In 2014 December, my sister and I stepped on Antigua and Barbuda after our Atlantic Crossing Adventure. After a while, we got acquainted with sailors in the marina and local people around the harbour and got updated about what happened in the world while we were crossing the Atlantic Ocean. We found out that the US embargo in Cuba will be off soon. We started to think about visiting Cuba before the American tourists invade the island after the embargo.
Cuba was not a destination in our travel program. When we found a cheap flight from the Dominican Republic to Cuba, we decided to go Havana, Cuba. We only had 5 days for Havana, Vinales and its surroundings. In general, we didn’t like the bureaucracy of the communist system in the country and the scam attempts but we were happy to meet nice and warmhearted Cuban people and to establish some good friendships in Cuba. I would like to share some interesting facts I found out during my Cuba trip.
1. Get Used to Catcalling
While you walk on the streets of Havana, you may hear a whistling noise; pist and sist. Men in Havana like to show their affection to women by whistling and catcalling like this. But it is also commonly used in local people. You may feel like a cat or something.
2. Live Music Bands All Around
Cuban salsa and the rhythmic Salsa music is everywhere in Cuba. The salsa music and dance are a part of Cuban life. You will see live music bands all around Cuba like schools, streets, parks, restaurants and beaches.
3. People Who Give Toilet Paper in Restaurants
Because of the embargo, many basic things in Cuba is limited and relatively expensive. In some restaurants, you may see some workers who give you toilet paper while you enter the toilet.
4. No Soap In Restaurants and Houses
There are two types of accommodation in Cuba, hotels and casa particulars. Cuban people rent their rooms to the tourists by getting a licence from the government. Casa particulars are a kind of pensions. Soap is also a limited and expensive material and you may not find soap in the toilets or bathrooms of the houses you stay in. Do not get surprised if you do not find any soap in your house. It is better to bring your own soap here.
5. No Internet – No Wifi
Of course, there is the internet in Cuba but only 5 percent of Cuban people have access to the internet. In your Cuba holiday, you won’t be able to share and upload your holiday photos instantly. I guess it is a good way to cut the connection with the world and to focus on the moment and your holiday. You can find internet access from the 4 or 5 stars hotels in Havana. The price of one hour internet is 8 USD.
6. Old American Cars
Most of the tourists who had been in Cuba have a photo as driving an old American car. You will see many old and well-shaped 1940s American cars in Havana. I don’t like to do the touristic things in general but it is nice feeling to have a tour with an old classic American car.
7. Coco Taxis
If you see these small taxis that is called as Coco Taxi, you can be sure that you are in Cuba. Coco Taxis are widely used in Havana as a public transportation. The name and shape come from the fruit, Coconut. That’s why everybody calls it as Coco Taxi.
8. Tourist Money
The national currency of Cuba is CUP, Cuban Peso. Approximately 25 CUP is equal to 1 USD. Tourists can’t use CUP. They have to use CUC, Cuban Convertible Peso, that is created for the usage of tourists. 1 CUC is equal to 25 CUP. Shortly 1 CUP is equal to 1 USD. It is not a nice feeling to know that you are paying over-price for everything but despite this the prices in Cuba are not so expensive.
9. Cheap Lobsters
You will see lobster on the menus of the restaurant in Cuba. The lobster is quite expensive in Turkey like in many countries but in Cuba you eat a lobster for a cheap or a moderate price. The price of a menu consisting of grilled lobster, salad, rice, fried vegetable roots, an alcoholic cocktail, dessert and coffee is just 10 USD!
10. People Who Ask For Milk Money
I read many articles about touristic scams. One of the well-known scams is milk money. Many people approach you and ask for money to buy milk for their infants or children. But in Cuba all children get free milk until seven years old. Luckily we didn’t meet anyone who asks for milk money but a Cuban couple invited us a salsa party and made us pay for their drinks! The cheaters have always a new way to get your money.
11. Havana Club is Just 5 USD
The famous rum of Havana Club price starts from 5 USD. I suggest you buy some bottles of Havana Club as presents for friends and yourself.
12. Fake Cigar Sellers
One of the other well-known symbols of Cuba is Cuban cigars. The production of the cigar is under the control of the government. Many Cubans you meet will try to sell cigars for a good price by saying they are working in cigar factories. Most of the cigars the hustlers sell are fake. A hologram or banderol should be on the cigar boxes. Be careful!
13. Cheapest Ice Cream- Only 1 Peso
A Brazilian friend of mine who had been in Cuba many times suggested me the famous ice cream shop, Coppelia. Fidel Castro founded this ice cream brand and company to produce more ice cream than American brands. The name comes from the famous ballerina Coppelia who was the favourite ballerina of Fidel Castro’s secretary Celia Sanchez. Coppelia that is founded in 1966 serves 35000 portions of ice cream every day. The Coppelia building in Havana is the largest ice cream parlors in the world and can host 1000 guests. One scoop of ice cream is only 1 peso (CUP) approximately 4 cent USD. Many people come here with their storage boxes to get some more ice cream for home. It can be long queues and you wait sometimes 2 hours to get in. Avoid the rush and hot hours of a day.
14. High Level of Education
The literacy ratio in Cuba is %99.8. The education system is subsidized by the government and is all free. %13 of the national budget is spent on the education system and that is the highest ratio in the world. People should go to school between 6 and 16 years old.
15. No Coca-Cola
Do you know in which countries there is no sale of Coca-Cola? Cuba and North Korea. There are no Coca-Cola sales in Cuba since 1962 and in North Korea since 1950. However in 1906, Cuba was one of the first three countries where Coca-Cola were bottled outside the US.
16. The monthly rent of Guantanamo Bay is 4085 USD
The United States and Cuba signed an agreement in 1903 and based on this agreement the US pays 4805 USD for renting of Guantanamo Bay that is 121 km2 big. But it is said that Cuban government refuses to cash these cheques of the US.
17. Monthly Average Wage is 25 USD
The average income of a Cuban people is 25 USD. For many people around the world, this amount is just enough for a meal money. You can calculate what you can buy with this income. A pair of Levi’s is 30 USD. 1 Liter of gasoline is 1.35 USD. 1 kg chicken is 3.8 USD. 1 kg cheese is 3.6 USD, 1 km onion is 2 USD. One way ticket fare is 0.04 USD.