail!