A trip to Cuba requires prior information, since this fabulous country has some particulars that can be confusing for the unsuspecting traveler. Let us remember that he has lived under a socialist regime for more than 60 years and this has given him some very special characteristics.
During a trip to Cuba, you find that something that can be seen in the photographs is true: Cuba has stopped in time . There you can see models of cars that no longer exist in most places on the planet and a lifestyle that seems to be taken from a Cabrera Infante novel.
Although hotels are like an oasis that has all the comforts of the Western world, when you leave them you will find fabulous places and wonderful people that, however, can be disconcerting. Cuba only looks like Cuba and these are some tips to understand it.
1. Hire medical insurance for your trip to Cuba
Surely you have heard that Cuba is one of the most advanced countries in medicine. It is totally true, and that is why a good part of tourism comes in search of medical treatments. However, avoid confusion: free health care is a privilege for Cubans and a luxury for foreigners.
In Cuba, yes or yes, they will give you medical assistance if you need it, but they will charge you for that service, and it will not be a small sum of money. So the best thing is that you take out travel insurance that covers these eventualities and thus avoid unpleasant surprises.
2. The picturesque transportation system
On your trip to Cuba, forget about other transportation experiences, because there things can work differently. The first thing you should know is that Cuba has an extensive train service , but these trains date back to the 1950s and they move very slowly, very slowly. If you are in a hurry, forget them. If you want to experience one of the most picturesque trips of your life, take one of them.
The island has a good inter-municipal bus service, but it also has a number of informal forms of transport. In Havana, for example, you are going to meet ‘the machines’. These are ancient private cars that provide the service as if they were taxis.
The ‘machines’ have routes and fixed rates. They are an excellent option, in general, but it is important that you be clear about the rate before getting on one of them. At the inter-municipal level, there are also trucks and cars that provide transportation services to individuals. This is not legal, but it is tolerated by the regime.
3. Cuban coins
Another difficulty that you may have during your trip to Cuba is understanding the entanglement of the currencies that circulate in the country. Basically, there are two: the Cuban peso as such, which is what Cubans have access to, and the CUC or convertible currency, which is what tourists must use.
And you should know that not everything can be bought with one currency or the other. In local markets, for example, they only handle traditional Cuban pesos. If you pay with CUC, you are losing money. On the other hand, imported products and those purchased in hotels must always be paid for in convertible currency.
4. Discover more than Havana and Varadero on your trip to Cuba
Most travelers assume that Cuba is reduced to its capital, Havana, and Varadero, its main tourist spot. The truth is that this is not the case. Although both places are wonderful, the island offers much more than those two attractions. In fact, if you go into the country a little, you will discover a more real and, at the same time, more fascinating Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba, for example, is a very beautiful city with great historical attractions. It is in the eastern part of the island, which also has fabulous places like Santa Clara, Manzanillo, Bayamo and many more. During your trip to Cuba, go ahead and explore little-known destinations. The island is very safe and you will not regret it.